Deb Mashek: 00:00 Um, so I’ve spent 13 years as a professor of psychology at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California. And at … part of that role has, uh, and part of my life there, has been serving as a, we call ’em baby deans in our parts, um, as an associate dean of faculty development and working to, to build collaborations across the colleges and whatnot. And so I think I have just a tiny, tiny little glimpse of what the administrator’s life is like, and, I tell you, it looks really tough.
Deb Mashek: 00:28 Um, so I’d like to tee off this conversation by acknowledging that our administrators are, are really navigating tough terrain vis-a-vis viewpoint diversity and open inquiry and free speech. Uh, any morning, they can wake up and learn about one of their faculty members might have launched an unsavory tweet or that, that perhaps a student organization has issued a demand letter or perhaps calls have swelled to dis-invite a speaker that was scheduled for later in the week. And this, these are the sorts of fires that kick up in addition to all their other work they’re trying to do. So many administrators understandably feel overwhelmed, at times, by the situation and many I’ve spoken with also talk about feeling isolated and unsure. Um, it’s not always clear what one should do when navigating this quickly shifting terrain.
Deb Mashek: 01:20 So I am grateful to be joined on stage by four colleagues who, I believe, will help us see a path forward. First we have Mi-, Michael Poliakoff, president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, which works to advance reform in higher education. And then Michael Roth, president of Wesleyan University, a vocal advocate for the value of thinking for oneself, and author of the 2015 book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters. Next, we have Peter Uvin, dean of the faculty at Claremont McKenna College, a persistent pro-, proponent of the value of viewpoint diversity in the academy and one of my colleagues and, and a personal role model for principle to action in the wake of efforts to curtail speech on campus. Mark Yudof is chair of the advisory board of the Academic Engagement Network, former president of the University of California system, and recognized authority on constitutional law, freedom of expression and educational law.
Deb Mashek: 02:18 And I would … as the panelists know, I’m going to invite you to then to spend just a couple minutes, no more than five, we’re going to watch the clock, um (laughs), just a couple minutes reflecting on the, the big question that we used to, to organization this panel, which is what can or should administrators do to support greater viewpoint diversity within their local context? And I’m, unlike the other moderators who went this way, we’re going to try to come this way, so we’ll have Mark start.
Mark Yudof: 02:47 Well, thank you. Well, with a name like Yudof, I’m always used to being last (laughter), uh, and of all the forms of discrimination, alphabetism goes unchallenged (laughter), uh, uh, across America. Um, uh, uh, I will be brief, as people always tell me that I’m quite dull myself, but I tend to bring out dullness in other people as well (laughter). Uh, my organization is opposed to the boycott of Israel, particularly academic boycotts, and I want to get this out, straight, uh, in favor of free speech, robust speech. We never really try to silence, uh, anyone, even if we vastly disagree with them. And, um, that’s a problem across America. Uh, there are many places where it is very difficult, uh, to do that. Now I’m not talking … I think protestors have rights also. That’s fine and … but I’m talking about material disruptions to silence the speaker entirely or threaten violence.
Mark Yudof: 03:43 And the one thing we’ve learned, and I know administrators will tell you this, is free speech in American is no longer free. It is no longer free because it costs a lot of money, and places like Berkeley are spending two or three million dollars a year, uh, uh, to, uh, to deal with, uh, uh, inflammatory, provocateur-type speakers, and, uh, the University of Florida, they called out the National Guard. I mean, uh, it is amazingly expensive to police this system. And that’s always on the mind of administrators. You have many things on your mind. You want … Most of them, I think, are committed to free speech, but they’re committed to the safety of their students. They’re committed to the educational process on campus. Uh, I mean, uh, many times, a whole university’s been closed down for days, including the libraries and so forth. This is … And, and, of course, God forbid someone is injured. No matter what the context, that’s terrible for the individuals and it’s terrible for the campus, uh, reputation.
Mark Yudof: 04:41 Um, I think there’s been a lot of talk about, you know, Spencer and Milo and all, all that, and those are the extreme cases, but I want to tell you that, on many campuses across America, it is difficult to invite a pro-Israel speaker without it being materially disrupted. Uh, at the University of California Davis, it was three or four years before Hillel could invite a speaker perceived to be pro-Israel, so we’re not talking about just ri-, right wing. These may be progressive people otherwise. They may not be. They come in all different flavors. Uh, that is, uh, an, an enormous problem.
Mark Yudof: 05:20 A second problem, which we haven’t discussed much, is a stealth boycott, and sometimes I’m in favor of that. Like I think we ought to bo-, boycott pro child abuse speakers at graduation ceremonies. It may just be me, but I don’t think that’s the way to send them on the road. But the stealth boycott is try in many universities across America to get a humanities department to invite a pro-Israel speaker, you’ve got an uphill task. And there may be any number of people who are pro-Palestinian or have other points of view. It is almost impossible … It’s a stealth boycott. That is the invitations that never go out. And, to me, that is, is a significant problem and very difficult to deal with. I don’t have a particular solution.
Mark Yudof: 06:06 Now what I expect of the presidents. My view is I’m an extremist from the First Amendment. I believe hate speech is constitutionally protected. I, I am very much in favor of free speech. I know it hurts. I never said it wouldn’t hurt, but I am. But I think university presidents have a moral obligation to lead. I’m not sure whether Bob Zimmer, who I greatly respect and I agree on this, maybe, maybe not, but I think that when Far-, Reverend Farrakhan came to our campus, I didn’t try to stop him from speaking at Berkeley. I said it’s fine. He’s invited, he speaks, that’s, that’s good. Uh, but I did jot a little note to say that, you know, I didn’t particularly, uh, I wasn’t particularly fond of this guy because he was a homophobe and an anti-Semite. Other than that, he’s a rather good guy (laughter).
