cover image Unlearning Liberty: 
Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate

Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate

Greg Lukianoff. Encounter (Perseus, dist.), $25.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-59403-635-4

While more than once using the phrase “PC run amok,” and spending a great deal of time on left-liberal bias among academics, first-time author Lukianoff is at pains to separate his book from the garden-variety conservative salvo against higher education. As president of the nonprofit Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, he casts a purposefully wide net over American academe. From a Georgia arts professor censored for parodying the Confederate Stars and Bars, to a Pennsylvania student barred from advocating for gun rights, the cases taken on by FIRE variously appeal to left, right, or hardly anyone at all, as with Colorado professor Ward Churchill, known for supposedly declaring 9/11’s victims “little Eichmanns.” Churchill’s appearance sets the seal on Lukianoff’s First Amendment absolutism, but this legalistic principle, however crucial to his argument, is less central to it than the cause of maintaining free inquiry as higher education’s pre-eminent value. This position drives unabashed criticism—which may split political opinion far more violently than his principled stand on controversial speech—of freshman orientation programs focused on specific issues like social justice and privilege. Lukianoff’s stirring take on higher education as an unrestricted intellectual journey remains free of the bile common to culture war screeds, though some readers may wish he had made his point less repetitiously. (Oct.)