The Market for Diversity of Thought on College Campuses


The controversy concerning the tug-of-war between Catholic doctrine and LGBT ideology on the campus of Providence College, a Catholic institution, has brought out three possible perspectives on a spectrum of goals that a Catholic institution of higher education can have:

  • To be a place in which anybody who is comfortable in the broader culture will be comfortable, so that they may come to love an institution that is founded in Catholicism.
  • To have that same standard of comfort, but to also be a place in which Catholic views are guaranteed at least an equal footing in on-campus debates.
  • To be a place in which the Catholics can continue their education in a way that shores up their faith in preparation not only for religious life, but also for continued Catholic life in the secular culture.

I’ll have more to say about the purpose of Catholic education in the near future, but I wanted to lay out those three options as context for this startling finding out of another institution of higher education in Providence, Brown University:

In 2017, the University invited a long list of speakers to campus — and we should know. Over the past year, the SPEAK coalition — a group of students, professors and student organizations seeking to bring more ideologically diverse speakers to Brown — has collected data on every speaker invited by the institutes and centers listed by the Political Science Department as “bear(ing) on the study of politics.” We chose to analyze the political affiliations of these speakers as a transparent metric of the ideologies welcomed on campus and of the general environment of discourse. Of the 237 speakers who were politically identifiable based on campaign contributions, social media statements and career histories, 94.5 percent leaned left, while a mere 5.5 percent leaned right. In an examination of political contributions by these speakers, 97.4 percent of donations went to Democratic races and political action committees, whereas only 2.6 percent went to Republican ones. Though political affiliation may be an imperfect measure of ideology, the results are so skewed that they can’t help but betray a lack of diversity. The complete results of our findings are available in our 2017 Brown University Speakers Report, with an extended analysis of the data and a detailed methodology on our website. Our mission has been supported by several student organizations and faculty members.

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Obviously, questions of religious belief don’t line up perfectly with dichotomies of Democrat-Republican or even Left-Right, but Brown’s experience gives a sense of the landscape.  If a mainstream secular university skews almost entirely in one direction, that gives us a sense of the marketplace in which the Catholic college across the city has to operate if it wants to be anything other than the third option above.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    Brown? The President’s dog is named Karl Barks.

  • Christopher C. Reed

    It’s Rosa Parks University.
    Get with the program.