Wendy Kaminer: 00:10 God the lights are blinding.
Suzanne Nosal: 00:11 Yeah.
Scott Jasik: 00:15 Uh, hello everybody and welcome back. I’m [Scott Jasik 00:00:17]. We’re going to be talking in this session about the role of people and organizations, beyond campus. In dealing with these issues of free expression. Uh, I’m joined by, to my left we have Robert Shibley from the foundation for individual rights in education. Known as FIRE, which has been referenced several times already today. Um, to his left we have Suzanne Nosal of Pan America and to her left we have Wendy Kaminer who is an author and social critic. And um, and, and, the program description said we’d also describe the role of journalism, so I’ll take a stab at that briefly, uh after we hear from some of our others, then we’ll have discussion and lots of time for your questions or sometime for your questions, in a short session here. So Robert maybe describe, you know, you lead a non-profit activist group. Very engaged in these issues. What’s your role?
Robert Shibley: 01:15 Well I mean FIRE is sort of basic and, and fundamental original role is to be a watchdog organization for colleges to ensure that they are uh actually abiding by their legal commitments or their promises of free expression, due process, uh and other first amendment rights. Not the due process of first amendment right, but it’s the one that we do that’s outside of the first amendment. And uh, that’s kept us very busy for going on 19 years now. Um, we’ve grown a lot which is not what we wanted to do. We uh, we were hoping that the uh, the fight would be over, and that sanity would reign, but that’s not how it ended up working. Um, and uh, you know every year we get more and more cases coming in from students. Mostly students but also uh professors who have run afoul of uh people on campuses who would like to silence them.
Robert Shibley: 02:02 And uh FIRE was originally sort of conceived as an alternative to suing. And it’s, you know, once you start a lawsuit a lot of people think, of FIRE is, you know, it’s a, it’s a lawsuit group, where they’re going to sue you. And we may. Uh, but originally … Originally the point of FIRE was because lawsuits are so slow. I mean we’ve been, we’ve done them eight year long lawsuits. Um, thankfully we won that one. Um, because they’re so slow um, our founders, Alan, Alan Kors, who’s conservative and Harvey Silverglate who’s liberal. Uh, they wanted to come up with a way to use sunlight as the best disinfectant, and put that into practice, and expose what was going on on campuses. And so, we’ve had a lot of success over the years, uh doing that. And you know, now we have the, our rating system, which I think it’s been referred to the red, yellow and green light, for uh speech codes, which a lot of different organizations use now um to try to figure out, you know, what the situation is.
Robert Shibley: 02:57 Um, at least with regard to written policies on campus. Um, we now do litigation as well. And um unfortunately we also do lobbying. Um, and uh, that was something that we were uh reluctant to get into. It’s not a huge part of what we do. Um, but uh, given how much action there has been uh, in state legislature for the most part, but also the federal government, uh we felt like we needed to have a voice there. So I’m now a lobbyist. So if they drain the swamp, I’m going right down the drain with everybody else.
Scott Jasik: 03:28 And, and actually I would say that FIRE has influenced other organizations. Um, if you look at say the America Association of University Professors, which will tomorrow be uh censoring some universities and removing others. Um, a criticism of their process historically, has been that it takes forever. Um, they’re, they’re real big on the due process stuff that FIRE cares about. Less so on speed. And they have a … In fact are doing speedier investigations, and doing a lot of public statements, short of censure, that I, I personally think have been influenced by FIRE being out there and saying, um you should move uh quickly on these cases.
Robert Shibley: 03:28 Yeah.
Scott Jasik: 04:11 I think FIRE’s changed … And other groups as well.
Robert Shibley: 04:14 Yeah I hope so. And that’s, and that’s been part of our goal is to make that uh difference. One of the, the really tough things about uh, running FIRE, um, just as the organization that we are is. Uh, you know our correction kind of comes from a place of love of the academy. Um, and we, we try to be very careful about what we’re asking and in trying to think through all of the second and third order consequences. Um, you know, not just because it’s important to be non-partisan. But also because the, the liberal enterprise of the academy has to be allowed to function and continue. And um, a lot of forces outside the academy, don’t really have a full appreciation for that. And so we spend a surprising amount of time trying to think through academic freedom and uh, you know, the ramifications on uh, on campuses.
Robert Shibley: 05:02 And so sometimes we’ll come out and say, actually you can’t say that. Or you can’t do that. Um and that tends to surprise people. Um, we like I think … I, I try to think of myself as a free speech absolutist, and most of us do. But mostly within the, you know, constraints that uh, the supreme court is set forth. I think Frederick Douglass said you know, the right to listen-
Scott Jasik: 05:22 Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Robert Shibley: 05:22 Is sort of a, is part of the first amendment. It’s part of freedom of speech. Um, and so we have to be conscious that people need to have the right to listen as well. And that um, you know, regulation of some kind is, is part of that. And we understand that schools have to do it.
