DSU Prof Joseph Bottum essay in Washington Free Beacon about intellectual diversity on campus

Dakota State University Professor Joseph Bottum, professor of cyber-ethics and director of the Classics Institute at Dakota State University, has an essay just posted to the Washington Free Beacon website about intellectual diversity on campus, specifically discussing how the battle has come to a head within the halls of government in South Dakota:

The failure of American colleges to promote free speech and intellectual diversity is like an open wound. It stains the imagination, obscuring paths of investigation with a sick puss. It drains the vitality of thought, leaving the mind weakened. And it strains intellectual discourse—the Socratic ideal of conversation—by making us fearful, anxious, and self-censoring.

Ideas deserve better treatment. The life of the mind requires a more nurturing care than we now give it in the multitrillion-dollar temple of education that we have constructed with America’s colleges and universities.


It is a deep observation of political theory that when culture fails, law steps in. The Midwestern states, for example, are exploring legal solutions to the national problem of campus culture. In South Dakota, for example, the legislature is considering a bill to require the state’s public universities to promote free speech and intellectual diversity—and this week the House Education Committee approved advancing the bill by a 9 to 6 vote. The bill also demands that students at South Dakota’s public universities take classes in American history and government, and prove their studies by passing a test of the questions on a citizenship exam.

This is only the latest in a series of battles between the Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s universities, and the legislature, which funds them. And not surprisingly, the Board of Regents is mounting an attack on the bill as it reaches the floor of the state House of Representatives.

The regents may have a reasonable point about the bill’s failure to provide funding for its mandates. But when they argue that the bill is unnecessary, given recent changes in free-speech policy at the state universities, the regents are on shakier ground. The failure of American academia to find a solution to its current cultural dilemmas is precisely what invites legislatures to step in.

Read the essay in its entirety here.

Keep an eye on the issue as it continues to progress here at dakotawarcollege.com!

22 thoughts on “DSU Prof Joseph Bottum essay in Washington Free Beacon about intellectual diversity on campus”

  1. Maybe some of the monies that go to new buildings or athletic activities could be redirected to actual education! And civics and history classes instead of gender classes or diversity classes or other fluff courses…what a novel idea!

    1. I agree springer. You are hitting on the real issue. But the fakers on this bill are afraid.

  2. Real conservatives don’t make safe spaces. They have real guts. These are faux conservatives pandering.

    Real legislators do what it takes to improve the product of our institutions. These are people too lazy to do the real work.

    I sign this with my real name to express my utter disgust.

    1. One of the problems that has come up is that the public universities in South Dakota have been limiting students to designated areas for free speech. It was going on at USD, and as I’m being told, it’s still going on at SDSU. If anything, the bill is creating the opposite of safe spaces. It’s opening them up for free speech.

  3. One final comment and then I am done.

    The first, second and third responsibility of college and universities are to provide tools for graduates to have successful careers. Right now they are failing.

    And, a bunch of politicians so think the world revolves around them they want to create a safes space for people who think like them. And ignore meaningful action to get a better product for students.

    P.S. the fact the Legislature has to have remedial civics and history MANDATES to college students is these Legislators haven’t done their jobs with regard to high school mandates. What an admission about out K-12 quality! And the solution is to force college adults to take and pay for their remedial requirement. I am wholly embarrassed to contemplate our legislators even think this has any merit.

    All this said, I am done. It is obvious the morons are in charge and I don’t waste my time with morons. I have no desire to see you or speak to anyone. Consider this a statement to your face- I consider anyone who thinks this will make it better a moron. Good bye.

      1. Troy, we are making morons of our college students, telling them in some instances what to think and how to feel. They are groomed to become liberal idiots. If you would care to think back to the last presidential election, an article in our local papers mentioned that even at a Sioux Falls private college, some teachers were in mourning that Clinton lost and, assuming that students also were feeling that same way, told the students they could go back to their dorms and lie down with their blankets and pillows, thus comforting themselves. How sick is that?

        1. I agree with your point. Professors are abusing their office granted by the institution to promote crap irrelevant to what the students expect- an education.

          So, deal with it it at a fundamental way at the top so it makes a real difference. The BOR and administrations are failing at a level that is dereliction of duty.

          This is a fake solution but these fakers are just pretending to do something as a deception to you. The real solution is hard and requires them to directly make people at the top accountable, they have the courage to take on the alumni apparatus (or preferably, do the work to turn them into allies which I think is the real solution).

          Instead, they get behind something which will entrench the problem, make it harder to solve in a real way.

          I’ve known Rep. Peterson for 25 years and I am absolutely shocked she is involved in this. I assumed she was a better thinker and would not succumb to fake solutions.

