Jason Willick is a rising senior at Stanford University, where he is majoring in history and writing a thesis about the politics of academic freedom in the postwar United States. He has worked as a research assistant at Stanford Law School and writes a column on politics, culture and current events for The Stanford Daily.
On why he decided to intern for FIRE this summer, Jason writes:
When I attended FIRE’s summer conference at Bryn Mawr last July, I was struck by the intellectual and political diversity of its employees. Some were liberal Democrats and others were conservative Republicans, but they all respected each others’ opinions and right to disagree. Accordingly, FIRE defends the civil liberties of students and faculty from across the ideological spectrum. I chose to intern at FIRE this summer because free speech is too fundamental to our society to become a partisan cause.
When I am asked by friends, teachers, and readers of my columns why I feel so strongly about this issue, I often turn to John Stuart Mill’s arguments in On Liberty. Mill argued that people in power are usually wrong about which opinions have merit and which don’t. Even censorship of incorrect opinions is harmful because it deprives society of what Mill called a “livelier impression of the truth, produced by its collision with error.”
Many colleges have soaring language about free expression in their mission statements but fail to encourage open debate in practice. Academic communities have their own sets of stigmas and taboos about acceptable thought and discussion, and they all too often try to censor people who get out of line. I observed this firsthand last spring, when Stanford’s student government revoked a group’s funding because it invited a speaker who opposed same-sex marriage. I look forward to working with FIRE to make free expression more of a reality on campuses across the country.
Welcome, Jason, and welcome to all seven undergraduate students in our 2014 FIRE Summer Internship Program!