Scott Jasik: 05:37 Suzanne. Maybe describe how you see your organization’s role in these issues.
Suzanne Nosal: 05:41 Sure. I mean we’re a free expression organization. We’re an organization, uh comprised mainly of writers. We’ll celebrate our centenary in another two years. And we have members across the country. And we … So we work on defending free expression. On bridging dialogue across difference, and on amplifying marginalized voices. I would say those are three primary or as a focus … We got into campus free speech, uh, really a couple of years ago. Out of a concern that the sides in this debate seem to be talking past each other. And that on the one hand you have sort of a free speech absolutist position. Very dismissive of uh, those were calling for uh, restrictions on speech. And on the other side, a mounting concern about issues of diversity, inclusion and equality on campus. And uh, sometimes uh, that side of the debate calling for restrictions on speech. But, you know, a sense of, you know. on our part, that that wasn’t really the primary essence of what they were struggling for or demanding.
Suzanne Nosal: 06:42 And that calls for restrictions on speech, could be a byproduct. And an unfortunate, and problematic by-product, which we oppose, but that, if you could get beyond uh, the surface of the debate, we might be able to build some common ground. So we did a big report in 2016 called , And Campus For All: Diversity, Inclusion, and Free speech at US universities. And we really looked at all of the controversies. Safe spaces, trigger warnings. Disinvitations. From both sides. And tried to give both … Each side they’re due, and explain, you know, what are the psychological arguments about trigger warnings. You know, what kinds of harms can they cause? Has this been documented? You know, who argues for this? And, and what evidence do they induce? You know and then on the other side. What are the genuine concerns about how uh imposing those policies can impair academic freedom and freedom of speech?
Suzanne Nosal: 07:32 And so using that as a catalyst, we then over the last year have done a series of four in-depth symposium. Some of the sites of the most heated controversies over free speech. UC Berkeley, Middlebury College, uh University of Maryland, to College Park and then UVA Charlottesville. Sitting down with presidents and provosts of the universities. Free expression experts. Students and student leaders. Faculty. To kind of hash this out. Conservatives, liberals. And talk about you know, how we can reconcile these competing imperatives for the campus to become a more inclusive and equal place. To address the needs of a changing student demographic. Touched on that little bit in the last panel. Students who don’t come i, with this reservoir of resources to engage the way uh, you know the majority if the student population may. And how that can be done without impairing campus, academic freedom and the freedom speech.
Suzanne Nosal: 08:27 One of our concerns, in these conversations has been, the risk of arising the generation that sees free expressions principles as alien to them. Invoked only to protect speech that they find offensive, triggering, marginalizing. And when they come to know the idea of free speech in that way, they get their backs up, and they feel like this is not for me. This is for, you know, for white people or for conservatives, or for people who are arguing against my place here on campus. And we saw that as very dangerous and risky. We feel like if these principles ultimately are going to prevail, we need to express them in a way that’s going to appeal to the widest possible breadth of students. You know, racially, ethically, ideologically diverse. And to do that you need to hear, listen, rephrase, take seriously the considerations that they’re putting on the table. So that’s kind of been the approach that we brought to the discussion. Kind of coming at it, I would say from a different, a different voice and adding a new set of considerations into the debate.
Scott Jasik: 09:30 Well, and I think actually it’s raised really important issues. Of if you take let’s say, trigger warnings. Um, I think your research has shown among other things, there is … I have not heard of a single college or university that requires trigger warnings. In fact, trigger warnings are used to the extent they’re used as an individual choice by a faculty member, exercising his or her academic freedom that it would be best to teach a book with a trigger warning. So some of these terms, get uh, labeled in ways that would make somebody think that they’re required trigger warnings everywhere.
Suzanne Nosal: 10:06 Yeah, that’s right and we set out in our report, the pen principles on campus free speech, and what we say on trigger warning, is it would be wrong for a university to require these, but it would also be wrong to mandate that a professor cannot, you know, uh let students know in advance if they, you know, believe uh, you know, it’s it’s worth doing that. Uh, because particular material is especially challenging or people may have been traumatized in particular ways. So, you know, in many cases I think there is a way to respect what both sides are saying and find a path that can respect free speech considerations. You know, but also not dismiss, ignore, negate the experience of students who are raising other legitimate uh interests in, in, the, in, you know, when it comes to how we shape our campuses.
Scott Jasik: 10:51 And Wendy, what’s your perspective on what we’ve been talking about today?