Mark Yudof: 06:52 And so I have speech rights too. You have speech rights as administrators. And I think … And you have to be careful. I know the, uh, the presidents will say this often. You know, at Berkeley, I could condemn 112 things a day and do nothing but condemn. I wouldn’t even have time, uh, to lose money on the budget (laughter). I mean, I have other priorities, right? So, you, you know, I, I’m not … I, I do understand the problem and every group wants the president to be, uh, their mouthpiece, you know, to condemn this group or that group or that speaker or whatever, uh, but judiciously, within the bounds of sanity, I think moral leadership is important.
Mark Yudof: 07:31 Uh, a person may have a right to speak. The person may engage in hate speech. But, at the end of the day, the president is the leader of the campus and should make his or her views known, if it has a direct impact on the campus. I’m not so sure about people who, you know, branch widely into the politics, but if, if it involves the campus in some significant way, I think they ought to engage in that leadership.
Deb Mashek: 07:55 Thank you. And, Peter, how about you? What, what could or should administrators be doing?
Peter Uvin: 08:01 So, at CMC, we, we have a, um, a long history actually of, uh, viewpoint diversity, to an extent that certainly in previous places that I’ve had the pleasure of being employed at, uh, I did not have. And yet, uh, notwithstanding this, in the last couple of years, we’ve had some difficult challenges at times with both demonstrations and in also a speaker that had been shut up and then all the routine daily stuff that also he is referring to already. And so over and over the years of trying to figure out what matters to us and how do we approach this in a principled and proactive and smart way, I think, uh, my president and myself and the board have settled on a three pronged strategy that, to me, makes a lot of sense.
Peter Uvin: 08:45 One is clearly to continue to consistently and continuously defend and support the value of freedom of expression on our campus from the very first day that students arrive, actually before they arrive, right? In a way, that’s the job that FIRE does. Uh, that’s the j-, that’s what the University of Chicago has done very well. And I’ll come back to, to it later. The number two one is what Heterodox Academy stands for, which is to ensure that there is actually viewpoint diversity around on campus, ’cause it’s still one thing to free to express yourself, but if ev-, everybody expresses the exact same thing, then it’s just a theoretical game, so to ensure that there is true viewpoint diversity on campus.
Peter Uvin: 09:28 And then the number three, I think, which is really important too, is to give the students, and frankly the faculty and the staff as well, actual tools to use that with, ’cause what we’re asking them to do is actually not that easy. And, frankly, many of us in life don’t do it ourselves that well either. So if we expect it of them, we’ve got to give them tools and opportunities and spaces to learn how to do this. And so for all three of these, I maybe want to just take one little example amongst many, or one little lesson that I have personally learned amongst many that I could talk about.
Peter Uvin: 10:01 So back to the first one, freedom of, of speech or freedom of expression. So, guaranteed, if you’re managing anything in a college or a university, you’re going to end up with some crisis on your hands every couple of weeks (laughter), small ones, uh, demands to speak out on some matter, like Israel or gay marriage or immigration or how, how nice President Trump is, um, or really, really big ones, right? And, and, and there’s so much. It’s constantly going on and you’ll be condemned the whole time. But you face occasionally a big crisis, like, I, I have had the pleasure of having in the last couple of years. And what I can tell you is don’t let a crisis go to waste. Whenever you have one, it’s a phenomenal opportunity to regroup and to really come at what’s important.
Peter Uvin: 10:52 And I was thinking this morning about what I have learned about this. Number one was speak clearly and speak fast (laughter). The thing is often … not fast as in speak really fast (laughs), but don’t let time pass by. Speak fast because, if you don’t, you’re bypassed right away by the media, by other people framing the issues for you, and you lost it and you’re just catching up. Number two, speak clearly because if you don’t speak clearly, you’re being distrusted right away, so be clear. State things the way you feel them to be. And, of course, that means you’ve got to refer back to your principles, because typically you don’t know enough about the situation on the ground right away, you don’t have all the facts, you often can’t legally speak about certain things as an administrator, as an administrator, which puts you as a, at a real disadvantage.
Peter Uvin: 11:39 But what you can do is come back to the principles that guide you and that guide the college, and, obviously, you relate it to this. Ideally, this is not the first time people hear of those principles. And, ideally, these are principles you have phrased and, and, and, and, and spoken about and abided, uh, for years already, so that everybody recognizes, “Yes, this is what our leadership stands for. This is how it matters to our college.” And, and this will, by the way, empower the silent ma-, ma-, majority if you do this very early.
Peter Uvin: 12:10 And then the second one is, right away thereafter, engage in conversations on your campus. In each of the crises I have faced, within 12 hours, I have called emergency faculty meetings, which really were no real faculty meetings ’cause there was no agenda and we didn’t follow the regular procedures of 36 hours and whatever. It was just, “Let’s talk right now.” And I did the same with staff, ’cause the staff is often out there in frontline situations and neglected at, at universities and colleges, and then with students. And it’s painful because they’re angry at you, they’re angry at each other, they’re angry at others. Everybody’s full of anger.
