Alexander: Colleges Should Apply Same Enthusiasm to Underrepresented Points of View that they Apply to Underrepresented Students

Says students need to learn about the world they are about to be in

New York, May 31 Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said “colleges should apply the same enthusiasm to underrepresented points of view that they have applied to underrepresented students.”


“We don’t want to graduate a generation of students who have to go to a ‘safe place’ because they don’t know how to handle an offensive tweet,” Alexander said. “Colleges are supposed to be places where you learn how to deal with the world you're about to be in... You need to learn how to counter it or ignore it or whatever needs to be done. That's what a good academic experience should be.”


Senator Alexander made his remarks to The New York Times Higher Ed Leaders Forum this morning, where he discussed free speech on campus, reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, and other political issues surrounding higher education with New York Times Political Reporter, Kate Zernike.


Alexander continued:It's the perception among many conservatives, who are in the majority in Congress right now, that underrepresented points of view aren't heard. I've talked that over with a number of college presidents, I don't think it's too hard to fix. I would apply the same sort of enthusiasm to underrepresented points of view that colleges have applied to underrepresented students.”


“Vanderbilt, where I went, has a ‘Posse Program.’ They get a bunch of kids who are coming from difficult backgrounds and they come together to Vanderbilt and they support each other and they've done remarkably well. When I went to NYU law school years ago, most of the students were from Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens. So they created a scholarship to attract students from other parts of the country. I was lucky enough to be one of those students. Colleges haven't shown the same skill in making sure that their campuses have the same sort of diversity in points of view.”


[Zernike: Can the federal government do anything?]


“I don't want the federal government defining that; that would be the worst thing that could happen… Most college presidents wouldn't want to make their biggest donor unhappy. And the federal government approves $100 billion in loans and $30 billion in Pell Grants every year. That's a lot of money.


“If you feel like it's a problem and I think it clearly is, I would number one, do what Princeton and Chicago are doing. The Princeton President has said our cure is that we try to have so many different kinds of speakers that if a controversial one shows up, it's routine. I think the second thing to do if I were still a president, I would go to my own senator and say I hear you think we don't have different points of view on our campus. Let me tell you what's really going on because I want you to know firsthand. I think this is the single biggest threat to support for higher education in the country today.”


You can watch the full video of Alexander’s remarks here.

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