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More Shade from Chicago

As a follow up to our discussion last week, read this Wall Street Journal op-ed by University Chicago President Robert Zimmer.

Free speech is at risk at the very institution where it should be assured: the university.

Invited speakers are disinvited because a segment of a university community deems them offensive, while other orators are shouted down for similar reasons. … In many cases, these efforts have been supported by university administrators.

Indeed. Falk was supported by Dean Bolton and many (most? all?) other Williams administrators. Note also the six (!) usages of some version of “comfort”

A university should not be a sanctuary for comfort … Demands are made to eliminate readings that might make some students uncomfortable. … Some assert that universities should be refuges from intellectual discomfort and that their own discomfort with conflicting and challenging views should override the value of free and open discourse. … Universities cannot be viewed as a sanctuary for comfort … Having one’s assumptions challenged and experiencing the discomfort that sometimes accompanies this process are intrinsic parts of an excellent education.

Echos of Robert Gaudino’s claim that “uncomfortable learning” should be at the center of a Williams education. Recall that Gaudino’s Ph.D. was from Chicago. Is there a connection?

[Post edited after publication.]

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#1 Comment By A Williams Parent On September 7, 2016 @ 11:52 pm


Shade thrown at Williams?

First, very little coverage has associated the letter from Dean Ellison at U of C (“Where Fun Comes to Die,” a motto the administration is trying to live down) with Williams College. There was that one piece on Quartz by a first year reporter that linked the two, http://qz.com/766461/a-us-university-is-telling-freshmen-they-will-get-neither-safe-spaces-nor-trigger-warnings/, but were there any others? Chicago is just not that into you. This is a competition against universities with more PC notoriety, and Chicago is trying to remake its image as something more effervescent than a four year grind.

Second, the right wing academic critics are not fond of the actual U of C policies, which vest incredible and unchecked powers in the administration to remove students deemed disruptive to university operations: http://www.academia.org/does-the-university-of-chicago-really-protect-free-expression/.

And third, while the phrase Uncomfortable Learning has a lovely appeal and invites projection of whatever you like, Gaudino employed the phrase in a very specific way. As your simple Wikipedia link demonstrates through actual quotes, he was referring to learning off campus and even in other countries by living among people different from oneself, away from the classroom, away from pedagogy, away from any received canon or analytic assertion. He meant that 19 and 20 year olds from privileged and mainstream American backgrounds would gain perspective and self knowledge by removing themselves entirely from their familiar daily lives. Uncomfortable Learning was to confront immovable facts, personally and not intellectually. I don’t see anything suggesting Gaudino advocated bringing controversialists to campus to prompt controversy.

Let me add: the discussion of freedom of inquiry as bounded by the campus speaker policies of a few schools is just crazy. The scientific, technical and medical publishing industry alone is a $25 billion dollar market, with over 28,000 peer reviewed journals in English alone! What is Adam Falk’s role as a gatekeeper in this world? This is where real work is done and recorded.

Horse: dead. No need to beat further.

#2 Comment By anon On September 8, 2016 @ 8:14 am

What is Adam Falk’s role as a gatekeeper in this world?

His role is that he can deny a widely published author the ability to speak at the college.

Already has, and is now currently vetting everyone else for content.

His role at Williams is absolute authority on who can speak.