Scott Jaschik: 00:00 Good morning everybody. I’m Scott Jaschik editor of Inside Higher Ed. Uh, and with a great panel here to talk about specific incidents on campuses and in academic organizations that for them have framed these issues. Uh, we’re gonna talk briefly among ourselves and then also there will be a question period. Um, due to the lights I can’t see but I’m told there are two mics out there, uh, and we’ll have an opportunity to hear from you as well [crosstalk 00:00:29]. Uh, to my left we have Rick Shweder from the University of Chicago.
Scott Jaschik: 00:33 Then to his left we have Nadine Strossen who’s at New York Law School but whom you may also know from her, uh, leadership role in the American Civil Liberties Union. Then we have Lucia Martinez Valdivia from Reed College. And at the end we have Heather Heying who describes herself as a faculty member in exile. (laughter) And we’ll hear more about that as well. So Rick I know you wanted to describe some of the things that you, the trends we have seen as well as specific experience.
Richard A. Shweder: 01:04 Yeah. So let me start by just saying that the idea of an open mind is notoriously difficult to define, and it’s easy to get the specifications wrong. I want to read you something from, here’s an example Kurt Vonnegut’s description of his education in open mindedness seven decades ago at a university that we will be hearing about, the University of Chicago. This is what he recounts in his novel Slaughterhouse-Five. Quote, “I went to the University of Chicago for a while after the second world war. I was a student in the department of anthropology. They taught me that nobody was ridiculous or bad or disgusting.” (laughter) End quote. Vonnegut goes onto to say he never wrote a book with a villain in it because that’s what they taught him at college. They taught him there are no villains, they taught him whatever is is okay. It’s precisely open mindedness of that thought that led my former colleague Allen Bloom to strongly suggest closing the American mind. (laughter).
Richard A. Shweder: 02:06 A book by the way his title sold a lot of books because people thought he was gonna be criticizing close mindedness. And I thought it went terrible. In fact he was recommending closed mindedness but no one ever read the book. (laughter). Um, in any case the point being that it’s possible to be too open minded and when you get too open minded you’re in a kind of skeptical postmodern view in which the notion of error, ignorance, and confusion disappears. It’s, it’s true for me what’s true for you. Everything becomes pure subjectivism and we’re no longer in a, in a situation where you can even have a dispute because any genuine dispute is one where people disagree and one or the other or both of them is in a state of error, ignorance, or confusion.
Richard A. Shweder: 02:50 And behind it is some notion, unitary notion of truth whereas that because of the dispute in getting rid of error, and ignorance, and confusion will lead to urges. That can’t be the whole story if you believe in viewpoint diversity this is end of viewpoint diversity once the process goes forward and you get of their ignorance and confusion. So the human imagination has to be added to this. And on the other side you don’t want human imagination to construct views of the pictures of the world which you hold automatically as though there is no other view. And I think what’s happened on college campuses as both these things, the dogma position and the radical subjectivist position have been joined in expressive demonstrative identity politics. Where you’re only interested in your groups story and you have to be one to know one and that creates a whole set of problems quickly.
Richard A. Shweder: 03:40 Since I know we have limited time here’s my experience. In, uh, in 2015 the American Anthropological Association was faced with a proposal to vote on to boycott Israeli academic institutions. I don’t want to get into the arguments about this. There was a business meeting at the meeting at these at the, uh, annual meeting in which proposals of this sort are voted on and then they go to the whole membership. It was a political rally. At the, a thousand people, over a thousand people showed up. 90% of them voted in favor of the boycott and put the proposal forward. At that meeting which I attending which felt like a disturbing political rally rather than an intellectual event, a graduate student I recall got up to speak against the boycott and prefaced it by saying, “I know by speaking here today I will never get a job in a department of anthropology.” I found that extremely disturbing because I couldn’t say to her she was wrong.
Richard A. Shweder: 04:36 I was very involved in opposing the boycott. And I spent a fair amount of time contacting anthropologists around the country a- and the other members who are not even in the country to see what their views were and see whether they would be willing to state their position publicly. And I was startled by the number of senior distinguished tenured faculty who said to me, “Rick I’m totally opposed to boycotts I will vote against it in a secret ballot but you cannot quote me. And I will not make any public statement about it because I don’t want to jeopardize my relationship with colleagues, friends, and students.” That’s an environment that is troubling, when you can only speak what you believe in a secret ballot.
Richard A. Shweder: 05:19 Okay. Um, ultimately I was pleased five thousand votes were ultimately cast after months of people e- expressing views on one side or the other. The boycott was defeated by 39 votes. Um, you would never know that. Everyone was startled because it was a 90% vote in favor at the business meeting. But I at least had some inkling that there was going to be a vote against it for people who were just silent. And that silence is becoming more and more pervasive within the academy. I think that’s a problem.
Scott Jaschik: 05:52 I’ll just say one brief thing on that meeting, uh, a lesser known fact is that the American Anthropological Association banned the press from the business meeting where they took that vote. Um, uh, fortunately they have since decided to let the press cover the association.
Richard A. Shweder: 05:52 Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Scott Jaschik: 06:09 Uh, but it’s always striking to me when people shutdown reporting on a topic. Um, Nadine?