Peter Uvin: 12:45 But the point is, start talking. Start figuring out what matters. Start thinking practically. Start looking each other in the eyes again. And it is my experience that the crises we have faced at CMC have made us far stronger, far more committed and understanding of how viewpoint diversity and freedom of expression on our campus matters constitutionally, fundamentally, to us. And that it is because we talked about it right away and we kept on talking and we didn’t sort of, uh, try to solve it by decree. So the second one was we need to have viewpoint diversity. Here, the big thing is that’s not easy to do amongst your faculty, right? It’s relatively easy to do with speakers if you so wish, but it’s far harder to do it with faculty and create diversity within your faculty if there is not already such diversity. Um, how am I doing on time?
Deb Mashek: 13:37 You’ve got on more minute.
Peter Uvin: 13:38 Okay (laughter). Good. In that case, only five more points (laughter). But it’s-
Mark Yudof: 13:43 Speak fast.
Peter Uvin: 13:44 (laughs). Maybe I should after all. Um, what I mean here is I think what we need to do to make this happen is the same as what we sought to do to ensure that women and faculty from underrepresented groups became more present on our campuses. It takes the same sort of effort of questioning our biases in search committees, in the way we conduct our affairs amongst faculty. It takes the same effort in reaching out to networks we are not often used to reaching out to and so on. If you’re serious about it, we have to put the same amount of work in it that we have put, and still imperfectly so, in these other areas.
Peter Uvin: 14:20 The third one that I mentioned was simply that we have to meet the students where they are. They are not snowflakes. They are not warriors. They are not walking bundles of privilege. They are not all these concepts. They are just young people living in a world where they’re trying to find their path and kind of do the right thing, the way I tried to do when I was 18. I’m older now. I don’t try anymore (laughs). But back, back when I was 18, I was the same. I wanted to do the right thing all the time, make the world a better place. I was sure the old ones didn’t get it and I would know, know it better. I don’t think that they’re that different, but they’re not good at some of these things. They are fragile in some way.
Peter Uvin: 14:58 And we can’t just expect them to do tough stuff, challenging themselves fundamentally, being open to harsh ideas that take them as, as, as a, that, that attack them, or so they feel, as a person without giving them tools, without taking them by the hands, without giving them spaces and opportunities and steps forward. We are educators after all, not ideologues. And so we have to set in motion, from the day that they arrive on our campus, opportunities for them to take these steps forward and to learn how to do this.
Deb Mashek: 15:27 Thank you. Mike.
Michael Roth: 15:29 So I, I’m at small school, uh, as, as like, like little bit like CMC and, and we are about 3,000 students, and I think scale makes a big difference here and so we can meet with our faculty quickly. We can meet with lots of students, uh, very quickly. At UC Berkeley, it’s, it’s a, it’s a different story. Uh, let me just give uh, uh, uh, maybe a couple of examples. Uh, so in, in, at Wesleyan, we had a, a crisis around the student newspaper a few years ago, not, not … it wasn’t about outside speakers. It was about a student, a first year student actually, who wrote a op-ed that was, uh, considered by many other students on campus to be racist because it was very critical of, uh, uh, the Black Lives Matter movement.
Michael Roth: 16:13 And I remember vividly, ’cause the trustees were coming that week and I was going to my office and someone said, uh, you know, “Did you see the op-ed that Brian wrote?” And I said, “No, no, I’ll get to it.” And then, and, and a f-, few hours later, someone, “Did you just see the … Brian?” And I said, “No, I, I, I’m glad he’s writing.” He was one of our new posse, cohort, of veterans from the military. And then … So finally, someone said, um, you know, uh, “Everybody’s talking about this op-ed. You got to read this op-ed.” And I thought to myself, man, that kid is good. I mean, (laughter) I write op-eds and nothing happens, you know (laughter). Um, I, I, I write to the Washington Post and say, “Did any … did you really print it?” And, and, and I thought, this must be … I’ll read it over the weekend. And, and I get a call, um, “The editor of the Argus’ mother is on the phone and she wants police protection for her daughter.” I said, “Where’s the op-ed? Let me see this (laughter) … Let me see this op-ed.”
Michael Roth: 17:03 And it was, uh, you know, it, I understood why, uh, uh, passions were inflamed, and one of my trustees stood up in a meeting and said, “This young man survived Fallujah and he’s not going to survive Wesleyan (laughter).” And, and the, my friends at FIRE, you know, and other organizations, they wrote about this for weeks. Uh, uh, uh, by the way, while the free press in America as been decimated in the same period, uh, b-, um, while the ability to report the news accurately, um, and get the word out has, has been c-, undermined every year, more and more, people were focusing on, with this moral panic that we see in our group about free speech issues on campus.
Michael Roth: 17:43 So within, uh, 48 hours, I wrote something on, uh, the … I have a blog that’s on the home page of the website, uh, “Black Lives Matter, so does free speech.” It seemed to calm things down a little bit. I earned the hostility of, of the, many of the activists on campus. That maybe, uh, continues, that hostility. Um, and, uh, but they were … It became this long conversation about what to do about having an autonomous, uh, student newspaper with, um, an editorial point of view and what to do about, um, racism on campus, which does exist (laughs), um, and should also be dealt with.
