Let us all praise Brown University President Ruth Simmons for her remarks and hold her accountable for living up to them. Heres what she said:
Simmons began by telling the audience that one of the questions she receives most frequently when visiting Brown alums and parents around the country is, "What is the University doing about the lack of diversity of opinion on campus?" She said that students on campus of all political stripes have told her of "a chilling effect caused by the dominance of certain voices on the spectrum of moral and political thought."
Such a chilling effect is detrimental to education and intellectual inquiry because "we are often creatures of habit when it comes to learning," Simmons said.
"Familiar and appetizing offerings can certainly be a pleasing dimension of learning, but too much repetition of what we desire to hear can become intellectually debilitating," she said.
As for concrete actions the University will take to improve civil discourse, Simmons pointed to the forthcoming Brown University Community Council, which will be composed of faculty, students, staff and alumni and will serve as a "standing platform" to discuss "issues of importance to our community." She also announced the creation of a fund that will be devoted to bringing a wider variety of speakers to campus and will be open to requests submitted by students and faculty.
While I cant speak for other Ashbrook Center fellows, my speaking fees are relatively modest and I would be happy to contribute to intellectual diversity at Brown.