The University of California-Berkeley, with a reputation for increasingly violent activism, wants to be more like the University of Colorado. CU hasn't endured a headline-worthy riot in 20 years.
University of Colorado President Bruce Benson spoke Saturday about Berkeley's flattering imitation, before presenting an award at the Steamboat Institute's ninth annual Freedom Conference & Festival in Steamboat Springs. Benson had no idea another violent left-wing melee would erupt the next day just three blocks from the Berkeley campus.
The Steamboat Institute honored Benson with its "Courage in Education Award" last year, and he was on hand to give this year's award to Lafayette College Assistant Prof. Brandon Van Dyck.
Benson explained how the administration at UC-Berkeley recently designed a program after CU's endowed chair of Conservative Thought and Policy, filled each year by a visiting scholar. The program, launched in 2013, became the nexus for CU's Center for Western Civilization. The center promotes understanding and appreciation of "distinctive traditions and political perspectives that characterize Western Civilization," and a "free and creative American society within an international environment."
UC-Berkeley recently brought in Steven Hayward as a visiting scholar. Hayward was CU-Boulder's first visiting scholar of Conservative Thought and Policy. Berkeley's student paper, The Daily Californian, editorialized that a well-behaved version of Hayward "has the potential to be an exceptionally productive foil to UC Berkeley liberalism" that dominates the campus.
Benson set about balancing the culture of CU's three campuses the day Colorado regents appointed him in 2008. CU has seen soaring application rates, after years of expanding intellectual diversity. The university has countered dwindling tax support by partnering with industries that need well-prepared graduates who think for themselves.
Benson and Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano welcome free speech and peaceable assembly, but do not tolerate lawlessness. They ended the university's annual April 20 pot party, which had become an embarrassing brand for the campus, in part by spreading foul-smelling fish fertilizer on the Norlin Quad and ordering riot police to keep the peace. Contrast that with UC-Berkeley's orders for cops to stand down as activists destroy property, cause bodily harm and otherwise break the law.
Universities known as circus arenas for radical activism struggle with declining enrollments.
"In the fall of 2015, a grassy quadrangle at the center of the University of Missouri became known nationwide as the command center of an escalating protest," explained a July 9 story in the New York Times. ".Within weeks, with the aid of the football team, they had forced the university system president and the campus chancellor to resign.
"It was a moment of triumph for the protesting students. But it has been a disaster for the university. Freshman enrollment at the Columbia campus, the system's flagship, has fallen by more than 35 percent in the two years since."
The Daily Californian reported in April that UC-Berkeley's international applications declined this year for the first time in more than a decade, as well as out-of-state domestic applications. Inside Higher Education reported in March that four-in-10 colleges have seen recent declines in International applications.
Writing for USA Today, University of Tennessee Law Professor Glenn Harlan Reynolds said universities harm their brands by accommodating unreasonable demands of activists. He described left-wing protesters who sought and obtained Emory University's protection from someone who peacefully chalked "Trump 2016" on a sidewalk. Emory President James Wagner promised to find a suspect and press charges.
"Indulging those activists is dangerous to universities because it makes them ridiculous," Reynolds wrote about the administration's obvious political bias. ".Higher education already faces falling enrollments, reduced public support and a general decline in public esteem."
Not at CU, where all three campuses enjoy rising applications and enviable placement rates. International and out-of-state applicants have increased by double digits in recent years.
The model is simple. Protect free speech, encourage intellectual diversity, and enhance student safety by enforcing the law. Even UC-Berkeley has begun to follow CU's commonsense lead.