WASHINGTON — We know Johns Hopkins University is devoted to diversity, because it says so. Its “Diversity and Inclusion Statement,” a classic of the genre, says the university is “committed to sharing values of diversity and inclusion … by recruiting and retaining a diverse group of students.” Hopkins has an Office of Institutional Equity and a “Diversity Leadership Council” that defines “inclusion” as “active, thoughtful and ongoing engagement with each other.” Unless you are a member of Voice for Life, an anti-abortion group.
Hopkins' Student Government Association has denied VFL status as a recognized student group, for two reasons: VFL's website links to other organizations that display graphic images of aborted babies. And VFL plans to engage in peaceful, quiet “sidewalk counseling” outside a local abortion clinic, which the SGA considers “harassment.”
Hopkins' student conduct code enjoins students “to protect the university as a forum for the free expression of ideas.” And although Hopkins has a stern policy against sexual harassment, it says the purpose of this policy is not “to inhibit free speech or the free communication of ideas by members of the academic community.” Presumably that also applies to other forms of “harassment.”
Suppose such SGA-recognized student groups as the Arab Students Organization, the Black Student Union, the Hopkins Feminists or the Diverse Sexuality and Gender Alliance were to link their websites to provocative outside organizations, or were to counsel persons not to patronize firms with policies those groups oppose. Would the SGA want to deny them recognition as student groups? Of course not. Obviously, the SGA has acted to express animus against the content of VFL's speech, and to protect students from the discomfort of disagreement.
Persons who do not want to see the images to which VFL links need never see them. Nevertheless, an SGA member says pro-life demonstrations make her feel “personally violated, targeted and attacked at a place where we previously felt safe and free to live our lives.” If encountering ideas she does not share makes her feel this way, she is unsuited to a proper academic setting. She may, however, be suited to Hopkins, which should be embarrassed, if it still can be.
Hopkins' institutional intolerance would be boring were it simply redundant evidence of academia's commitment to diversity in everything but thought. It is, however, indicative of the increasingly extreme ambitions and tactics of those operating under the anodyne rubric of “choice.” In Florida recently, a legislative debate that reverberated in the U.S. Senate in the 1990s was revived concerning the right to choose infanticide.
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