Michael Roth: 18:20 I also invited Jelani Cobb to come and talk to our campus, who had published, around the same time, an op-ed, or the equivalent of an op-ed, in The New Yorker that wrote about how free speech is really a cover that white people use so they don’t have to talk about racism, which, you know, is not implausible (laughs), uh, and but I don’t agree with that, at least, I didn’t until, you know, at the time. Um, and, and so he came and spoke to the students and all the activists showed up for that. And there was a wonderful moment in that evening, where he said, you know, uh, “President Roth, who wrote this thing which I disagree with, invited me to speak tonight and, um, I … ’cause I’ve written about free speech as being a camouflage ideology for racism.” And I saw the, the students in the audience were like, “W-, wait. W-, why would he do that, you know? Why, w- …”
Michael Roth: 19:08 At this moment of dissonance where I, Cobb and I disagreed about, uh, many of the issues, and yet I made sure he could come and talk about them, he made sure to reference the debate. I thought it was a really learning moment for, uh, the campus. Uh, usually, I think the teaching moments, these learning moments, actually don’t occur around speakers. I think we focus far too much on speakers coming to campus. We should be focusing on what happens in the classroom.
Michael Roth: 19:35 And that’s the second things I’ll say, is about a year ago, I announced what I, um, what was humorously described as a affirmative action program for conservatives at Wesleyan, which was to have my, hu-, especially humanities and social science departments be more attentive to the way they tend to hire people whose views are like their own, and, um, to provide some funding to bring people whose views about, uh, uh, politics, about religion, uh, about economics, uh, uh, uh, and, and other issues that … whose views would fall into a broad category of conservatism. Now there, this was, uh, uh, really meant to provoke a conversation on campus about implicit bias. One of the ways in which you create more viewpoint diversity, what I like to call intellectual diversity, is to have people be more aware of the ways in which their biases work.
Michael Roth: 20:29 Like I became more aware today that an easy way to get a laugh, in this group, is to make fun of pronoun, um, uh, discussions. So that tells me something about the background ideology of this group, you know. Um, and, and I, I learned from my English department that they thought by inviting Leninists and Trotskyites, they were covering the political spectrum (laughs). Um, so and, and saying that out loud and writing about it in public was a way I thought of getting a conversation going among faculty and students about creating viewpoint diversity.
Michael Roth: 21:01 That became, um, for many of our religious students on campus, and I didn’t even know we had many religious students on campus, it became, for them, a rallying cry that our, what they call themselves are students of faith, um, they wanted me to participate in a discussion of religion and faith on campus. And I said, “You got the wrong guy. I’m a secular Jew,” and they say, “Yeah, but you’re in favor of viewpoint diversity.” I say, “Yeah, but, uh, (laughs) but I’m an atheist secular Jew. I mean, I’m really a secular …” And they say, “That, that’s okay. We want you to talk with this evangelical author about religion on campus,” ’cause I had written about the difficulties of teaching about religion when you’re a secular person, um, and do so with, uh, affect and, and, and thoughtfulness.
Michael Roth: 21:43 We had a hundred or so students show up to, to hear this discussion, creating a, I thought, a virtuous circle, where these students actually did complain about feeling marginalized, being not able to bring their whole selves to class and talk about their Christianity or, or their, uh, or their relationship to Islam or their Judaism. Um, that was a vehicle for making them feel more included. It was a vehicle for creating areas of speech that we were softly, not silencing, but at least not encouraging. And, as an administrator, my job then is to get out of the way and let the faculty and the students create these virtuous circles of an expanding arena of speech. And I think when we can do that, uh, we’re doing our job.
Deb Mashek: 22:29 Thank you. And Michael.
Michael Poliakoff: 22:32 Yeah. I’m going to start with a snarky verse from Euripides (laughter), um. Euripides and people laugh, that’s great (laughter).
Peter Uvin: 22:43 It was just snarky.
Michael Poliakoff: 22:45 Uh, we know what is right, but we don’t see it through. Uh, actually, my message is going to be more optimistic than that. There are models that are working and, uh, I want to share some of those with you. Uh, in fact, I’m going to go back, um, in history a little bit. Uh, uh, we may have a bit of a disagreement about this too, uh, 1974, in the C. Vann Woodward Committee report and the way in which it shows us the way forward. Um, I, I brought the little book along. It’s not that I consider it scripture, but I’m going to make sure that I quote him accurately. Uh, the first one is, “The right to think the unthinkable, discuss the unmentionable, and challenge the unchallengeable.” And, of course, we just, um, saw the honor of Zachary Wood for creating something called Uncomfortable Learning, and that’s what this is all about.
Michael Poliakoff: 23:40 Well, is it happening? Uh, let me give you a great example. Walter Kimbrough, the president of the HBCU, Dillard University, uh, had arranged for the Louisiana senatorial debate to be on his campus. A few weeks later, he discovers that David Duke received the requisite number of signatures to qualify for the ballot. There was intense pressure, you probably read about this in the Chronicle, to cancel it, withdraw, do something, don’t let this awful Klansman on to campus. What does Kimbrough say? He said, “No. My heritage is to take these people on. I’m not afraid of this.” And it went off without a hitch. And it made me think of a beautiful quote from President Obama that’s in the [inaudible 00:24:27] wonderful new book, “You’re not going to make deep changes in society that these students want without taking on their opponents in a courageous way.” So, two presidents, Kimbrough and Obama, clearly don’t believe that safe spaces are the things that produce leaders.
