Freedom of Expression vs. the New Censorship on Campus: Safe spaces, trigger warnings, appropriation issues, and no-platforming
1. What do you make of the following events that have happened on campuses in the last few months? (Please check out online info and numerous videos of some of these events on YouTube in advance if possible.)
- The University of Ottawa canceled yoga classes out of concerns about cultural appropriation.
- At LSE student union, the motion to condemn the Paris attacks failed to pass
- Some universities have allowed male and female divided seating at events on campus.
- Increasingly common free speech suppressing "safe space" policies and the increasingly common disparagement and denigration of the First Amendment on US campuses
- Many comedians, such as Jerry Seinfeld, no longer want to perform at college campuses due to the dampening effect on audiences of overly sensitive extreme PC climate there now.
- Safe space vs. The first amendment: Communications professor Melissa Click asking for "muscle" among the protestors to prevent the student newspaper photojournalists from covering a protest at the University of Missouri (see YouTube).
- Erika Kristakis and the Yale Halloween costume email incident (see YouTube)
- Attempted no-platforming of speakers Germaine Greer and Maryam Namazie (at Warwick University and at Goldsmith University, where the no platforming was supported by the Goldsmith feminist group and the LBGT group) among others - see YouTube
- "Brown University professor denounces McCarthy-like witch hunts." The Daily Beast
- Professor Boghossian, who teaches a course on atheism, now has a notice that on his course outline that reads: Trigger Warning: This whole course is a trigger warning. (He has received a fair bit of flak for this.)
- Mandatory indigenous studies courses at high school level are now also at the University of Winnipeg and Lakehead University (required for graduation)
- In the UK, there have been demands for lecturers to report students showing signs of extremism.
2. What are the merits of censorship? Of self-censorship? Of free speech? Of academic freedom? Of anti-blasphemy laws? Of hate speech laws? Of no hate speech laws? What are the drawbacks of all of these?
3. What is the place of freedom of expression in universities? Of identity politics? What do you make of safe spaces, trigger warnings, no platforming, and appropriation issues?
4. Students of the 1960s fought to have paternalistic constraints such as restrictions on their personal decisions removed from the role of university administrations. In contrast, many claim that today's students are fighting to have university administrations assume more control over their lives. What is the function of a university administration today? Thoughts?
5. There have been many grave problems around racism, sexism, and homophobia on campuses in the last several years, actions from students that have caused a great deal of pain and outrage. What should universities be doing about these problems and what are the limits to what they can do?