Valley News Condemns Zywicki Speech

Apparently the Valley News‘ stance is better late then never:

It is the nature of insurgencies to seek to offend orthodox opinion, and perhaps that is the spirit in which Todd Zywicki, Dartmouth trustee and professed higher-education reformer, delivered recent remarks during a conference in North Carolina. If giving offense was the goal, he certainly succeeded in at least one respect with us — by referring to the late Dartmouth president James Freedman as a “truly evil man.”

[. . .]

Zywicki asserted in a subsequent interview with Valley News political editor John Gregg that Freedman “bullied and intimidated” some students during campus controversies. We know of no evidence supporting that allegation. (And, conveniently for Zywicki, Freedman is not around to defend himself.) But even if what Zywicki says were somehow true, that would not make Freedman a “truly evil man.”

Using such a phrase in these circumstances demeans the speaker, to be sure; but it also devalues the language itself and the very idea of evil that the last century did so much to shape. Certainly evil is still abroad in the world, but we lose our ability to articulate it when such a term is casually applied to people with whom we have some ideological differences. That is not moral clarity but rather a Manichaean view of the world that is at odds with experience and reality. Most of us are guilty of rhetorical overreach now and again; it’s good to be reminded of just how offensive it can be.

If the Valley News can’t think of any instances where Freedman intimidated (or attempted to) students then they were living under a rock.