Michael Poliakoff: 24:45 And then another one of, um, C. Vann Woodward’s great observations is about leadership, “Every official of the university moreover has a special obligation to foster free expression and to ensure that it is not obstructed.” Well, uh, we’re waiting. I mean, there have been some great examples of that, but not enough. And here, if I may, uh, there are not too many in the audience, I call upon boards of trustees to have that conversation. This is not micromanagement. This is not intrusion into academic freedom. This is a policy matter. What are you doing to ensure that our campus is a place that allows this freedom of expression? And, third, how prescient in 1974, “We urge that all university catalogs, as well as the faculty and staff handbooks, include explicit statements on freedom of expression and the right to dissent.” And, of course, we just heard from Robert Zimmer, who did this so beautifully in 2015, but only 41 schools, so far, have followed the University of Chicago’s lead, either by adopting the principles more or less verbatim or creating something along those lines. Every school needs to stand up and be counted, not just for its own internal operations, but for the signal that it sends to the nation, what is higher education about?
Michael Poliakoff: 26:15 And, finally, penalties, punishment. I’m not bloodthirsty, by the way. I, I’m really not, you know, calling for a guillotine, uh, on each campus. But C. Vann Woodward recognized something that really all schools need to recognize, “Any registration of dissent that materially interferes with a speaker’s right to proceed is a punishable offense.” And he’s pretty explicit about what that means, “Disruption of a speech is a very serious offense against the entire university and may appropriately result in suspension or expulsion.” Now your campus, Peter, is the only one that I have heard had the guts to say, “You may not have liked that speaker, but this is intolerable,” and five students, they weren’t named, of course, under FIRPA, five students have been suspended. This is something that has to happen, otherwise there is no deterrents.
Michael Poliakoff: 27:12 And speaking of FIRPA, I believe there’s too much hiding behind the Federal Privacy Act. Yes, you cannot name a student and the disciplinary action, but to be able to say, “Well, you saw what happened last week and I want you to know that several of your students won’t be back next semester or next year or at all,” send out the message. Just about every faculty or student handbook that I’ve seen specifies that plagiarism is a suspension offense. Well, shouting down a speaker or, in some cases, injuring somebody is not? Let’s get this message out clearly and deter.
Michael Poliakoff: 27:49 Well, I said I was going to be hopeful. Do I have a little more time? Um, there’s-
Deb Mashek: 27:54 One minute (laughs).
Michael Poliakoff: 27:55 One minute (laughter). Um, Purdue University, president Mitch Daniels worked with student government. They got themselves a rare and coveted green light rating from FIRE, moving up from amber. Uh, they adopted the Chicago principles, and what was most remarkable was the development of a student orientation, uh, orientation, 6,000 freshmen, 6600 freshmen, participated, in which they internalize and model freedom of discourse. There are other places, University of Montana, uh, much contested, of course, since, uh, 2011. Um, Marsha Frey, professor of history, power of one persuasive person gets the whole faculty to adopt the Chicago principles. Her twin sister at Kansas State University, a few weeks later, does the same thing.
Michael Poliakoff: 28:46 I’m looking at an audience that is largely faculty. You can be the agents of change and leadership, a, an articulate few making that case. Ashland University student government and the board of trustees adopted the Chicago principles. So I’m going to end by paraphrasing Euripides. Actually, I’m going to twist Euripides around, “We know what is right. Let’s do it.”
Deb Mashek: 29:18 So one of the questions that, that comes up and I, I heard you refer to it here is the importance of having principles and having a foundation from which to from which to respond. But the other side of it is also true, that there are surprises, there are things happening that might … it might be the op-ed, it might be something else, that you can’t necessarily anticipate. What role do you think proactive versus reactive strategies play, uh, from an administrative perspective? So I’m going to actually ask two questions. That way, in our, in our time remaining, you’ll be able to answer whichever one maybe sits, um, as most important for you.
Deb Mashek: 29:52 The second question, uh, has to do with these explicit signals, things like the Chicago principles. Um, to what extent do you think such explicit, explicit signals, whether it’s the adoption of principles or even, um, stating in a faculty job ad that ideological diversity is sought after and valued, that the kinds of things that we can do in writing, are those helpful or do they actually undercut, uh, efforts to promote open inquiry on campus?
Mark Yudof: 30:18 Uh, yeah, I’ll speak to the proactive and, un-, unfortunately, I was never at a campus like Wesleyan where you can actually meet with the faculty and the students in reasonable numbers. Um, you know, you need to have very clear policies and they need to be vetted. At Ohio State, when they had the Richard Spencer thing, I read the policies, I read the answer and the lawsuit. Uh, that policy was out of date in 1970, based upon the relevant Supreme Court decisions, and it’s a problem I don’t think people look to. You need to look at them. And, um, at the University of California, I, I’ll be honest, we do, did extensive intelligent work, intelligence work. We have people who were on the internet all the time now monitoring because, at one point, a third of all board meetings were closed down, I mean, closed down. I don’t mean just people, you know, chanting or holding up signs, I mean physically closed down.
Mark Yudof: 31:11 Um, and then I, I, I agree that we need to have, um, disciplinary policies. Um, in my view, a lot of the student affairs offices are in therapeutic mode. They empathize with the students and, um, th-, there is not much discipline in, in these matters. And I agree. We’re not entitled to know their names and what happened, but it simply doesn’t happen. Where I know it happened on some of the University of California campus, it did have an effect. It really didn’t shut down speech, but, um, uh, people are more careful about protesting and not physically shutting it down. So I think the proac- …
Mark Yudof: 31:49 I’m really skeptical about saying, you know, a variety of, um, uh, intellectual orientations is welcome. I mean, I, I don’t know, but, um, it may be important in other contexts, sexual orientation and, and, uh, nondiscrimination by race and so forth, but I, I just don’t know. I mean, I think w-, what’s happening at Wesleyan is more the model. It’s a discussion with the, the senior professors, the department chairs, the deans and all that.
