Ingber ’15: Free speech at Brown?

Opinions Columnist

With all the buzz about the strategic plan, there has been no shortage of discussion surrounding Brown’s mission statement and larger purpose as a university or university-college. And while the debate has often revolved around the centrality of undergraduates to our educational philosophy, I’d like to take a moment to delve into something we sometimes take for granted and in turn ignore at Brown: free speech.

Our mission statement reads, “The mission of Brown University is to serve the community, the nation and the world by discovering, communicating and preserving knowledge and understanding in a spirit of free inquiry.” There is no doubt that we are a forward-thinking, cutting-edge and intellectually rigorous institution. But during my two years here, I have experienced some extremely frustrating moments when Brown students, and sometimes faculty members, have not fully embodied this spirit of “free inquiry.”

Let’s start with the obvious. It is taboo to be conservative at Brown. The moment you express your uncertainty about the Affordable Care Act or drug legalization, most people in the room immediately dismiss you. If you really, truly care about limited government, you might as well be living in the 19th century. The social ostracism that exists at Brown is harsh, often repugnant and not indicative of an open-minded institution. I am constantly ignored or not taken seriously, even by close friends, when I advocate for strong American leadership on the world stage or express hesitation about government spending. This is wrong, unproductive and simply not fair to conservative students at Brown, a group I believe is larger than most people perceive.

Faiz Khan’s ’15 recent Herald column was spot-on in its assessment of the University’s political climate (“Brown’s double standard of inclusivity,” Oct. 2). There is an unnerving amount of intolerance for certain political perspectives and far too many unwarranted personal attacks of those brave enough to say what they believe. I’ve lived this. I have received numerous borderline hateful emails from people responding to my columns. Whether I am accused of echoing Ayn Rand or not being aware of my white privilege — a discussion I will leave for another column — personal jabs are often the reason many do not participate in the political conversation at Brown. And if, for example, conservatives are automatically labeled as racist and classist, as they often are by Brown students, then the campus dialogue misses out on important voices.

The same one-sided culture also surrounds religion at Brown. For some bizarre reason, organized religion is considered anti-intellectual and incompatible with the ideals of a progressive Brown student. Religious individuals are considered to be uninterested in reality and victims of blind-faith and institutional dogma. This is extremely frustrating for me as a fairly religious person who realizes that much of religion is centered on rigorous intellectual stimulation and a deep tradition of questioning.

People are often afraid to admit they are religious because of the stigma attached to organized religious communities. This is bad for free speech at Brown because it both discourages certain students from speaking and overlooks the massive role religion plays in politics and culture.

And sometimes this “crowding out” effect moves beyond lack of engagement and ostracism. There have been horrifying instances of censorship, or attempted censorship, carried out by Brown students. Nothing typifies this idea more than the panel The Herald and the Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions put together to discuss the then-impending same-sex marriage vote in the Rhode Island legislature. The organizations, doing what every respectable academic center or objective news institution should do, assembled a panel with opposing viewpoints which included a representative from the National Organization for Marriage, one of the United States’ preeminent advocacy groups for traditional marriage. The outrage from students was incredibly immature and inexcusable, with many students — who claim to be open-minded and liberal — advocating to remove the individual from the panel. One student, who thought he was so clever, even inquired as to the amount of the speaker’s honorarium so he could ask the University to deduct that amount from his tuition.

How can we have a legitimate, thorough discussion about an incredibly complex topic, let alone an honest debate about public policy, without allowing opposing viewpoints to be expressed? We have a responsibility not only to allow unpopular viewpoints to be articulated but also to engage with them in a meaningful way without immediately writing them off. Taubman smartly responded to the hoopla by suggesting that those upset could attend the panel and ask tough questions. I have no problem with people thinking the National Organization for Marriage is wrong or even bigoted. What I do have a problem with is those same people privileging their own opinions to the end of censoring opposing ones.

Some of this unbalance often trickles down from Brown’s faculty. While I am more than pleased that the University held a teach-in to discuss the ongoing conflict in Syria, I am disappointed there was not a strong voice advocating for U.S. military intervention. This is not a fringe policy position. In fact, the president, secretary of defense, secretary of state and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have all supported U.S. military action in Syria. Likewise, a recent talk on the Oslo Accords by Hanan Ashrawi, an accomplished Palestinian diplomat, should have been accompanied by an Israeli diplomat of equal stature. Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely happy that Brown engages with difficult issues — but propagating a limited scope of political views entrenches certain narratives and could potentially discourage dissenters from exercising their right to free speech.

With that said, I have had positive experiences at Brown, and I hope that those can be replicated. In POLS 1010: “Topics in American Constitutional Law” last spring, Professor of Political Science Corey Brettschneider encouraged students to share conservative views in addition to liberal ones. He was nothing but reassuring to students who articulated seemingly controversial viewpoints in a respectful, intelligent manner.

We should follow the lead of the Herald opinions columnists who have never shied away from controversial columns or the Janus Forum, which makes a point of bringing divergent views to the same podium.

And here is why this all matters. While there might be a miniscule but important conservative voice at Brown, there are some pretty darn smart conservatives out there in the real world, and Brunonians need to know how to engage them. Last summer, I was a summer fellow at the American Enterprise Institute — cue eye roll now — and worked with some of the smartest people I have ever met. I interacted with the architect of the Iraq surge plan, defense policy experts with decades of experience and economists who have advised various presidents. But some of my more liberal peers participating in the fellowship had a difficult time engaging because they had not encountered these views on their campuses.

