Simplicio, a regular commentator here and at the Record, suggests viewing the Falk/Derbyshire dispute through the lens of the Woodward Report. Let’s do that for five days. Today is Day 4.

Perhaps the most interesting portions of the report covers the history of free speech controversies at Yale (up through 1975). Example:

Two years later, however, in the affair of Professor William Shockley, the Stanford University physicist, the University community failed to live up to the principle. For the first time in memory a speaker tried to speak at a scheduled appearance at Yale and was prevented from doing so by organized disruption. This time the opposition to the invitation and the determination to disrupt the speech came largely from within the University and was open, determined, and menacing from the start. It was also clear from the start that the opposition focused on Shockley, regardless of whom he debated, on his views of genetic inferiority and his proposal of voluntary sterilization as a solution.

I suspect that Derbyshire would agree with many of Shockley’s positions.

Does anyone know the history of free speech controversies at Williams during this era? Alas, we still can’t easily search the Record archives.

Are there any EphBlog readers who disagree with these key conclusions from the Report?

For if a university is a place for knowledge, it is also a special kind of small society. Yet it is not primarily a fellowship, a club, a circle of friends, a replica of the civil society outside it. Without sacrificing its central purpose, it cannot make its primary and dominant value the fostering of friendship, solidarity, harmony, civility, or mutual respect. To be sure, these are important values; other institutions may properly assign them the highest, and not merely a subordinate priority; and a good university will seek and may in some significant measure attain these ends. But it will never let these values, important as they are, override its central purpose. We value freedom of expression precisely because it provides a forum for the new, the provocative, the disturbing, and the unorthodox. Free speech is a barrier to the tyranny of authoritarian or even majority opinion as to the rightness or wrongness of particular doctrines or thoughts.

If the priority assigned to free expression by the nature of a university is to be maintained in practice, clearly the responsibility for maintaining that priority rests with its members. By voluntarily taking up membership in a university and thereby asserting a claim to its rights and privileges, members also acknowledge the existence of certain obligations upon themselves and their fellows. Above all, every member of the university has an obligation to permit free expression in the university. No member has a right to prevent such expression. Every official of the university, moreover, has a special obligation to foster free expression and to ensure that it is not obstructed.

And this key recommendation:

The banning or obstruction of lawful speech can never be justified on such grounds as that the speech or the speaker is deemed irresponsible, offensive, un­scholarly, or untrue.

Adam Falk seems to disagree, at least when it comes to views that he dislikes.

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