Michael Roth: 32:21 Well, uh, I, I think that the … I don’t want to paint too rosy a picture (laughs) of, of dear old Wesleyan, uh, because my faculty will be, um, feel pu-, pushed too much. I think, I, I think it’s important. Academic freedom is something that, um, uh, is obviously of great importance in this, in this arena and so for the … a president or a provost, uh, or a dean to, um, uh, to legislate a certain level of viewpoint diversity can run afoul of many other, uh, priorities. And I, I do think that freedom of speech and freedom of expression is a very high priority and there are other, uh, high, high priorities, uh, too.
Michael Roth: 33:02 I, I think, in our case, we did, uh, uh, I did publish, um, a kind of policy statement for the campus, uh, at the beginning of, uh, the school year, having written things in various, uh, places, um, we didn’t, we didn’t subscribe to the Chicago, um, uh, fan club, but what we, we, uh, stated, uh, how things would work at Wesleyan, and I agree that, um, having real disciplinary measures in place, uh, is important. But I also think it’s very important to, uh, resist the urge to think of uncivil, boisterous pr-, protest as a problem. I mean, uncivil, boisterous protest is a very essential part of a, of, of, of, of campus life, especially at a place like Wesleyan. Um, they, it can’t interfere with the ongoing operations of the classroom, um, uh, and, uh, and it shouldn’t interfere with the special activities of, of, of lectures.
Michael Roth: 33:56 When we had, uh, uh, Justice Scalia to our … uh, uh, a few years ago, um, speak, uh, at, at Wesleyan, there were protest. Um, I would have been a protestor had I not had to introduce him (laughter), um, and ’cause the, the format of this, uh, lecture called for the president to do the introduction, and, uh, and I did. I, and I, so I, I think I’ve written about it. So I said, you know, I, I actually think he did more harm to the American Constitution than anyone in the last hundred years or so, uh, but it, you know, I may be wrong. And so he was going … I got to introduce him, not by saying that (laughter), but by saying, saying, uh, although I did refer to one of his critics in my introduction, uh, uh, which only he underst-, he got. Um, and he gave a talk.
Michael Roth: 34:39 People stood up immediately in orange jumpsuits to block the view and to stop the … not to stop the lecture, but to disrupt it. We went around and said, “You have to leave or sit down.” And some people left, some people sat down. He gave his lecture. He stayed and signed books. He spent the day on campus. Everywhere he went, there were protests. I was proud of those protestors, my tenured faculty, I mean, my students, um, and, um, uh, but I was also really pleased that he got to make his arguments and got tough questions.
Deb Mashek: 35:10 Thank you.
Michael Poliakoff: 35:11 I think I would just slightly push back on that, although I, uh, I think it’s essential that there be appropriate places and times for people to register their dissent and protest, um. Th-, that’s to say, there are really two, um, two aspects to creating the kinds of campuses we want. Um, one is institutional change, and, there, I think it is a matter of asserting principles and ensuring that faculty, faculty and student handbooks make it clear that disrupting an event or a class is intolerable and will be severely punished. But then there’s also something much more important, which is the cultural change. And that’s where one has to work overtime, uh, creating a place in which debate, argument, dissent, heterodoxy, are the norm and are considered operating principles.
Michael Poliakoff: 36:10 Um, Better Angels, invited Better Angels onto campus to get students to debate on topics like the Second Amendment or, um, even touchier things in Title IX, so they learn to argue with each other in a way that is not the Maoist power through the barrel of a rifle, but through the power of the word. Um, Steamboat Institute’s Campus Liberty Tour put Nigel Farage and Vicente Fox in front of college audiences to debate vigorously, sometimes angrily, but nobody got hurt and nothing was disrupted. These are all things that build the character of an institution, um, and what happens is that the community begins to internalize the sense that maybe we can learn.
Michael Poliakoff: 36:54 And so I’m going to end with a quote, again, from Obama. When he gave the commencement address at Howard, he called out the students and faculty from Rutgers for not wanting to hear Condoleezza Rice. Now, of course, President Obama was not exactly on the same page as Condoleezza Rice, but he said, “This was a missed opportunity when you created so much dissent that she pulled out.” So, you know, no rules were broken. She wasn’t shouted down. It was voluntary, but what Obama was telling us was that was really regrettable for that campus, and that campus needs to get to a point where it recognizes, ” We want that opportunity.” Like President Kimbrough said, “Bring it on. We’ll argue.”
Peter Uvin: 37:37 Yeah. Um, as, as to your questions, Deb, it’s obvious that proactive always beats reactive, right? We don’t get much good policy done in life by being reactive. Um, that said, as I said, bring your react if you can do it in such a way that you keep your eyes on the longer term goal while managing your short-term crises and constituencies and so on. You can potentially turn it into a future proactive, um, uh, proactive step. But being proactive, is, is crucial, and in, in that respect, I totally agree. You need rules and regulations and policies and documents that state the right thing and then you got to apply the darn things. That’s obvious.
