As University of Chicago President Hanna Holborn Gray once proclaimed: “[E]ducation should not be intended to make people comfortable, it is meant to make them think. Universities should be expected to provide the conditions within which hard thought, and therefore strong disagreement, independent judgment, and the questioning of stubborn assumptions, can flourish in an environment of the greatest freedom.” The University of Chicago must not coddle its students by allowing their “stubborn assumptions” to go unquestioned. Instead, the university possesses a duty to expose its students to numerous and varied ideas, thereby making them uncomfortable: “[A] good university, like Socrates, will be upsetting.”
As students at the University of Chicago, we affirm our university’s commitment to free inquiry and expression. Testing our ideas and confronting counterarguments is the only means through which we may arrive upon the truth. And this process can, and should, be uncomfortable. We demand not to be coddled. Embracing the experience of unfettered inquiry and free expression is precisely the point of these years of intense study: to rigorously confront and challenge our most deeply-held beliefs—and to emerge from the experience as more thoughtful, informed human beings.
While the Chicago Principles prohibit administrative punishments for dissenting speech, the University of Chicago’s community too often fails to embrace the university’s principles. Otherwise stated, many of our peers remain hostile to free expression. Rather than reason with those who dare question the majority’s preconceived narratives, the University of Chicago’s community is increasingly hostile toward conservatives, libertarians, and all those who deviate from the left’s orthodoxy. And rather than engage in a rigorous intellectual argument informed by morality, our leftist peers too often profess a monopoly of righteousness and attempt to end the conversation before it has even begun—thereby inhibiting effective disagreement and truth-finding.
The chilling examples of such hostility and speech suppression are numerous. Rather than grapple with Evita Duffy’s assertion that socialism poses an imminent threat to America, many of our peers chose instead to persecute her character. When College Council Class Representative Brett Barbin introduced a bill to prevent student life fees from funding abortions, he was not just confronted by disagreement, but also by intense harassment that lasted for the remainder of his time on campus. Additional examples of intellectual intolerance include the campaign to rescind Steve Bannon’s invitation to speak at the University of Chicago, the ouster of IOP fellow James Bennet from the New York Times, and the significant obstacles faced by Steven Jacobs as he received his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago.
Cancel culture imposes leftist orthodoxy on our campus by silencing opposing viewpoints, punishing individuals who facilitate them, and chastising those who decline to register a prescribed opinion (“silence is violence”). This intolerant atmosphere fosters an intellectual homogeneity that negatively affects everyone within our community. Regardless of political orientation, when individuals are barraged with unchallenged ideas, they become intellectually lazy and incapable of thorough reflection. Fallacies become mainstream. Truth is prevented from being the “antagonist to error.” Such is the natural product of indoctrination.
The influence of left-wing ideas and the sheer force of cancel culture requires that those who do not subscribe to leftist dogma choose between two options: (1) stand down and allow the cancelers to define truth and punish dissenters, or (2) take up arms—i.e., pens and paper—and fight back. Novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand would have supported the latter option: “Do not keep silent when your own ideas and values are being attacked.”
The Chicago Thinker embraces the mission of President Gray, Ayn Rand, and all those who desire to discern truth. In an academic community where conservatives and libertarians are frequently silenced, ostracized, or worse, we are proud to defend what we believe. We are not victims, nor are we pushovers to bad ideas. And while the left too often attempts to bludgeon its malcontents into silence, we refuse to succumb to the cancelers’ speech codes. Free discourse—which relies on the litigation of ideas through disagreement and the presentation of counterarguments—will die if conservatives and libertarians are denied a seat at the table or if we fail to speak when it matters most. The Chicago Thinker refuses to allow that to happen.
We have a clear agenda: to defend conservative and libertarian perspectives in a community that is increasingly intolerant of such voices. Otherwise stated, we stand athwart the trajectory of leftist orthodoxy—“yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so or to have much patience with those who so urge it.” Our editorial team is staunchly conservative and libertarian. And we aim to defend both limited government and the Jeffersonian notions of life, liberty, and property. We founded the Chicago Thinker in defense of these convictions and in direct response to leftist orthodoxy.
Our editorials will defend our deeply-held conservative and libertarian beliefs, as will many of our staff writers. Meanwhile, our opinion pages will welcome submissions from the University of Chicago community and beyond. In order to invite discussion from all, we will consider letters-to-the-editor on a rolling basis. Our pages will not be an echo chamber. Inwardly and outwardly, our editors often disagree. And as a team of free-thinking individuals, that’s exactly as it should be. We hope that our community will join us—as we rigorously debate everything from current events to the most pressing philosophical questions of our time. After all, that’s what we’re here for.
The Founding Editorial Board:
Audrey Unverferth, Publisher & Editor-in-Chief, A.B. ’22
Evita Duffy, Managing Editor, A.B. ’22
Declan Hurley, V.P. for Editorial Operations, Analysis, and Intellectual Formation, A.B. ’24
Matthew Heck, Senior Analysis Editor, A.B. ’22
Mitchell Robson, Senior Analysis Editor, A.B. ’24
Gerrin T. Alexander, Senior Opinion Editor, A.B. ’21
Eden Negussie, Senior Opinion Editor, A.B. ’24
Emily Dow, Senior News Editor, A.B. ’24
Aidan Griffin, Senior News Editor, A.B. ’23