Wendy Kaminer: 10:54 Let me just pick up for a moment on uh, the discussion about trigger warnings. As someone who has been subject to trigger warnings for discussing free speech I’m somewhat suspicious of them. I mean you’re right, that I think that, uh they shouldn’t be required. They shouldn’t be prohibited. Professors aught to be able to do what they want with them. But I think it’s important to remember the ways in which trigger warnings can demonize free-speech. Can demonize debate. Can demonize a whole range of subjects that perhaps, you know, should not be considered out of bounds, Um, what is my … I think one of the, one of the questions before us, is what is our role in all of this> Um, I am uh, a critic. Not a problem solver. I’m, I’m the person who smells the smoke. Not the person who puts out the fire. So my role has been to write about it. To try to analyze it. I’ve been doing it for some 30 years and things have only gotten worse, so I’m not sure what that says about my role. Or at least my effectiveness.
Wendy Kaminer: 11:59 But um, uh in, in deference to that role, I’d, I’d like to just take a couple of minutes now to try to put this discussion that we’ve had today about free speech on campus, what I, what I believe is a crisis in free speech on campus. In the larger context of a crisis in civil liberties on and off campus. Because I think it’s part of that. And I think it’s important to see it as part of that. Now, it’s also important to remember that, we are probably always in the middle of a civil liberties crisis. On and off campus because, you know, the notion that we should embrace neutral processes and neutral rules that give the same protection to the rights of your enemies and as, as it does to your allies. That really is, maybe it’s contrary to human nature, but it certainly is very hard for a lot of people to embrace. I think it’s especially hard these days because the stakes seem so high.
Wendy Kaminer: 12:59 And, you know, uh people feel like protecting their rights is advancing there cause. And their cause is, is out to destroy me. So it’s very hard today. But you know, it’s, it’s always been very hard. It was hard during the Red Scares of the 20th century. I mean there are … It’s, it’s always hard. But, you know, you can look at … There’s not just a crisis in free speech, there’s a crisis in how we think about due process. In fundamental rules of fairness on and off campus. You see it particularly prominent in our debates about alleged sexual assaults and harassment on campus, and the treatment of alleged assaults off campus now and the metoo movements. We’re in a moment of vigilantyism. You can see that I think in the recall of Judge Persky in California. Um, obviously it’s partly due to social media, but probably more than that. And, you know, all of that has to do with, I think this larger crisis in civil liberties. Um, the crisis in free speech … We’ve had a lot of analysis about where it comes from today. There’s a lot of social psychologizing around about it. All of which is, I think valid and important and interesting. You know, we’re also still post 9/11. We’re post Columbine. Um, you can trace this, the development of the current free speech crisis, easily back 30 years to say, the 1980’s, McKinnon, Dworkin anti porn movement. Which, which first popularized this notion that speech can be a form of discrimination. Or even violence. And so, uh, you know, I’ll, I’ll just conclude for now and saying that we’ve been focusing a lot on, I think, and I have focused a lot of my own work, on the, what I think of as the progressive hostility to free speech. Um, in the interest of equality and diversity. But um, you know, I, I think it’s always important to stress that the urge to censor is a bipartisan vice. And, and I think one of the reasons that we focus, certainly one of the reasons that I’ve been focusing on what I think of as progressive censorship, is one that, you know, I’m a liberal and it really pains me to see people of my own tribe em, em, embracing something that is such an athomet to me.
Wendy Kaminer: 15:22 But also because it’s given us these relatively new legal theories about censorship. Having to do with equality. Ad one of my fears is that partly because we’ve had, now successive generation’s. 25 or 30 years worth of students educated under speech code regimes who, many of whom, have imbibed the lessons of speech codes. Some of them now are middle-aged faculty member or policy maker. And, and I really worry that um, the US may be on the path to embracing a, a Western European approach to regulating hate speech, in the interest of equality and diversity.
Scott Jasik: 16:01 So, I wanted to just speak very briefly about the role of journalists uh, in uh, covering these events. Many journalists, and I would put myself in this category, are free speech purists, because our profession depends on free speech. But I don’t think that necessarily means uh, the field has been doing well on covering these issues. A few things that I would just throw out where I think we could do much better. One is, if you care about campus free speech, you shouldn’t just care about it, at elite institutions. I think the reason Middlebury became the poster child, was because it’s an elite liberal arts college. Uh, if you look at the attention that the Middlebury incident received compared to say the recent QNA Law School incident, um, day and night. And in generally, the press pays attention if it’s an institution they’ve heard of. Or that they designate as elite. And that strikes me as problematic. I also think the press has failed to tell the story of the fact that there is a counter-narrative. That in fact, controversial speakers are appearing on campus, every day without incident.
