The former president of the University of Chicago has passed away at the age of 75. Chicago is a hotbed for far left thought, but Zimmer was a pioneer by putting tangible efforts in place to protect free speech, whether it be left or right, in his university. His college went against the grain, and it wasn’t easy.

Zimmer grew up in Manhattan and became a mathematician. He taught at the University of Chicago early on and later became its president.

The guy wasn’t hard-right one at all. He was an advocate of diversity and his school had 15% more black students under his tenure than in the previous. He was breaking the racial educational color barrier in the mid 2000’s.

But by the mid 2010’s, he felt that free speech in his college, and colleges across the nation, was being curtailed. So he issued “The Chicago Principles” decree and even created a formal, power holding committee on his college called the Committee on Free Expression.

His committee noted, with his blessing, that “Concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members of our community.”

That means a teacher can’t be fired for saying something controversial or thought provoking. That means a student can’t choose not to participate in a class and still graduate simply because they feel offended by a teacher. That means that students don’t have a right to shout down guest speakers they disagree with.

Zimmer had a warning in 2016 for the incoming freshman class. “We do not support so-called trigger warnings and we do not condone the creation of intellectual safe spaces where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.”

Some pretty shocking words coming from a president of a prestigious liberal arts university in liberal Chicago.

The University staff went along with his ideas. There was never an attempt to overthrow him, which is also something novel when it comes to a pro free speech president of a traditionally left university.

But he brought home the goods. In addition to diversity spiking under his tenure, he was the most successful fundraiser in history for the University of Chicago.

He also created the school’s engineering program, which is held in high regard today.

Hmm… instead of adding diversity and inclusion classes, he added practical engineering classes. What a novel idea!

And in two years alone, applications to the school tripled.

Zimmer summed up the whole inclusion battle quite nicely, “Inclusion into what? An inferior and less challenging education? One that fails to prepare students for the challenge of different ideas and the evaluation of their own assumptions?”

Words to live by. Rest in peace to a pioneer who has provided the blueprint for liberty minded college presidents. Maybe the future won’t be so bad after all, and we’ll have Zimmer to thank.

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