In recent years, the concept of diversity has become an increasingly important concern for universities and colleges throughout the United States. Generally, diversity is viewed solely in terms of race, sex, or ethnicity while diversity of ideas is often ignored. Yet it is this type of diversity that is most relevant to the mission of an institution of higher learning. The educated mind – the very essence of which is the ability to contemplate ideas without unquestioning acceptance or blind rejection – is most likely to thrive in an environment of intellectual diversity.
Intellectual Diversity at Brown
In recent years Brown University has persisted in its role as a leading University seemingly unconcerned with the corruption of its scholarship, an attitude that set the stage for several embarrassing episodes of philosophical intolerance that came as no surprise to those aware of the University’s history of radical activism, political correctness, and the lack of intellectual diversity on Brown’s campus.
Today, however, Brown presents an historic opportunity for reform. The moment is unique because all of the necessary pieces are in place to make changes that will have a permanent effect on the University – not excluding a sudden public awareness of the University’s failure to live up to its own creed of open-mindedness. And as recent graduates, we are in an ideal position to connect current students with older alums who have the means to support their efforts.
The administration appears open to reform. In both public speeches and private meetings, President Ruth Simmons and other administrators have stated that they want Brown to be more intellectually diverse. But in practice, they have taken only baby steps toward this goal. The Foundation for Intellectual Diversity will provide that extra push so that substantive change begins to occur.
The success of The Foundation would mean that monetary and institutional support would always be available for students at Brown who do not fit the mold of the current campus orthodoxy. At a minimum, The Foundation would keep in check any radical excesses of the University, aiding those students who all too often feel outnumbered and underrepresented.
But The Foundation can do much more than that. Surely a comprehensive program of reform —speaker series, conferences, an established student publication, and changes to the curriculum and code of student conduct — would affect the political and intellectual culture of the University.
At stake is nothing less than the future of one of the finest institutions of higher learning in the country. It is our hope that one day Brown will be a model for other colleges and universities, as one of the few places in the country where liberals, conservatives, and others engage in a high-minded and free-spirited debate over their ideas, values, and beliefs.