Not to get all philosophical, but John Stuart Mill argues that one of the chief arguments against censorship suggests that all viewpoints need to be heard because everyone should know how to respond to opposing opinions. This could not be more true for Brown students. To the conservatives at Brown, I say, come out of hiding and into the political discussion. I’ll be right there with you. And to the liberals, I say, make sure you embody perhaps the most fundamental liberal value captured by Brown’s mission statement: “free inquiry.”


Zach Ingber ’15 would love to listen to your opinion unless you disagree with him. He can be reached at


  1. Great article. As I read, JS Mill rode in the forefront of my mind. I was happy to see him acknowledged at the end.

  2. I totally agree. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  3. Nicely written, only questionable claim is that it’s “bizarre” that religion is seen as anti-intellectual

  4. Shane Grannum says:

    Much of the current crop of conservative ideology is full of coded racial and bigoted language that is hurtful and goes against the grain of equality. “Free inquiry” is indeed the right of EVERYONE here at Brown and in the United States – but free inquiry to support candidates and policies that perpetuate negative racial and socioeconomic stereotypes is not, at any point, okay in my book.

    And that is my gripe about conservative “free inquiry” here at Brown – at what point is it okay for someone to support policies that perpetuate stereotypes that minorities lack “moral character” and “proper family values”; that perpetuate stereotypes that women are “sluts” because they believe that the fed. government and health insurance providers should cover the costs of contraceptives; that perpetuate stereotypes that the LGBTQ community is actually being “intolerant” by refusing to accept conservative viewpoints that prevent them from equal socioeconomic opportunities in this country.

    The problem with your “free inquiry” to support views like “limited government” and to support candidates like Mitt Romney and Ken Cuccinelli are that your candidates – and your views – are directly engrained the bigotry, the racism, the intolerance, and the discrimination that continues to drown out “free inquiry.” We’re not just talking about fringe shock jocks and crazy television pundits – we’re talking about actual Republican and Libertarian and conservative candidates, who are promoting these agendas actively and publicly as a means of winning elections.

    So frankly speaking, thanks but no thanks. Once your “free inquiry” is respectable of and acknowledges the intolerance and bigotry that is loaded in the Republican and conservative viewpoints of today, I will be happy to respect your views with open arms.

    • The problem is not that conservatives on campus are shut down because their belief systems are inherently flawed, and those flaws are pointed out to them in productive conversation. It’s that conservatives on campus are shut down because of their skin color or biological sex or socioeconomic status (all of which they had no say in). If someone posts an opinions piece that you disagree with because you think it’s bigoted or racist, don’t attack the the author because he’s white or male or able to attend an Ivy League university. Attack the underlying flaws in his argument. I promise he’ll be more willing to listen and engage in discussion about why he believes what he does.

      • Shane Grannum says:

        That completely misses my point. I am certainly not “attacking” the author because he’s white, male, or able to attend an Ivy League university. I am saying that I will not accept the author’s viewpoints as “free inquiry” because the national Republican Party and national conservative movements continue to perpetuate coded language that is rooted in racism, bigotry, and intolerance.

        I am not at all suggesting that the author is a racist, a bigot, or is intolerant; what I am saying is that the author’s support of “limited government” and other prongs of the national conservative agenda is perpetuating these nasty stereotypes, whether he likes it or not. The national conservative agenda is producing candidates like Mitt Romney, Ken Cuccinelli, and Todd Akin – who continue to promote intolerant language and policies for the sake of garnering votes.

        I believe in “free inquiry” – but I refuse to accept or respect anyone’s support of a national agenda of racism, intolerance, and bigotry (again – whether the author likes it or not) just simply because it is free speech.

        So many social conservatives have made the argument recently that they’re being treated negatively because they refuse to support marriage equality – in essence, they’re saying that they should be entitled to “free inquiry” on this issue. And I wholeheartedly disagree with that. You shouldn’t be entitled to say intolerant things without anyone questioning you, and to promote discriminatory agendas and stereotypes, just because you can.

        And those are the underlying flaws in this author’s argument. Just because it is your right to support an intolerant national agenda, doesn’t mean that everyone has to accept and respect it.

        And one more thing, Valerie – if you truly believe that conservatives on campus are “shut down” because of their skin color or biological sex or socioeconomic status, I think you need to open your eyes a little bit more.

        • are you really willing to ignore a massive political voice in this country? Good luck in the real world.

          • Shane Grannum says:

            A massive political voice in this country? Sorry, I’m not convinced the national conservative agenda will be alive by the time I’m 30 or 40. The Republican Party, conservatives, and libertarians continue to ruin what might actually be a legitimate belief in free market principles and limited government by supporting candidates and a national agenda that promotes “legitimate rape” and “the 47%” and pushes demagogues like Ted Cruz to the forefront.

            Fortunately, history tells us that these kinds of far right, fringe movements don’t last – and equality and tolerance prevails. I won’t be in the real world long enough to see a Republican Party that is still as vocally intolerant and bigoted as this one.

        • Valerie '14 says:

          If you go back and read past opinions pieces in the BDH written by people with conservative leanings, you’ll find very little productive conversation. You’ll find comments attacking the author’s character, making various assumptions and judging based on skin color, biological sex, whether the person is involved in Greek life, etc. This is not helpful. If you think someone’s ideology is bigoted or racist, that’s fine. But rather than calling that person a bigot or a racist, explain the specific problems you have with their line of thinking and allow them to explain where they’re coming from. This will allow both sides of the argument to gain a better understanding of the situation and even possibly change the way some people see the world.

