Race and the Free-Speech Diversion
November 12, 2015 6:44 AM   Subscribe

Of the many concerns unearthed by the protests at two major universities this week, the velocity at which we now move from racial recrimination to self-righteous backlash is possibly the most revealing. The unrest that occurred at the University of Missouri and at Yale University, two outwardly dissimilar institutions, shared themes of racial obtuseness, arthritic institutional responses to it, and the feeling, among students of color, that they are tenants rather than stakeholders in their universities. That these issues have now been subsumed in a debate over political correctness and free speech on campus—important but largely separate subjects—is proof of the self-serving deflection to which we should be accustomed at this point.
posted by Artw (144 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
"the left-footed logic of a career Negrophobe" is the best phrase I've read all week.
posted by Etrigan at 7:08 AM on November 12, 2015 [13 favorites]


The default for avoiding discussion of racism is to invoke a separate principle, one with which few would disagree in the abstract—free speech, respectful participation in class—as the counterpoint to the violation of principles relating to civil rights. This is victim-blaming with a software update
QFT.

I try to avoid political discussions on FB, but I allowed myself to get sucked into one when someone commented something to the effect of "Sure, what happened was unacceptable, but I'm tired of seeing students get away with bad behavior! Responsibility for everyone!"

As far as I'm concerned, the officer's brutalizing that young woman in the video is unacceptable on its face, but by conceding the point, she wanted to make it all about something else.
posted by Gelatin at 7:18 AM on November 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


The freedom to offend the powerful is not equivalent to the freedom to bully the relatively disempowered. The enlightenment principles that undergird free speech also prescribed that the natural limits of one’s liberty lie at the precise point at which it begins to impose upon the liberty of another.

Stylistically not the best thing I've read this week, but bits like this are pretty powerful.
posted by OHenryPacey at 7:21 AM on November 12, 2015 [21 favorites]


I think the long term question is whether this will make a difference. On the periphery of Boston where the attempt in the 70's to desegregate the schools seems to have done nothing for segregation in the area general.

Not nothing but I recently had to kill an hour and took a walk from the "South End" to Dudley Square, the dividing line was invisible and an utterly abrupt two block width between radically different worlds.
posted by sammyo at 7:21 AM on November 12, 2015


Max Fisher: When the campus PC police are conservative: why media ignored the free speech meltdown at William & Mary
This summer, during the most recent national backlash against syllabus trigger warning and classroom microaggressions, law professor Nancy Leong told my colleague Amanda Taub that much of the backlash against so-called identity politics is really about a sense that the status quo is under attack and fear that something worse might replace it.

Left-wing student campaigns or protests are generally about changing the status quo — changing the way black students are treated, say, or changing campus norms around Halloween costumes. But right-wing campus movements, like the one at William & Mary, are fundamentally about preserving the status quo: preserving a Christian identity at a public college, preserving campus cultural norms that consider a performance of former sex workers to be inappropriate.

Maybe the reason the national media cares more about left-wing speech threats than right-wing speech threats is not that the media is biased in favor of conservatives, but rather that it is, like people can often be generally, biased in favor of the status quo. It's not that they think conservatives did nothing wrong in their William & Mary campaign — I suspect many would agree they crossed a line — but rather that those conservative activists were not perceived as representing a larger threat. But because left-wing student movements are often about challenging the status quo, and because members of the national media (which remains dominated by white males) are often heavily invested in the status quo, those students are seen as representing something scary and dangerous.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:25 AM on November 12, 2015 [28 favorites]


There was a fairly well written and reasonable sounding op-ed off a national wire service published in the local paper today. This article exactly sums up the unease I had in reading it. Boy it sure seems like a good idea to sit around and have a nice respectful discussion of all these issues when you aren't the one suffering or on the receiving end of discrimination. Why, we could talk all day about this.

It's hard work, and I have endless respect for those saying "Enough. I'm speaking up and I will continue to do so."
posted by meinvt at 7:26 AM on November 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


I know there's a healthy level of confirmation bias, since after 13 years of working in news media I am friends with entirely too many reporters and photojournalists, but I had no idea there was anything going on at the University of Missouri. The first I heard about it was the metatalk, but when the journalist had his rights impinged my facebook blew up. I'm still unclear on the issues surrounding the president and chancellor stepping down, but I get hourly updates on the nuances of the free speech issues at play.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:27 AM on November 12, 2015


The conflict between the Yale student and Nicholas Christakis, the master of the university’s Silliman College—whose wife, Erika, the associate master of the college, wrote an e-mail encouraging students to treat Halloween costumes that they find racially offensive as a free-speech issue, in response to a campus-wide e-mail encouraging students to consider whether their costumes could offend—was recorded on a cell phone and posted on the Internet.

Freedom of speech doesn't mean ignoring things that you find offensive. That's the exact opposite of what it means i.e. you can protest the fuck out of anything, but the government can't shut you down for doing so.

You're never free from being criticized. No one is or should be.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:31 AM on November 12, 2015 [29 favorites]


"I had no idea there was anything going on at the University of Missouri."