Nadine Strossen: 06:16 That’s so interesting when you talked about the, the chilling effect. I was thinking of an old phrase from the 80s, “The silent majority.”
Richard A. Shweder: 06:16 Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Nadine Strossen: 06:25 But that applied to a very different political demographic. (laughter). Um, so, uh, my own experience has been rather tame in the sense that I have not been subject to actual violence or threatened violence, isn’t that a sad commentary? Uh, but I have been subject to a prior restraint. I was gagged, uh, no platformed at an event that was supposed to take place at American University last Fall with a very provocative title of, uh, Title IX Feminism and Free Speech. Obviously hate speech. (laughter). Uh, as it was denounced by the American University chapter of sadly the American Association of University Women. Uh, based on that title and I assume on the speakers who were yours truly, long time national president of the ACLU, uh, two female editors of, uh, Reason Magazine and Spiked Magazine. And somebody from Fire obviously. A hate group. Right?
Nadine Strossen: 07:30 (laughter). Uh, so we were accused of engaging in not only hate speech but also violence and of threatening to undermine decades of progress in, uh, combating sexual violence. So we were not allowed to speak. Ironically it was part of a tour that Spiked Magazine which kind of the UK equivalent of Reason for those of you who don’t know it, was having of American campuses called, uh, No Safes or Unsafe Spaces. In other words not safe for censorship, not safe for orthodoxy. And it was not the only campus into which where they ran into trouble. John was part of that tour as well. Uh, I will speak more generally as, uh, from both of my institutional positions with the ACLU and as a law professor.
Nadine Strossen: 08:19 Many of you are aware of a very troubling incident that took place at the college of William and Mary last year involving one of my ACLU colleagues, the executive director of the Virginia ACLU who had been invited by students to explain students right to protest on campus. And she was subjected to such a disruptive protest, uh, that the students who intentionally disrupted put a video bragging about the fact that they had stopped that heinous discussion of students free speech rights from going forward. And I think one of the attitudes that was, uh, flagged on some posters, uh, banners that students were, were holding signs. They were holding, uh, equating liberalism and civil libertarianism with racism and white supremacy.
Nadine Strossen: 09:11 Sadly that attitude was demonstrated in a poll that was conducted by the Cato Institute and UGov last Fall. And the question, uh, was asked, uh, I- I’ll just put it, put the answer. 43% of all respondents said that defending freedom of speech for racist ideas is as bad as having racist ideas yourself. Uh, when you ask just democrats the number went up to 53%, a majority and sadly, uh, for racial minorities African Americans and Latinos the numbers were 65 and 61% respectively. So people are no longer accepting that statement attributed to Voltaire, I will defend to the, uh, I detest what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it. And that brings me finally, uh, to my other hat as a law professor where we are constantly schooling our students in arguing, as I love to say to my students, “All plausible perspectives on every issue.”
Nadine Strossen: 10:22 You cannot be an effective lawyer unless you are able to do that. Jon Stewart Male in Action. Right? Not just from a theoretical viewpoint but from a practical viewpoint. Professional skills. As recently as last July Heather Kirken the, uh, then new dean of the Yale Law School wrote a piece in Time Magazine in which she said, “Law schools have largely been exempt from the problems we’re seeing in other parts of the academy and it is because of this style of education.” Well we now know that law schools sadly are not exempt this Spring in March there were two very troubling incidents of, um, uh, would be professors trying to speak at law schools being shutdown, shouted down, disrupted, uh, vehemently.
Nadine Strossen: 11:07 One incident involved Christina Hoff Sommers at Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland Oregon. Uh, because some of her views about feminism are controversial, she was called a known fascist, uh, and that bringing her to campus was an act of aggression. Uh, she was accused of promoting sexual assault. Here to closer to home in New York, uh, at the end of March, uh, law professor from South Texas Law School Josh Blackmon had been invited to talk on the following hateful topic, um, why freedom of speech is important on campus. And he was met with a mob that for at least 20 minutes completely surrounded him, shouted, prevented him from getting a word out edgewise. And there were, uh, students who had posters that said and students who were shouting, “Fuck the law.”
Nadine Strossen: 12:10 So to me this is like an absolute low point for both education and free speech and free thought. But being an optimist as an activist I, uh, I also want to say that I’m so inspired not only by the people who are here, uh, but by the hunger I see from a fairly silent majority on campus, uh, across the ideological spectrum that does make its views known. And hopefully we can help, uh, help them find their inner courage and make them speak out rather than remain in silence.
Scott Jaschik: 12:44 You know, an important point about the law professor who was shouted down at CUNY Law School. The students said he was racist and anti-immigrant because of his stands on, uh, DACA. Um, and it is true that he had defended the Trump administrations view that president Obama exceeded his legal authority. But what the students didn’t acknowledge is that he had also written several pieces saying that congress could and should fix it. And so he in fact endorsed a permanent solution that would help DACA students, just a different solution than they wanted. But he was considered not worthy of listening to [crosstalk 00:13:29] as a result.
