Speech on Campus

 Posted by on 3 February 2003 at 11:57 am  Uncategorized
Feb 032003

Daphne Patai, a professor of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and author of Professing Feminism: Education and Indoctrination in Women’s Studies, has written a great article on the hypocrisy of professors who can’t tolerate public criticism of their own teaching — yet regard the expression of opposing viewpoints as “chilling” free speech. (Perhaps “hypocrisy” isn’t quite the right word. “Total and complete ignorance of the nature of free speech rights” might be more accurate.)

Right now, the article is the top story on the web site of FIRE (Foundation for Individual Right in Education). I’m always delightfully amazed at the effectiveness of that organization. Through adverse publicity, they are quite adept at making universities recognize the folly of squashing speech on campus.

A few months ago, I attended a talk by Christina Hoff Sommers in which she discussed the bias against conservative and libertarian viewpoints on campuses. Unlike in other departments (like history, politics, English), she noted that such liberal bias is fairly uncommon in philosophy departments. Philosophers, on the whole, tend to be more concerned with the quality of the arguments made rather than agreement with the conclusions. This observation certainly mirrors my own experience — thank goodness. Grad school would be intolerable otherwise.

This talk of speech on campus reminds me of an e-mail from the CU Administration that I should have posted a while back:

Date: Thu, 29 Aug 2002 18:19:12 -0600 (MDT)
From: Vital CU-Boulder E-memo
Subject: Campus Community and Tolerance

TO: CU Boulder Students

FROM: President Elizabeth Hoffman and Chancellor Richard L. Byyny

SENDER: [email protected]

DATE: August 29, 2002

SUBJECT: Campus Community and Tolerance

Let us take this opportunity to welcome all of you to a new academic year on the Boulder campus. We look forward to this exciting time of learning and discovery that characterize the University of Colorado at Boulder.

At CU-Boulder we are a community made up of diverse peoples, ideas and opinions, creating a rich fabric that invigorates and informs us all. Consequently, the discord of ideas can lead to potentially threatening incidents of confrontation and intimidation. As CU System President and CU-Boulder Chancellor, we join with our entire community in condemning acts of intolerance toward any person, group or cause.

Throughout our history, University of Colorado at Boulder faculty, students and staff have distinguished ourselves as individuals who value tolerance, academic integrity and freedom of speech. We care deeply about our community and the communities around the globe.

We will not tolerate expressions of hatred and violence toward any member of our campus community. Offenders will face serious consequences, including probation, suspension or expulsion.

As a campus community, we have experienced feelings of tremendous loss and emotional turmoil in the year since September 11. Our overwhelming response, like that of countless other communities, has been to unite, overcome fear and support each other. As the new year begins, we urge you all to embrace the values of our University family, including respect, integrity, tolerance, and fairness and to reject acts of hatred that divide and isolate us. Together, we can set an example as a campus that advocates and embodies tolerance, mutual respect and understanding.

Hey, why not just send offenders to South Park’s Death Camp of Tolerance instead?

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