I'm not sure that's confirmation bias. The situation there has been front page news in many types of mainstream media for several weeks now.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:31 AM on November 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


The conflict between the Yale student and Nicholas Christakis, the master of the university’s Silliman College—whose wife, Erika, the associate master of the college, wrote an e-mail encouraging students to treat Halloween costumes that they find racially offensive as a free-speech issue, in response to a campus-wide e-mail encouraging students to consider whether their costumes could offend—was recorded on a cell phone and posted on the Internet.

The "Free speech!" argument is an admission that the best thing you can say about something is that it is not illegal. That's not really much of a bar to clear, quality-wise.

"What did you think of that movie?"
"Well, it's not illegally bad..."
posted by Etrigan at 7:34 AM on November 12, 2015 [28 favorites]


Freedom of speech doesn't mean ignoring things that you find offensive. That's the exact opposite of what it means i.e. you can protest the fuck out of anything, but the government can't shut you down for doing so.

You're never free from being criticized. No one is or should be.


The argument that these "free speech advocates" make is that these criticisms become a form of censorship, by making certain lines of inquiry socially unpalatable.

There's a certain sort who believes that accusing someone of racism is a worse offense than actually being racist.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:37 AM on November 12, 2015 [17 favorites]


I'm all for speaking truth to power but I think the liberal abandonment of the ideals of free speech is a sad, short-term play. Yes, lots of the cries of "free speech!" are cynical and reactionary, but I don't see how abandoning the principle helps the cause of equality. That your enemy supports a virtue doesn't mean you shouldn't.
posted by mikewebkist at 7:38 AM on November 12, 2015 [14 favorites]




In today's NY Times Nicholas Kristof offered what I thought was a smart and empathetic way to look at these multiple concerns.
posted by twsf at 7:45 AM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm going to trot out the example of my racist extended family again, because their email forwards help me understand the garbage place they're coming from. Their prevailing argument is that the "real world" is a place where students won't be "coddled" and need to get used to having their "wittle feewings hurt" and what are they going to do when they get into the workforce and nobody is there to warn them about triggers and microaggressions?

First of all: I've been in the "real world" for many years now, and if I'm routinely insulted and aggressed-upon, I get the fuck out of there ASAP. That's not normal, and it's not good. Racist hate speech is not an inevitability (although I guess it does speak a lot to the milieus these people inhabit, if it's inevitable to them). To extrapolate a bit further and say that one's right to racist speech is a "free speech" issue is just perverse.
posted by witchen at 7:47 AM on November 12, 2015 [20 favorites]


I'm all for speaking truth to power but I think the liberal abandonment of the ideals of free speech is a sad, short-term play. Yes, lots of the cries of "free speech!" are cynical and reactionary, but I don't see how abandoning the principle helps the cause of equality. That your enemy supports a virtue doesn't mean you shouldn't.

Did you read the OP or any articles linked in support here? Because this reads as fact- and content-free kneejerk contrarianism rather than an actual, substantial critique.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:48 AM on November 12, 2015 [25 favorites]


I'm all for speaking truth to power but I think the liberal abandonment of the ideals of free speech is a sad, short-term play. Yes, lots of the cries of "free speech!" are cynical and reactionary, but I don't see how abandoning the principle helps the cause of equality. That your enemy supports a virtue doesn't mean you shouldn't.

Except that liberals are supporting free speech, while organizations like FIRE, for all their statements, are actually against free speech. As has been pointed out, people pointing out how some statement is offensive is also free speech. Arguing that people stating their feelings of offense is a form of censorship is an attempt to muzzle criticism.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:48 AM on November 12, 2015 [47 favorites]


Arguing that people stating their feelings of offense is a form of censorship is an attempt to muzzle criticism.

...usually made from the position of privilege, I might add.
posted by Gelatin at 7:51 AM on November 12, 2015 [24 favorites]


I was incredibly lucky and saw Ta-Nehisi Coates speak at my campus on Tuesday. Someone asked him his thoughts about the media/protestor conflict and he said something along the lines of, 'Look - I'm a reporter and I believe freedom of the press is fundamental. But when I was a college student learning about protest and activism, I got overzealous - and college is a good place to practice these sorts of things and figure out what is overstepping the bounds and what isn't.'

Universities aren't the only place where people have free speech and university students are far from the most zealous enforcers of limiting media access even in a university setting. When I was in college, Alberto Gonzales spoke on the in invitation of College Republicans, and the university had a "free speech zone" beyond which media and protesters were not allowed. I think it's disingenuous - and probably, on some level, racist - for people to be incredibly angry on behalf of media access and free speech and rail against PC run amok!!!! when 1. Universities provide a kind of sandbox for experimenting with the way people interact with eachother and institutions. 2. The relationship between media and people of color, particularly during protests, is often exploitative. 3. Universities and other institutions often limit media access. 4. Some of the loudest critics of Kids Today who just can't handle dissent and are too damn sensitive are the same people talking about, say, the war on Christmas, or how offensive it is for children to learn about LGBT relationships in elementary school.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:52 AM on November 12, 2015 [40 favorites]