          The fact that many people on this campus were outraged that a panel on marriage equality would include someone who is opposed to marriage equality is ridiculous. What’s the point of having a panel/discussion when all the speakers are in agreement? Why not allow an opponent to speak? This would give you an opportunity to question the legitimacy of their views and understand why they believe what they believe. If their position is flawed, point out those flaws and engage in conversation about why you believe they are wrong. Don’t completely dismiss them and deny them a change to defend themselves because they disagree with you.

          • Shane Grannum says:

            At this point, Valerie, I’m just going to repeat what I wrote earlier because I’m not convinced that you read it in its entirety or digested what I was trying to say: “I am certainly not “attacking” the author because he’s white, male, or able to attend an Ivy League university. I am saying that I will not accept the author’s viewpoints as “free inquiry” because the national Republican Party and national conservative movements continue to perpetuate coded language that is rooted in racism, bigotry, and intolerance.”

            That is the flaw in this author’s editorial. That is the reason why I am dismissing his beliefs. OK if you disagree but I don’t have to sit at the table with people who support candidates and agendas that are pushing this country back into the Jim Crow era.

          • Name withheld for job security says:

            Shane, Zach never even used the word Republican. You did. Eight times, in fact, to the author’s zero. You’re assigning an identity to him and making assumptions about his viewpoints (dismissing them out of hand in the process) that have no basis in evidence.

          • Do you think he isn’t republican? Not that that should invalidate his views but let’s be honest that statement is about as much of a stretch as saying shane is a democrat.

            I don’t agree with the extreme wording of Mr. Grannum’s posts but you should give them a read instead of counting the words. Shane isn’t attacking Mr. Ingber he’s simply saying that people with “conservative” views tend to support “conservative” candidates. This is not without exception but it’s generally true and such candidates tend to be socially conservative whether or not the individual is. This means they tend to believe things like gay people getting married threatens the “sanctity” of marriage. That viewpoint is about as logical as the view that interracial couples getting married threatens the sanctity of marriage. Those statements are equally biggoted and this is one example of the point Mr. Grannum is making. It isn’t totally invalid

          • name withheld for job security says:

            John Doe- being conservative does not automatically make one bigoted, racist, homophobic, or any of the other baseless attacks Shane levels against anyone who disagrees with him- ergo the entire point of the original column. That’s my point.

          • Thanks for clearly not reading my comment. The crux of shanes argument is that even if you don’t agree with all of the views of a candidate you are still supporting all of them if you vote for that candidate. Let me give an example from the other side. Lets say I have moderately liberal views and vote for obama even though I disagree with universal health care/the affordable care act. Since universal healthcare was an explicitly stated goal of the obama campaign I, by voting for obama, am choosing to support universal healthcare even if I disagree with it. If it brings the country to financial ruin I am just as responsible as a liberal voter who voted for obama in full agreement with universal healthcare. Now back to my original example. Mitt Romney and many conservative candidates are deffinitively against gay marriage. This means they are in favor of stripping certain basic rights afforded to married couples from an entire subset of the population for no logical reason. That is a biggoted viewpoint. By voting for many conservative candidates today a voter is supporting proliferation of that biggoted view WHETHER THEY AGREE OR NOT. Individual views cannot be extricated from a candidate simply because an individual does not agree with them. By voting for a candidate you are supporting all their views regardless of your opinion on individual issues. Just as liberal voters are responsible for the reprocussions of universal health care, conservative voters are, more often than not, responsible for facilitating a biggoted, homophobic agenda in the candidates that they support.

          • name withheld says:

            If the KKK put up a candidate for office on a platform of re-establishing racial segregation and I vote for them, I could agree that calling me a racist would be a legitimate argument.

            Voting for a candidate with dozens of platform positions, one or two of which are not exactly aligned with one’s own views, does not a bigot make. It’s the nature of American politics today. You just aren’t going to get someone who’s 100% what you want- especially with the tendency of today’s voter to be voting AGAINST a candidate or issue rather than FOR one.

          • Thanks for, yet again, clearly not reading what I wrote. Voting for a biggot does not make you a biggot. I never said that, I never implied that, I certainly don’t believe that. However, as I already said by voting for someone who wants to disenfranchise a minority group for solely aesthetic purposes a voter is facilitating biggotry. The voter may not agree with that viewpoint, they may actively oppose it and only vote for that candidate on the weight of other issues, they are still facilitating that viewpoint.

        • Shane, it is clear that you have deluded yourself or been manipulated into believing a monstrous caricature of what Republicans think. The best remedy for this sophomoric prejudice would be for you to live on a campus that might stretch the limits of your dogma and make you see that you don’t know everything you apparently think you know.

          Unfortunately for you, you won’t find that at your current school. You’re being cheated, my friend.

          • Shane Grannum says:

            Fortunately, I have lived the vast majority of my life in a place where the electoral make-up is 50/50; where I have been exposed to these racial, bigoted, intolerant ideologies; where I could make the decision for myself based on such even-handed exposure to different political ideologies that I never wanted to go to a school with a majority of people who supported such an intolerant national agenda.

            Thank you for your comment but unfortunately it doesn’t apply to me.

        • “I believe in “free inquiry” – but I refuse to accept or respect anyone’s support of a national agenda of racism, intolerance, and bigotry (again – whether the author likes it or not) just simply because it is free speech.”