Nadine Strossen: 13:29 And one suspects, one suspects that if the particular president who owns executive power he was questioning was named Donald Trump that the students reactions might’ve been quite different. (laughs).
Scott Jaschik: 13:38 They might well have been. Uh, Lucia.
Lucía Martínez Valdivia: 13:40 Yeah. Um, I’ll try to keep this relatively brief. I think most people, um, in this room have probably heard about the protests of the, uh, mandatory first recourse at Reed College. They were ongoing for almost a year, um, in the classroom lectures were surrounded by protestors holding saying things like, “Fuck Q110.” The name of the course. Um, and that the course supported white supremacy, um, and was not in favor of discourse for all that processors claimed, um, to the contrary. Um, and so, uh, we … I’m untenured and so it’s, um, a little bit risky sort of, uh, speak freely ironically.
Lucía Martínez Valdivia: 14:19 Um, but our administration did nothing. And because, um, our faculty is, um, very independent minded thankfully, um, it meant that, uh, as a group … It’s a teen talk course so 25 people. Um, as a group we weren’t really willing to say, “This is not okay.” Um, and so faculty members were left to deal one on one with the protestors. Um, at an ad hoc basis and, uh, I was not the first one to say, “No.” Um, I was the second but I was the first to say, “No” ahead of time. And, um, it did not go well shall we say.
Lucía Martínez Valdivia: 14:54 Um, it’s, uh, I was lecturing on Sappho on the poetry of Sappho and, uh, students showed up, um, they sat in front of me all wearing black. They walked out, um, halfway through the lecture on the dot, um, and then stood in the foyer of the, the lecture hall, um, which is on the path to my office and, uh, were very ready for a confrontation. Um, and the protest continued for almost a year after that. So that including other faculty getting shouted down, getting disrupted by what are known as noise parades at Reed where they have drums and kazoos and march around campus. Um, they’ve did that in the lecture hall.
Lucía Martínez Valdivia: 15:33 And it, so it was on a one by one basis that faculty members, um, who lost tolerance for this disruption of the processes at the college. Um, sort of came to that realization. Um, but I think what disturbed me most, um, about the entire process is that the administration and tenured faculty weren’t willing to take the risk of saying, “No. This is a disruption that keeps other people from learning.” Um, they thought it was something that should be hashed out among the students. And so it was left to this past years entering class to deal with these protests. They walked in on the first day and lecture got canceled because the protestors came and literally took the microphones from us.
Lucía Martínez Valdivia: 16:18 Um, we were going to do a panel lecture talking about the aims of the course and the importance of an open mind. Um, I think among other things and, uh, and we couldn’t do it. They literally took the microphones away from us. Um, and so we canceled lecture. And the students were left on the second day to stand up for themselves, um, against the protestors and, uh, and it was students of color. I think that was what was most upsetting to me is that the, the onus to defend their right to learn, um, which should I think be the purview of the administration, um, to defend the students and make sure that they can learn was in fact left to students of color.
Lucía Martínez Valdivia: 16:57 To freshman in their first week away from home to standup and say, “I want to learn.” That was really disturbing. Um, and so I’ve tried to, um, in that, in teaching that first year course, uh, make room for dissension and discomfort and one thing I have started telling my students at the beginning of class every year when they are freshman, um, is that, “You should be uncomfortable. And that if you are comfortable I am not doing my job as a teacher. Because you should at some point in this year completely change your worldview and you should have an existential crisis. That’s fine. T- that should be something that happens. You should question your place in the world. How you understand yourself. Your sense of self, your identity, your identities, all of those things should come under pressure by better understanding how you relate to other people.”
Lucía Martínez Valdivia: 17:49 Um, and we do that I think successfully but I think one of the, and this is just t- to Nadine’s point about, um, student understand of, of free speech in the first amendment and what is defended, um, I think we were studying The Republic. Um, and the question of hate speech came up. Um, and I asked them, “Is hate speech protected under the first amendment?” And it had never occurred to me to ask a class that before because I certainly, I’m not that much older than them. Um, I well a little bit but (laughter) t- there’s, it- it hasn’t been decades and decades and decades, um, since I was, uh, you know, in high school. And I was taught in high school civics about the first amendment and about free speech and what is defended and what is not.
Lucía Martínez Valdivia: 18:33 Um, and about half the class said, “No. Hate speech is not defended.” Um, so we had a talk about that. (laughter). Um, um, and sort of figuring out those nuances of sort of targeted attacks on individuals incitements to violence and the difference between that and sort of having a, what is to many of us a disturbing point of view about a group of people. Right? Um, and being able to say that. And I think one of the things that, that we also do in the classroom, at least in my classroom, um, is that we take principles and then we work through them at the level of examples. And so sort of taking arguments to their logical conclusions via that sort of choosing an example. So, you know, if you have to agree with all women because you’re a woman and therefore that’s your identity solidarity group, it’s, and you’re asking a group of students at Reed college so they tend to be left leaning, um, a little bit.