Scott Jasik: 17:10 Now sometimes that’s not by accident. The same night, uh this is a story that we did. The same night that the Middlebury incident happened, Franklin and Marshall hosted the editor of the Danish newspaper that published the cartoons of Muhammad. That … He’s hated by more people than hate Charles Murray. And the muslim students at Franklin Marshall were upset when they heard he was coming. But there were attempts to reach them in advance. Some protested outside. Some came inside with signs, but did not disrupt. And I think the difference between Middlebury style disruption and a physical attack on a professor, and other incidents, uh sometimes doesn’t get attention it deserves. And then finally another area that I think the press has a very important role to play in, is context of what people are saying. Many, particularly professors and particularly I’d say the trend I’ve noticed, minority professor’s on the left, who are attacked, are attacked by people who do not understand what they were talking about.
Scott Jasik: 18:20 And so for example, there was a philosopher at Texas A&M University. And the day one story was, Texas A&M philosopher calls for murder of white people. Uh, he was a, he’s a black man. Now the day two story that we did was, Texas A&M Professor was talking about the artwork of Quentin Tarantino. Very different things. You can’t really talk about Quentin Tarantino’s films without talking about violence. Um, and a lot of these incidents are truly uh, well they’re really … There are things that people say that are controversial and deserve scrutiny. There are also things that are being taken totally out of context. Just to give you one other … And I think the press needs to like jump on these and say, no it’s not what you heard. Um, there was a professor at a community college who was videotaped. And this relates to video being shared. Shouting at her students. No more pomegranates. Over and over again. And she was mocked as some sort, of you know, evil Professor trying to deny her students basic rights. In fact, she was teaching elementary education students, the tactic of getting young children to do something by banning it. And whether or not that’s a good thing or not, I’ll leave to the education experts. B
Scott Jasik: 19:50 But the point is, when people let these stories go without the context, all kinds of wacko decisions and discussions take place. And so I think the press has a role in jumping instantly on a lot of these stories. Um, I wanted to, to ask you all a bit about the issue that came up briefly in the last discussion about empathy. Because um, and, and , and this sort of relates to things that all three of you said. Um, in many cases, students who are opposing speakers, are in fact from uh, disadvantaged groups. And from groups that feel, sort of Suzanne as you said, that um, that there’s more at play than what they’re saying on speech. And, and I have been struck and some of the discussions here, that it’s easier for people to say free speech, that’s what we should have, then to think about perhaps why some are opposing free speech. And so I’m wondering if, if there is a greater role for empathy. And Susanne, I wonder if you want-
Suzanne Nosal: 20:58 Yeah sure. Um, I think so. I mean I think there’s a certain uh, sense in which students have to be comfortable enough on campus to be able to tolerate a level of discomfort. And if they feel kind of … And I think that’s what’s bubbled up in a number of these cases. That they feel, sort of consistently marginalized, targeted. There have been a spate of racist incidents. Uh, you know, that have happened. That they believe the administration hasn’t dealt with adequately. And then they kind of hit a breaking point, when the next things happens and they, and they put a wall up, and they just cannot tolerate, you know, Charles Murray coming to campus, or something else that seems deliberately provocative. So I think part of it is getting ahead of that and understanding, you know the university needs to change. I mean if you look at the demographics, uh of who’s coming into colleges. It’s changed radically. We have much larger populations of uh, you know, African American students, Latino students, uh other racial minorities. Students who are first generation immigrants. And you know, this campus in many ways though is still geared toward, built for, you know, people, you know, who look like a number of us.
Suzanne Nosal: 22:03 And so, I think there is a level of uh, change and transformation that these students are pushing for and demanding, that can seem kind of alienating. Uh it can threaten. You know whether it’s the name of a residential college or the title of Master at Harvard. Or all kinds of other things that, you know, could seem rather sacrosanct to people who grew up in that environment, or raised and sort of treasured these things overtime. Or it could seem sort of ridiculous. And, and kind of out of nowhere. And baseless. And yet if you sit down and listen, you know there’s something to it. You know, it’s perhaps analogous to, you know, another change in nomenclature, you know that happened years ago. When we, you know, put the term oriental to rest, or we stopped talking about Negroes. You know, is that so different than the discussion now, over binary pronouns. I know a lot of us have a different reaction to it, because we’re not accustomed to it. It can be almost a visceral reaction, but I think, kind of the slow rational listening approach, recognizing the kernel of validity. Considering why it is that you have the reaction that you do. Can make a big difference.
Suzanne Nosal: 23:06 I think you know, another piece of an open marketplace for ideas, is thinking about who really feels they can speak. You know if there are students sitting in the classroom for whatever reason, could be language, background, ideology, feel silenced. You know, that’s not an open environment. And so thinking about who’s not speaking on these campuses, who isn’t being heard from, whether they can be amplified, elevated, supported in some way, to participate more actively, may help forestall, you know, a later call on their part to restrict speech, because they see it as further into … You know, intensifying, or exacerbating their sense of alienation or marginalization.
Scott Jasik: 23:44 Uh, Wendy.