Slate Star Codex: Looking A Gift Horse In The Mouth
I worry that the media, especially the online thinkpiece media, overrepresents an insular demographic of Ivy League academics and their friends who spend most of their time on college campuses and don’t notice things that don’t affect them personally. When people on Tumblr are being bullied to suicide or told that they’re garbage or outed or getting death threats, that’s the commoners. When a Contemporary Perspectives On American Literature professor is inconvenienced, AAAAAAAAH SOCIAL JUSTICE HAS GONE TOO FAR! SOMEBODY WARN SALON.COM!
posted by Rangi at 8:00 AM on November 12, 2015 [12 favorites]


That Kristof article falls into the same disingenuous pattern that Cobb points out and Julia Serano rightly mocks wherein someone decrying supposed infringements on free speech lists a series of anecdotes of such infringement, which, upon a moment's reflection, turn out to be examples of people exercising their rights to free speech. Kristof writes:

We’ve also seen Wesleyan students debate cutting funding for the student newspaper after it ran an op-ed criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement. At Mount Holyoke, students canceled a production of “The Vagina Monologues” because they felt it excluded transgender women. Protests led to the withdrawal of Condoleezza Rice as commencement speaker at Rutgers and Christine Lagarde at Smith.

Each and every one of these supposed infringements is the direct result of someone engaging in free speech. Kristof apparently wants to (1) shut down debates about cutting funding for the student newspaper, (2) force students to produce plays that they don't want to produce, and (3) establish a norm wherein students may not criticize their proposed graduation speakers lest those speakers decide to withdraw. That doesn't seem like a very pro-free-speech platform to me.
posted by burden at 8:00 AM on November 12, 2015 [32 favorites]


There are enough straw men here - on both sides - to light a conflagration visible from space, or enable a decade's worth of "Wizard of Oz" revivals. My simple rule for trying to think clearly about situations like this is "is someone trying to stop someone else from expressing their viewpoint in this place?" I was in favor of allowing the Nazis to march in Skokie, despite the pain it caused my people (I'm Jewish) and many others.
posted by twsf at 8:11 AM on November 12, 2015 [10 favorites]


Perhaps it isn't the most pressing issue here, but what disturbs me about the UM situation is that when faculty at a university criticize a president as being unqualified or whatever, especially at big state schools, they usually get treated with condescension by the administration and other "business-minded realists." But when football players threaten to boycott games, the world comes to an end. I'm all for student activism, but that's a little fucked up.
posted by Saxon Kane at 8:15 AM on November 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Without wishing to derail, one thing I would like to know is why this happens at US universities, and you rarely hear of anything like this at UK/European Universities? Maybe is does but just doesn't make the FP of Mefi, or have the same sort of coverage, but I would have thought that if anything like this did happen, I would see it on the BBC.
posted by marienbad at 8:17 AM on November 12, 2015


I see this in Anita Sarkeesian's feed a thousand times per day. There's just this endless number of aggressive tweets complaining that she is trying to censor the internet, when, in fact, her critics are absolutely clear that what they want is for her to shut up. It's mind-bending to watch so transparent a silencing tactic posturing itself as freedom of speech, but, then, hers is a feed where men will tell her that it's nonsense that she abused in the very same sentence where they abuse her.

Sarkeesian has identified it simply, as gaslighting. And it's exactly what is being done to these activists -- a deliberate attempt to undermine their right to freedom of speech by insisting that protesters somehow curtail freedom of speech. It makes you feel crazy.

I can never tell whether this is deliberately, ingeniously sadistic, or if the silencers are somehow all deluded enough to think that saying shut up is a defense of free speech. In the end, I guess it doesn't matter whether it's deliberate or not. Even if expressed in good faith, it is a bad faith argument, and should be treated as such.
posted by maxsparber at 8:18 AM on November 12, 2015 [30 favorites]


witchen: "Their prevailing argument is that the "real world" is a place where students won't be "coddled" and need to get used to having their "wittle feewings hurt" and what are they going to do when they get into the workforce and nobody is there to warn them about triggers and microaggressions?"

The new thing I've been doing lately is asking people who make this coddling complaint, "If you worked at a Fortune 500 company and a guy was running around the hallways using the n-word, is the problem the person who complains to HR or the guy using the n-word?" "Oh, well, the guy using the n-word, you can't do that at work!" "And what if he showed up at a work Halloween party in blackface?" "He'd be super-fired." "So the problem here is actually that the racists are being coddled by not being expelled, and not being required to face the consequences of their actions that they'll have to face in the 'real world.' And yet for some reason you think the students complaining are the ones being coddled?"

Yeah, yeah, Fortune 500 companies don't have to respect your free speech rights the way a government entity does, but it gets the point across about what the consequences would be in the "real world" and who, exactly, is getting the warm and fuzzy coddling.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:20 AM on November 12, 2015 [82 favorites]


But when football players threaten to boycott games, the world comes to an end. I'm all for student activism, but that's a little fucked up.

Well, it's worth remembering that if Mizzou was forced to forfeit the BYU game, there were significant financial penalties, in the 7-8 figure range.

