Associate Professor of Biology Luana Maroja‘s report about the state of free speech at Williams is the most important statement from a member of the faculty in years. Let’s go through it. Day 2.

While several speakers have been invited to talk about free speech (recently Geoff Stone and Frederick Lawrence), and classes on the topic have been taught, discussion about college policy never really got started among faculty or students.

As expected. Would anyone really expect more than a tiny fraction of the students who signed this petition to attend such a talk or take such a class? I wouldn’t! Note this comment from yesterday:

I recall the UChicago speaker [Geoff Stone] from last spring who addressed the topic of free speech on campus, taking what I guess now is a “conservative” stance.

When students who resent free speech spoke during Q&A, their argument began (and stopped) with: what happens when speech makes me/my peers (“marginalized identities”) feel bad?

The reply was simple: do you want authority figures banning speakers who you find offensive? Who gets to decide what’s offensive? What happens when this authority is inevitably extended to someone you disagree with? Do you think the conservative president of a southern university should be allowed to ban a transgender speaker because it makes Christian students uncomfortable? When the issue is framed in this light, the concept of an open platform starts to seem much more attractive.

This reply pretty swiftly made the students actually reflect on the implications of what they were advocating for. It was concerning it took so long for a counterargument to be heard.

Really? I have my doubts about this. There are many plausible counter-arguments — just ask smart EphBlog readers like sigh and abl! — to this hypothetical, not least that no elite college in the last 50+ years has banned or disinvited a leftist/liberal speaker. Back to Maroja:

This is in large part because faculty sharing my concerns about the increasing censorship on campus felt afraid of speaking up, always assuming that they were an insignificant minority.

Again, doesn’t sigh/dcat/me owe John Drew an apology? His claim, for decades, has been that conservative/Republican/libertarian faculty are afraid to publicly voice their opinions. sigh/dcat have largely poo-poo’d such concerns.

But, if Maroja is to be believed, the situation is even worse than Drew led us to believe. Even liberal faculty like her are “afraid” to offer the non-progressive opinion on a given topic.

In my view, the situation became critical when Reza Aslan came for a talk in campus titled “The future of Free Speech and Intolerance”.

Reza Aslan dominated the conversation and, in his always convoluted and self-contradictory style, started by bragging that he had once been disinvited from another venue, proceeding to say that anything that offended him should not be allowed, and finally asserting that “only factual talks” should ever be allowed in campus. This nonsense was met with intense student applause. It was appalling.

Indeed. Am I the only one deeply troubled by this? What say you dcat/abl/sigh?

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