Lucía Martínez Valdivia: 19:27 And you say, “Okay well what about Tomi Lahren?” Right? She’s a woman. “Well that’s an ex” no. That doesn’t work that way. Right? (laughs). You don’t get to pick your examples, y- your exemptions sort of, uh, again on an ad hoc basis. You need to operate on principles and strong principles. Um, and so I think that’s become, um, something that has more and more for me in that first year class at least become important. I teach renaissance English poetry by the way. Um, so (laughs) I’m, I’m, completely sort of outside the realm of the law and politics. I teach religion and love poetry, and music. Um, and and I teach in this first year humanities course, um, and it has exposed me to things that I never thought would be part of being an academic. Um, the emotional drain is considerable. Um, and that’s not I think something that many of us signed up for.
Scott Jaschik: 20:19 Um, Heather.
Nadine Strossen: 20:23 You’re so like a great teacher.
Heather Heying: 20:24 I was tenured at Evergreen. Along with my husband Bret Weinstein and probably everyone in this room knows something of what happened in May of 2017 when students, protestors took over the campus, barricaded administration buildings took, uh, upper admin hostage. Uh, refused to let the president move his arms, use the bathroom. Uh, assaulted other students with baseball bats. Hunted faculty and students on campus without any clear goals, um, the administration told the police department to stand down and so at the height of the violence and the protests on campus when students or faculty went for help there was a sign on the police station door that said, “If you need help call 9-11.” And this is a campus it’s 100 miles south of, of Reed. North. North of Reed in Washington. Public liberal arts college that, uh, is out in the boondocks. If you called 9-11 at that point help was not gonna be forthcoming.
Heather Heying: 21:34 And so the police chief told me and my husband that she could not help us, that we needed to stay off campus. That we needed to stay of our bikes anywhere in town. We weren’t safe. We ended up leaving the state, uh, in order to keep us and our family safe. And, um, this is a college that was a beacon of progressive values like actually progressive values with an experimental pedagogy that’s unlike any that is anywhere else in the country still. And I’m mourning its loss for sure. But all of that that I just described, uh, much of which many of you know, um, some, some of it was some of it was hidden by the PR department that was immediately hired by the administration. Uh, including the assault on students by protestors who were also students.
Heather Heying: 22:25 Um, that leaves a story in our heads that students have run amok but that’s not actually what happened. The protests weren’t led by the protestors. It was initiated by basically a cabal of faculty and staff behind the scenes. A tiny very loud minority of people who had an interest in overturning a system that worked. And, uh, but for the fact that the protestors were so sure that they were on the right side of history and so posted their videos to Facebook which then got moved to YouTube and so the whole world could see. And they were shocked that the world viewed it as they did. Uh, the stories that I have to tell would probably be disbelieved.
Heather Heying: 23:09 There are, there’s video of the activists on the first day of protests meeting with the president, all of the VP’s, and all of the deans of the college in an otherwise private meeting in which among other things it is suggested that science faculty be specifically targeted for implicit bias training, for being called out, for being the racists that scientists obviously are. So this is what is happening behind the scenes at, at one college, uh, that is admittedly a, sort of (laughs) an example that is beyond the pale. But it’s not unlike what is happening elsewhere. And, um, we can, we can see for sure from that example that one thing that people must do is not be silenced by the vocal few.
Heather Heying: 24:02 What I saw, what Bret Weinstein saw, my husband, what a very few other faculty who actually stood up saw was that a, I believe, silent majority of people on campus were coming to us and saying, “I’m with you but I can’t stand up because I’ll be shot.” And if everyone stands up who is saying that we aren’t all going to get shot. Right? Um, so I just want to say one other thing before we, before we move on about the value of heterodoxy in a higher ed setting which there’s people in this room who are probably familiar with Thomas Kuhn’s early 60s Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Uh, which basically said, um, “The model of science, um, as brick in the wall knowledge gains is not the one that is actually how most major progress is made in science.” And I think you can expand this to modes of inquiry outside of science. He said, “Instead we tend to make the most progress through radical leaps of imagination. Through paradigm shifts.” In his language.
Heather Heying: 25:07 Paradigm shifts don’t happen if everyone has the same view. You cannot experience paradigm shifts which are if you accept Kuhn’s model at least sometimes the way that we come to understand bigger truths if only the orthodoxy is represented. There are plenty of examples to suggest that paradigm shifts are in, are indeed how we come to understand reality, uh, evolution by natural selection. Plate tectonics, the double helix nature in DNA just to use a few from science. Um, none of those innovations would have been possible in a world where speech was restricted to what was already believed.
Heather Heying: 25:45 So if as Johnathan Height has argued and others, uh, there is indeed a choice to be made between being universities in search of truth or in search of social justice. We absolutely have to choose truth. And one more thing, uh, the president of Evergreen who is still the president, uh, did actually in the beginning of his tenure which is only now three years old, argue publicly that what he wanted to do was make that school into a social justice college. He was very explicit about his goals and he looks like he’s succeeded.
Scott Jaschik: 26:22 Um, so I wanted to ask a few quick questions to the panel. If you can please be brief so we can get to the questions. Um, like many I watched the Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam war. And the last few segments deal with the rise of the campus free speech movement and are a great reminder that the campus free speech movement was seen as an essential tool to take on the Vietnam war, to push for civil rights for many groups. Um, and yet what you’re describing is a very different sense of campus speech. And I’m wondering how, uh, do you, any of you have thoughts on how we got from there to here.
