A college which has earned the dubious distinction of being one of the ten worst for free speech, for not only discriminating against white students and faculty, but for also then hounding a professor who objected to the action until he was forced to quit, has been forced to abandon the controversial policy, but only because it suffered a disastrous 20% decline in expected admissions.
"Prospective undergrads voted with their feet - technically with their applications - against a college where students were allowed to harass a professor who objected to an illegal policy of racial banishment excluding whites from the campus for a day, and where faculty not only didn't support his academic freedom, but argued that the school should violate its own policies and not discipline the students for clear violations of its rules," says public interest law professor John Banzhaf.
Banzhaf, who has long advocated using legal action when universities violate the academic freedoms of students or faculty - and who successfully used legal action to help stop his own university from expelling a student for engaging in protected free speech - suggested that this new example of Evergreen State College in Washington shows that adverse publicity and financial pressures can also be effective.
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He noted a similar result at the University of Missouri which likewise yielded to demands to roll back free speech protections, only to be forced to close seven dormitories as enrollment dropped by over 4,000 students. These two examples show that free enterprise and competition can be a powerful weapons against political correctness, he argues.
At Evergreen, a professor who objected to a new policy under which whites were expected to leave campus for a day was physically harassed and eventually forced to resign, a event which forced the college to pay him a settlement of $500,000.
Perhaps equally significant, the faculty called for disciplinary action against the professor rather than against his harassers, backed the students who assaulted him, and argued that they should not be disciplined under "the misguided language of the current Student Conduct Code."
Even moderate drops in admissions as a result of adverse publicity can be disastrous for a college, says Banzhaf, since most of the costs of operating the college, including the large number of tenured professors who cannot be let go when student populations decline, are fixed.
Apparently as a result of Evergreen's financial setback, the "Day of Absence," when whites were expected to leave the campus, will end, and there will be a new course allegedly designed to encourage diversity of views.
Perhaps other colleges thinking of curtailing free speech and academic freedom in order to be more politically correct, or to yield to the often outrageous demands of small groups of students, will learn a lesson from Evergreen and Missouri and stay true to academic values, if only for financial reasons, he says.