Wendy Kaminer: 23:45 I think a, quite a lot about empathy actually because, you can’t be a good critic without empathy. If you want to criticize something you have to understand it in a fairly deep way. But I think if you’re engaged in criticism or in the defensive of free speech and civil liberty, you need empathy tempered by ruthlessness. Civil … You know, a, a real commitment to civil liberty requires a certain um hard heartedness. Because it um … While understanding and sympathize, with sympathizing with people who are hurt or who even, you know, might describe themselves as feeling traumatized. I think a commitment to civil liberty means that you don’t let that deprive other people other people of their rights. That’s … And you know, that’s, that’s not an easy thing to do. I, I, I don’t say that flippantly. And I, and I, I’ve thought about this because I, I remember so many discussions on ACLU boards where uh, whether we were talking about the exclusion of um, gay people from the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Boston some years ago, and how hurtful that was. And there were people in the discussion who, who just didn’t, you know, they just couldn’t bring themselves to defend the, the rights of the parade organizers. The private parade organizers to exclude gay people. Because it just felt so mean. And, and, you know, so destructive to a group of people.
Wendy Kaminer: 25:13 And I understand that but I also just felt, you know, if, if you’re in the business of defending civil liberty you really need to put that aside. Um, that’s somebody else’s job. That’s the therapists job. That’s the social worker’s job. That’s their friends job. But that’s, that’s not your job. If you’re committed to defending speech and liberty. And, and I just want to say one more thing about empathy, which is that, you know, the, the irony is that um, the … Some of the same students who are demanding, and, and have some right to expect empathy, are also embracing notions of identity politics, that really minimize or even deny the possibility of empathy. I mean one of the things I really don’t like about identity politics is that it, it teaches us that, you know, unless you are part of a distinct demographic group, you really can’t emphasize. You really can’t understand, and know what it is that they’re experiencing. And I um, you know I’m really troubled by this, this notion of um, authority coming almost exclusively from experience. And I think that is um, amicable to the notion of empathy.
Scott Jasik: 26:29 Uh, Wendy. I’m sorry Susanne did you …
Suzanne Nosal: 26:30 I just want to respond to something. Once your …
Wendy Kaminer: 26:34 Go ahead.
Suzanne Nosal: 26:35 The idea that um, you know, ultimately there has to be the ruthlessness and you have to be willing to um, kind of triumph over these arguments of you know, sympathy or the exclusion. And, in, in the case of the march, that I think in a way that sells the civil liberties principle short. You know. Because fundamentally … I, I think we should be able these, these precepts are strong enough and compelling enough, and important enough, that even though uh, you know there maybe that great sense of hurt, you know you can turn the argument around and talk about the LGBT March in Chicago, where they excluded the Zionist, you know marchers who wanted to take part. Or it was, you know, it was, uh, you know I think a pro Israel group that wanted to march and, and, and uh the LGBT organizers at that march decided to exclude them. So there’s an argument there to reason. And maybe it’s hard for people, you know, 20 years ago in Boston for the thing about St. Patrick’s Day to, you know, think 20 years to the future when they’re organizing their own march and they may want to make these decisions.
Suzanne Nosal: 27:35 But I think ultimately kind of that type of reasoning and trying to, you know, come up with the hypothetical to explain why it is that the principles that are being asserted, you know, cannot stand how they can be turned against a minority. I think, you know, ultimately that’s going to be the winning argument. As opposed to an argument that you’re concerns of you know, uh victimization or marginalization. You know, need to be overruled. I just think, you know, I am more kind of the pragmatist problem solver, and if I’m going to think about how we’re going to triumph in these arguments I-
Wendy Kaminer: 28:08 Suzanne, we, we always use those arguments. I mean I, I agree with you. It’s always important to advance those arguments. But when you’re dealing with um, uh, people’s profound sympathy for somebody else’s emotional pain. They can understand the argument, but it, it doesn’t necessarily persuade them to take a particular position. But I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t make those arguments, We do make those arguments. We always do. I mean one of the arguments … The argument that we always make about free speech, when um, you know, historically subordinate disadvantaged groups talk about free speech, you know free speech as an instrument of power. Talk about the need to restrict the, the speech of their opponents. And we always make the arguments about the importance of free speech in virtually every, every civil rights movement. We always make those arguments. But, but they just, they’re not always persuasive to people. I agree with you, they need to be made. They’re essential arguments. But they’re just not always persuasive.
Robert Shibley: 28:08 Can I, can I-
Scott Jasik: 29:09 Uh, Robert.
