I have always been proud of my alma mater, The University of Chicago, and the education that I received in Hyde Park. However, that pride has been magnified this week with a letter sent to the class of 2020. As we have been discussing how various schools have eradicated free speech protections on campus in a national trend toward speech regulation. UChicago has decided to stand its ground and reaffirm its commitment to free speech on campus. The letter warns students that they will not shielded from views that upset them or given “safe spaces” on campus. In doing so, UChicago has recommitted itself to the very touchstone of education: the free and robust exchange of ideas.
The letter states “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.” That line is especially welcomed with nearby schools like DePaul caving into the heckler’s veto and allowing the mob to silence voices with which they disagree.
Speakers (particularly conservatives) are routinely shut down by protesters as universities respond with relative passivity:
We have seen protester’s screaming profanities while claiming to be injured from events that they voluntarily attended:
Universities have an obligation to preserve the right of free speech and students who prevent others from speaking should be suspended from the university. Instead, schools like Dartmouth have officials who actually apologize to the protesters who shutdown libraries and prevented students from leaving.
There is now a leading university that is defying the trend against free speech and that is the University of Chicago. Hopefully the position of the university will be replicated by other schools.
Notably, the underlying report at UChicago quotes Hanna Holborn Gray, who was president during my time at the school, as saying that “education should not be intended to make people comfortable, it is meant to make them think.”
Bravo, UChicago, Bravo.