          Do you actually listen to yourself? You have the worst case of recto-cranial inversion I’ve ever seen.

    • legit angry says:

      Your comment here is exactly what campus censorship looks like. You justify it only by assuming that the author–and apparently all conservatives–are racist/sexist/classist/homophobic. Of course, it seems very likely to me that he is no such thing (hint: most conservatives aren’t, and you’d know that if you knew any), but at least you let yourself off the hook of having to grapple with real arguments, and get to indulge sense of moral superiority while you’re at it.

      It’s simply disgusting and intolerant that you would tar a member of the Brown community in this way because he favors a particular set of economic or foreign policies. It is simply a smear, and we wouldn’t accept it in any other context. But of course, this is exactly the behavior the author is talking about, and it’s widespread at Brown.

      • Shane Grannum says:

        Again, I never “assumed” or even stated that the author – or all conservatives – are racist, sexist, classist, or homophobic. I said that by being a conservative or Republican or libertarian in this country at this present time, you are supporting a national agenda that has coded racist, sexist, homophobic, and other intolerant language/policies into its agenda. You are perpetuating stereotypes that actually harm people and prevent people from being equal in society.

        I’m not going to sit here and tolerate the national conservative agenda – an implicitly racist, intolerant, and bigoted agenda – just simply because we here have an individual who is not racist, not bigoted, and not intolerant, yet supports a national agenda that implicitly targets and coalesces support based on such disgusting policies.

        That is the only smear here – failing to recognize that your policies and your views are promoting a vicious cycle of intolerance in this country.

        • pity is a better word says:

          Shane, Shane, Shane ShaneShane. The more you say, the more ignorant and dogmatic you reveal yourself to be. And so haughty about it!

        • Are conservative opinions on any given issue really inseparable from the “national conservative agenda”?

          I’m not so sure.

      • Unbelievable response. Couldn’t agree more.

    • angrystudeny says:

      this is probably the dumbest thing I have ever read in my entire life and is the framework for why this article was written.

      1) “support Mitt Romney…directly engrained with bigotry, racism, intolerance…”

      please provide me evidence for how Mitt Romney fits any of these hyperbole you were stupid enough to write. oh, i forgot, a man who donated his entire inheritance and salary to charity, spent years on mission, comes from an immigrant background, worked to improve education in his state so URMs could gain access to better school (and did), and worked towards 99% insurance coverage rates for all members of MA is a racist bigot because he’s white and you think so. meanwhile, our president who injects race into a court case where it clearly had no place, constantly pins one socioeconomic class against the other via policy and speech, has done seemingly nothing to combat minority unemployment, forces churches and religious hospitals to provide contraception, and slaughters innocent citizens with drones is the tolerant one. you might try opening your eyes and reading instead of drinking Kool Aid from 9-5.

      2) you, in line with your dumbass earlier comments, fail to distinguish between policy and personal belief. cool, most conservative candidates don’t believe in abortion or gay marriage fundamentally. Romney nor Ryan proposed ANY legislative changes to abortion. Obama signed DOMA multiple times. your argument is philosophically inconsistent and stupid.

      So, frankly speaking, thanks but no thanks. Once your idealogy of government dependency, watered down definitions of bigotry and racism, and plain stupidity to the policy happenings in the US is amended, I will be happy to respect your views with open arms.

  5. I think it’s hard to make a convincing argument that you’re being censored when, in terms of the content of what you call “conservative” speech, and the identity of those who speak it, you stand firmly in a position of power and privilege. Those calling for military intervention in Syria are exactly who you stated – the President, the secretary of state, etc etc. These voices are hardly censored; in fact, on a wider scale, it is exactly the opposite. So to say that these forms of speech are censored, and have no room to be expressed, is fallacious at best. Furthermore, to say that those who don’t see LGBTQ individuals as equal are the ones who are being “censored” indicates a deep ignorance of even basic history.

    Mr. Ingber, please get your fact straight and learn your history before you try to write on such complex ideas as free speech.

    • Concerned Liberal says:

      I can’t tell if this is sarcastic or serious.

      If the former is true, your satire is brilliant. If the latter is true, you seem to be missing the point.

  6. Hmm sounds like your friends and people like them are the problem. In my time here, I’ve realized that if Brown is a place for anything, it’s for conversation, discussion, concession on points that are unsupported, and a thorough review of appropriate literature and statistics when an uncertainty arises. I have never been anywhere other than Brown where people are willing to stop a discussion on the spot and look up the facts they are attempting to cite and correct and interject evidence in the midst of heated discourse.

    That’s what I’ve learned and experienced in every class, especially in science where heavily contested topics like conservation and climate change are readily examined and the currently accepted models are critiqued and criticized in an open forum, drawing from publications of those who stand on either side. Here at Brown, there have been a myriad of times when professors and fellow students call out a widely accepted idea, showing that there is no proof or evidence to back it up.

    All of the ignorance I’ve seen in 4 years seems to be on an individual basis, someone makes an absurd generalization and then is ignored because a) he/she pulls that move all the time or b) no one wants to correct such an obviously flawed mentality.

    I just ask that you realize how much better it is here than everywhere else. I’ve never been somewhere like this, where we can sit down and have a University-funded event centered around an idea so widely viewed as radical.

    • just try being an outspoken republican for a few days. you’ll change your mind.