Peter Uvin: 38:17 But, ultimately, people don’t behave on a campus in the way that we seek because the, the faculty handbook in chapter three, point 17 point two point three point seven, actually tells them to. They do so because they believe they want to. Our communities are largely voluntary communities, right? Uh, if it has legitimacy, they will do it. Students will do it. Faculty will do it. Staff will do it. And so the biggest one is that you have to do the constant work of creating that sense of it matters to all of us across our differences. It matters to all of us. It gave the protestors the right to protest. It gave those who dissented to them the right to dissent with them. Um, and it makes us all stronger and, and better at achieving our own goals, on which I have no opinion. I don’t know what your goals are to be, but it gave us the capability of being better at achieving our own goals.
Peter Uvin: 39:11 And if you can repeat it and, and, and, and cl-, and, and, and couch it in a language in, in terms that make sense to your people and to your place. And, again, easier in a place with only 2,000 students than a place with a 100,000 students. But each place, nonetheless, has something that defines it beyond a basketball team (laughs). And, and, if, if, you can connect it those things, it will be more real. And it’s a constant struggle, and that’s why words do matter. That was your other question, do these words matter? Yeah, they do matter. Do they matter by themselves and produce everything? Obviously not. But they do matter and they got to be repeated and, and all the time actually.
Mark Yudof: 39:51 Yeah.
Deb Mashek: 39:51 So we’re going to go ahead turn it over to Q&A. Um, go ahead and remain seated. We have the, the roaming mics and, and raise your hand. And I’m going to ask that you introduce yourself, say your name, your affiliation, and then please ask your question in the form of a question (laughter).
Mark Yudof: 39:51 Good point.
Luke Foster: 40:14 Uh, Luke Foster. I’m a grad student at the University of Chicago. And I just, uh, connecting back to the previous session, one of the things that came up is Chicago’s commitment to a common core curriculum and having a set of requirements in classes that engage all students in thinking about perennial questions. I wonder, how much does a curriculum play a role in cultivating the kind of culture inquiry that you want? ‘Cause that’s something that hasn’t been emphasized as much.
Michael Poliakoff: 40:41 I’ll ake that. Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Deb Mashek: 40:42 You want to start?
Michael Poliakoff: 40:43 Yeah. Uh, you know, my organization, American Council of Trustees and Alumni, does a survey of core curriculum requirements every year. The results are pretty dismal. Um, one of the ones that frightens me the most is that only about 17% of the 1100 schools that we survey require a basic course in American history or government, and I’m going to make a correlation. A Gallup poll showed that 27% of college students think it’s okay to censor political speech if it offends some particular group. I find it hard not to connect civic ignorance (laughs) with a nonchalance about a core freedom in America. So, yes, I think the core does matter. Uh, we’re, we’re not prescriptive of how schools get to it, but that these things are represented in the general education requirements.
Male: 41:42 Hi. Um, does this work?
John: 41:43 Yep. Um, so Dr. Poliakoff, and I promise this will come to a question, I would really like to trouble a notion that you brought up in the conversation because I think it’s very important. So my name is John. I’m with an organization here called BridgeUSA, and one of … I … specifically with the Berkeley chapter. So this is a question that, you know, rings very close to home with regards to the idea of protest and the acceptable place of dissent in conversations. We host an event with, uh, Robert Reich, among other characters, in which … uh, not characters, participants, (laughter) in which an individual, uh, under the premise of coming to participate in conversation, actually a panelist, uh, showed up dressed as our university chancellor and went off on a tirade, amongst other things, against the university and ourselves.
John: 42:24 Now I don’t think anyone in this room would find that an acceptable place of dissent, but I would argue, in fact, that that is a critically important avenue of protest and articulation of one’s political beliefs. So the question that I am getting to is to what degree ought the administration be used as a bludgeon to dissent that is quote-unquote misplaced or mistimed or in a situationally inappropriate area, given that the bright line, en-, enforcing against dissent, uh, uh, finding the acceptable avenue by which one ought to protest, violates the very sacrosanct principle of free speech, that we, you know, purport ourselves here as defending. To what extent can you have a sort of bureaucratic sledgehammer, uh, upon these students when that would kind of spit in the face of those principles which we feel that we are defending?
Michael Poliakoff: 43:11 Okay. Im-, important question and eloquently stated and I’m not going to dodge it, but I’m going to point to that man over there, Greg Lukianoff, whose organization does a whole lot of work on free speech zones and when they are, you know, actually obstructing the opportunity for real dissent, um, and time, manner, and place regulations, about which there’s a fair amount of case law already. Uh, yes, there must be places that are wide, reasonable, and accessible for people to register dissent. That is a core freedom. But, uh, the heckler’s veto also has some case law about it and is not recognized as a legitimate form of dissent. Uh, an invited panelist who decides to say things that nobody wanted to hear, uh, that kind of strikes me as that person’s prerogative. We might not like it. He might not get invited back (laughs), but, but if I had to make an off the top of the head ruling, that’s a whole lot different from showing up at a, um, at, at, at a, um, event and then making so much noise or setting fire alarms off or whatever so that nobody can hear.
Deb Mashek: 44:23 Mark, I’m wondering what you would add to that.
Mark Yudof: 44:25 Um, well, I consider myself, from the University of California, to be a real expert on demonstrations (laughs) and dis-, disruptions. I mean, I’ve seen them all. Um, and, um, uh, I would say to you that, um, uh, a, a, a university administration … I’m talking about public. The privates have more, w-, sway, but that is, it is blatantly a violation of the First Amendment. You cannot do that. Uh, but the argument is always more contextual.
