The current atmosphere of crisis and conflict on America’s college campuses was kicked off by the troubles at the University of Missouri–Columbia (“Mizzou”) during the 2015–2016 academic year. Many will remember the infamous video of Professor Melissa Click calling for “some muscle” to prevent journalists from covering the protests, a harbinger of the campus free-speech crisis. In the wake of Mizzou’s 2015 debacle, university enrollment cratered, with a modest recovery beginning only recently.
It is in the interest of the citizens of Missouri to find a long-term solution to this problem — a way to encourage all sides on our divided college campuses to freely to speak their minds. We need to regularize civil debate over the issues that divide us. If students were accustomed to hosting and hearing civil debates over issues like immigration, abortion, religious liberty, health insurance, and criminal-justice reform, the effect would be to normalize disagreement and lower the emotional temperature on campus.
By introducing House Bill No. 2177, the Missouri Campus Intellectual Diversity Act, Representative Mike Moon aims to do exactly that. Moon’s bill is modeled on a proposal I made here at NRO last year. (See that proposal for a detailed explanation of the concept.) This proposal has been endorsed by the National Association of Scholars, and by Mark Bauerlein at Minding the Campus. Essentially, Moon’s bill instructs the state university system to set up a series of debates, public forums, and individual lectures that will explore our most hotly debated public-policy issues from competing perspectives. If experts willing and able to present and defend both sides of a given controversy are in short supply on campus, outside speakers could be invited in. Videos of public-policy debates arranged by the university would be made available to the public. Moon’s bill also instructs universities to keep detailed event calendars. This will provide a snapshot, so to speak, of the state of intellectual diversity on campus, at least with regard to public-policy events.
I have known Mike Moon since he introduced a comprehensive bill to protect freedom of speech on Missouri’s public university campuses in 2018. Moon is a principled conservative with an interest in both fiscal and cultural issues. His motto is a quote from President Chester Arthur: “When a man stands up to his responsibilities, he tends to make some enemies and perhaps lose a few friends.” That rings true, because I’ve seen Moon stand up for principle when doing nothing might have been the easier way to go politically.
Moon is running for the State Senate this year in Missouri’s 29th District, which includes the counties of Lawrence, McDonald, Barry, Stone, and Taney. I hope the voters will be as impressed by Mike Moon as I have been. (Here is his campaign website.)
Earlier this week I announced the introduction of an Arizona Campus Intellectual Diversity Act by Representative Anthony Kern. Mike Moon’s Missouri Campus Intellectual Diversity Act makes two. I will announce the introduction of a third state campus intellectual diversity act in the coming days.