Free inquiry, not legislation, should insure intellectual diversity
A recent controversy has arisen over the state of intellectual diversity in Missouri’s colleges and universities. A proposed house bill would create measures to insure that these schools are doing enough to promote this kind of diversity. The controversy arose over an incident at Missouri State University involving a professor making political demands of a student. Proponents of the bill argue that our state universities have become strongholds of liberal ideology, and that many professors and administrators discriminate against students and one another on the bases of ideology or political orientation.
While requiring professors to leave their political affiliations at the door is vital to preserving academic integrity, requiring institutions to monitor the "intellectual diversity" of classrooms would only serve to obstruct the principles of free inquiry and expression upon which higher education is founded. The key to intellectual diversity in classrooms and institutions lies in permitting dissenting views to be heard, and treating those views on their academic merit. That does not mean requiring professors to fully air both sides of a controversial issue, nor does it mean permitting those professors to evaluate student performance based on their adherence to that professor’s beliefs. What it means is that professors and students should be allowed to freely challenge one another’s beliefs and assumptions on academic grounds with no recourse to grades or other performance evaluations. This will insure intellectual diversity in our universities, without undermining the concepts of free inquiry and expression that have made our Missouri schools great in the first place.