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Hillsdale College should bring more liberal speakers to campus in order to strengthen stu­dents’ opinions. I Pixabay

Hillsdale College just com­pleted a beau­tiful chapel, Gal­loway Res­i­dence basks in swanky ren­o­va­tions, and the campus has a res­i­dential building so fresh it still goes by the name “New Dorm.” 

The next item on the agenda shouldn’t be another building. Instead, Hillsdale College should improve exposure to intel­lectual diversity and make a sincere com­mitment to bring in top minds from across the political and philo­sophic spec­trums to debate and express their views.

Leftist or pro­gressive guest lec­turers at Hillsdale are rar­ities. If the college wants to advocate for liberty and truth, it must provide stu­dents with the best counter-argu­ments in pol­itics, science, eco­nomics, and phi­losophy so they can meet divergent opinions head-on. Under­standing the finest advo­cates of “the other side” will strengthen stu­dents’ critical abil­ities and help them to better influence the nation.

Stu­dents at Hillsdale College are not mindless con­ser­v­ative drones. They don’t think in lockstep on every issue. View­points outside of con­ser­v­ative orthodoxy, however, are a con­spicuous minority. In the top 385 col­leges sur­veyed in the 2019 Princeton Review, Hillsdale’s stu­dents were the second most con­ser­v­ative and fourth most reli­gious.  

Aris­totle writes that agreement on ques­tions of the highest things is one of the require­ments for true, lasting friend­ships. Yet there’s a danger in only reading con­ser­v­ative media or getting all your news from FOX News. And no, being sub­jected to CNN at an airport gate twice a year doesn’t count. Stu­dents cocooned in an envi­ronment where they rarely hear strong cases for the other side will form ide­o­logical blind spots.

Con­ser­v­a­tives from Utah or lib­erals from Cal­i­fornia are far more likely to be sur­rounded by people who think just like them. As they’re rarely asked to provide a vig­orous jus­ti­fi­cation of their views, they can be, in a word, soft. Alter­na­tively, as a con­ser­v­ative who went to an ultra-leftist arts school in Toronto, my beliefs were tem­pered, hardened, and honed by a hostile envi­ronment where I was forced to play defense. In most classes, it was 30 versus one, but the expe­rience helped me learn how to better artic­ulate my beliefs. It also exposed me to a variety of argu­ments from those across the political aisle.

Some may say that Hillsdale’s stu­dents don’t need to hear leftist or secular opinions because the culture is already filled with them. The forums and debates that could be orches­trated by the college, however, could present both sides in a fuller, more accurate light. One pos­sible format would be to hold debates with teams of two opposing members on each side. In a world where complex issues are reduced to 30-second sound­bites, Hillsdale stu­dents would welcome pro­longed and thorough dis­cussion. 

The funds to bring in top-notch minds shouldn’t come from student groups, which could spend their entire annual budgets securing someone like Richard Dawkins, Paul Krugman, or Bernie Sanders — if they could afford them at all. The tab for this new ini­tiative should be the respon­si­bility of the college itself. Yet this effort doesn’t nec­es­sarily need to be expensive. Excellent content can come from affordable speakers.

Those con­fident in their beliefs shouldn’t be afraid to subject them to the most rig­orous scrutiny. Some stu­dents may find “the other side” has some valid points. It happens. Refining or revis­iting “settled” opinions isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of humility and a nec­essary step to growth.

Hillsdale should become the clear champion of free speech on America’s cam­puses and demon­strate that the college wel­comes open and honest debate. In our current divided, tribal moment, we need to talk to each other more than ever. There’s no better place to get the con­ver­sation started than at Hillsdale.

 

Joshua Lawson is a can­didate for a Master’s degree in pol­itics from the Van Andel Graduate School of States­manship at Hillsdale College. His work has appeared in the Wash­ington Examiner and The Fed­er­alist.