August 25, 2016

The University of Chicago picks vibrant free speech over insulating sensitivities.

It's getting celebrated on the internet for this letter it sent new students:
Welcome and congratulations on your acceptance to the college at the University of Chicago. Earning a place in our community of scholars is no small achievement and we are delighted that you selected Chicago to continue your intellectual journey.

Once here you will discover that one of the University of Chicago’s defining characteristics is our commitment to freedom of inquiry and expression. … Members of our community are encouraged to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn, without fear of censorship. Civility and mutual respect are vital to all of us, and freedom of expression does not mean the freedom to harass or threaten others. You will find that we expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion, and even disagreement. At times this may challenge you and even cause discomfort....

Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.
Nice branding, University of Chicago!

50 comments:

Patrick said...

It should be shocking that such a statement separates the University of Chicago from its competitors. That said, this is a great statement.

EMD said...

It's obvious a privileged white guy wrote this.

A to the C said...

This obviously should be standard operating procedure at all colleges and universities. Interesting sign of the times that something like this even needs to be said. Nonetheless, kudos to the University of Chicago.

David Begley said...

The next big thing for the University of Chicago is its hosting the Obama Presidential Library. It should be a Mecca for journalists and scholars to see how Barack sold us out to Iran.

Kate said...

I wonder how politically diverse the faculty is. Kudos for talking the talk, at least.

buwaya puti said...

The Clinton Department of Education will do something about this no doubt.
Btw, I wonder how undergrad enrollments are doing across the board this fall. Thats been down for five years now, peaked in 2010.

William said...

EMD is right. A privileged white guy probably did write this. I support the sentiment, but it would be more impressive if it came from an academic who had grievances and not privileges.......Youth is fleeting. Gather your grievances while you may.

Meeeea said...

Nice to see--versus big Catholic Universties falling all over themselves to underplay the "Catholic" aspect. (Sad, but funny to see.)

And UofC has one of my all-time favorites, Richard Epstein.

Abdul Abulbul Amir said...

The tide turns. Amen.

Limited blogger said...

What's the catch?

Sebastian said...

UChicago is serious. Yale used to be, not so much anymore. In practice, of course, much of the free speech is pretty lefty, as are the faculty.

But UChicago does have a football team.

Fernandinande said...

https://lgbtq.uchicago.edu/page/safe-space says:

"Safe Space educates the University of Chicago community on the challenges that many LGBTQ students experience through trainings and supports LGBTQ students by developing an ally network and creating welcoming physical spaces for the UChicago LGBTQ community.

Surveys indicate that LGBTQ students who do not feel safe are likely to skip class, or even days of classes, out of fear for personal safety."

Bruce Hayden said...

And then there is the University of Missouri at Columbia, where the freshman class is down some 23% over last year, causing a $30 million hole in the school's budget. This is the school where (former) prof Melissa Glick asked for "muscle" to remove someone she didn't like the views of, and whose football team went on strike to condemn the legally justified self defense shooting of Big Mike Brown by the Ferguson police (possibly because Brown was big enough to play line there, and the Black linemen were maybe thinking about the next time they tried to bull rush a cop).

Rob said...

Good for the University of Chicago. Meanwhile Yale reinstates the Calhoun College food worker who maliciously destroyed a stain glass window that he didn't like.

rhhardin said...

U Chicago's _Critical Inquiry_ has been hard leftist for years, though.

So you still have a leftist faculty.

MayBee said...

If you look at the tweets in response to the University's tweet of this policy, you'll see students complaining that people with Trauma and PTSD are no longer welcome at University of Chicago.

Jupiter said...

"Civility and mutual respect are vital to all of us, and freedom of expression does not mean the freedom to harass or threaten others."

I'm guessing that is the loophole that U Chicago will employ half a dozen "Diversity Officers" to drive a train through.

MayBee said...

