Diversity of Viewpoints? Not at Mizzou
Last week, Heterodox Academy released a ranking of the top 150 universities in America in terms of commitment to viewpoint diversity. Mizzou finished tied for dead last.
Heterodox Academy is a collection of university professors committed to supporting intellectual diversity and free speech on campus. Its ringleader is Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist and professor at New York University. Haidt’s work focuses primarily on business ethics, but increasingly he has become known for his efforts to promote civil debate and ideological diversity in the academy.
Heterodox Academy’s ranking relies on four main metrics. First, it grades schools on whether they have endorsed the University of Chicago’s principles on free expression. Second, it adds the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s rating of the school’s speech code. Third, it uses the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s rating of openness to conservative and libertarian students from its guide Choosing the Right College. Finally, it notes any relevant events related to free speech on campus since 2014.
The top five schools in the ranking are the University of Chicago, Purdue, Carnegie Mellon, William and Mary, and George Mason.
The bottom five are the University of Oregon, Mizzou, Rutgers, Northwestern, and (ironically, given Haidt’s employment there) NYU.
Mizzou was dinged for not adopting the University of Chicago’s speech code, for being rated red (the lowest possible distinction) by FIRE, and red (the lowest possible distinction from ISI). It also lost points for University of Missouri police asking individuals who witness incidents of hateful and/or hurtful speech to call the campus police station (or 911), banning student protests, the censorship of students, and for efforts to limit press access on campus.
Debate on college campuses is healthy. As Haidt and his colleagues have demonstrated, ideological diversity leads to more interesting and useful research and helps guard against errors driven by groupthink. Mizzou's spot at the bottom of this list is an embarrassment. The university should take the criticism seriously and work to make campus a more welcoming place to people of different viewpoints.