When news leaked in late October that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was considering a move to once again define sex according to biological realities, it set off a political firestorm and raucous debate about transgender issues. Mainstream media outrage over the issue has now mostly subsided, but on many liberal college campuses, outrage is still in full swing.
At the University of California at Berkeley, for instance, campus activists are trying to destroy Isabella Chow — a lone Christian student who dared speak out in favor of the move. Unfortunately, this outrageous series of events embodies a national trend of intellectual hostility on college campuses that threatens the integrity of our higher education system.
The feverish insanity at UC Berkeley culminated in a Nov. 7 protest, but it had been ravaging the campus for weeks prior. It began when liberal students introduced a resolution at a student senate meeting which would have condemned the Trump administration’s proposed proposal to define sex in relation to biology.
Student Sen. Chow read a statement making it clear that while she views discrimination and harassment as unacceptable, she could not support a resolution that did not align with her deeply held Christian beliefs about the sexes. So she abstained from the vote — not even voting against it. Yet this modest invocation of religious belief was enough to put Chow in the crosshairs of the campus mob.
What followed was an all-out assault on freedom of conscience. Student Action, Chow’s political party on campus, immediately disavowed her. The “Queer Alliance Resource Center” at UC Berkeley followed suit, circulating a petition demanding her resignation from the student senate. It’s already received more than 1,000 signatures. The QARC deemed Chow’s actions “harmful” and “antithetical” to the values of the campus. Even now, they’re considering pursuit of a recall petition if demands for her resignation are unsuccessful.
Chow has since been maligned as homophobic, transphobic, and bigoted by countless members of the campus. The editorial board of UC Berkeley’s student paper, The Daily Californian, wrote that “Chow’s language erased and dehumanized individuals” and called her actions a “disturbing invalidation of human beings.” Now, activists are also trying to use the text of the student senate constitution, which prohibits senators from “participation in or endorsement of activities that disadvantage any marginalized identity,” to justify Chow’s removal from office.
Apparently, they view being Christian as an assault on LGBT people. But Christians aren’t the only group who ought to be concerned by this outrageous campus mobbing. Anyone who values free thought, a culture of mutual tolerance, or First Amendment rights has cause for alarm.
My conversations with Berkeley students made it clear just how chilling the threat of left-wing extremism can be to intellectual diversity. Berkeley College Republicans President Matt Ronnau told me conservative students feel silenced and harassed on campus, and that “this culminates in a culture where we’re unable to speak our minds in class.” It’s not hard to see why he feels this way, after a left-wing student mob tried to decimate Chow simply for speaking out.
When I spoke with Chow about what she’s going through, she was understandably shaken up. She expressed fear for her safety, worried that the harassment might rise to the next level. Chow always knew her view was going to be unpopular, but had hoped fellow students would accept her religious beliefs and respect her as a person. Now, she is a pariah on campus and in the student senate.
Still, she has no intention of resigning. Chow lamented the grim reality on campus: “People who don’t agree with the majority opinion are afraid to comment. If you don’t agree, you can’t expose yourself in a culture like this.”
No matter your personal views on the Trump administration’s proposal, you should sympathize with Chow. No one deserves to have her life turned upside down for respectfully expressing her religious beliefs or politically conservative opinions. The collapse of religious and intellectual tolerance at public colleges is not just alarming as an infringement of student rights — it’s wreaking havoc on our entire higher education system.
After all, Chow’s campus lynching isn’t some isolated incident at one college. This type of frightening infringement on First Amendment rights happens all the time in our system of higher education. A religious student group at the University of Iowa dared require their student leaders to affirm Christian values — and had their official status revoked.
Meanwhile, the University of Minnesota recently seriously considered a policy that would mandate all students and staff use transgender pronouns. Unfortunately, these are merely a few examples among many. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, nearly one-third of colleges maintain policies that “substantially” infringe on free speech.
The mobbing of Isabella Chow at UC Berkeley is just a small part in a large pattern of national decline — and it’s one that poses a serious threat to our system of higher education itself. After all, students can never learn if they’re not even free to think.