When DePaul- a Catholic University!- cancelled Ben Shapiro for safety reasons, I thought, "How safe can a conservative student feel at DePaul?"

Paul Snively said...

It shouldn't have needed to be said, but good for the University of Chicago for saying it.

sean said...

Wow, Chicago is a right wing place, isn't it? (I mean, by the standards of university professors.)

Crimso said...

Saying that they are being celebrated on the internet for doing this reminds me of a Chris Rock routine...

SteveR said...

As others have said, this should already be the the standard without a need to elaborate.

rehajm said...

Until I saw it was U of Chicago I thought it was satire.

Curious George said...

"Mary E. Glynn said...
(Remember when Wisco-Madison was caught photoshopping black students into their recruitment brochures? That shows their commitment to "branding" over "principles"...)"

It was just a single black student, not "students". They didn't want to scare the faculty.

Rick said...

Abdul Abulbul Amir said...
The tide turns. Amen.


Wishful thinking. Instead this will further brand UC as "right-wing". It's interesting how often simple decency and obviously correct policy is thus branded. Perceptive people will note this.

I'd like to see all the professors who challenge non-leftist thinkers - especially those condescending, rude, and often wrong about doing so - challenged to reconcile snowflake treatment with their actions.

Rick said...

MayBee said...
If you look at the tweets in response to the University's tweet of this policy, you'll see students complaining that people with Trauma and PTSD are no longer welcome at University of Chicago.


How about that, already paying dividends.

The Program is Working.

Sebastian said...

"Instead this will further brand UC as "right-wing"." Maybe. But outside econ and Booth the place seems pretty progressive. Plus they bought themselves some protection - Axelrod and his institute, involvement with the O library, etc.

Mary E. Glynn said...

It was just a single black student, not "students". They didn't want to scare the faculty
-----------

Doh! You crossed the line -- she'll delete us both now!

("Safe spaces" and all...)

Darcy said...

I am grateful. Very encouraging!

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

Someone must have finally noticed that the fig leaf was missing.

mockturtle said...

Hope it catches on!

Scott M said...

Kudos, University of Chicago. Unfortunately, you're still located in Illinois.

Amadeus 48 said...

All I can tell you is that at the law school there, everyone gets put through the wringer, including the faculty. You better know why you think what you think, because the tradition there is to rip it apart to see how it works. There is the famous lunch table at the Quadrangle Club, where three times a week law school faculty members defend their ideas and their latest research from the collective cat-calls and criticism of their fellows. Many an aspiring junior faculty member has "flunked lunch."

Interestingly, one of the criticisms of Barack Obama at the law school was that he did not participate in the Quad Club luncheon round-tables. He probably didn't want to take the incoming fire...or maybe he didn't have many ideas.

AJ Lynch said...

Should we give U of C a medal?

Bruce Hayden said...

@Mary - my point there was not that both were Universities, but that caving to political correctness, the opposite of what Chicago is doing, can have disasterous consequences for a school.

Bill Peschel said...

Jezzum crow, some of you people are satisfied. University releases a statement reaffirming free speech, and you all clutch your pearls.

If it'll make you feel better, consider what they did the same as going to church and hearing about the Ten Commandments.

We need to be reminded what free speech is about. We need to hear it repeated.

We don't have a natural affinity for freedom. Many of us are perfectly happy having someone tell us what to do. We forge the chains that we wear in our lifetime.

When Obama denigrated American exceptionalism, we needed to hear people stand up and say "this is what America is about. We want to believe that this country -- the way it was founded, the principles expressed in our founding documents -- are important. We need to hold ourselves to it, because we fall short so often."

When we no longer believe in it, then when we hear about Hillary selling access to the State Department, we shrug and say, "Whaddya gonna do?" or worse, "Who cares?"

Big Mike said...

@AJ, I think so. Perhaps Chicago decided it couldn't afford to go the same way as the University of Missouri. It's not that Chicago needs to worry about losing donations to its football program -- they last played a major football game in 1939 -- but a dropoff in student enrollments and contributions from wealthy alumni would be pretty devastating.

