Once upon a time, colleges and schools had the job of inculcating civic virtues in their students: to introduce them to the marketplace of ideas, to think objectively and rationally, to be tolerant of others, and to appreciate diverse values and cultures.
But maybe those days are past. According to some academics, incoming students should be vetted to make sure they already have a particular set of values. If they don't have those values before enrolling, they should be refused admission.
That seems to be the view of two professors at Louisiana State University who vow not to teach an incoming freshman should he try to enroll in their classes. Why? Because the poor sap used the "n" word in a video that became widely publicized.
I think they are wrong to take that position.
Don't misunderstand me. I abhor racist speech and racist sentiments. The young person who used that word acted wrongly. But how will a public university inculcate better values if it refuses to admit someone intolerant or wrongheaded on issues of race?
I'm retired, but I would not refuse to teach this student. If he took my class on higher education law, he would be exposed to some of the famous civil rights cases of the U.S. Supreme Court: Sweatt v. Painter, Brown v. Board of Education, and Grutter v. Bollinger. If he were a student in my classroom, he would be learning about American law in a multicultural environment because a significant percentage of my students are African Americans.
The two professors say they will drop students from their classes who have a record of engaging in hate speech. Allysa Johnson is an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences. William Doerrler is an associate professor in the same department.
Both professors are widely published, and I'm guessing that students who take their classes will be exposed to the fascinating and broadly useful research in the biological sciences. Professor Johnson specializes in the genetic causes of age-related degenerative diseases. Professor Doerrler researches in the area of bacterial resistance to antibiotics--a critical medical issue.
I do not know anything about the student whom Professors Johnson and Doerrler want to bar from their classrooms. Perhaps the student is an avowed racist with no interest in biology. On the other hand, the misguided kid might make an enormous contribution to American society, were to be admitted to LSU and have his mind opened to new ways of thinking by LSU's eminent faculty.
In my view, refusing to admit a student to a public university classroom because of unfortunate remarks the student made before coming on campus undermines the core mission of a university--which is to nurture and stimulate minds---to help students to become better people.