CI Endorses University of Chicago Defense of Free Speech

The Churchill Institute wholeheartedly endorses the actions of the University of Chicago in endorsing Free Speech and vigorous academic debate on college campuses.  CI calls upon Trinity College to make a similar public statement.

University of Chicago Strikes Back Against Campus Political Correctness

“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,” John Ellison, dean of students, wrote to members of the class of 2020, who will arrive next month.

Conservatives have been the loudest critics of campus political correctness, and hailed the Chicago statement as a victory. Mary Katharine Ham, a senior writer for The Federalist, a conservative website, wrote that it was “a sad commentary on higher education that this is considered a brave and bold move, but it is, and the University of Chicago should be applauded mightily for stating what used to be obvious.”

But while conservatives often frame campus free speech as a left-versus-right issue, the dispute is often within the left.

“Historically, the left has been much more protective of academic freedom than the right, particularly in the university context,” said Geoffrey R. Stone, a University of Chicago law professor who specializes in free speech issues. Conservatives “suddenly became the champions of free speech, which I find is a bit ironic, but the left is divided.”

Mr. Lukianoff said he and his group are often mistakenly called conservative, adding, “I’m a former A.C.L.U. person who worked in refugee camps.”

The dispute over free speech has ricocheted off campuses and around the country. In a commencement speech this year at Howard University, President Obama said: “Don’t try to shut folks out, don’t try to shut them down, no matter how much you might disagree with them. There’s been a trend around the country of trying to get colleges to disinvite speakers with a different point of view, or disrupt a politician’s rally. Don’t do that — no matter how ridiculous or offensive you might find the things that come out of their mouths.”

The University of Chicago has long been associated with the conservative school of economics that is named for it. It also takes pride in a history of free expression, like allowing the Communist Party candidate for president, William Z. Foster, to speak on the ornate neo-Gothic campus on the city’s South Side in 1932, despite fierce criticism.

Mr. Obama taught constitutional law at the university law school.

The university said Friday that Dean Ellision and the university president, Robert R. Zimmer, were not available to discuss the letter or what prompted it, but Mr. Manier referred queries to Professor Stone, a former university provost.