      • '`*-.,_,-*'`*~-.,.~*'*-.,_,-*' says:

        let’s be real for a minute. the problem you’re having is probably that being an “outspoken republican” makes you obnoxious. don’t get me wrong: being an outspoken democrat makes you obnoxious, too. but you can get away w/ a little more before being seen as outspoken when your opinions are in the mainstream (by the defn of “outspoken”).

        i don’t know if you politically “outspoken” people — i.e., those of you who like to go around talking about your views about everything all the time — will ever understand that the only people who don’t find your political talk annoying are the other people who like to talk about politics all the time.

  7. Doesn’t sound like your “freedom of speech” has been abridged. It sounds as if you don’t like having your opinion challenged. Or perhaps, you don’t like the fact that your opinion is unpopular with the local majority. Freedom of speech comes with a cost – sometimes you’re going to be unpopular. Get over it.

    • That’s just not what he’s saying. He doesn’t like the fact that the local majority won’t even listen to his unpopular opinion at all simply because he’s a white male.

    • name withheld for job security says:

      Being able to speak freely about one’s political opinions in a newspaper is different than the ability to speak freely about one’s political opinions in class or a dorm lounge or at the Ratty. The BDH would cease to have any legitimacy as an outlet of journalism if they suppressed conservative opinion in the paper the way the student body does in person, and they know it.

      • But he’s not being repressed in class or at a dorm lounge or at the Ratty. It’s not like someone walks around with a gag to thrust into his mouth the second he articulates an anti-abortion position. People just articulate their disagreement in a way which the author does not find sufficiently “civilized” or “respectful” or “open”, and people make judgments about the author’s character (based on said articulated position).

        • Name withheld for job security says:

          Being dismissed as racist for disagreeing with the President isn’t repression? Being shouted down as homophobic for following a religious tradition regarding gay marriage isn’t repression? Being called a teabagger for advocating smaller government isn’t repression? Stealing 4,000 copies of the BDH containing an ad paid for by a conservative author isn’t repression?

          • I disagree with Obama (from the left, and strongly) all the time and nobody thinks I’m racist. It might have something more to do with the exact -content- of the criticisms (do they invoke subtly racist stereotypes of “welfare queens” or “sugar daddies” or “hip-hop barbecues”? do they imply the president is Kenyan? etc etc). Being called homophobic when you hold a position that other people consider homophobic is just other people disagreeing with you and making judgments about your moral character based on that disagreement (which is normal). Political namecalling is immature as hell, but it sure isn’t repression (the commentator going by “Conservative parent” whips out the term “brainwashed liberal”: is that repression too?). And the theft of an entire BDH print run happened in like 2001.

            You’re really only giving arguments for why conservatives at Brown aren’t respected, or are highly unpopular. That’s kind of unfortunate for conservatives, but it’s not, by any stretch of the mind, repression.

          • name withheld for job security says:

            “That’s kind of unfortunate for conservatives, but it’s not, by any stretch of the mind, repression.”

            Easy to say when it’s not happening to you.

          • So if my religion has a trdition against black people is that excused as well?

        • It’s not enough not to pass rules physically restraining people.

  8. The fact that the majority of comments refuting Mr. Ingber contain some sort of ad hominem in them further supports the Mr. Ingber’s main message. He voices his opinion fairly and justly, and he receives ad hominem comments in response that do nothing to further the discussion. This is the inconsistency he is trying to point out.

  9. Conservative parent says:

    As a conservative male, age 45 from the Midwest, and having a daughter attending Brown, I can say Mr. Ingber is 100% spot on! One piece of advice if you are a blindly led liberal attending Brown, you might want to take Mr. Ingber’s advice in his column. Having lived in the real world for about 23 years longer than any of you, I can tell you this with certainty. Your Ivy League education does not supersede my experience in the real world, and in the real world, you MUST know and understand your counterpoints and why they think the way they think. Otherwise, you cannot begin to win the hearts and minds of moderates effectively, as the TEA Party (which by the way is an acronym for Taxed Enough Already, not “teabagger” like you’ve been taught) has been doing so very quietly, and winning governorships and seats in our Federal Government since 2010. Furthermore, you might actually learn something and find out that you’ve been manipulated and mislead into believing things about conservatives that aren’t actually true. We know you are for socialism, but if you allow yourself to learn counterpoints more often, you might begin to understand why it does not work, but at least you might start to be taken more seriously in the political world, instead of just being made fun of on Watters World.

    • Ahem, but the “teabagger” term is very real, not some liberal invention. You see, when these hyper conservative white people get very angry they resort to draping their figurative scrotums all over everything they can. They will shut down the government, gerrymander congressional lines, try to keep children from receiving food stamps, prevent women from receiving legal abortions, and even try to arbitrarily decide that gender define marriage (which is an economic issue at heart). They like to ruin things for people. They drape their disgusting, saggy, sweating balls over anything that will support them; hence they are referred to as “Teabaggers”. They have a liberal equivalent known as “Douchebags”.

      • How about the left, trying to reach into everyone’s pockets, force churches to provide birth control, and demonizing corporations. Both sides have their vices.

        • Not exactly. A church is not compelled to provide birth control within its religious functions.
          When they enter the public sphere then they cannot infringe on the rights of its employees. Most church run institutions obtain federal dollars in the provision of their services.

          • That’s no kind of answer, since by using tax-and-rebate (the main way the government gets around Constitutional barriers) anything can be cast as the public sphere that it pleases.