It's also worth noting that those players would not have felt as open to speak their peace even 5 years ago, because of the threat of losing their scholarships. But thanks to the growing sentiment that these players are less student and more employee, they can speak, because the NCAA is going to squash any attempt to punish them, because the last thing they want to do is to hand Jeff Kessler more ammo.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:30 AM on November 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


I had an interesting exchange a couple days ago on fb with a guy I was friends with in high school, when he posted a link to that Friedersdorf thing in the Atlantic. He (my friend) said that there should be robust debate; I asked him to consider that that was exactly what was happening at Yale. He said he agreed with the dorm master's email where she talked about students needing to challenge and be challenged by transgressive acts and speech; I asked him if he really thought students of color at Yale had arrived with no experience of "transgressive" acts of racism being aimed at them.

What he's posted since then have been the link in this post and the Who’s really demanding to be coddled on campus? Another friend of ours from high school who is now a history professor at UW (specialty: Civil War and Reconstruction) has been linking him good stuff, too.
posted by rtha at 8:30 AM on November 12, 2015 [11 favorites]


My best guess is that this college protesting will spread to many more colleges now that it is something of a virus, and is noted on social media a lot.
ah, memories (for me) of the 60s-70s protests,when I was with fellow faculty members held "hostage" by students, locked in our senate meeting, till it ended.
What will such protests achieve? What is being asked for?
posted by Postroad at 8:33 AM on November 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


The New Yorker article is full of zingy one liners on the topic - not a light hearted read, but humorous.

I'm glad my friends don't use the "free speech" defense, but I'm expecting both sides of my family to use that very tactic over the holidays. Thanks Eyebrows McGee for that line of questioning - maybe it'll open a couple eyes surround the dinner table at thanksgiving or Christmas?
posted by thebotanyofsouls at 8:37 AM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


marienbad: "one thing I would like to know is why this happens at US universities, and you rarely hear of anything like this at UK/European Universities? "

At least w/r/t European universities, US universities are a lot more residential. Students often live on campus, in college towns that revolve entirely around the university (rather than in great metropolises with a lot of different things going on) and the university is in charge of more or less every aspect of their lives, not *just* their classroom education. I lived in university housing, ate university food, went to university classes, worked a job affiliated with the university. In that kind of setting, even if you would LIKE to step away from people being racist assholes (or other sorts of assholes) rather than confronting them, you don't really have the option to do that because they are in your space 24/7.

There are wonderful things about the residential campus system, but there are also very difficult and exhausting things about it, and one of those difficult and exhausting things is that it's hard to escape disputes and they can escalate and become very emotional very quickly. And indeed, the right wing often targets college campuses for exactly this reason -- they know they have a captive audience and they know they'll get an emotional reaction. I think they learned the lesson from that guy who used to take out Holocaust denial ads in student papers and then file lawsuits about his free speech being violated if the papers didn't print his ads -- you literally could not avoid the dispute, and people get emotional when all day, every day they have to listen to other people denigrate them and try to make their home unsafe. For a very small outlay, that dude got an ENORMOUS amount of publicity and reaction and managed to keep his little hate-fest running for two decades on "but we have to tolerate free speech even if it's terrible, especially at colleges!" think pieces and on deliberately hurting Jewish students on campuses to get a reaction.

Then when TEENAGERS get emotional or overreact because you're subjecting them to a NON-STOP BARRAGE OF HATE in their home, workplace, and classroom, the ring-wing press can go crow about how coddled leftie elitist college students are. They're not wrong about free speech, but it's not the free speech they care about -- it's the bullying, and they're using it as a tool to bully, and to hurt children who live and work and learn on what are essentially company towns, who can't escape their bullying. It's super-shitty.

Anyway, residential campuses is one big difference. The right-wing's hate-on for higher education is another.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:38 AM on November 12, 2015 [24 favorites]


But when football players threaten to boycott games, the world comes to an end. I'm all for student activism, but that's a little fucked up.

I mean...this seems like a pretty great thing. It's a bunch of workers realizing the power they have to effect change and utilizing it. That's a pretty perfect example of using your leverage to create change.

What will such protests achieve? What is being asked for?

They want universities to proactively address racial injustice, to aggressively police racially motivated harassment, and to generally provide an actual safe space for black students. They also want UM to hire more black faculty and staff. They issued a list of what they wanted; pretty easily found with a few seconds of searching. Hopefully, they'll achieve that.
posted by protocoach at 8:42 AM on November 12, 2015 [23 favorites]


Nox: Well, that's sort of my point. Football is such a big industry and so much more important to the university than anything else that only when it is threatened does anyone stand up and take notice. I'm glad that the student-athletes stood up for what they believed in, and I am glad that it had effect; I just think it says something disturbing about the priorities of higher education when something that should be an adjunct to the mission of the university takes on such importance, when faculty voices (and often, non-athlete student voices) get ignored by administration. But, perhaps this is something of a derail.
posted by Saxon Kane at 8:43 AM on November 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


My best guess is that this college protesting will spread to many more colleges now that it is something of a virus, and is noted on social media a lot.
...
What will such protests achieve? What is being asked for?