Mark Yudof: 44:54 You see, at Ohio State, they didn’t really say, “We don’t like Richard Spencer,” although President Michael Drake, he’s a friend of mine, a great man, um, I don’t think he’s too thrilled with Richard Spencer, to be honest with you. Uh, but the argument is over safety, the argument is over how many millions of dollars in cost, uh, the argument is do we have to close down half the campus, I mean, a whole series of arguments. Uh, your dissenter, who spoke about a topic that he or she wasn’t invited, yeah, that wouldn’t really fall into that category, um, necessarily. Um, so, uh, it’s, um, universities, if you want advice to what to do, you have to be very careful in documenting this because no matter how reasonable you think your steps are, the other side is going to say, “You don’t like us. You just don’t like our point of view, and these are pretexts for keeping us off of the campus.”
Mark Yudof: 45:49 And, uh, and, by the way, a lot of the litigation is disappearing. I, I don’t know what’s happened to Richard Spencer. Maybe he’s run out of money or time or something, but a lot of the cases are being dismissed for lack of prosecution at this point, which I like, except as a law professor, I’m thinking in the next edition of my book (laughter), it would have been really nice to have a case directly on point. Uh, but put that aside. Okay.
Deb Mashek: 46:14 Thank you. I’m going to, uh, turn our attention for a moment to our online audience and ask Moussa if there’s a question you would like to bring into the room.
Male: 46:20 So it’s just someone is wondering what, uh, just again I’m told [inaudible 00:46:34] (laughter).
Male: 46:20 No, it’s just be here all day and …
Deb Mashek: 46:37 Okay.
Male: 46:38 I would advise against doing that.
Deb Mashek: 46:39 Yeah. We’ll, we’ll skip that one (laughter) and, and, Nick, did you have someone else over there that had a question as well? Okay. We can, we can bop back (laughter).
Chris: 46:52 My name is Chris and I come from an institution in, uh, Indianapolis that partners with Purdue, so I perked up when you mentioned Mitch Daniels. And, of course, one of the first things I thought about was that Mitch Daniels put a lot of effort into, uh, banning Howard Zinn from the curriculum, uh, so I was, uh, intrigued to hear, uh, that he had, he and his institution have scored well, uh, as it relates to academic expression. Um, but I think that gets to, uh, sort of one of the core tensions that keeps coming up is how do you give some of the same, um, s-, some of the same liberties to, uh, those ideologies and values that are drastically opposed to your own. So I’m wondering, from an administrator’s standpoint, how do you check yourself in, in, um, situations where, uh, ideologies and idea is, ideas are going to be presented that, uh, drastically opposed to your own?
Mark Yudof: 47:49 Well, one thing I have to say is universities are organized chaos and, therefore, most times, you’re surprised. You have no control over which student group and which department or center, whatever, they invite people and you sort of roll with the punches. Often, you don’t even get a heads-up that they’re coming.
Michael Roth: 48:07 I don’t have that excuse. I get invited to everything (laughter).
Mark Yudof: 48:09 Oh, okay (laughter).
Michael Roth: 48:10 Well, our schools are small, right? It’s probably the same for you.
Mark Yudof: 48:13 And you’re a more likable guy.
Michael Roth: 48:15 No, I don’t think so. Uh, but, but-
Deb Mashek: 48:18 It’s a great question though. How do you, how do you check yourself? I mean, you’re, you’re heading into all of these situations-
Michael Roth: 48:23 I ask myself this question all the time, and, and, uh, when I professor, a hero of mine was a pr-, a president of Pomona College, who, at least the story went, when he found that the revisionist history group was not just a group that was revising, I don’t know, views about the Korean War, but was a neo-Nazi, Orange County, uh, group that was, um, um, creating a m-, a machine for Holocaust denial, he went to the room and told them to, “Get off my campus.” And they had rented a space. There was not a … uh, they weren’t making public presentation and he let the lawyers work it out. And that seemed to me to be a principled stand about what goes beyond the pale.
Michael Roth: 49:02 I think everybody … I don’t think there is an absolutist free, free speech, uh, stance. I don’t think there’s such a thing as free speech. There’s always a cost. There’s always something that … beyond the line. Um, I’m always asking myself, when I think of that line, am I just expressing my own prejudices and what is my institutional responsibility? But I, I do think that an easier way of thinking about the specific cases is, is the, uh, uh, person or event targeting specific individuals with potential harm, harassment, or intimidation and, and, if so, I think it’s really important for us to protect those, those people from the real harm. I don’t want to trivialize it as often gets done. And, and, and I, I think that, uh, my responsibility as an administrator is, is to make sure that there’s an ongoing conversation.
Michael Roth: 49:57 And I think one of the things that I find challenging, and, I don’t know, I imagine many people here do, is that the defense of freedom of expression is understood by many thoughtful undergraduates and faculty as a cover for right wing ideology or white privilege or racism. I don’t think it is consistently, but it is sometimes. And so I have to try to figure out how I can uphold these values, which I believe in, um, but also convince people that’s it’s not just a way of maintaining practices of exclusion.
Deb Mashek: 50:35 And, with that, we need to end this panel and thank these panelists for these great insights. Thank you.
Male: 50:39 We got to go.
Speaker 12: 50:50 Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats. This session will being momentarily.
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