Nadine Strossen: 27:04 I think the con- continuation speaking as a veteran of those earlier campus movements is that there is still a concern for social justice, for equality, for civil rights. Uh, but that the students on many campuses now who are advocating for those causes see themselves as being in the majority, the overwhelming majority of their peers and therefore they are (laughs) not in danger of being censored. And, um, it- it’s so easy for people to be very result oriented. Uh, Nat Hentoff said it so well in the title of a book he wrote a couple decades ago Freedom of Speech for Me But Not for Thee: How the Left and Right Censor Each Other Relentlessly.
Richard A. Shweder: 27:56 So, uh-
Scott Jaschik: 27:57 Rick.
Richard A. Shweder: 27:57 I’ll make a confession. I’m, I was a anti-Vietnam war activist back in the 1960s. I was at Harvard in graduate school when the Dow chemical representative was taken hostage. And there was a student sit in and takeover of a building. I was sympathetic with the cause, in retrospect I actually think it was a mistake to go after university campuses the way we did because I view university campuses as vulnerable institutions that really don’t have the resources to protect their basic values. And we should have I think, and did of course direct protests outside of the campus as well. But to go after the campuses and we were trying to insist that universities close take positions on the war. At the University of Chicago at that time a committee was formed headed by Henry Calvin Junior who is a distinguished first amendment scholar in our law school, and they wrote a statement about the universities position on social and political issues.
Richard A. Shweder: 28:59 Two principles, institutional neutrality and full autonomy for students and faculty. And that institution of neutrality position led them to say we don’t throw the weight of the institution behind particular viewpoints or positions. T- the, in fact that violates the autonomy principle because it basically had, goes against any minority voice when you have the institution saying, “You’re right. You’re wrong.” So that principle is held at the University of Chicago. They refused to divest from South Africa, whatever you feel about that issue they refused to get involved in the Darfur controversy. They leave it up to individual faculty and students to take positions but they don’t throw the institutional weight behind it. And I’ve now come and here’s, this is gonna be a radical position I imagine most of you will disagree.
Richard A. Shweder: 29:49 At a place like the University of Chicago there is no vetting of speakers. Any unit, a student organization, a department, a center, and institute, a dormitory can decide by their own internal processes that they would benefit in some way that they, uh, discern by having a speaker. That’s the general principle. No one asks the dean for permission, no one goes to the president. Okay? Um, if you believe in that it seems to me that you’re committed to welcoming anyone who comes to campus as a guest. You’re the host in an environment that is a public forum for debate, contestation, and if you then go out and protest the fact that someone invited somebody I believe that violates a sacred principle that makes it possible to have the kind of environment where contestation go, goes on.
Richard A. Shweder: 30:36 So it’s not clear to me that any speaker should have to run a gauntlet when they come to speak with people holding up signs denouncing them on campus. And, you know, most people will say, “No right to protest.” That’s fine. It seems to be with regard to the government, it’s fine on the street. In the quadrangle at a private university committed to the kind of environment we are promoting it seems to me we have to think about what kinds of interferences are allowed. And I just don’t mean shouting down speakers or forcing cancellations, I mean making it an environment in which you’re really not involved in dialogue asking critical questions. Having contestation. You’re just there to voice your denunciation of that persons position.
Nadine Strossen: 31:19 Just to note that we are a heterodox group I will just register my disagreement but I’ll hold the explanation. (laughter).
Scott Jaschik: 31:27 So, um, again on this, uh, theme of het, being a heterodox group. John in his introduction mentioned that the membership of this group, uh, has representation from those on the left and the right. And as I, as we have covered incidents involving suppression of free speech. I have been struck that leaving out the ACLU many of the pundits including those is academe who are outraged by what happened at Reed or Evergreen are less outraged when public university presidents punish students for taking a knee. When, um, Chelsea Manning is denied a fellowship at Harvard. When religious colleges routinely block certain speakers or punish faculty members for views that go against their faiths.
Scott Jaschik: 32:22 Is this movement, uh, and I don’t just mean the heterodox academy but in general those who are concerned about free speech and exchange of ideas. Is it hurt by the fact that so many pundits who love to criticize minority students who interfere at Reed or who are influenced to interfere at Evergreen are silent when football or cheerleaders are punished for taking a knee. Or Chelsea Manning? I mean why isn’t Harvard up there with Middleberry? Um, when it denied a- and so I’m just curious about your thoughts on that.
Lucía Martínez Valdivia: 32:57 Well they’re not operating on principles.
Scott Jaschik: 32:59 Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Lucía Martínez Valdivia: 32:59 Right? They’re not, they’re not putting that first as their, their … This is the thing that we are committed to. This particular principle. Um, and instead it becomes this selected application of, um, I’m not sure what. Right? Of opinion maybe. Um, and I think that that can be very very dangerous. Um, I think one … A- at Reed the discussion is focused on what happened in the classroom but I think it’s worth pointing out also and then again like I’m … I, politically I identify as left. Um, I was raised a socialist in Europe I would be a member of a the Socialist party. Um, and, uh, and still they protested.
