Debat op de Amerikaanse campuses over vrijheid van meningsuiting..

There is substantial evidence that the more exposure to higher education that people today have received, the less likely they are to be susceptible to demagogy and denial of evidence and proven facts; and they are more capable of changing their prejudice-based opinions, and in general better prepared to join in the long effort to make a better world out of the crooked timber of humanity.
THOMAS H. WRIGHT, emeritus vice president and secretary of Princeton University.

Readers discuss the controversies over free speech and safe spaces on college campuses.

To the Editor:
Re “A Crisis Our Universities Deserve” (column, Nov. 15): Ross Douthat’s diatribe against American higher education since the 1960s is, from my experience and observation, simply wrong. Previously higher education was to a very large extent exclusionary, sectarian, tribal, hierarchical, intolerant and dogmatic.

Today the vastly variegated panorama of American higher education has by no means reached a state of perfection, but it is more humane by far, filled with students and faculty who listen to one another across large areas of difference, know the value of hard work in an uncertain world and with uncertain personal futures, and are keenly aware of the opportunities and threats that almost fantastical technological change poses.

There is substantial evidence that the more exposure to higher education that people today have received, the less likely they are to be susceptible to demagogy and denial of evidence and proven facts; and they are more capable of changing their prejudice-based opinions, and in general better prepared to join in the long effort to make a better world out of the crooked timber of humanity.

In an often-daunting world and future, our colleges and universities, contrary to Mr. Douthat’s dark vision of corruption and rot, are a major source of hope and confidence.

Vieques, P.R.
The writer is emeritus vice president and secretary of Princeton University.

To the Editor:

Re “The Seduction of Safety,” by Roxane Gay (Sunday Review, Nov. 15):

As a first-year student at a dominantly “liberal” university, I believe that we place far too much emphasis on making safe spaces for everyone. Growing up in a world that has suddenly demanded that we watch our language, opinions and even questioning of socially sensitive topics like homosexuality and feminism, many youths such as myself have a tough time expressing our opinions under the social pressure to be “politically correct.”

Safe spaces are designed to allow individual thoughts to flow freely without judgment. I have found they have done the exact opposite. I often find myself clamming up when asked to share an opinion I feel strongly about, simply because it could be considered critical or judgmental of others’ opinions.

We should always be respectful of all opinions and beliefs, but we should not have to be afraid to share our own, even if they seem “politically incorrect.”


To the Editor:
Roxane Gay dismisses the perspective of those who criticize the notion of safe spaces as resulting from being able to take one’s safety for granted. However, one person’s safe space is another person’s hostile environment. The adversities that exist in our world are not as simplistic and one-sided as she makes them out to be. There are men who are victims of domestic violence and rape. There are white people who grow up in poverty or have lost a family member to violence at the hands of a police officer. There are heterosexuals who have been perceived by others as gay and suffered from homophobia.

Unfortunately, there are those who would seek to make the world a supposed safe space for women, minorities or L.G.B.T. people by suppressing the voices of others who have experienced comparable adversities, thereby denying the very real suffering that they have endured.
The way to achieve true healing for everyone is by hearing one another’s perspectives with empathy and seeking to find common ground, not by silencing the voices of those whose life stories we find inconvenient or uncomfortable.

New York

To the Editor:
Re “Mizzou, Yale and Free Speech,” by Nicholas Kristof (column, Nov. 12), and “Who Is Entitled to Be Heard?,” by Suzanne Nossel (Op-Ed, Nov. 12):

While both Mr. Kristof and Ms. Nossel have thoughtful comments on what sort of speech or acts should be allowed on college campuses, I’d urge them both to draw sharper distinctions between insult and opinion. Because most colleges and universities require admitted students to agree to a code of conduct that respects their fellow students, it is perfectly proper to punish students who break that code by use of the N-word, posting lynching cartoons on the door of a black student or wearing insensitive Halloween costumes on university property. Conversely, no student should be barred from a public meeting, no speaker shouted down and no “Vagina Monologues” type of performance canceled. Here students may dissent but not disrupt.

