In a Thursday debate titled “Academic Freedom, Safe Spaces, Dissent, and Dignity,” faculty or administrators from Yale, Wesleyan, Mizzou, and the University of Chicago discussed last semester’s student protests and their intersection with free speech. They shared the stage at the Aspen Ideas Festival, co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic, with Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League; Kirsten Powers, author of The Silencing: How the Left Is Killing Free Speech; and Greg Lukianoff, who leads the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
My colleague Jeffrey Goldberg was the moderator.
The most interesting exchange involved Stephen Carter, a law professor at Yale, and Michael S. Roth, the president of Wesleyan University.
Michael Middleton, Interim President at Mizzou, participated too.
Here is what they said, with some intervening comments by other panel members cut for the sake of focus. Just prior to their conversation the whole panel watched a short video about black student protesters at Yale University as they pushed to change the name of Calhoun College.
Stephen Carter: I have a lot of sympathy for these students, but it's not as though what you saw in the video happening at Yale is the only hate speech / free speech issue we confront. I had a student in my office talking to me earlier this year because she was upset that another professor at Yale had written a critique arguing that the data on campus rape were flawed. And she was furious. There was a petition at Yale law school objecting to this research, objecting to actually doing research. We've had this with climate change. Now, I know climate change is a big problem. Some people on campus disagree. Well, let them disagree. Why do we have to suddenly say we need all their emails and we need to know who's funding them? Those are all ways of trying to pressure and shut down speech. It's all the same thing.