Lucía Martínez Valdivia: 33:40 Um, but we, uh, at Reed invited Kimberly Pierce who’s the writer director of Boys Don’t Cry, um, to come do a screening and, um, a talk with students. This was in, um, I think December 2016. Um, trans activists showed up and protested her. This is a gender nonconforming very butch lesbian who made a movie about somebody who is also gender nonconforming and who probably would now be called trans, um, or identify as trans. Um, they shouted her down on the grounds that she was a transphobe. Right? This is, this is, it’s in-fighting. And I think that’s-
Scott Jaschik: 34:20 [crosstalk 00:34:20] B- but why I mean that incident-
Lucía Martínez Valdivia: 34:22 Yeah.
Scott Jaschik: 34:22 Attracted-
Lucía Martínez Valdivia: 34:23 Yeah.
Scott Jaschik: 34:23 National attention. And yet most people gave Harvard a pass.
Lucía Martínez Valdivia: 34:28 Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Scott Jaschik: 34:28 When it removed a fellowship from Chelsea Manning. Um, because of, um, opposition to her right to be there. Is that a problem?
Lucía Martínez Valdivia: 34:42 I think that one’s a little bit, I mean that one’s difficult for me to answer just on the grounds that it was an academic position. Right? It wasn’t coming to visit to give a talk.
Scott Jaschik: 34:52 Right.
Lucía Martínez Valdivia: 34:52 It was, um, like to be [crosstalk 00:34:53]-
Scott Jaschik: 34:53 But it was an academic position offered and accepted.
Lucía Martínez Valdivia: 34:57 Yeah. And it’s that offering I wonder about that because it’s, there should be I mean it- it’s an academic institution. There should be some sort of-
Scott Jaschik: 34:57 Yeah.
Lucía Martínez Valdivia: 35:05 Academic-
Scott Jaschik: 35:06 Uh, it- it [crosstalk 00:35:07] was affiliated with Harvard’s government school.
Lucía Martínez Valdivia: 35:09 Y- yeah.
Scott Jaschik: 35:09 Where-
Lucía Martínez Valdivia: 35:09 Where it’s a little bit lesser yeah.
Scott Jaschik: 35:10 [crosstalk 00:35:10] They’re not just bringing PhD’s in.
Lucía Martínez Valdivia: 35:12 Yeah.
Scott Jaschik: 35:12 Um-
Lucía Martínez Valdivia: 35:13 Well that’s [crosstalk 00:35:13] their problem. (laughs).
Scott Jaschik: 35:14 Yeah.
Nadine Strossen: 35:14 So I mean it- it really is true that most people are much more willing to defend freedom for the thought they love (laughter) and not freedom for the thought that they hate. And I think it’s too bad. I- I see, and I haven’t studied it so let me just say anecdotally my impression is that, um, the liberal media are not as critical as they should be even when, uh, especially when a conservative viewpoint is, is censored. And I did a, an event for heterodox academy in Fire last Fall. Uh, where Mark Lila was, he used the opportunity to speak to all of the liberal TV commentators and he said, “Why are you letting the conservatives hijack this issues?”
Richard A. Shweder: 35:59 Right.
Nadine Strossen: 36:00 It’s an issue that should be at least as important to liberals as to conservatives and if you were ever gonna preserve the moral high ground so that you can convincingly and with credibility protest when liberal viewpoints are being suppressed you have to be scrupulously neutral in your criticism.
Richard A. Shweder: 36:18 Right. And I- I want to second that. It seems to me y- you must have noticed that the liberal left has gone soft on the first amendment. Not only free speech but religious liberty and that’s a problem. And in fact a lot of principles have just, uh … This outcome judgment that’s made not principle judgment have you noticed that states rights used to be a bad thing on the liberal left?
Nadine Strossen: 36:18 Right.
Richard A. Shweder: 36:39 Now all of the sudden sanctuary cities opposed the federal government. You know, it’s a complete reversal.
Nadine Strossen: 36:44 B- but as our esteemed moderator said it goes the other way as well.
Scott Jaschik: 36:47 Right.
Nadine Strossen: 36:48 Right? How come conservatives are not-
Richard A. Shweder: 36:49 Right and that’s why [crosstalk 00:36:50]-
Scott Jaschik: 36:50 I- I mean the, the Trump administration-
Richard A. Shweder: 36:51 Right.
Scott Jaschik: 36:52 Is portraying itself as a defender of campus free speech while it wages war against-
Richard A. Shweder: 36:58 Right.
Scott Jaschik: 36:58 Non-violent protests by football players.
Nadine Strossen: 37:00 I’d say the one example of a government institution that is by and large scrupulously neutral on controversial free speech is the United States supreme court.
Scott Jaschik: 37:10 Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Nadine Strossen: 37:10 We have justices who are so ideological diverse they’re usually split five to four, even more fragmented. Yet on free speech including a hate speech case that they decided unanimously last summer. All across an entire spectrum they’re defending freedom for hateful and hated ideas. And I wish, um, uh, widespread acceptance, that all of us has a stake in that robust free speech would spread to the rest of society.
Scott Jaschik: 37:37 Uh, Heather?