You tell us. You're the one making them up.
posted by Etrigan at 8:44 AM on November 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


...Cobb misunderstands my motives, my body of work, and my article, which makes it doubly frustrating that he neglects to provide an outbound link to allow his readers to judge it for themselves..
Free Speech Is No Diversion
posted by y2karl at 8:54 AM on November 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


> My best guess is that this college protesting will spread to many more colleges now that it is something of a virus, and is noted on social media a lot.

Here's hoping!

In January, it will be 30 years (WHAT WHAT HOW DID THAT HAPPEN WHAT) since me a several hundred other students took over our college's administration building in response to an act of racist violence aimed at those of us protesting investment in apartheid-era South Africa. Lots of other students on other college campuses were doing similar things.

Many of us have been on social media in the last few days and weeks, posting and talking and asking why Kids These Days are still having to do what we did in response to acts of racist (and sexist, and and and) violence and how depressing it is that media outlets are still recycling the "PC run amok" articles that were bullshit garbage in 1986 and are still bullshit garbage.
posted by rtha at 8:59 AM on November 12, 2015 [13 favorites]


That New Yorker piece plays a dirty rhetorical trick, and some of the comments here are doing it too.

The trick is that it quietly lumps together the UM reporter incident with incidents of "free speech!" fights when the two aren't the same issue. In fact the reporter incident gets only part of one sentence ("the Missouri protesters’ daft media strategy of blockading reporters from a public demonstration") before the piece moves on to discuss other things, yet you're left with the impression that it's one and the same as the rest.

Yet the objections to the reporter incident are on entirely different grounds than the "free speech" incidents, and discussion of the two shouldn't be lumped together. It's disingenuous to do so.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:02 AM on November 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


I mean...this seems like a pretty great thing. It's a bunch of workers realizing the power they have to effect change and utilizing it. That's a pretty perfect example of using your leverage to create change.
Not to speak for the original poster, but as I read it the "fucked up" bit wasn't that the football players successfully used their power, but that they effectively had to since the faculty had none.
posted by ArmandoAkimbo at 9:04 AM on November 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Friersdorf's follow-up article suffers from the same defects as Kristof's. He writes:

The false premises underpinning [Cobb's] analysis exacerbate a persistent, counterproductive gulf between the majority of those struggling against racism in the United States, who believe that First Amendment protections, rigorous public discourse, and efforts to educate empowered, resilient young people are the surest ways to a more just future, and a much smaller group that subscribes to a strain of thought most popular on college campuses.

Members of this latter group may be less opposed to speech restrictions; rely more heavily on stigma, call-outs, and norm-shaping in their efforts to combat racism; purport to target “institutional" and “systemic” racism, but often insist on the urgency of policing racism that is neither systemic nor institutional, like Halloween costume choices; focus to an unusual degree on getting validation from administrators and others in positions of authority; and often seem unaware or unconvinced that others can and do share their ends while objecting to some of their means, the less rigorous parts of their jargon, and campus status-signaling. For this reason, they spend a lot of time misrepresenting and stigmatizing allies.


Aside from the super-vague charge that the activists Friersdorf is attacking "may be less opposed to speech restrictions," each of the supposedly out-of-bounds tactics Friersdorf lists is itself an exercise of free speech. Friersdorf is plainly trying to define acceptable free speech in a way that excludes "stigma, call-outs, and norm-shaping." But, thanks to our traditions of free speech, that's not his call.
posted by burden at 9:06 AM on November 12, 2015 [13 favorites]


Yet the objections to the reporter incident are on entirely different grounds than the "free speech" incidents, and discussion of the two shouldn't be lumped together. It's disingenuous to do so.

Except they are the same argument, just applied to a different First Amendment right (freedom of the press as opposed to freedom of speech). Did Tai have the legal right to be there? Sure. But that doesn't mean he gets to ignore a very fractured history between black protesters and the media, and how that history has lead the former to be wary of the latter.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:12 AM on November 12, 2015


When I was in college, Alberto Gonzales spoke on the in invitation of College Republicans, and the university had a "free speech zone" beyond which media and protesters were not allowed.

Yes, and that was routinely held up by liberals at the time as an example of how shitty the Bush Administration was.

1. Universities provide a kind of sandbox for experimenting with the way people interact with eachother and institutions.

And thats great, but it's not a magical exemption from laws or the Constitution, which grant the media free access.

2. The relationship between media and people of color, particularly during protests, is often exploitative.

Exploitative or not, the press has a right to be there and the protestors have no right to deny them. The desire to control the message is understandable, but it that desire doesn't confer you with new legal powers.

3. Universities and other institutions often limit media access.

Yes, and that's generally not considered a good thing. People, especially hereon MeFi, are generally for more media access, not less, when it comes to public institutions and events.

4 is just an insult and not worth responding to. It's disappointing that there's any support at all on MeFi for this terribly stupid act. The message seems to be "It's deplorable to restrain the media until it's done by someone we agree with".
posted by Sangermaine at 9:12 AM on November 12, 2015 [12 favorites]


But that doesn't mean he gets to ignore a very fractured history between black protesters and the media, and how that history has lead the former to be wary of the latter.