      • thisisnamecalling says:

        don’t inject race

      • “Teabagger” and “Douchebags” are both equally coarse, disgusting and inappropriate to apply to people who are passionate about their country. Any time they’re used, I’m repelled even further from the speaker’s views.

  10. Thank you for pointing this out. I have lived in San Francisco and find the same nominally “open minded” thinking. You are open minded if you believe the way that the populace believes and closed minded if you do not. Dissenting opinions are not welcome.

  11. Clearly there aren’t any institutional barriers to the expression of conservative views at Brown by students (evidence: the fact that this op-ed even exists). So what this really all boils down to is some kid getting pissed off that people think he’s an asshole for holding views that those people find repugnant. Which, *gasp*, is just what happens when you hold opinions. People are going to disagree with your stances, and if the disagreement is deep-rooted enough, they’re also going to think that your stance on a thing says things about your moral character or whatever. That’s just how it works. You have the right to express your opinion. You don’t have the right to demand other people engage with your opinion on your terms.

    Actually, what’s going on in this op-ed is far more ridiculous than demanding that other people engage. It’s suggesting that the university literally hire/fire based on ideological lines in the name of balance. The only way there’d be a counterpart to the Syria teach-in is if there were staff which happened to have a hawkish ideological lean. We don’t have many staff of that leaning. Too bad. It happens. The university isn’t going to hire conservatives just to appease you.

    • The second paragraph of this might be the most idiotic

    • Ah, I see. Poor black people in the South, for instance, have no INSTITUTIONAL barriers to becoming President, so I guess everything’s hunky dory.

      “The university isn’t going to hire conservatives just to appease you.”

      But it will hire underqualified black professors and staff to appease the Left.

      In my opinion, intellectual diversity is more important than racial diversity.

  12. I think there is an undeniable liberal student attitude on campus but the idea that solution is always presenting a counter position and argument seems woefully inadequate. The article doesn’t address the complications and potential negative effects of the classic journalistic impulse to always present “both sides” of the argument. The best example that comes to mind is with media coverage of climate change debates where scientists against global warming who were widely discredited by the scientific community were presented as having equal authority to their debate opponents. By presenting them as the counter argument it legitimated their arguments and presented them as having equal authority on the topic.This has helped perpetuate the idea in the American public that there is still a debate on the authenticity of climate change within the scientific community despite its almost 100% acceptance of climate change as fact. Presenting this counter argument has been extremely damaging to progress on climate change in ways that will really only become evident as time passes and we began to see the full consequences of inaction.
    Your main example of the Taubman center panel on Gay marriage is one of these problematic instances. I believe your idea that the most productive conversations emerge from guaranteeing there are two sides to every question glazes over the reality of what that can become and the effects of legitimating all sides of an argument. To begin with the panel itself was wholly problematic because “debating” marriage equality quickly becomes a debate over the morality and equality of lgbtq individuals as human beings. If you accept lgbtq people to be equal and truly have no issue with homosexuality there is no legitimate argument for denying them the right to marry. Gay marriage debates are not public policy debates because the opposition to gay marriage does not come from a place of policy concerns. This idea of the need for an opposing viewpoint brought Ms. Cecilia Devine Wolf to the panel where she was given space as an equal to present her ideas about how gay marriage ultimately harmed children. Her ideas are based upon her background as a philosopher and a widely discredited study that even the Reverend, who also opposed gay marriage on the panel, admitted was deeply flawed and inaccurate. The current body of scientific research into this topic stands in direct opposition to Ms. Wolf Devine’s one singular flawed study. Gay people are just as capable of successfully raising children. I can promise you this because I am one of those children. By inviting Ms. Cecilia Wolf Devine to Brown the university was not pursuing free speech but instead simply giving her a platform that legitimated her incredibly damaging, homophobic and ultimately proven as false ideas about gay people and their children. Her arguments rest on exactly what you find so frustrating when it is done to conservatives, attacking the people and not the idea. Free speech cannot truly exist in a hostile environment like the one created by allowing Ms. Devine Wolf to state that because of their sexual orientation lgbtq people were incapable of successfully raising children or that children from these families were in some way greatly damaged and worse off because of it.
    As a general statement I agree with you and would love to hear more conservative opinions on campus. I think the issue you are seeking to address is important and very real, and I too would have liked to hear an argument for military intervention in Syria. However I think your argument is weakened when you fail to acknowledge that is not simply as cut and dry as “always present the opposing side” because, as demonstrated by the lecture but on by the BDH and Taubman center, its just not always that simple.

    • this really is an awful critique. Essentially, you privileged your opinion of marriage in society. It is not whether you believe marriage equality is a given, it is whether or people believe it is. If not, we have to engage with the idea

      • '`*-.,_,-*'`*~-.,.~*'*-.,_,-*' says:

        …but if this woman is spewing out bullsh*t and calling it science, isn’t it possible that it does more harm than good to give her a platform? b/c taking her seriously enough to include her in a panel does imply some credibility. it doesn’t just say, “this view is out there so we’re going to display it here”; it says, “this view is out there and has enough substance that it’s worth engaging in an intellectual setting.”

        i’m not totally convinced, myself, but i see the argument. the same would apply even if her views weren’t hateful. it’s the fact that she’s full of crap that’s the problem (or may be the problem), the way i see it.

