It should go without saying that the point of a university — or more broadly, education as a whole — is the expansion of one’s worldview via exposure to new perspectives. So, it would naturally follow that the point of universities would be to create environments where people feel free to exercise their viewpoints.
If such an environment is not present, then establishing one should be a top priority for any university.
But a recent study from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education found that 54 percent of college students report having to censor themselves in class at some point during their college career. Such a statistic should raise at least some level of concern about the atmosphere currently pervasive throughout academia.
If over half the student population does not feel that they can comfortably share their views in an academic setting, then what is the point of an academic setting? If academic settings are not the place for varying viewpoints to be expressed openly and for new and engaging perspectives to be brought to the table, then where is?
The failure of academia to make itself into a sphere of discussion whereby people are comfortable engaging with the subject material in a way that is genuine and truly representative of themselves is a huge cause for concern.
Yet, there is a notable lack of such a reaction from academia to the emerging trend of campuses apparently not being a medium for the type of real and unfiltered dialogue that allows one’s worldview and perspective to evolve. The consensus does not seem to be that the lack of a perception among students that they can honestly express their own views constitutes a fundamental problem with the culture surrounding academia.
Rather, there is a startling indifference to the emergence of this trend. This phenomenon seems to have been taken in stride, indicating that there is some greater end that justifies the inhibition of a fluid and genuine discussion in an academic setting.
It would seem that the general consensus in higher education is that the environment that is currently present on colleges nationwide is one that is best suited for learning, and that the current issue of people feeling uncomfortable sharing their perspectives is simply a negligible side effect. This indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of what universities and higher education are.
The end goal is to create environments that allow for one to expand their perspectives and learn more, thus the trend of students feeling unable to express themselves — and consequently engage in substantive and meaningful dialogue — constitutes a failure of the most fundamental possible sort.
Creating such discussions must be the end goal of academia. Either the point of academia is to present new ideas and challenges, or it isn’t. And if the former holds true, then something is going to have to change.
Taylor Falter is an undeclared sophomore.