It literally does mean exactly that.

The First Amendment means reporters get to cover events no matter what those involved would want. Otherwise there would be no freedom of the press at all, if the subjects gets to pick and choose what gets covered and how. It would be the kind of fake PR news that corporations hand out that MeFi routinely decries.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:14 AM on November 12, 2015 [14 favorites]


The message seems to be "It's deplorable to restrain the media until it's done by someone we agree with".

No, the message is that despite their own internal mythos, the media is not the group of brave truth tellers that they think they are, and that many groups have good reason to be wary of them.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:16 AM on November 12, 2015 [15 favorites]


The First Amendment means reporters get to cover events no matter what those involved would want. Otherwise there would be no freedom of the press at all, if the subjects gets to pick and choose what gets covered and how. It would be the kind of fake PR news that corporations hand out that MeFi routinely decries.

Capacity, authorization, and justification are three very distinct concepts, and it would be nice if you would stop trying to conflate them. To paraphrase Ian Malcolm, just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:20 AM on November 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


"The media" is also not a monolith, and in the particular case in Columbia the photographer is also still a student. A freelancer for a national publication, sure, but that's because college athletics is all-encompassing in the way that the labor of students can be repurposed to make someone else money.
posted by rewil at 9:26 AM on November 12, 2015


No, the message is that despite their own internal mythos, the media is not the group of brave truth tellers that they think they are, and that many groups have good reason to be wary of them.

It's funny that this is exactly what conservatives say when railing about the mainstream media and trying to control the media narrative. We generally laugh at them for this.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:28 AM on November 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


You keep on digging that hole, Connor Friedersdorf.
Instead of empowering [students], [staff who support protesters] are indulging them, robbing them of resilience they’ll need to navigate society as adults. Does Cobb disagree? Is he not concerned by those reactions? Does he agree with the notion that Yale students would be better off personally and more effective advocates of social justice if they started acting more like adults?
There's this weird tension in all the p.c. think pieces where college students are simultaneously adults entirely capable of autonomous thought and speech and children whose emotional reactions need to be carefully policed, whose tantrums need to be quieted as you would for a toddler. These can't both be true at once.
posted by ActionPopulated at 9:29 AM on November 12, 2015 [10 favorites]


Capacity, authorization, and justification are three very distinct concepts, and it would be nice if you would stop trying to conflate them. To paraphrase Ian Malcolm, just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.

How is that conflation? I don't read any "should" there, just "can." As in, subjects don't get to restrict what can be covered. The "should" part would presumably be up to reporters, as long as they're not restricted from being able to make that choice.
posted by knuckle tattoos at 9:30 AM on November 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


And thats great, but it's not a magical exemption from laws or the Constitution, which grant the media free access.

I don't recall anything in the Constitution saying this. There is a prohibition on Congress (and by incorporation, state and local governments) abridging the freedom of the press. I don't think it imposes any obligations on non-government actors. And I'm not familiar with Missouri law, but I'm pretty sure that no unfettered right to "free access" is recognized in it.

As a matter of practical reality, reporters can't just go wherever they want, whenever they want, even when the spaces they want to go are public. For instance, reporters aren't typically allowed into meetings between public university presidents and their advisers, even when those meetings are held on public property. They aren't necessarily allowed to wander around backstage at music festivals held in public parks. They sure aren't usually allowed to mingle with cops in riot gear while they're blocking off a public street, or to walk all over a crime scene while it's being investigated. I'm not saying the MU protesters were right to try to exclude this photographer from their meeting, but there is no bright-line rule saying that if something is happening in public space, reporters have unfettered access to it. The extent of such access is a contested issue, and I think very dependent on circumstances.
posted by burden at 9:33 AM on November 12, 2015 [12 favorites]


It's funny that this is exactly what conservatives say when railing about the mainstream media and trying to control the media narrative. We generally laugh at them for this.

We do so because in the vast majority of the cases, it's someone of power complaining about the press airing their dirty laundry. But as Cobb succinctly put it:
The freedom to offend the powerful is not equivalent to the freedom to bully the relatively disempowered. The enlightenment principles that undergird free speech also prescribed that the natural limits of one’s liberty lie at the precise point at which it begins to impose upon the liberty of another.

This is just as applicable to freedom of the press.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:34 AM on November 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Jon Chait, Can We Take Political Correctness Seriously Now?
The upsurge of political correctness is not just greasy-kid stuff, and it’s not just a bunch of weird, unfortunate events that somehow keep happening over and over. It’s the expression of a political culture with consistent norms, and philosophical premises that happen to be incompatible with liberalism. The reason every Marxist government in the history of the world turned massively repressive is not because they all had the misfortune of being hijacked by murderous thugs. It’s that the ideology itself prioritizes class justice over individual rights and makes no allowance for legitimate disagreement. (For those inclined to defend p.c. on the grounds that racism and sexism are important, bear in mind that the forms of repression Marxist government set out to eradicate were hardly imaginary.)
Henry Farrell, Beware The Commissars Of Political Correctness!
I actually quite like Jonathan Chait’s work – he’s mostly very competent at a certain kind of centrist trolling. But the tune he’s whistling is getting a little boring. Today, he asks whether we can take political correctness seriously now, and provides his own answer to his own rhetorical question: Yes – And We Must Do It Before It Is Too Late.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:37 AM on November 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's funny that this is exactly what conservatives say when railing about the mainstream media and trying to control the media narrative. We generally laugh at them for this.

