To substantiate the allegations they make, Sunrise GW would have to find glaring issues in the scholarship coming out of the RSC beyond simple disagreement with the outcomes. Sunrise GW has not found any such issues. They did not find a single study that has questionable methodologies. If they did, they surely would have made it known by now.
The student organization also dangerously conflates policy proposals that do not advocate for additional regulation, with climate denial or skepticism. They assume that if an organization or a scholar examines certain evidence and comes to the conclusion that more regulation on environmental issues is not the correct course of action, then they must – in some unspecified way – be corrupted. The truth is that the RSC is conducting honest research and happens to come to conclusions that those who are a part of Sunrise GW simply don’t like.
To all of my critiques, Sunrise GW would reply that the research of the RSC must be corrupted because the center is funded by the Koch brothers. The student organization’s entire campaign to remove the RSC has been supported by an organization called “UnKoch My Campus.” But Sunrise GW is creating an impossible standard. People both on the left and the right have long put money into supporting scholarly research. If we are now to assume that the research – even if we cannot point out any specific issue with it – is automatically tarnished as a result of that funding, then that means a lot of research that Sunrise GW likes may now be categorized in the same way. For example, at the start of 2020, left-wing philanthropist George Soros gave $1 billion to various universities. Is it fair to assume that any research done with that money is simply propaganda? I don’t believe so, and I’m sure neither does Sunrise GW.
If we know that this attack by Sunrise GW is not on the quality of the RSC’s scholarship or their funding, then what is it about? The answer is quite simple: Sunrise GW’s attack on the RSC is purely motivated by a desire to remove any dissenting voices from higher education. I will not parse words in saying that this is a direct attack on academic freedom and viewpoint diversity.
I would be remiss not to note the severity of allegations leveled against the RSC by Sunrise GW. On Twitter, for example, they wrote that “The RSC does not have scholars… it has ARSONISTS” who are peddling “propaganda.” But the truth is that the RSC produces peer-reviewed scholarship and has been praised by former President Obama’s regulatory czar as a “national treasure.” That hardly sounds like an organization corrupted by the interests of the fossil fuel industry.
Even if one grants to Sunrise GW that the RSC has a slight anti-regulation slant, the fact that there is a single (possibly) right-leaning institute should not be a scandal. The vast majority of scholarship done at GW is most certainly left-of-center. More importantly, it takes scholarship that argues all sorts of positions in order to arrive at some new truth. Sunrise GW does not have a monopoly on truth, and, as a result, research that contradicts their beliefs should still be given the time of day. Even if the policies that Sunrise GW was fighting for were 100 percent correct, having counterpoints would still be necessary to sharpen their own arguments. But when academic freedom and viewpoint diversity are discouraged, the singular perspective – even if it is correct – becomes dogma. That is no way to advance a society intellectually.
When we review Sunrise GW’s objections to the RSC, we find that there is simply not much there. The RSC’s scholarship is highly regarded and published in “respected, peer-reviewed academic journals.” It may be funded by the Koch brothers, but to assume that automatically tarnishes their work would be a non-sequitur and to engage in a double standard. In the end, we must all fight – no matter your specific policy positions – for a campus that invites vibrant intellectual and academic debate on a range of subjects. Shutting down the research or the voices of those we disagree with does not allow us to ever find new truths.
Jack Elbaum, a freshman majoring in international affairs and economics, is an opinions writer.