Phi Beta Cons

Campus Punishments and Business Sense

It’s certainly good news to hear of the reduction of the Park sentence, but the whole matter has raised disquieting questions. FIRE is quite right to be concerned. Students at Hopkins that I knew almost uniformly found the original Park punishment excessive, but a disturbing number seemed to believe that Park deserved some sort of punishment. The idea that the University should serve as a forum for free speech seemed novel to them. One friend commented incredulously, “You think that the University is a place for the free exchange of ideas?”

Moving beyond that, this case revealed another common tendency in the Left’s thought about universities. Affirmative-action defenses often cast alumni and athletic preferences as unjust. Large numbers of affirmative-action opponents would happily ban all preferences. At this point, a typical response is to leap to the defense of these other practices on business grounds–as if schools have somehow come up with a working balance of preferences–“we’’ tolerate the iniquity of alumni preferment as long some minority slots remain.
Comparably in the Hopkins case, many have invoked the university’s need to Do Something for the sake of its reputation. I’ve heard the university’s fundraising, public reputation, and a great assortment of “business” concerns cited as justification for the university’s punishing Park. Those who usually bemoan the “corporate” aspects of the university are quite happy to go into considerable depth defending them when it comes to prized programs or “offenses of decency.”

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