We laugh at them because (1) the media is conservative, in that the people with the power in the media (e.g., owners and editors) are in fact conservative; and (2) because those conservatives are largely part of the power structures that minority groups have very good reason to be afraid of. It's not because the idea itself is wrong on the face of it.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:38 AM on November 12, 2015 [10 favorites]


> Jon Chait, Can We Take Political Correctness Seriously Now?

Oh my god where does he keep getting the shovels. Dude, stop it.
posted by rtha at 9:38 AM on November 12, 2015 [16 favorites]


I'm not a big fan of Strauss-Howe generational theory, but the core conceit as I understand it: that groups of people have viewpoints shaped by shared experiences at a young age, seems applicable here. These students were born between 1993 and 1997, mostly. The core experience would be 9/11, the run up to wars and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the housing bubble and collapse, the Great Recession.

They have never seen a media environment that was "on their side." (right, snake people?) They have overwhelmingly heard "Free speech!" used as a justification for power, and other face, the abrogation of free speech, as the exercise of power. I am not surprised that they do not hold "free speech!" in the high regard that other, older people, do, or that they attempt to exercise power in the way that has been modeled for them.

ALSO:
In response to recent unrest at the University of Missouri, at Yale University and in South Africa, undergraduate and graduate students voiced their concerns about race relations on Emory’s campus.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:43 AM on November 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


Mod note: Couple of comments deleted. Regarding "keeping press out of protest camp" vs "keeping press out of government", people have given reasons why the situations are different, please don't just keep going around the "but they're the same" thing without addressing the actual things people have already said.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:44 AM on November 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


Mod note: One comment deleted. Don't just drop in to slag the article and the people in the thread.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:54 AM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


The telling thing for me about anti-PC rants is that they often fall back on this trope: It’s the expression of a political culture with consistent norms.

On the sarcastic side I think "Whelp, they've clearly never read MetaTalk." which is the hold myself until it passes way that I recognize they are simply conflating that everyone who disagrees with them is the same in their being disagreeing and so must all be the same.
posted by meinvt at 9:57 AM on November 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


overheard on Twitter: "Jonathan Chait and Conor Friedersdorf: the Batman and Robin of white fragility."
posted by AceRock at 10:06 AM on November 12, 2015 [13 favorites]


the man of twists and turns: "Jon Chait, Can We Take Political Correctness Seriously Now?"

Well certainly not now that you're in the conversation, Chait.

I'm not big on lefties infighting our way to destruction or electoral failure, but Jon Chait talking about political correctness is the one thing that would make me SIGN RIGHT UP for the circular firing squad.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:08 AM on November 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


I was incredibly lucky and saw Ta-Nehisi Coates speak at my campus on Tuesday. Someone asked him his thoughts about the media/protestor conflict and he said something along the lines of, 'Look - I'm a reporter and I believe freedom of the press is fundamental. But when I was a college student learning about protest and activism, I got overzealous - and college is a good place to practice these sorts of things and figure out what is overstepping the bounds and what isn't.'

This answer seems to be incomplete, given that one of the most notorious episodes from the confrontation was the action of a professor, rather than a student, calling for "muscle" to drive a reported away from the protest. Also, if Coates thinks students can use these sorts of things to figure out what is overstepping the bounds and what isn't, he could help the process by explaining whether he thinks this was overstepping the bounds and explaining why or why not.

Aside from the super-vague charge that the activists Friersdorf is attacking "may be less opposed to speech restrictions," each of the supposedly out-of-bounds tactics Friersdorf lists is itself an exercise of free speech. Friersdorf is plainly trying to define acceptable free speech in a way that excludes "stigma, call-outs, and norm-shaping." But, thanks to our traditions of free speech, that's not his call.

Friersdorf's argument doesn't seem to be that the tactics he criticizes shouldn't be permitted but whether they are effective; he contrasts them with a rigorous defense of First Amendment principles and other efforts, which be believes are the surest ways to a more just future.

Also, aren't you building for yourself the kind of double-bind you describe in Friesdorf and Kristof? If you are defending the premise the discussions of free speech are diversions from genuinely important issues, can you do that by whether the writers criticized are truly supporting free speech?
posted by layceepee at 10:12 AM on November 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


(that wasn't the only thing he said, and it's my incomplete recollection of it, so I wouldn't be upset with him based on my account)
posted by ChuraChura at 10:19 AM on November 12, 2015


Also, aren't you building for yourself the kind of double-bind you describe in Friesdorf and Kristof? If you are defending the premise the discussions of free speech are diversions from genuinely important issues, can you do that by whether the writers criticized are truly supporting free speech?