Robert Shibley: 29:10 Real quick I just want to … One of the, I think more disturbing sort of argumentative tactics that we’ve seen, that I think makes it tough to have that sort of shared understanding, is the idea that uh people who are … Some people because of their identities, shouldn’t have to make that argument. That they should be spared the burden … They say you shouldn’t be burdening, you know, African American students with Charles Murray coming to campus and having to make those arguments. And, while I have some sympathy for that, because it’s a pain to, to that have the argument. I don’t think there’s any way around that. I think that’s one of those burdens that in a democratic republic, we can’t really lift from people. And, but I think what it does though is, when you’re prepared with that argument, you, you have all this, it gives you the sort of moral sanction where you say, I actually don’t have to listen to these guys. Part of the oppression is that, you know, part of my fighting back against these oppression is they need to understand me, without me having to do anything. And that’s, that’s hard to be.
Suzanne Nosal: 30:09 Yeah. I mean … I, you know, we hear those arguments. And it tough to [inaudible 00:30:12] we’ve heard a lot from students of color, is that, it always falls to them. The burden falls to them. You know, when some racist incident happens, they have to be the ones to articulate, well why the bananas in the trees is offensive. And what they’d like to see the university do. And that, you know, it’s a real weight. And I think there’s some legitimacy to it. I don’t think it’s as insoluble as you suggest. I think part of it is from other people, you know, white people, professors, the administration. Kind of stepping out, getting out in front, not just simply turning to that individual in the classroom to be the only one who speaks up. And just quickly on Wendy, I mean I think the, the issues, you know, really comes down to whether you acknowledge that speech can cause harm. And I’ve argued [inaudible 00:30:50]-
Wendy Kaminer: 30:50 Of course it causes harm.
Suzanne Nosal: 30:51 That it, that it, you know, it, it can’t be equated to violence and that there, you know, is risk and danger in overstating the harmful potential of speech. But I think, there’s also been a fear of acknowledging it can cause any harm, because that can open the door you know, to censorship and restrictions. And I think, I think that’s what … That becomes a very kind of difficult argument to sustain.
Scott Jasik: 31:11 Well, and if you look at sort of a lot of the campus debates, over speakers say. Um, I think there has not been evidence always of empathy. And when there is, I think it may change the debate. To give an example, when Milo Yiannopoulos wanted to, went to West Virginia University, um students asked the university to ban him. And the University president took a quick and decisive action and said no, he can come. And then when he came. He did something he does at many of his speeches. He attacked by name a WVU individual. In this case a gay professor. Sort of mocking him repeatedly. The next day when students who cared about this professor organized a social media campaign about how this professor had helped them and was important, the president of the University joined the campaign. And so he did not waiver at all, on the issue of free speech. He didn’t say I wouldn’t let him come back. But he acknowledged the harm done to some students, and took part in an activity. And I guess that’s part of what I was thinking about, I think, and I don’t know if this is the case, but I wonder if WVU students might be more supportive of free speech because they saw the leaders of the university not only defend free speech, but also defend a, a colleague who was attacked.
Scott Jasik: 32:36 And um, and I think there’s something there. I want to get some questions in. We’re really tight here on time. Ad I still can’t really see anyone. Do, do we have? If you could raise, raise your hands we’ll … Someone with a mic will come. Yes, and if you could please introduce yourself.
Randall Paul: 32:57 My name is Randall Paul, committee on social thought at University of Chicago. Um, midlife degree. Uh, I have … It, it seems to be undergirding all of this is, a program that isn’t heterodox enough which is, we have up there open mind, when we’re really talking about open hearts and minds. And this idea of persuasion. Human persuasion is what we’re about here. We’re trying to create outcomes, pragmatic outcomes, whatever our values are. And I have this question. Would it not be uh, better for us, as a group, to admit the kind of things you’re talking about here. When we talk about compassion, talk about it as a persuasive strategy to have people hear us. And engage us more sincerely if we, if we say no this is an argument. We’ve heard it all the time. This is an argument. We can only rely on the common ground of rationality or we’re all screwed. Well even the way I said that, there is emotion behind it, there was, there was … You either bought it or you didn’t, right? And so we’ve got to admit I think, that um, even our methodology here, is flawed, if we don’t allow for the full act of full disclosure of persuasion, both in our motives exposed, and in our methods. Um, I just wanted to get your reaction to that. I’m all about peaceful co-resistance.
Scott Jasik: 34:28 Okay. Um, anyone want to react to that?
Wendy Kaminer: 34:29 I would never separate out um, the importance of emotion in persuasion. Or even in how people, how people understand what it is that you’re saying. It’s always going to be affected by the way you present it. By your tone of voice, by your body language. By their impression of me. I mean one of the things that I’ve learned over the years as a writer, is that people often don’t really react to precisely what it is that I’m saying. They react to what they perceive as my attitude. And what they perceive of as my attitude is often a function of tone. And so, you know, I, I don’t discount that at all. Um, I, I think it’s. I think it’s hard to deal with. Because we all are who we are, you know.