          And Pats representation is wholly false. In the end, the effective result of this will be more Balkanization, less interaction of diverse thought, more talking past each other, and a further breakdown in us being one nation.

          And, a further deterioration of the educational product in our colleges. All of this hyper-politics is a distraction of making better teachers, accountants, managers.

        2. Two other things,

          1). just because someone says it will fix the problem doesn’t mean it will. Liberals say stuff like “this is good for the poor” when the reality is it is good for the politicians. This bill is exactly the same thing.

          2). The only difference between a communist and a fascist is who they shoot in the middle of the night. If you care about liberty, real free speech and a constitutional freedom, it (communist vs. fascist) is a distinction without a difference.

          In fairness, I retract that I have definitive grasp of what is the motives of the sponsors. I really have no idea if the sponsors have bad intent, have poor judgment, or of weak intellectual capacity, but I have no doubt this bill will have negative long-term consequences on both liberty, will not enhance the quality or diversity of speech, and will deteriorate the quality of our institutions of higher education.

          I expect real leaders to deal with the problem in a meaningful way and this exactly the opposite. I have been hammering on this trend for decades and was encouraged when the issue was raised last year. From that discussion, I was expecting the discussion would continue to lead to real solutions. And, that is why I want this bill to die. It will give the illusion of doing something positive. The problem is endemic and deep. Easy solutions like this never do anything but give false security it has been solved. The worst of all scenarios.

  4. Only snowflakes think they need to legislate safe spaces for themselves and their ideas even here in South Dakota, it appears.

    1. Agreed. That’s what had happened, and that’s why legislation was needed to ensure it would be open,

  5. Troy, which of my ‘representations’ are you claiming as false? Because this issue has been simmering for a few years now, and calls for fairness and protecting speech have been coming from students and faculty for some time now…

    The second red light policy lies in USD’s Free Speech Policy, which outlines areas where free speech is allowed. The policy states that the Muenster University Center, Muenster University Center Courtyard and the I.D. Weeks Library Courtyard are the only areas where free speech is allowed.

    Much like hate speech codes, free speech zones have come under legal scrutiny. The University of Cincinnati’s speech zones were recently ruled unconstitutional in federal court.

    Beyond the legal issues, there’s a principle at stake: the principle of free thought and free inquiry.


    That example was cited by the USD Volante, in an editorial titled “Editorial: USD should alter free speech policies.” From Sept 2017.

  6. Pat, just read the first section (and it goes thru the entire document) which gives power to the institution to restrict as long as they are serving the purpose of the institution and are “fair.” So, in the end the institution wins by limiting speech by students leaving the profs the only voice.

    I could go through every section and expose how the practical effect makes the problem worse.

    1. If the institution is fit to makes this decision as the first section of the bill, you don’t need the section. If they aren’t capable, this section makes it worse.

      So I repeat, the drafter either has bad intent, bad judgement, or stupid.

  7. it has been fascinating to follow this issue. it was uniquely fun to see the regents and university leadership rest safely in the lap of the state’s overwhelming republicanness, and say “this squelching of speech you speak of just does not happen in THIS state.” maybe not. is this a bad bill? it could be, for the reasons stated. i don’t know how to legislatively help big-c Conservatives in this state because whether by the bills they write or the tactics they use, they are too often their own worst enemy.

  8. So is the solution is to have all the members of the BOR appear before the Senate Education Committee and explain themselves. The buck stops with them. Put them on the hot seat and start firing them.

    1. Yes. And bring before a committee a professor who goes over a line (like blocking a prolife float from being in the hobo day parade) asking upon whose permission or direction. If they acted and used institutional implied or express authority with direction, run up the chain until you have the person who acted improperly, fire them. If it was their own decision and it is an abuse of institution,utional authority, fire them.

      We have to deal with this directly to the personnel. Personnel is policy. The Legislature can’t write enough rules to solve the problem and it is a delusion to think they can. Writing rules is what authoritarians do. Leaders change environments.

  9. I just came across and interesting article addressing this topic on the Powerline blog and thought I’d post it here, just in case anyone is still following this post.

    “The disappearance of intellectual diversity on America’s college campuses is at the root of the campus free-speech crisis, and of America’s increasingly frayed political culture. The Campus Intellectual Diversity Act can help to solve these problems, while still respecting the independence of professors in the classroom. . .

    Stanley Kurtz has devoted the past few years to working tirelessly throughout the U.S. to persuade state legislatures to pass effective legislation protecting campus free speech at public universities. He has made progress. . .

    Now, Stanley has a new, related project. He’s trying to address the lack of intellectual diversity on American campuses, which he sees as the cause of the free speech crisis. He discusses his effort here.”

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