Instantly, what popped in my mind was the (on-going) war of terror on weak Islamicate by Imperial West, and internal dissent within intellectuals of West and external dissent of the Eastern writers and thinkers. On the journalistic platform, two of the most effective publications, with more online presence (perhaps), that i've encountered are: Counterpunch.org and dissidentvoice.org. However, I'd be guilty of short-sightedness to reduce the discussion of such over-arching terms coupled together as social progress and dissident to two publications and content produced therein (by established, respected thinkers, journalists and writers who're shunned from mainstream, corporate, state-control (or influenced) news outlets, print or TV). In fact, invoking history and common philosophy would only give insight into the taste and horizon of the one thinking on these topics*.
I would begin with the tragic part of the conversation that took place emanating from the very lips of the professor. He flawlessly repeated the dogma of progressivism which professes that constant revision of guiding principles should take precedence by the sword of dissent so as to keep up with the times. The argument is presented in a capsule for young minds in the backdrop of historic achievements of Western society of freedom, emancipation and enlightenment. To restore sanity, one should pause here and go through confessions and testaments of brilliant minds of West and secondary research as to how 'glorious' the 'achievements' have been: read Western Civilization Condemned by Itself, (part 2, 3, 4 & 5).
I might have been guilty of putting words into his mouth by inserting 'guiding principles', as I don't remember him exactly saying that. What i do remember having understood clearly was that he advocated social evolutionism which is a vicious cycle of skeptical revision and dismantling of principles** so as to adjust to the changing times so as to achieve progress. If that is so, then progress (or social progress) is the most unstable, elusive and unattainable goal in the world. The only critique that came to my mind, when this dogma was infused with evangelical zeal, was the question put forward by Dr Seyyed Hossein Nasr in 1960s in India, when whole 'ummah' was urged to change the immutable shariah Personal Laws of Islam to 'keep up with the times', he asked:
If Principles have to keep up with times, what do the times keep up with?Given my own failure to fully absorb this historic critique (which prevented a bunch of modernised, times-worshipping, sentimental minds from molesting and changing Personal Laws of Islam) I dared not put forward this question to the professor.
However, if one means dissent as keeping check on the powerful who're always prone to abuse it given their human nature, than this is a noble cause, which is termed as jihad when one dares speak before a ruthless ruler; CIA, FBI being new Pharaohs hunting down and killing tomorrow's Musas/Moses.
However, dissent against oneself should precede dissent against rest of the world, later being the unavoidable habit of moderns to critique and critique and learn nothing, because learning implies in such cases spiritual uplift or at least maintenance.
* I did not use the word meditation (fikr in Arabic), for this has 'vertical aspect' which begins with invocation of God proceeding towards meditation and ending with blossoming of 'thousand virgin thoughts / andishahs'. See following short essay, 'Reflections on Islam & Modern Thought', by Dr Seyyed Hossein Nasr.
** By principles, may have meant man-made principles/customs/conventions, but no distinction was made b/w Sacred and profane. Fatal skip.