Scott Jasik: 35:19 Uh, Suzanne.
Suzanne Nosal: 35:20 No.
Scott Jasik: 35:20 Okay, uh another question?
Less Lenkowski: 35:23 Earlier this week … Um my name is Less Lenkowski, I’m from Indiana University. Earlier this week the New York Times ran a big story about State Legislative actions and I think four states, I know inside higher education’s been covering it, aimed at addressing the problem we’ve been discussing. Uh, assuming and I know it’s a big assumption, a properly drafted bill, um with some real sanctions, I mean such as reductions in uh funding or things like this, could be enacted. Do you think such outside pressure would be useful. A senior official at Indiana University told me that he thought there was no way the administration felt they could overcome the resistance of the faculty to adopting something like the Chicago principles, without some sort of outside pressure.
Scott Jasik: 36:20 Uh Robert?
Robert Shibley: 36:21 Yeah, as uh a lobbyists up here, um I’ve, I’ve had actually a, a fair amount of sort of contact with the legislators who are working on that. Mostly on, on state-level. There’s, there’s a number of different bills out there, some of which FIRE is behind. Uh, but not most that are trying to deal with this problem in different ways. Um, there is a, a real thirst out there, uh among state legislators to “do something” about the problem. Um, I think it’s important to keep in mind that these folks, a lot of times, they’re part time. They don’t have a staff. Um, they, they see something bad happening, um that they think is bad. They think it attacks their values. Um, and they want to do something about it. So we actually spend a fair amount of time trying to talk them out of doing uh, more restrictive things. I think it just has to be done very carefully. I guess what I would … My, my main caution would be, I, I think the academy, you know, you can debate, you know, whether or not this is good or bad. Um, you know, on the perspective of finding knowledge. But the academy is definitely unmoored politically from many of the states that host and that fund uh schools.
Robert Shibley: 37:31 And that’s gone on for a long time and I think, like any sort of industry, um if the, there’s, there’s sort of an expectation that they, the faculty is going to regulate itself, and that these incidents are not going to happen. And when they start to happen over and over again, just like if you had a big polluter or something like that, eventually the government’s going to come and say, we need to do something about this. And it may not be the best thing. So I would … I, I, I think universities need to really be very conscious of that. I mean, you know, opposition to the Chicago principles. Obviously we’re pushing it, so I don’t … You know, we’re helping to push that. I really don’t understand that. But it’s … That’s going to be a very difficult thing. The Chicago principles are really not that wacky. And to try to explain to state legislators who might read it, it’s like a page-and-a-half, and be like yep sounds like university to me. And then to have these faculty members who are often in the news attacking them, they’re, you know they have different politics uh, coming out and saying we would never do it. You’re really heading for a collision course that I think universities need to be much more aware of then they are.
Suzanne Nosal: 38:35 Just briefly on this. Uh we’ve actually put out a white paper on these State Legislative proposals. Uh and we … While there are some that are relatively anodon, and wouldn’t be that harmful. There are two problems in, that crop up in many of them. The first is the way their police encounter speech. And they say any speech that could have shutdown or restrict speech is punishable, often by quite draconian uh, uh, disciplinary measures. And I think that’s, that’s quite problematic. Counter speech is part of free speech, and if we restrict overly, you know, I think we’re going to cause more problems than we solve. The other thing is uh, many of them have sort of councils that are appointed by governors. So it’s a political body that is really charged with implementing these proposals. And I think, yeah that is just, it’s, it’s sort of a power grab, you know. As Robert said, you know the politics of the university campus tend to be very different than at the Statehouse. And so it’s a question of the Statehouse asserting their authority. But I think for those of us who treasure academic freedom that’s very worrying.
Wendy Kaminer: 39:31 Yeah, I share Suzanne’s concern about this. And I think it is always dangerous to look to legislators to protect free speech, they’re much better at restricting it.
Scott Jasik: 39:40 Well, and in fact, it’s not a theoretical … No it’s not a theoretical concern. It’s a real concern. In that, if you look at say, in Tennessee where legislators were pushing one of these bills. Simultaneously with telling the University of Tennessee it couldn’t have a sex week, that was not paid for with State funds. Or in Wisconsin where there were proposals to ban professors from uh a course on white privilege. Whatever you think of sex week or white privilege, there are lots more examples like that, where um, I’m not, I would question whether getting legislators more involved in campus speech will be a net positive.