Drago said...

This is but a fleeting rear-guard action on our pathway to bright and wonderful glorious People's Revolution.

Within a few years the author of the UofC statement will be standing before a mob of screaming leftists and attempting to recant such blasphemy even as he/she is shouted down and shuffled off to reeducation.

Inevitable.

Oh wait, that can't happen here. Our leftists are "different".

Big Mike said...

@Sebastian, turns out you're right. Football really is a varsity sport -- Chicago competes as an independent in Div. III. I was under the impression that football was played as a club sport.

AJ Lynch said...

U of C is where Obama's buddy Bill Ayers taught so it is an ultra-liberal place and I guess I should give them some credit for this announcement.

Dr Weevil said...

AJL:
U of C is not "where Obama's buddy Bill Ayers taught": that's UIC, the University of Illinois at Chicago. UC is a private, UIC a state university: very different in very many ways.

AJ Lynch said...

Thx Dr. Weevil. I stand corrected.

David said...

Jupiter said...
"Civility and mutual respect are vital to all of us, and freedom of expression does not mean the freedom to harass or threaten others."

I'm guessing that is the loophole that U Chicago will employ half a dozen "Diversity Officers" to drive a train through.


It could be. Grand statements are easy. Adhering to the principle while under fire is more difficult. One test will be how they handle ridicule. Ridicule can be a wonderfully effective argumentative device, but the sensitivities of the era have supressed really great ridicule (and bad ridicule as well.) Nevertheless the statement is a step in the right direction.

eddie willers said...

University of Chicago: Home of Fermi and Friedman.

If they bend to PC, we are doomed.

rightguy2 said...

This statement is based on (what should be) obvious truth. Why is it leftist intellectuals consistently overlook the obvious?

Smilin' Jack said...

Nice branding, University of Chicago!

Yeah, right. Protests, retraction, sniveling apology, and resignation of president to follow in three, two, one....

Actually, that letter alone should be enough to get all their federal money rescinded.

RonF said...

Smilin' Jack, you greatly underestimate the U of C. This letter is entirely consistent with the schools policy on free speech and the school's administration has stood behind it repeatedly. I invite you to have a look at some of the documents at http://freeexpression.uchicago.edu/page/statements . One of especial note is https://freeexpression.uchicago.edu/page/statement-principles-free-expression . Statement of Principles of Free Expression. An excerpt:

"Fundamentally, however, the University is committed to the principle that it may not restrict debate or deliberation because the ideas put forth are thought to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed. It is for the members of the University community to make those judgments for themselves.

As a corollary to this commitment, members of the University community must also act in conformity with this principle. Although faculty, students and staff are free to criticize, contest and condemn the views expressed on campus, they may not obstruct, disrupt, or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe.

For members of the University community, as for the University itself, the proper response to ideas they find offensive, unwarranted and dangerous is not interference, obstruction, or suppression. It is, instead, to engage in robust counter-speech that challenges the merits of those ideas and exposes them for what they are. To this end, the University has a solemn responsibility not only to promote a lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation, but also to protect that freedom when others attempt to restrict it."

RonF said...

This was published - and condemned by some members of the student body - at UofC last year. From http://provost.uchicago.edu/sites/default/files/documents/reports/FOECommitteeReport.pdf , an excerpt:

"Of course, the ideas of different members of the University community will often and
quite naturally conflict. But it is not the proper role of the University to attempt to
shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even
deeply offensive. Although the University greatly values civility, and although all
members of the University community share in the responsibility for maintaining a
climate of mutual respect, concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used
as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable
those ideas may be to some members of our community."

RonF said...

The Student Government condemned the above statement. The administration's response was essentially "Too bad."

sean said...

"The Student Government condemned the above statement."

At Wisconsin (or Yale), the faculty would condemn the statement.