        • “but if this woman is spewing out bullsh*t and calling it science, isn’t it possible that it does more harm than good to give her a platform”

          It is absolutely not possible to encourage what you believe to be the truth by suppressing error, even to the extent of not “giving it a platform”. The problem with censorship– and there are a million different kinds– is that it is an instrument of rigidity in a world where the perception of truth is constantly shifting and finding new equilibriums. (I can’t quite bring myself to say “equilibria”.)

          Not “giving error a platform” is, effectively, a conservative belief (not in Ingber’s limited, capital-C sense of conservative, though). Basically, advocates of this restriction are saying that in their perceptions and beliefs, the world has finally come to universal truth, and that therefore any change must be bad, in the sense that at the North Pole one cannot go any direction but south. Therefore, it must be virtue itself to lock them into place.

          Apart from the possibilities that you may– gasp!– sometimes be wrong and that younger people than you will sooner or later revolt against this rigidity and demand the right to decide for themselves, unless you support complete freedom of thought now, even at the risk of people deciding you’re wrong, you will lay the foundation for even this kind of mild censorship, sooner or later, OF your beliefs.

          • '`*-.,_,-*'`*~-.,.~*'*~ (2014) says:

            thanks for the breakdown, and thanks for refraining from the latin pluralization; your writing is flourishy enough as it is.

            like i said, i don’t know what to believe, and my instinct is certainly against the sort of (quasi)censorship discussed here. but as far as your truth relativism goes: i think we can safely say that brown as an institution is allowed to say, you know, “this is just plain incorrect” about someone’s blatantly logic-defying “science”. sure, there’s some marginal possibility of error on our part, as there is in anything (sup pyrrho), but i don’t feel too threatened by that.

    • '`*-.,_,-*'`*~-.,.~*'*-.,_,-*' says:

      wow, good post — first thing i’ve seen that’s actually made me question whether it’s always harmless (if not always productive) to provide a stage for any given viewpoint to be heard. the global warming example definitely made me think twice. i’m not 100% sure i agree that your reasoning holds re wolf devine, since i don’t think that giving her a platform within this very specific space in this very specific community is likely to be perceived by any member of this community as legitimizing her views. but it’s definitely something to think about. the way i saw folks’ reaction at the time was basically, like, “waahh this opinion hurts my feelings, don’t let it near me!!” but your comment illustrates that there is sometimes a need for discretion when choosing which voices to broadcast.

  13. '`*-.,_,-*'`*~-.,.~*'*-.,_,-*' says:

    good article. there have been approximately 200 op-ed columns like this one, as someone commented on khan’s piece, but this one is actually successful in conveying this very real issue on campus.

  14. Everyone just chill. Quit making ad hominem attacks or blind statements. Back your statements with factual research, not mere ideology or worse, propaganda. I cringe when I read nearly every one of these comments. “Indulge in a sense of moral superiority”? “We know you are for socialism”? “They drag their disgusting, sweaty balls over people..”? I mean, come on. Grow up and learn to have intelligent discourse, and then maybe all of y’all will realize that comments like this are exactly the reason we had gridlock last month. I mean, for people hiding behind user names like “conservative parent” or the ever eloquent “ButtDozer”, all the commenters seem to be on a pretty high horse.

  15. Concerted Liberal says:


  16. Antoine Henry Jomini says:

    He looks like he only shops at Brooks Brothers. Yeah I’m really gonna take economic advice from a man whose biggest economic worry is renovating his walk-in closet to fit all his loafers. Even his ability to use a computer to access the internet and write an article is clearly indicative of his white privilege. This guy is whiter than Mitt Romney playing croquet and eating cottage cheese. Seriously, I cant take this guy seriously.

    • Exhibit A, ladies and gentlemen.

    • ^”Because if someone owns a suit, he obviously knows nothing about anything.” The most ignorant comment yet. What does dressing nicely have to say about your education and attitude? When you see pictures of Obama wearing a (nicer-than-Brooks-Brothers) suit every day, is that indicative of his white privilege?

  17. Kyle Albert '15 says:

    A blog post I wrote in response, “Why I Will Not Apologize for Protesting Oppression in My Own Home”:

  18. anonymous '15 says:

    This article isn’t the most articulate, but Ingber’s point is strong, and relevant. There IS an offensive ignorance at Brown toward the conservative agenda. And by “conservative agenda,” no… I do not mean the social viewpoints held by SOME republicans that oppose marriage equality, pro-choice laws, affirmative action or other race-related policies. The conservative agenda is not necessarily tied to the hate that many other readers of this article derive from those viewpoints. There are more conservatives here at Brown than most students know, and we’re not running around yelling racist insults or acting intolerant of LGBTQ participants; don’t assume that “conservative” equates with “hostile” or “insulting.” Other readers ask for respect and tolerance. Conservatives at Brown deserve to be recipients of those characteristics and respected as individuals, too.

  19. Nicole Hasslinger says:
  20. Sounds like you’re clinging to guns and religion.

  21. Meta World Peace says:

    True tolerance is finding good in the people that may still hate you. Something we all need to learn.

    A majority of the liberal response here stems from a guiding desire to force people to like others when they cannot do the same themselves. They still hate people that disagree.

    A majority of the conservative response is an attempt to play victim under an oppressively haughty and naive liberal campaign. Concede their points and move on.

  22. The Hillel on campus, like other Hillels’ nationwide are a front for right wing Israeli politics. They are funded/associated with multiple right wing organizations like StandWithUs etc. Zach is a constant shill for the Hillel, providing us with a steady stream of one sided commentary on Israel and the Middle East. Ask yourself. How is it that the very tolerance and openness to ideas that Zach is absent from the HIllel, its speakers, its membership. Hypocrisy. No ?

