The Open Academy

CMC’s strategy to promote expression, viewpoint diversity, and dialogue

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The Open Academy

CMC’s strategy to promote expression, viewpoint diversity, and dialogue

Intellectual humility. Critical thinking. Active listening. Respectful debate. Solutions to complex problems built on common ground.

These are the bedrock principles of higher education—and they help inform the three Open Academy commitments that guide CMC’s strategy to help develop the next generation of emerging scholar-leaders.

  • Freedom of expression: To reinforce free expression on a content-neutral basis through all programming, including orientations, the curriculum, the Athenaeum, and special workshop training.
  • Viewpoint diversity: To offer the widest range of political diversity and openly embrace teaching and learning from a broad range of materials.
  • Effective dialogue: To emphasize the ability to learn from and reconcile different viewpoints by reinforcing skills of open, engaged, and critical inquiry.

CMC has continually been recognized for its Open Academy initiative, including winning the 2019 Institutional Excellence Award from Heterodox Academy (HxA).

CMC was chosen as “the college or university that has done the most to advance or sustain open inquiry, viewpoint diversity, and constructive disagreement either on its campus or nationally.” In particular, HxA hailed CMC’s Open Academy initiative (including government professor Jon Shields’ co-taught University Blacklist course with Pitzer professor Phil Zuckerman), the variety of speakers and viewpoints presented at the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum, and its first-in-California Green rating for free speech from The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

“Freedom of expression and viewpoint diversity are imperative, yet insufficient without effective dialogue.”

– President Hiram E. Chodosh

The University Blacklist, a stereotype-shattering journey through controversial opinions about some of society’s most emotionally charged issues, was a simulacrum of the Open Academy. Shields, who interviewed more than a hundred conservative professors about their experiences on left-leaning campuses for his book, Passing on the Right, asked Zuckerman, a professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College who wrote Society Without God, to co-teach the course.

In the class, a politically diverse group of students from CMC and the other Claremont Colleges read two books—one by a liberal author and the other written by a conservative. Shields and Zuckerman present their critiques, bat opinions back and forth, and then the students weigh in.

“It’s an opportunity both to teach dangerous books in an environment where there is a lot of debate about the author’s ideas, and to teach across political lines,” said Shields, who arrived at CMC in 2008.

“Freedom of expression and viewpoint diversity are imperative, yet insufficient without effective dialogue,” said President Hiram E. Chodosh. “Jon and Phil engage the most diverse, controversial viewpoints through an open, critical, and deep academic dialogue in one setting, one classroom, one community. This is an exemplar of our most important commitments, a lesson for our time.”

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