These speakers discussed the landscape of higher education today, and how truly frightening this are. For those that have read my past blog posts you've probably heard about some work my group and I have been doing at Cal Poly. Cal Poly doesn't have the greatest policies when it comes to free speech, but some of its policies aren't nearly as bad as those at other schools.
Some pointers I pulled out of my notes:
- University administrators are acculturating a new generation that actually have far fewer rights than they do, and they think this is a good thing.
- Four factors at play:
- Ignorance: if we can provoke people to think, have a discussion, stimulate learning, we will end up in a much better place
- Political correctness: this term is too broad and vague...being offended is not a right..."if you haven't been offended, you haven't been educated." ... find a cave to hide in, you'll be safe there ... you should be willing to see and experience/understand the world we live in
- Bureaucracy: high student fees going to fund the elaborate and expanding bureaucracy. Faculty positions are cut more than admin positions ... bureaucratic expansion ... mid level administrators are trying to be your parents
- Liability: universities are afraid of being sued by frivolous cases about being offended and discriminated against...we must reset that balance and see how universities should be more afraid of First Amendment lawsuits than the frivolous ones.
- We have a problem of comfort...intellectual comfort...this is the wrong thing to be teaching
- Create a sense that "it could be you next."
- Costs of silencing speech (short and sweet version):
- Betrays ideals of higher education
- Teaches wrong lessons about living in a democracy
- Negative reaction from a wide variety of people distracts from the truly important things that should be worked on
- Courts have routinely struck down speech codes that:
- are vague: the case insufficiently specifies what kind of speech is prohibited
- overbreadth: the code prohibits constitutionally protected speech
- Codes with these two characteristics routinely create a chilling effect where people (students) self-censor out of fear of not knowing the consequences
- With some types of speech (on certain topics) it is important to remember that sometimes being polite isn't enough...it takes more to be able to effectively get the point across to an audience
Good points to think about, especially if you reading this are a student or work at a university. It is critical that students know their rights and are willing to defend them. One of the funny things, if you think about it, with FIRE is they are working toward the day when they will be able to put themselves out of business. They fight against censorship and policies that restrict speech, and should they be able to get policies at all universities across the United States back on track and where they should be, then they will have no reason to exist anymore. FIRE just celebrated their 15th Anniversary. They thought they would be able to accomplish their mission in ten years, but as evident it is taking a little longer than they expected. If students, faculty, and administrators wake up, we may be able to accomplish this mission soon, but FIRE can't do it alone.