By Katie Neitz

 In honor of his efforts to promote political and intellectual diversity at Lafayette, the Steamboat Institute has presented Brandon Van Dyck, assistant professor of government and law, with its Courage in Education award.

The Steamboat Institute, a nonprofit that promotes limited government and free markets, recognized Van Dyck for his work on The Mill Series, which brings to Lafayette speakers who challenge mainstream campus opinion. 

Brandon Van Dyck sits“Colleges, I think, would benefit from heavier exposure to authentic and sophisticated conservatism, libertarianism, and religious belief,” says Van Dyck. “The free and robust exchange of conflicting ideas is intellectually and personally enriching, conducive to scholarly rigor, and, I would argue, critical for the pursuit of truth. Regardless of one’s own particular viewpoint, it’s counterproductive, even dangerous, when everyone in the room has roughly the same political or ideological slant.” 

An independent 501(c)3 nonprofit, the Mill Series is named after John Stuart Mill, whose quotation, “He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that,” appears on the homepage of The Mill Series’ website. The series, which Van Dyck co-founded with Abdul Manan ’18, hosted five campus speakers in the spring semester of 2017 and will host seven more speakers during the 2017-2018 academic year, including Jordan Peterson and Douglas Murray.

Van Dyck accepted the award at Steamboat Institute’s annual Freedom Conference. It was the second time the organization gave the award; last year’s inaugural honoree, University of Colorado president Bruce Benson, presented Van Dyck with the honor.

“It was a right-of-center conference, and I consider myself pretty apolitical, so it was a new experience for me,” Van Dyck says. “I met a lot of interesting folks and had a number of great conversations with people who, like me, regard free expression and free exchange as foundational to Western civilization and the American national experiment.”

Van Dyck hopes the award will act as a catalyst for The Mill Series’ growth and improvement. 

4 Comments

  1. P Pamela A. Farley says:

    Wow! I did not expect to find this on a Lafayette website. Maybe there is hope. My son Elliot will graduate from Lafayette engineering May ’18.

    His brother graduated from Colgate last May ’17. I wrote the below letter to the president of Colgate after attending the commencement ceremony.

    Dear President Casey,

    I am the mother of Tyler E. Les, class of 2017. In brief, in 2012 Tyler received an appointment from Senator Lautenberg to attend the US Naval Academy but decided that he wanted a more traditional college experience. Tyler’s dad and I respected that decision and he chose to attend Colgate University. Tyler graduated Magna Cum Laude, a double major in Economics and Chinese. He also received an excellence in Chinese language award. We are extremely proud of Tyler. After the graduation ceremony on Sunday, May 21 I have to wonder whether Tyler made the right decision and how his four years at Colgate will influence him in the future.
    On Saturday, May 20 Tyler told us that he wasn’t going to attend the torch light ceremony because he was afraid that he might be deemed a racist at some point in the future for carrying a torch. His dad and I told him that he would probably regret that decision and that he should proudly participate in the ceremony. I’m happy to say that he changed his mind, carried a torch and was glad that he did so.
    The commencement speech by Claudia Rankine was shameful and selfish. She showed her true colors, an elitist academic who took advantage of a graduation ceremony to spew her leftist political propaganda and agenda…safe spaces, glue guns, Putin baby name jokes, Planned Parenthood, white oppression, white dominance, police and security aggression and even congratulating those in the audience who voted for Hillary Clinton. It was neither inspiring, uplifting or fair. She alienated many people in attendance and abused her power. Trust me there were many people in the audience neither clapping or standing. My husband and I could have walked out or booed but we sat respectfully and let her speak.
    I’m a nurse practitioner; I’ve worked two jobs for years to put my kids through college. If I had to do it all over again I’m not sure I would consider a liberal arts education. I’ve contributed to the annual fund drive in the past, albeit a small amount of $100 or less but not this year. I’m deeply disturbed by what is happening on college campuses…Middlebury, Berkley, Columbia, NYU, etc. Our children are learning a dangerous lesson that their opinions and views will not be tolerated if it veers from the liberal mainstream. I appreciate you taking the time to read this letter and I’d also like to tell you that I spoke earlier today with your assistant Maureen who was patient and understanding and showed genuine empathy. That in itself was encouraging. I’m praying for the best and hope we don’t lose an entire generation to political correctness.

    Sincerely,
    Pamela A. Farley
    Proud mother of Tyler E. Les, class of 2017

  2. Brett Hendrickson, Assoc. Prof., Religious Studies says:

    Yes, congratulations to Prof. Van Dyck! He and the Mill Series have really brought some much needed sanity and balance to Lafayette College. I’ve noticed that, over the last few years, this place has really become a hotbed of radicalism. Some morning, I walk onto campus, and I think, “Sheesh, is this Oberlin or what?” With all the liberal bias in the classrooms, the vast majority of our graduates these days are opting out of useful careers in business and medicine and instead are mostly becoming union organizers, Bernie Sanders campaign gophers, tattoo artists, and fair trade coffee roasters. And these are the ones who can still think at all! Many are just so blitzed that all they can do is go home, sit on their parents’ couches, and tweet NYTimes articles.
    With all that said, it has been a breath of fresh air to have Prof. Van Dyck bringing some serious conservative thinkers to campus like Roaming Millennial and KC Johnson. I’ve actually started to notice the students starting to think for themselves again. Kudos!

  3. John K. Darr ‘66 says:

    It is imperative that a dialogue is encouraged at Lafayette, rather than a one-sided, liberal monologue.

    John K. Darr ‘66

  4. John Rueckert '75 says:

    Brandon, Congratulations. I visited the Lafayette campus back on October 12th with just this message. I had lunch with President Byerly, met with the heads of the History, Art, Engineering and Electrical / Computer Engineering Departments, sat in on a history class and then spoke to about 10 students from the EE / Computer Engineering group. As an alumnus (Class of ’75) I was concerned that Lafayette be open to all viewpoints when educating our future leaders. My goal was (and is) not to force my beliefs on others, but to make sure that all viewpoints are represented (fairly) in discussions so that individual students have all the tools they need to decide what they truly believe in and support. One of the conclusions I have reached personally in today’s frustrating political climate is that extreme positions (both right and left) are not good, although they need to be presented so the students understand the dangers of the beliefs they espouse. Centrist right and left differences are healthy because they are not so far apart as to be divisive and therefore allow for compromise which brings various viewpoints that can be agreed upon. As an alumnus, searching for Lafayette’s approach to free interchange of ideas, Joe Samaritano pointed out to me that Lafayette is in a unique position to accomplish this task due to the diversity created by balancing the Liberal Arts with Science and Engineering. With the horrible educational bias that the media indicates exists in many institutions of higher learning in this country, I believe it is important for Lafayette to maintain broad neutrality in the presentation of all views and that it is critical to communicate this position better to alumni, who vote to support you with their checkbooks. I feel this is important to Lafayette’s future sustainability and to maintain its high standing in the ranks of colleges and universities. Keep up the good work. I think this is a very important topic and look to you to lead the charge at Lafayette. I was already impressed from my visit to campus. Now I feel even better knowing that teachers like you are there to promote freedom of choice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use basic HTML tags and attributes.