This distinction gets a little trickier when protests arise over graduation speakers such as Condoleezza Rice or Christine Lagarde, director of the International Monetary Fund. Commencement is not a regular campus event, but rather a special time for all seniors to celebrate regardless of their political views. Here the distinction between insult and opinion is harder to draw, and thus requires us all to think compassionately about a thoroughly complex issue.

Williamstown, Mass.
The writer is emeritus professor of international relations at Williams College.

To the Editor:
Nicholas Kristof says “universities should work harder to make all students feel they are safe and belong.” Nonsense. Such sloppy sentimentality underscores the misdirection of many of our universities and undermines the values that define adult education.
No student at an American university should be “safe” from ideas, be they noxious or untrue.

Higher education is “higher” precisely because the best teachers take very great risks in challenging ideas that seem self-evident, even the risk of changing minds. As for belonging, all students were admitted and by definition belong.

Safe from violence, yes. Everything else is up for debate.

Provo, Utah

Lees ook:

The New Intolerance of Student Activism
A fight over Halloween costumes at Yale has devolved into an effort to censor dissenting views.

Mizzou, Yale and Free Speech
Tai represented the other noble force in these upheavals —
free expression. He tried to make the point, telling the crowd: “The First Amendment protects your right to be here — and mine.”
We like to caricature great moral debates as right confronting wrong.
But often, to some degree, it’s right colliding with right.
Yes, universities should work harder to be inclusive. And, yes, campuses must assure free expression, which means protecting dissonant and unwelcome voices that sometimes leave other people feeling aggrieved or wounded.  On both counts we fall far short.

Students protest Buckley talk
, &  ,
Staff reporters, November 09, 2015

Little paradises: 22 thoughts on the protests at Yale
by Dara Lind on November 10, 2015

A Crisis Our Universities Deserve


Yale’s big fight over sensitivity and free speech, explained
Updated by on November 7, 2015

Every year, without fail, some college students somewhere take Halloween as an opportunity to wear something breathtakingly offensive, including students at Yale who wore blackface in 2007. So, this year, Yale’s Intercultural Affairs Committee sent an email urging students to consider whether their “funny” costumes might not be so funny:

Halloween is also unfortunately a time when the normal thoughtfulness and sensitivity of most Yale students can sometimes be forgotten and some poor decisions can be made including wearing feathered headdresses, turbans, wearing ‘war paint’ or modifying skin tone or wearing blackface or redface. These same issues and examples of cultural appropriation and/or misrepresentation are increasingly surfacing with representations of Asians and Latinos.

Such emails are becoming an annual ritual on some campuses. The University of Colorado, the University of Minnesota, and Ohio University all urged their students to wear culturally sensitive costumes in 2013. One of the administrators who signed the Yale email, Burgwell Howard, sent an almost identical note to Northwestern students in 2010, the year after a blackface scandal at that university.

Erika Christakis, a lecturer at Yale in early childhood education, objected to all this. She sent an email to the few hundred students in Silliman College, one of Yale’s 12 residential colleges, saying she applauded the goal but questioned whether the email was really necessary.

“I don’t, actually, trust myself to foist my Halloweenish standards and motives on others,” she wrote, adding:

I wonder, and I am not trying to be provocative: Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious… a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive? American universities were once a safe space not only for maturation but also for a certain regressive, or even transgressive, experience; increasingly, it seems, they have become places of censure and prohibition.

She also passed along a message from her husband, Nicholas Christakis, a Yale professor of psychology and Silliman College’s master, saying that rather than having the university tell students what to wear and not wear, students should deal with it themselves.

Nicholas says, if you don’t like a costume someone is wearing, look away, or tell them you are offended. Talk to each other. Free speech and the ability to tolerate offence are the hallmarks of a free and open society.

The email infuriated a number of students who saw it as downplaying important racial sensitivity issues. More than 740 Yale students signed an open lettercriticizing Christakis’s email for minimizing the concerns of students of color. On Thursday, some were reportedly drafting a letter calling for both Christakises to resign as masters of Silliman College.

Nicholas Christakis apologized Friday, though saying he thought his wife’s email was well-intentioned: “We understand that it was hurtful to you, and we are truly sorry,” he wrote in an email to Silliman students, according to the Yale Daily News. “We understand that many students feel voiceless in diverse ways and we want you to know that we hear you and we will support you.”

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