The academic thought police have struck again. It took a while for word of this most recent caper to work its way east from Greeley, the home of the University of Northern Colorado, but better late than never. That institution of higher learning certainly has done itself proud, and it was well worth the wait for news of precisely how this came to pass.

The news was published in last week's opinion section of the Chronicle of Higher Education. The author of the article was Linda Chavez, a former official of the Reagan administration and unsuccessful political candidate in Maryland who is now a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. Chavez had been invited to give the commencement address at Greeley in May, and planned to talk about "the movement toward democracy occurring in Eastern Europe and elsewhere and what special challenges this posed to those of us living in the United States, the world's oldest democracy." But she never made it to Greeley:

"... when word spread of my invitation to speak, a group of Hispanic students and community activists launched a protest. They objected to my views on affirmative action and bilingual education -- I am critical of both. They also objected to my past association with the Reagan Administration... . And they objected to my past affiliation with U.S. English, a public-policy group that promotes laws to make English the official language of the United States."

At first the university's president, one Robert Dickeson, stood behind the invitation, but then he held what Chavez calls "a marathon listening session" in which some 95 of the school's 9,500 students spoke out against Chavez. Whereupon Dickeson promptly caved in, issuing what Chavez justifiably calls "an extraordinary statement" in which he said: "The intent of the university in inviting Linda Chavez to be the commencement speaker was to be sensitive to cultural diversity, and the committee making the decision intended to communicate the importance of cultural pluralism. It is clear that the decision was both uninformed and gave the impression of being grossly insensitive."

In other words: Linda Chavez was invited to speak at the University of Northern Colorado not because she might have something interesting to say but because she is Hispanic and, into the bargain, a woman -- two blows for "cultural diversity" for the price of one. But then it turned out that she was the wrong kind of Hispanic because she had the audacity to espouse views contrary to those favored within the groves of academe, which was indeed "grossly insensitive." Those who had selected her, to quote the eminently quotable Dickeson, "honestly thought they were picking a positive role model for Hispanic women leaders, and that she would be received as such." They were, he said, "obviously wrong." So he sacked Chavez.

It's possible, just possible, that you could find a more glaring example than this one of just about everything that's wrong on the college campuses these days, but not bloody likely. Out there in Greeley they've got it all: contempt for and censorship of free speech, capitulation to noisy special-interest groups, institutional self-righteousness, guilt by association, anachronistic '60s ideology, "role-model" mania, suppression of dissent, administrative cowardice.

That the speaker who has been censored is a conservative Republican is part of the story, but scarcely all of it. Hostility to Reaganism is still pandemic on the campuses, most particularly in certain of the humanities departments and the student organizations that are their ideological offspring. Anyone guilty of association with Reagan, Linda Chavez for example, is an unwelcome visitor at many places on many campuses for that reason alone; in this most egregious of instances, the offending party was made unwelcome even before she'd had a chance to give offense.

That's the really astonishing aspect of l'affaire Chavez: She was censored by the University of Northern Colorado -- and make no mistake about it, censorship is what it was -- for views she was not planning to express. The subject of her talk and the opinions to which the Gang of 95 took exception had nothing to do with each other. Had she been hooted off the stage for opposing affirmative action or bilingual education, it would have been bad enough; it's far worse that she was denied access to the stage because certain of her opinions, though irrelevant to the subject at hand, failed the ideological correctness test.

In writing about this incident for the Chronicle, Chavez chose to focus on the issue of "cultural diversity." She wrote: "The promoters of cultural diversity tell us that theirs is an ideology of inclusion. But the politics of cultural diversity as they are practiced on campus today have very little to do with inclusion or diversity." She is right, of course, just as she is when she says that "censorship is beginning to masquerade as diversity." But the key paragraph in her analysis is this one:

"What it means, unfortunately, is that universities will become more homogeneous institutions -- not more diverse -- when it comes to certain ideas, particularly those ideas that impinge on race, ethnicity or gender. Everyone -- students and professors -- will learn to tiptoe around certain subjects deemed too sensitive to explore."

This form of censorship and suppression is especially widespread on the campuses because their administrations and faculties so often are in terror of seeming ideologically or racially incorrect, but it is spreading into the larger society as well. Its effects are stifling not merely for free speech but also for mutual understanding and, for that matter, for self-understanding. To deny a Hispanic woman a campus forum because she opposes bilingual education is, in effect, to enforce a stereotype: All Hispanics favor bilingual education. To criticize a black for opposing affirmative action is to do the same: All blacks favor affirmative action.

The only trouble is that neither stereotype is true. "The problem with the cultural pluralists' model," Chavez says, " ... is that not all blacks, Hispanics or women think alike. Neither do white males, for that matter. How could they? None of these groups is homogenous." But the "cultural pluralists" would have us believe to the contrary. Their notion of "pluralism" is racial and ethnic but not ideological or intellectual; they would have us believe that ours is a nation of different races and groups, but that within each group all members think and act exactly alike.

That's what got Linda Chavez sacked at Northern Colorado: She didn't fit the definition of a "good Hispanic," the way Jews and ideological malcontents didn't fit the definition of a "good German." Her views may be right or they may be wrong, but to her critics that's not really what matters; their concern is that she fit into the stereotype and this -- to her everlasting credit -- she declined to do.

So the University of Northern Colorado refused to let her serve as a "role model" for Hispanic students or any others. Instead it offered up the Gang of 95 and its patsy, Robert Dickeson. Some role. Some model.