    Also, the American Enterprise Institute fired its leading columnist David Frum. Why ? ‘Cause he supported ObamaCare. And Zach portrays AEI as some kind of open minded conservative organization.

    • This is anti-semitism in its rawest form.

      • You mean pointing out that StandWithUS (a right wing org) funds these Hillel’s is now anti-semitic ? Since when is stating a fact Anti-Semitic ?

        I think I’ve proved my point. The very people who call for “open” dialog are the ones who are tied at the hip with far right wing organizations like StandWithUS which have no interest in such dialogue.

        • Hi. I have spent a year attempting to make Hillels around the country more open to dialogue. I am a leader of a campaign called open hillel. But I was also student president of Brown RISD hillel, and they are not funded at all by standwithus. Straight up false. Brown RISD Hillel put lots of money down to send people to a j street conference just last month. At other Hillels you would be correct to be angry. But voice your criticisms where they are warranted.

          • Um, I guess that’s not what standwithus claims. They seem to be extremely proud of their funding for their ahem ….”education”.


            The monies may not flow directly into the Hillel membership, but there are plenty of clubs that form the Hillel. Zach was the president of Brown Students for Israel (link below). And a nice picture of BSI at AIPAC. Ya, AIPAC that wonderful and open organization that practices openness; to debate and ideas that Zach preaches. Now does J Street gets to speak at AIPAC ? Just wondering ?


          • I believe the author was talking about free speech at Brown. AIPAC is a political organization, like J Street that has its own political goals and doesn’t pretend to have all sides at their conferences.

            Furthermore, Hillel at Brown does a lot more than Israel programming. From Jewish learning to religious life, standwithus does not give money directly to Hillel nor if it did, could you possibly contend that it “funds” hillel. I doubt you are very involved with Hillel because you seem to know nothing about how the Brown RISD Hillel operates.

            To portray Hillel as a monolithic, stagnant institution is to misrepresent much of what it stands for.

          • The author was talking about free speech at Brown, while himself being a member/president of organizations Hillel/BSI that practices no such thing. Hypocrisy . No ?

            Sure. StandWithUs proudly claims how it funds theses Hillels’. All Hillels’ work under an restrictive structure as pointed out by Lex himself. And here you are trying to split hairs….

            The very presence of an OpenHillel group that criticizes the restrictive nature of Hillels’ and its speech/membership codes proves my point.

  23. Yeah, sure, no one would argue that Brown students are on average well left-of-center politically, and opposed to traditional organized religion. They’re also louder and more assertive with these opinions than average, which makes Brown, well, not a happy home for conservatives. But that does not mean they are being REPRESSED – it just means that they are UNPOPULAR. There’s a huge difference. Being repressed is about people in positions of power threatening to punish you, in real and damaging ways, for expressing your opinions. For example, this would be a professor who grades students down for voicing conservative ideas in class, or an administrator who applies university regulations selectively or much more stringently for conservatively-minded student clubs. It would *NOT* be another student being hostile to you, or being called a bigot/racist/homophobe, or having people not want to hang out with you because they think you’re a douche for your politics. These things are just examples of being unpopular, which can happen for a plethora of reasons, but being at odds with beliefs that a significant majority of your peers feel strongly about is a pretty good one. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean that people have to LIKE what you have to say – sometimes, unpopularity is the cost of having a public voice. Which do you value more, being well-liked, or being vociferous about politics?

    If actual repression of conservative voices at Brown is going on, then of course it needs to stop NOW, but I don’t think that’s Ingber’s issue. His issue is that he’s butthurt because so many people at Brown have denounced his beliefs so vehemently. But isn’t the fact that his beliefs are out there to be denounced in the first place indicative of the lack of repression of conservative ideas at Brown? He complains that he isn’t “taken seriously” and bemoans “intolerance” of his politics – what does that really mean, though? Either (1) he’s calling for people to stop being emotional about political and religious disagreement, which is kind of silly and unrealistic, or (2) he’s just calling for people to consider agreeing with him more often, which is condescending because it assumes that his detractors are just close-minded or “brainwashed”, and precludes the possibility that they may have considered his position already, weighed the evidence carefully, and decided against it. Whichever it is (I suspect 2 but I demur), I don’t feel inclined to take either of these calls seriously.

    Finally, it bears pointing out that Ingber isn’t really doing any better than liberal Brunonians himself on the “no jabs” front. For example, I happen to think organized religion IS anti-intellectual, and for reasons that aren’t “bizarre”, contrary to Ingber’s presentation of his opinion that “much of religion is centered on rigorous intellectual stimulation” as fact. This is a completely valid belief, and I am not the only one who is fed up with how often organized religion gets a “pass” for being totally irrational in situations where any other societal institution would be carefully scrutinized for the same thing. Or how about that jab at “[o]ne student, who thought he was so clever”? Is sarcasm really a constructive way to engage one’s opponents in the way that Ingber wants… or is it the very thing he’s criticizing?

  24. I completely agree

  25. Case in point: The “social justice” contingent at Brown is already at work trying to petition against NYPD Commisioner Ray Kelly from speaking because they disagree with the stop
    and frisk policy–a source of much controversy.

    Instead of using the opportunity to debate against the best form of the argument for stop & frisk, this group wants to effectively silence an opposing view. This is fascism, no?

    “Inside the heart of a liberal is a totalitarian” rings ever truer.

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