Heather Heying: 37:38 So you asked earlier about what’s different now. And I think part of it is that, uh, the generation of people in colleges now and just out of college are conflating various kinds of safety and are using the word safety to apply not just physical safety but to emotions and to intellect as well.
Nadine Strossen: 37:57 And to deny you physical safety. That’s the ultimate irony.
Heather Heying: 38:00 And, you know, a- at the point that it gets to physical safety the irony is obvious. Right? But really even take it a step back. What happened at Evergreen was extreme. But at most places it never actually gets to the point of even threatening much less actual physical violence. But the idea that we should be expected to have spaces that don’t force us to question our intellectual ideals, and don’t force us to be uncomfortable is actually antithetical to intellectualism. I mean that, that is the death of the university at the point that we are being told that safety above all and physical safety equals emotional safety, equals intellectual safety. And the only thing that, that is that counts as safety is, “I shall not be disturbed.”
Scott Jaschik: 38:47 So I want to open it up to questions now. Um, and if you could go to the mics and if you could introduce yourself and please, um, ask questions. (laughter). Uh, and, uh, try to be brief so we can get in as many as possible. Um, I think we have a question over there?
Speaker 6: 39:10 Uh, yes. The idea that we should defend hate speech to me misses the point. It’s agreeing that it is hate speech when someone criticizes whatever’s the popular issue of the day. So I feel like we’ve already conceded like 90% of the turf. You should be able to disagree with whatever is the latest popular view without it being labeled hate speech because students, no one has the courage to standup to something once it’s labeled hate speech or white supremacy. So that’s what we need to focus on and I don’t hear anyone focusing on it.
Scott Jaschik: 39:51 Um, and also I should say we have questions coming, uh, o- online. People are watching this online. And I believe we have somebody handling those questions. Well I can’t-
Speaker 7: 40:02 They’re right here.
Scott Jaschik: 40:03 Yes. D- do you have one that you’d like to share?
Speaker 7: 40:05 Uh, we don’t have any in yet.
Scott Jaschik: 40:07 Okay. Uh, another question from those who are here? Is there anyone?
Matthew: 40:15 Yes.
Speaker 9: 40:16 Here.
Scott Jaschik: 40:16 Yes, um, please.
Matthew: 40:18 Hi I’m Matthew Folby. I just graduated from U of Chicago last week. Very proud alum. Uh, so my question for all of you is we just started having free speech orientation as part of just a very expansive orientation week. You know, you learn everything there is to learn.
Richard A. Shweder: 40:18 (laughs).
Matthew: 40:33 And one thing that, that strikes me I think we do a lot right, obviously. And but, uh, I think that especially for state schools for that to be required seems to me to be sort of an obvious thing that could be done. But I’m curious what all of your thoughts are on the helpfulness of that. I didn’t go through it myself but my brother did and he liked it. So I think that seems to me like a very easy thing that can be done obviously schools aren’t rushing to do this so how do you think they could do that? If you think that that is in fact a good idea.
Scott Jaschik: 41:02 Heather?
Heather Heying: 41:02 So I think any school right now that follows Chicago’s lead is going to win. Right? Um, that said the orientation week or however long you have is already, uh, filled with a lot of activities and whatever happened at Chicago was probably done well, uh, but there are a lot of ways it could be done badly. So I would say that the policy has to be, it has to be right. I would, I would hope for small conversations with actual faculty who know what they’re doing. And who are interested in pushing first year college students out of their comfort zones in the very week of school before they’ve even started classes. And that’s something that most faculty aren’t yer demonstrating that they’re willing to do. So we need that.
Scott Jaschik: 41:52 Uh, other thoughts on this question?
Nadine Strossen: 41:54 Can I answer the hate [crosstalk 00:41:55] speech question?
Scott Jaschik: 41:55 Sure.
Nadine Strossen: 41:55 Having just written a book, uh (laughter), about that topic. And I put hate speech in quotes throughout the book I don’t see the questioner precisely for the reason that it has no agreed upon legal meaning but it is used profligately, I’ll say promiscuously, uh, to describe whatever speech it is that the person using that epithet hates. So there’s not gonna be a way that we can censor that term or racist or sexist. Uh, basically with all of those terms we have to recognize that people are uttering them not as a way of provoking debate and thought and analysis, uh, but shutting it down. Right? Because that’s a discussion ender. So we have to get beyond those labels. We can’t shut them down but we have to explain why the viewpoint is not hateful a- and is a legitimate part of the discourse in many situations.
Scott Jaschik: 42:47 Uh, Rick?
Richard A. Shweder: 42:48 Yeah. Um, the University of Chicago has a tradition going back several decades. During orientation week some member of the faculty is asked to deliver a speech during orientation in Rockefeller Chapel to a thousand people at least, uh, called The Aims of … Addressing the question, what are the aims of education? And then everyone goes back to their dormitories led, there are discussions that are led about whatever the speaker had to say. I gave that speech in 1993. It was called Fundamentalism for High Brows.
Nadine Strossen: 43:17 (laughs).
