On academic freedom, Regis is ahead of the pack

(’76 Contributor) Father Michael J. Sheeran, S.J., is well aware of me and my personal conservative activism on the Regis University campus. When the university’s president arrived at my table, where my family and I were seated, at the Family Weekend breakfast in September, he looked down at me, shook my hand and joke, “So, what evil are you up to today, Jimmy?”

With many campus presidents, that might be a signal of the kiss of death. But at Regis, that’s not the case at all. In fact, this humorous greeting was playfully done with a smile on Father Sheeran’s face, demonstrating the humor and lack of sincerity in the question. I cannot say for certain where he stands politically, but I do know where his institution lies when it comes to academic freedom: 100% behind it.

I recently watched the film Indoctrinate U, an excellent, insightful documentary about the extreme left-wing, liberal bias on college campuses in America. The film explores the common practice amongst universities and colleges across the country—the so-called “safe-havens” of academic freedom—to shun or disadvantage expressions of conservative views on campus. This includes professors, students, faculty and staff.

Wikipedia defines academic freedom as “the belief that the freedom of inquiry by students…is essential to the mission of the academy, and that scholars should have freedom to teach or communicate ideas or facts…without being targeted for repression, job loss or imprisonment.”

While there is, as most students seem to agree, a decidedly liberal slant amongst Regis faculty (a tendency for universities throughout the country), when it comes to student expression of views, Regis deserves a great deal of praise and credit for standing true to this doctrine and following through with the principles therein. In doing so, they permit various views on political and religious issues to be expressed, including conservative perspectives, which are often discriminated against on the college campus.

I would like to cite my own personal experiences in my first two years here to underscore this, specifically my position on Regis’s Highlander student newspaper, the weekly radio talkshow I host (“Seng Center”) and my status as President of the Regis College Republicans.

First, with regard to the Highlander, I take pride in helping preside over a paper that welcomes the views of all students, regardless of ideology or viewpoint, to join the staff or submit letters to the editor. If you’ve been reading the paper and have noticed my consistent array of conservative-leaning articles over the last year, rest assured that this is not because I have brought some “right-wing bias” to the Highlander. It is because I choose most frequently to publish perspectives pieces, just as others have their favored sections.

Anyone can do it, and I strongly encourage more students and faculty alike to take advantage of the chance to submit articles of their own on virtually any issue, political or otherwise, when the paper reboots next semester.

But the critical point with the Highlander is this: Oftentimes, many conservative students are passed over from publishing political opinion pieces on an edition-by-edition basis due to their ideological standpoint; moreover, I have heard stories about quiet discrimination against conservatives in leadership positions at other colleges, or about students’ difficulty in distributing papers on campus, even though the publication follows the rules (such as a recent Auraria campus case).

Not only have I not encountered any problems with expressing my views on issues here at Regis—no one else has, either. At least, not since I’ve been here. This goes for all political persuasions—liberal, conservative and otherwise.

Then there’s my weekly radio show, Seng Center. Anyone who walks outside on the Quad between the hours of 6 and 8 on Thursday nights can’t without hearing, for better or worse, my loud voice blaring across the Quad, talking about politics from a clearly conservative perspective, with such guests as Republican U.S. Congressman Mike Coffman and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff.

Moreover, it is the only radio show of its kind on Regis’s KRCX radio station (and in Colorado, to my knowledge), and it streams online as well. Thus, it indirectly but indiscretely represents Regis.

Easily I could be censored, as happens on many colleges, to present a certain “preferred image.” I could be denied the program because of some sense for an arbitrary need for greater “balance” (a sort-of “fairness doctrine” on campus) or restricted on what topics I can talk about, who I can bring on to the show, etc.

But I’m not. As long as the things I say and do on the program are appropriate—or, shall we say, “Father Sheeran Approved”—everything’s a-okay, lest activities director Dave Law sick Chuck Norris on me. (God have mercy on my soul if that happens!)

Besides, just like with the Highlander, every student has an equal opportunity to share their views on subjects ranging from religion to politics to anything else. When a single complaint came in about my show, I was readily defended by the powers-that-be for that very reason—just as I should have been, under the principles of academic freedom.

College Republicans on campuses across the nation consistently face discrimination, and many have to jump through hoops for representation at club fairs, access to rooms on campus and other considerations.

Here at Regis, not only do the College Republicans feel confident in their ability as a club to freely carry out activities and host events—like the one first semester with radio talkshow host Mike Rosen and this semester with ex-jihadist Dr. Tawfik Hamid—but we are given the utmost support and assistance by student activities, RUSGA and the college at large. Every time help is needed or a question requires an answer, we got it with no problems or hesitations. Regrettably, many Republican clubs don’t get that.

When I talk to most reasonable-minded people about this, they rightly reply, “Well, of course. Why shouldn’t Regis allow students to speak their mind, irrespective of their ideology?”

I can’t disagree with the implications of that statement at all; every college campus should be open to such ideas. But when you talk to conservative and Republican students at many other colleges in America, and when you talk to conservative college graduates (who think of CU’s leftist ex-professor Ward Churchill), it really does matter a good deal.

To them, Regis is a diamond in the rough—and that’s exactly why I think the university deserves much credit for truly standing behind the idea of “academic freedom.”

No matter what your political or religious persuasion, you’re welcome here at Regis. And even more importantly, you’re welcome to express those views however you wish, so long as you do so respectfully and with the kind of analytical thought prescribed by a Jesuit education.

So the next time a certain Jesuit priest asks what evil you’re up to, just reply, “No evil, Father. I’m just exercising my academic freedom.” And for that, Regis is, to its credit, ahead of the pack.

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