We have spoken about the direction of professors who disagree about the Black Lives Matter movement, police shootings, or aspects of protests across the country from the University of Chicago to Cornell to Harvard to other schools. However, the students are under even greater pressure to adhere to a new orthodoxy that is being implemented at our locations. One example is the conservative junior Billy Torgerson from Georgetown University, who has been the subject of a formal decision by the Georgetown University Student Association to convict and an appeal to the University for bias. The reason is a column on his own website entitled "A Nation of Virtuous Individuals", in which he advocates widespread conservative views of the law and patriotic views of the country.
Torgerson leads his column by seeing the country as fundamentally good and defending what conservative scholars generally call the "first principles" of constitutional interpretations. He begins with the words: "I've been thinking a lot since March 2020. With all the contradicting ideas that are going through my head, one idea remains true about everyone: I love the United States of America."
The content of the column is primarily concerned with Torgerson's criticism of the Bostock ruling against Clayton County, a decision that provides protection under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to transgender people with the expanded interpretation of the term "gender" was expanded. Torgerson has a position similar to that of three dissenting judges and a large number of conservative lawyers, according to which the term "sex" should never go beyond its narrow meaning. However, he adds
"I bring up this decision to clarify my point of view. Yes, the outcome of the case is good for people who identify themselves as LGBTQ. The benefits to these people are not the problem. The problem is that this was a violation of the constitutional authority of the United States Supreme Court that will have unintended consequences. The process was wrong and was committed by flawed actors in our loyal institutions. This is also a failure by Congress to review the judiciary. "
Torgerson spends much of his column praising the United States and rejecting the notion that the country is inherently racist. He also criticized Black Lives Matter as a movement. This criticism differs from the more general cause of Torgerson, who added clarification
"In this article," Black Lives Matter "refers to the ORGANIZATION, not the NEWS. Of course, the lives of black people are important – every life is important to me. Nobody is more important than anyone else, just as nobody else's opinion is more important than anyone else. If you don't like my opinion, draw your own. "
As always in this blog, we focus on questions of freedom of speech and academic freedom. There are many reasons for disagreeing with Torgerson's statements and analysis. In fact, he invited such a debate. However, the student government decided that his statement of contradicting views was blameworthy and many wanted him to be investigated. Negrete-Retamales submitted the approved resolution, which was adopted with only two votes against. The resolution calls on Torgerson to commit violations such as "The vocabulary in this article invalidates the experience of BIPOC people inside and outside the Georgetown community. "It also contests that"the article says "The United States of America is not systematically racist today" from which the author negates the existence of institutional racism. " It also includes the express ask “the Senate committee and the campus community to submit documents Bias reports in response to the article and journal entries. "
Only two students voted for a fellow student's freedom of speech. The article condemns Torgerson for "the rhetoric in this article is racist, ignorant, discriminatory, degrading, and hateful." As so often, the university said nothing because a conservative student was censored by the student government for expressing his views on a Supreme Court case and current controversy. For example, the university or faculty could make a simple statement from the school's language and expression policy, asking students to “assess the value of ideas and respond to those judgments by not trying to speak the language suppress, but openly and vigorously deny these arguments and ideas that they reject. "
Again, Torgerson knew that his column would be controversial and the points he raised should spark a lively debate. This is exactly what university education should promote: a respectful but passionate debate. The students legitimately isolated controversial elements of this column, such as Torgerson's criticism of the widespread view of systemic racism and his criticism of the BLM organization. I also disagree with statements as comprehensive as:
“Black Lives Matter is a movement that is based solely on non-counterfeit ideological property and does not deserve your support. If you support this group, your emotions will be manipulated to push for fundamentally wrong solutions to problems with many moving parts. The United States of America are not systematically racist today. "
I would have liked an exchange of students on such topics, but this debate does not take place at our locations, as this critical decision clearly shows.
Instead of posting their own views on this case or the other questions raised in the column, these students tried to punish Torgerson for expressing dissenting opinions on legal and social issues. When Torgerson was isolated and attacked by the student body, Georgetown remained remarkably silent. No word on how the university must remain a place for different opinions and viewpoints. Outside of some conservative websites, this student columnist was practically not reported by the media, let alone defended, in the interest of freedom of speech. The incident was reported on The College Fix website.
The message of this incident is clear to conservative, libertarian, or just contrary students: if you express divergent views, you will be officially denounced as a racist and your views treated as a "biased incident". These students know that such measures can have detrimental effects on future applications or prospects for students like Torgerson. The intended cooling effect has a positive effect on everyone else who, in good faith, wants to debate the issues that will determine our nation for generations.