Richard A. Shweder: 43:18 It’s available online if you want to reach it. I put out six commandments for the liberal university. The first commandment had to do with never give up the autonomy of your voice. And the basic argument was it’s what you say not who you are and your identity that matters. I’ve noticed in classrooms and seminars now you, not infrequently have people preface their comments by saying, “Speaking as an X.”
Nadine Strossen: 43:44 Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Richard A. Shweder: 43:45 And they’re immediately putting themselves in a census category of some type and then some authority is supposed to follow from the fact that they’re in that category. And I think you have to discourage that and really press the autonomy principle. There are lots of forces now which are turning universities into tribes defined by census categories in which people feel their side of the story is the only side of the story. And that’s what they’re interested in promoting. And it works against the liberal modern concept of disputatious environments where you go there to have your assumptions questioned. You engage in dispute. Fortunately at the University of Chicago Jeff Stone who was a former provost and a very distinguished first amendment scholar used to write annual reports of the provost in which he said, “You know a lot of people don’t like to come here because, you know, they think we’re annoying.” You know?
Nadine Strossen: 44:35 (laughs).
Lucía Martínez Valdivia: 44:35 There are pedagogical ways to-
Richard A. Shweder: 44:35 Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Lucía Martínez Valdivia: 44:37 Sort of enable those. Even artificially right?
Richard A. Shweder: 44:37 Oh yes.
Lucía Martínez Valdivia: 44:39 And so one thing I do in the classroom is on some days we don’t use the word I.
Richard A. Shweder: 44:42 Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Lucía Martínez Valdivia: 44:43 Right? We don’t use personal pronouns at at. How do you talk about a text? How do you talk about ideas when you can’t say, “I think. I believe. I want to say.” What about you? Right? Instead you have to direct your questions about into ideas.
Scott Jaschik: 44:56 Um, just to go back to the question we were just asked about. How universities talk about this. One thing I’ve noticed particularly at public universities because public universities are covered by the first amendment in ways that private institutions are not, you see a lot of very legalistic explanations.
Lucía Martínez Valdivia: 45:13 Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Scott Jaschik: 45:14 We have to let him speak because it would be unconstitutional not to. And while that is technically correct I have noticed less discussion of there’s also a value in being open. Whereas at a private institution because it does have the power to, um, not follow the first amendment there’s maybe more of the discussion of the ideas behind. Question over there?
Speaker 10: 45:41 Hello, hello.
Nadine Strossen: 45:46 Hi.
Speaker 10: 45:46 I’m a big fan of, uh, all the folks sitting up here. Thanks so much for being here. Thanks especially to the nontenured faculty who’s here from Reed. That’s scary I imagine. My question is this. I’ve been trying to get, wrap my mind, uh, around this. Uh, things that exist on campus that, uh, chill or suppress free speech is that not a flagrant violation of law? And if it is who does one see about that?
Richard A. Shweder: 46:16 (laughs).
Nadine Strossen: 46:17 Should we … We can take more than one question.
Scott Jaschik: 46:20 Uh, yeah maybe let’s take another question, uh, at the same time and then we’ll answer both.
Speaker 11: 46:25 So, uh, uh, as Heather said there’s, you know, even small minorities can shutdown free speech on campuses. And so that raises the unpleasant topic of incentives. Right? Um, and, uh, in particular the hard to square circle of when you are … It is easy to portray limitations on protestors as limitations on speech as well. And so right now the fact that administrators are willing to do nothing no matter how flagrant the intimidation and the shouting and, uh, so on … Uh, there’s this underlying question which it seems, uh, A there’s lack of willingness to solve it but B it’s a very hard question and I- I wonder how, what people up there imagine might be incentives that universities could implement which, uh, reconcile, um, these two … I mean t- the conflicting sides.
Scott Jaschik: 47:28 So just, just very quickly on the can you, what can one do? Uh, public universities are sued all the time. Um, and there’s a big case this week at the University of Michigan being argued over their anti-bullying policy. Um, if you want to look at a- a common issue. The right of internement preachers who tend to say hateful things about certain groups to appear on campuses have been subject to, I don’t know, dozens of lawsuits. And you can see the various rulings on when they are and aren’t permitted. U- usually they’re permitted but maybe not everywhere. Um, so there are lots of lawsuits about this. But I’m curious on the question of incentives to turn to our panel.
Heather Heying: 48:08 Well universities could hire and admit students with an understanding. In fact require assigned oath if you will, uh, that word is fraught, uh, that says you, “You’re certainly within your rights to protest. But you may not keep anyone else from hearing what they need to hear. And what they want to hear. You are not allowed to stop other people from getting their own education.”
Nadine Strossen: 48:34 I see we’re out of time but I would be happy to speak individually to both of the questioners afterward.
Scott Jaschik: 48:39 Um, and so on that note I hate cut speech at a event (laughter) like this. But, uh, in the interest of our next panelist will you please join me in thanking this panel.
Lucía Martínez Valdivia: 48:49 Congratulations.
Heather Heying: 48:49 That was great. Yeah you’re very much [crosstalk 00:48:55]. (silence)
Scott Jaschik: 49:31 Yeah we’re going right onto the next panel. Yeah?
Speaker 12: 49:32 Yep. (laughs).
Comments are closed.