Robert Shibley: 40:21 Honestly the Tennessee bill is actually one of FIRE’s favorite bills. And actually worked on it very hard with the folks at the University of Tennessee. But you know, with regard to, to sex week and you know, you’re right that, that’s the sort of overwhelming thing, and I think that’s another I mean … University of Tennessee, Knoxville is in East Tennessee, it’s a very conservative area. And the legislators get this schedule, and it’s got butt stuff on it. Followed by like, how to drive a vulva. You know, are these, are these two different things and, you know, if you are from, if you’re from Dayton Tennessee, like my dad, which is the home of the scopes trial, um, and you’re sending your 18 year old to good old, you know you UT, go Vols, and the first thing you get is like, oh I went to a butt stuff workshop, I mean … Legislators are going to hear about that.
Robert Shibley: 41:07 I’m not saying they shouldn’t do that, but what I am saying is there needs to be some expectation management there, and there needs to be some uh sensitivity to … This a hard thing to explain. I, I, I do think of it, and sorry if I’m going on too long. In some ways the efforts to, to do this are a little bit like pollution. In that they’re … When you try to politicize the academy there are these, you can get these very um concentrated benefits, but these diffuse costs. And the diffuse cost is the chilling effect on speech. The chilling … At you know. So the people who don’t like sex week, yay they get rid of it. They’ve won. They’ve got a political battle. But the, the cost is spread out and, and just like any other thing like that, the constituency isn’t, it isn’t there. It’s not really that noticeable.
Suzanne Nosal: 41:53 But I think, you know, sort of opening the door … That’s why opening the door to these proposals and kind of poking the bear and suggesting to the legislators that this is a good area for them to mettle into, you know, really involves a lot more risk than benefits. You know. And I think that’s a great example. I mean would they have been paying attention to that, would it-
Robert Shibley: 42:09 They, they were. That was part of the reason we got into it. Is for that very reason.
Scott Jasik: 42:14 But frankly for those here who are deeply concerned about free speech on campus, perhaps you should ask yourself, why do you not see that as an attack on free speech on campus. So again, some students using non-state funds to do a series of programs that they believe are helpful to the campus. And um, it may not have the gravitas of a Charles Murray speech but um, it’s also free speech. I think we have time for one more question? Yes. Sure.
Speaker 7: 42:54 Um, why did [inaudible 00:42:56] critical perspective. Um, one of the things that you mentioned is that there is this valuing free speech at the same time most of us in this room also value that there needs to be inclusion, and to emphasize that. But when you look at this room, it is overwhelmingly white. And, why do you think that that is? Why is there such a disproportionate uh, number of faculty, who are white, that are in this room, and similarly interested in free speech.
Suzanne Nosal: 43:27 Yeah, I mean it goes to the point I was making earlier about how I think you know, too often yo know, the context in which these issues arise on campus is in regards to speech that is considered offense of our marginalizing uh, you know, to uh racial minorities. And that we have work to do, to make clear, that the defense of free speech on campus and academic freedom is an agenda for everyone. And that involves … You know, I personally don’t think we’re going to stamp or override identity politics. Whether that would be good thing or not, I don’t think it’s possible. Not in this moment. I think it’s been exacerbated by the outcome of the 2016 election and kind of the moment that we’re in politically. And what’s coming out of the White House. So I think we have to recognize that, and reach out to groups with all kinds of agendas. Muslim American student organizations, African American, Latino, immigrant student organizations. And you know, there is … You know, they have a stake in this too. It’s a … These protections are essential for the fights that they are waging. And I … And when you talk to them they do understand that. And they also understand how, you know restrictions they might call for in one context, you know, could be applied against them in another.
Suzanne Nosal: 44:38 So you know, when you sit down in in-depth dialogue, which is it’s tough in an era of kind of social media and Twitter Wars. But when you … You know the kinds of communities that we’ve done on campus, you realize you can forge some common ground on this. I think FIRE’s role as a watchdog is essential. But we also need to be in this kind of uh, you know, intense dialogue to explain how these principles can be shared. How these things can coexist.
Speaker 7: 45:04 Well, and, and, I would also return to something I said this morning. I, I would challenge … No seriously. I, I have a question for the people in this room. We know that the people in this room are very upset by what happened to Charles Murray. But, at Kennesaw State University, three black cheerleaders took a knee, and they were punished by being told the team couldn’t uh, be on the field for the playing of the national anthem.
Speaker 8: 45:04 No on was sent to the hospital.
Speaker 7: 45:31 No, no one was sent to the hospital. But I ask the question, when African-Americans take controversial stands that are totally non-violent, um, why is there less interest. Perhaps if there were more interest, this room might be more diverse. And you may have … So I just offer that. Um, and um, and with you, we are cut off for time. So please join me in thanking the panel.
Speaker 9: 46:05 Ladies and Gentlemen, please take your seats. This session will begin momentarily.
Speaker 10: 46:37 Right?
Speaker 11: 46:37 It’s so bright. Oh god it is. It’s like half full.
Speaker 10: 46:43 It’s what? Yeah I know.
Speaker 11: 46:43 It’s only half full, that’s good. Okay. Hi-