A Tale of Two Student Protests

Student protests and threats to speakers are not a new thing. There were student strikes at the universities of Oxford and Paris in the thirteenth century. Martin Luther, arriving in Leipzig to debate John Eck in 1519, surrounded himself with an armed cortège of Wittenberg students, anticipating trouble (or perhaps hoping to precipitate such) with the locals. Nineteenth-century Russia witnessed a surge in student radicalism. Dostoevsky’s The Devils provides a literary portrait of such, and the close connection between the term “intelligentsia” and revolutionary politics reflects this period. 1968 was not so much a novelty as a particularly intense example of a tradition. What Judge Duncan experienced at Stanford, while disgusting, is no innovation.

Yet protests do not always need to be obnoxious, like the one at Stanford. Some weeks ago I was myself subject to a protest while speaking at another college. The protesters, upset at my views on LGBT and Pride issues, organized opposition to my presence. But this group was different from the Stanford mob. My protesters attended my lecture, listened politely and even laughed at my jokes, asked some good questions, and then at the end left the lecture theater to hold a gathering elsewhere on campus. At no point did I feel disrespected as a human being. Far from it. I actually appreciated the protesters turning up in person to hear what I had to say. And I further appreciated being asked good questions that pressed me to sharpen my thinking on a couple of points.

The difference between my protesters and those berating Judge Duncan is this: Mine had not lost sight of the fact that they and I both share a common humanity. Nor had they lost sight of the purpose of public discourse: to persuade opponents to change their views for the better, not to terrify them into silence.  Read More»

Carl R. Trueman | “A Tale of Two Student Protests” | March 16, 2023


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