by Lowman S. Henry | May 08, 2023

It is budget time in Harrisburg and the line of special interests claiming the world will come to an end if more taxpayer largess is not bestowed upon them virtually extends from the Capitol steps down State Street to the banks of the Susquehanna River.

The clamor for more money emanating from the education establishment is especially loud. In the wake of a Commonwealth Court ruling that somehow found Pennsylvania’s funding formula for K-12 public schools to be unconstitutional demands for higher spending have skyrocketed to over a billion dollars.

That, however, is a subject for another day. Higher education is also on its knees begging for more money. The state related institutions – Penn State, the University of Pittsburgh, Temple University, and Lincoln University – along with the 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education all are demanding more money backed by the not-so-subtle threat that they will raise tuition and blame lawmakers if the requested funds are not forthcoming.

These institutions have been hemorrhaging two things in recent years: money and students. Fortified by the belief that Harrisburg will shovel never-ending amounts of cash into their coffers these universities have  recklessly over-built their physical plants, allowed their administrative staffs to become bloated, approved excessively generous labor agreements, and have failed to adapt to the changing needs of today’s workforce making their product no longer worth the investment for many prospective students.

The biggest failure of higher education is their total capitulation to “woke” culture abandoning their traditional role of teaching students how to think and instead indoctrinating them with what to think. Actual debate and discourse have been shoved aside and replaced with a ridged framework of speech, thought and behavior codes.

Cancel culture recently descended on the University of Pittsburgh when swimmer Riley Gaines, who has become the face of opposition to biological males competing in women’s sports, Daily Wire commentator Michael Knowles, and Daily Wire podcaster Cabot Phillips were scheduled to participate in a debate on such issues.

Participate in a debate – not a speech but an actual discussion of a current cultural issue.

Leftist lawmakers demanded they not be allowed to speak. The University administration gave lip service to “free speech” while making it clear the speakers did not share their “values.” When the debate took place the Left deployed its go-to tactic when it doesn’t get its way: they took to the streets in protest, burning Knowles in effigy and setting of what the media termed an “incendiary device.”

It amounted to a brat fit by a group of intolerant students protesting what they deemed to be intolerance.

Penn State, which claims the right to deny any campus appearance they deem to be “considered potentially harmful” to the school’s public image, also engages in cancel culture. In April, an appearance by Alex Stein who hosts a program on Glenn Beck’s Blaze TV was “postponed” because of a supposed “scheduling conflict” after students protested his appearance. Penn State’s record of cancelling speakers with which it does not agree is so bad that the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has placed it on its list of the ten worst colleges in the nation for free speech.

Conversely, a Google search found no record of any far-Left speakers being cancelled at state universities, or protests by conservative-leaning students to such events. Apparently, if conservative students did not want to hear the speaker, they simply did not go to the event.

The bottom line here is that we the taxpayers are subsidizing educational institutions which tolerate woke mobs opposing the exercise of free speech by speakers with whom they disagree. Right now, under the Capitol dome, those same educational institutions are lobbying for more of our money to continue the suppression of free speech.

Lawmakers should not only refuse to increase funding, rather they should demand across-the-board reforms ranging from free speech rights to the financial mismanagement that has resulted in ever-increasing costs to produce diminishing returns.

Rather than asking how much more we should spend, we should be asking are we already spending too much?

As for free speech, university officials need to be reminded of the famous quote by Voltaire biographer Evelyn Beatrice Hall who summed up his philosophy writing: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal and American Radio Journal. His e-mail address is [email protected].)

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