Students pounded their fists on the door so hard the walls shook. Pulled fire alarms, broke windows.
Was this an attempt to escape a burning building? No, just another riot that canceled a speech on campus.
At the University of New Mexico, commentator and Fox News media contributor Tomi Lahren had just begun her scheduled speech on September 15th when a group of protesters gathered outside and began “banging on the doors so much that these double doors are visibly moving and shaking,” Lahren told FoxNews.com.
Then the rioters began “smashing into the windows,” she said. “I would not have gotten out of there last night if it wasn’t for New Mexico State Police and Albuquerque P.D.,” Lauren said.
Shout downs such as this are shameful displays of intolerance and censorship, and those on the right and left side of the ideological divide have been arguing this point for years. Heritage Foundation research has documented dozens of speakers and students who have been shouted down and the threats to free expression posed by so-called free speech zones and bias response teams around the country.
Some state lawmakers have appropriately responded with proposals that say any individual who is lawfully present in a public area of a public college campus has the right to listen and be heard. Free speech zones, which actually limit the space on campus property where individuals can speak freely, have been disbanded at some colleges through these same state legislative proposals. In some states, officials have directed college administrators to consider suspending or expelling students who participate in violent activity that results in censorship or the forcible silencing of professors or guest speakers.
College leaders, though, should also consider the taxpayer resources and other investments being made to create and operate offices of “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI) ostensibly created to foster civil—or at least tolerant—behavior on campus. As Heritage Senior Fellow Jay Greene has found, universities in the major athletic conferences—some of the largest schools in the country—have, on average, 45 employees in their DEI offices.
UNM has such an office—as well as an office of “Compliance, Ethics, & Equal Opportunity” (CEEO). The DEI office’s stated aim is to deploy “justice, equity, accessibility, diversity, and inclusion (JEADI) resources,” which sounds like an effort to promote civil behavior. Yet the CEEO office encourages people to report “rumors” of misconduct and anonymous claims of “bias.” How can one office promote “inclusion” while the other encourages students to engage in soviet-style secret reporting on each other?
Unsurprisingly, research shows that diversity training programs in corporate and university settings are ineffective. As I explain in my book, Splintered: Critical Race Theory and the Progressive War on Truth, these programs either fail to change undesirable attitudes among participants or, if changes do occur, they do not persist.
Meanwhile, in 2019, the University of Michigan disbanded its bias reporting system—a system similar to UNM’s—after a lawsuit and statement of interest from the U.S. Department of Justice. The free speech advocacy organization Speech First has challenged other schools’ bias response teams, resulting in the colleges backing off of these policies.
After the Lahren shout down, UNM school officials said they are committed to free speech and pledged to investigate to see who was involved. Investigating this single incident will not be enough for UNM or other college leaders trying to promote civility on campus, however. DEI officers and bias response teams say they want diversity and inclusivity and to protect students, but most do little to foster these things. Time to abandon these departments and repurpose taxpayer resources on legitimate academic pursuits.
This piece originally appeared in the Chalkboard Review