UPDATE 10.23.23: In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, Larry P. Arnn, the 12th President of Hillsdale College, defends the institution from some recent criticism of its handling of “free speech.” Arnn writes:
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression has issued a “warning” about freedom of speech at Hillsdale College. In doing so, it exhibits a fundamental misunderstanding of what a college is.
FIRE gives Hillsdale high marks for “tolerance for speakers,” “student comfort in expressing ideas,” “administration support for free speech” and campus “openness” to discussing challenging topics. It notes that Hillsdale has never punished scholars for their speech or disinvited speakers from campus.
What, then, is Hillsdale’s sin? It is that our “policies clearly and consistently state that it prioritizes other values over a commitment to freedom of speech.”
True enough. A college’s purpose isn’t merely to encourage speech. A college’s purpose, through speaking and thinking—the two go together—is to teach students to think and speak better in search of knowledge. How does a college go about that?
The word “college” means partnership or community. College is where people come together to use their capacities for speech and thought to understand ultimate questions. It is part of human nature to do this better as a group. But we can’t do it if we are screaming, hostile, or babbling.
Disagreements at a college are not only inevitable, they are standard. But learning isn’t combat, lobbying or demonstration. Every time we learn, we change our minds. But we must do so cooperatively. To the extent possible, we must do so as friends.
Hence our speech code at Hillsdale College: “You may assert and defend any argument you conceive, as long as you do so in a way that is civil, academic, and conducive to thought and deliberation.” This rule is old, proven by time and thought.
To be sure, any rule can be abused. The protections against abuse at Hillsdale are profound and hallowed. They reflect fundamental differences between it and most of its competitors.
The first protection is that Hillsdale has those competitors. There are thousands of colleges and hundreds of liberal-arts colleges. Anyone at Hillsdale is free to go elsewhere at any time.
More fundamentally, everyone who studies and works at Hillsdale knowingly chose it. Everyone who matriculates or joins the faculty or staff acknowledges the age-old purposes of the college and agrees to assist rather than obstruct the college in pursuing them. All learn in advance about Hillsdale’s speech code and every other fundamental practice of the college.
We argue about these values too. How does one understand anything except by thinking and talking about it? But this must not turn into chaos—although sometimes it seems mildly and happily chaotic—because all here understand that the condition of our learning together is to have a common purpose.
Hillsdale’s purposes, as described in its founding document, are learning, character, faith and freedom. We often argue about the meaning of these things. But we consider them transcendent—a sin in FIRE’s book, in which only freedom of speech is transcendent.
We invite our critics at FIRE to visit our campus and see free speech work in a way that students learn its highest purpose and true meaning—the purpose and meaning it had for the authors of the First Amendment.
UPDATE 7.5.23: You may have heard the news that long-time Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak has decided to retire. Sajak hosted the popular TV game show for 42 years and has legions of fans. But Sajak isn’t simply heading off to relax on the beach. He is still the chairman of the board of trustees at Hillsdale College. Fox News’s Elizabeth Troutman reports on Sajak’s continued presence working for the college:
Pat Sajak’s retirement from “Wheel of Fortune” will not mark his exodus from public life altogether.
The long-time game show host will remain the chair of Hillsdale College’s Board of Trustees, a position he has held since 2019. He served as vice chair from 2003 to 2019.
“Hillsdale College is fortunate to have an even closer relationship with Mr. Sajak,” Hillsdale College executive director of media relations and communications Emily Stack Davis told Fox News Digital. “Since 2019, we have benefited from his wisdom, intellect, and good humor as chairman of Hillsdale’s board of trustees.”
UPDATE 10.26.22: Word is getting out about Hillsdale College. Students want to go to a school like Hillsdale, and the class of 2026 is the college’s most selective yet. Admittance rates were only 20%, meaning that a far greater number of students than Hillsdale can hold applied to study there. Hillsdale released a statement on the record:
“I think that word is getting out that Hillsdale College is a happy place,” said President Larry P. Arnn. “We study the best things here — things that give meaning and life — and students and professors pursue this study in friendship. That is why we are happy, and that is what students want.”
Preliminary statistics indicate students of the incoming class for the fall 2022 term boast an all-time high ACT average of 32 and an average high-school GPA of 3.94, tying last year’s admitted class for all-time high GPA.
“I think the most impressive thing about these numbers is that we don’t automatically accept the applicants with the highest test scores or GPAs,” Zachary Miller, senior director of admissions, said. “The Admissions Office interviews the vast majority of applicants to determine whether they are the type of student who could flourish here, both in mind and heart. Those are the people we admit.”
During the 2021-2022 school year, Hillsdale College’s student body consisted of about 1,515 undergraduate students from 49 states, the District of Columbia, and 14 foreign countries. Hillsdale offers 35 majors — the most popular being economics, English, financial management, history, politics, and seven pre-professional programs. Within six months of graduation, 92% of the class of 2021 were placed in destinations related to their career goals.
“If you want to pursue truth and grow in character, Hillsdale College is the place for you, and you are the student for us,” Miller said. “I encourage you to apply.”
Originally posted on July 8, 2019.
“Hillsdale College doesn’t take any student loans from the federal government, that’s because the government can then come in and tell you what you can and cannot teach.” – Dr. Gary Wolfram, William Simon Professor of Economics and Public Policy, Director of Economics, Professor of Political Economy.
From the website of Hillsdale College:
Think about the people you want to be around. Think about everything that’s the opposite of shallow and trendy. Think about four years of conversations you’ll never forget. That’s Hillsdale College. In and out of class, people here are on a journey together—one where intellectual enthusiasm is valued, friendships are genuine, and honest discourse is unflinching.
When you come to Hillsdale, you also become part of something bigger. For more than 170 years, Hillsdale has promoted “the diffusion of sound learning” as the best way to preserve the blessings of civil and religious liberty. Learn more about the pursuit of the good, the true, and the beautiful at Hillsdale College.
Elevating the civic conversation.
A more perfect union requires a more serious discourse. We believe an educated citizenry can be a powerful force for honoring, understanding, and defending America’s founding principles.
We invite you to learn with us. We offer summer study programs in the U.S. and Europe for high-school students, residency programs for journalists, travel and learning experiences for adult audiences, public forums held around the country—and that’s just a short list.
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