Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, told college presidents last week that he expects them to promote free speech on campus and hire faculty and other staff “with diverse political perspectives,” The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
Youngkin sent the five-page letter to the Council of Presidents, setting his expectations on a range of cultural issues important to his conservative political base—from in-person instruction during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to creation of lab schools as a kind of charter school outside of traditional K-12 public education. He also doesn’t want any tuition increases, which some Virginia colleges have proposed for next year.
He said free speech on campus is “an issue and priority.” Many conservatives have been talking about a speech by former vice president Mike Pence at the University of Virginia. While some students said he shouldn’t appear on campus, he did speak, with the backing of the administration.
Youngkin said hiring faculty with diverse views would “nurture a culture that prioritizes civil discourse and debate, both inside and outside the classroom.”
“This framework … policies and protocols should address annual faculty, staff, and student training, approaches to prioritize the hiring of staff and faculty with diverse political perspectives, support of events and forums to model the exchange of ideas from different perspectives in a civil and productive manner, the set of non-negotiables that will not be tolerated on our campuses, and other steps to further these fundamental freedoms on our campuses,” he wrote.
Larry Sabato, president of the Center for Politics at UVA, said, “This has become dogma on the right, and that’s what Youngkin is feeding into.”
Sabato said he doesn’t object to most of the governor’s stated goals, but he questioned the need to impose a framework on colleges and universities that already are addressing the issue. “I can only speak for one place, but where’s the problem?” he asked. “What’s the problem we’re trying to solve?”