Probably. I should have left that last line out. I think that resolving these questions is not really aided by appealing to abstract notions of free speech, so I shouldn't have said that.
posted by burden at 10:22 AM on November 12, 2015


When somebody says "I hate Political Correctness", I respond, "Me too, assuming you mean that insistence that we ignore a history of racism, misogyny and economic hegemony and protect the status quo and 'keep things peaceful' Because it's the bigots and assholes who hate the First Amendment because it allows other people to tell them the truth."
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:22 AM on November 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Friersdorf's argument doesn't seem to be that the tactics he criticizes shouldn't be permitted but whether they are effective; he contrasts them with a rigorous defense of First Amendment principles and other efforts, which be believes are the surest ways to a more just future.

Except we wouldn't be having this discussion if they weren't effective. And the simple reality is that the First Amendment is far from the the full reality of what free speech actually means in reality.

Also, aren't you building for yourself the kind of double-bind you describe in Friesdorf and Kristof? If you are defending the premise the discussions of free speech are diversions from genuinely important issues, can you do that by whether the writers criticized are truly supporting free speech?

Yes, because again, there's more to free speech than the First Amendment. If people tell Conor that his ideas are awful after he states them, that's free speech, not censorship.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:26 AM on November 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Not to give Fridersdorf too much air-time, but in his rebuttal to Cobb, he says:
It is with painful awareness of racism’s persistence, not ignorance or apathy or a desire to divert attention from it, that I reaffirm a belief that resilience is among the most valuable things anyone can learn in an institution of higher education. I may be wrong that students are being robbed of resilience and disempowered by mistaken ideological assumptions, as I’ve argued in recent articles. But right or not, my position is not a distraction from the matter of their well-being. It is my notion of how young people might best secure it, and to frame it otherwise is the diversion.
I'm sure he is sincere in this belief (though I doubt that racism's persistence is particularly "painful" for him), but it strikes me as incredibly condescending that he thinks students of color and other marginalized students need to develop more resilience than they've already displayed by making it this far already.
posted by AceRock at 10:52 AM on November 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


Except we wouldn't be having this discussion if they weren't effective.

The tactics Friersdorf criticizes are: speech restrictions; stigma, call-outs, and norm-shaping to combat racism; insistence on the urgency of policing racism that is neither systemic nor institutional; focus on getting validation people in positions of authority; and and misrepresenting and stigmatizing allies.

Are these the tactics you are describing as effective? I could understand the argument that Friersdorf is mischaracterizing the efforts of the people he's opposed to and agree with burden's point that if you truly support free expression, you have to admit that people have the right to do these things. But it's hard for me to believe that they are actually an effective way to get to a more just future.
posted by layceepee at 10:53 AM on November 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Speech restrictions: As this very website demonstrates, saying that certain topics and lines of inquiry are off limits encourages people who are marginalized to speak up, encouraging a greater diversity of speech.

Stigma, call-outs, and norm-shaping to combat racism: This is how the marketplace of ideas works - shifting norms of what is acceptable, and calling out what should not be.

Insistence on the urgency of policing racism that is neither systemic nor institutional: Except that the example he gives (offensive costumes) is very much both.

Focus on getting validation people in positions of authority: Turns out that getting support from existing power structures does help a lot in fighting bigotry.

Misrepresenting and stigmatizing allies: Unfortunately for Conor, allyship is something that is demonstrated, not asserted. Groups have the right to determine for themselves if people are their allies or not, as well as the right to their own opinion on the matter.

As for free expression, nobody is taking that away. You have the right to make a fool of yourself same as always. Chu nailed the attitude on the head in his piece:

No one at Yale was having their “right” to wear blackface taken away. They were having their “right” to wear blackface and not be made to feel uncomfortable about it by being scolded by members of the community taken away. Just as, in past years when blackface was culturally normal, black people were having their “right” to not be made to feel uncomfortable by being constantly mocked and degraded taken away.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:28 AM on November 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


Are these the tactics you are describing as effective?

My golden rule is, if I'm not the one with skin in the fight, I'm not the one who gets to dictate the tactics. Firstly, it's too easy to mischaracterize them. Secondly, it's too easy to assume what the end game is and be wrong. Thirdly, I usually don't have enough experience with this particular fight to know which tactics work and which don't.
posted by maxsparber at 11:30 AM on November 12, 2015 [18 favorites]


Mod note: One comment deleted. jfuller, please just skip this thread.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:59 AM on November 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


NoxAeternum, it sounds like you are at the same time supporting speech restrictions and asserting that nobody is taking away the right to free expression.

For several of the other tactics in question (systematic and institutional racism; stigmatizing allies), your seem argument seems to be that Friesdorf's characterizations are inaccurate, That's not the same thing as claiming they are effective, which is what you did initially.
posted by layceepee at 1:00 PM on November 12, 2015


NoxAeternum, it sounds like you are at the same time supporting speech restrictions and asserting that nobody is taking away the right to free expression.

So, do you feel like your right to free expression is limited here? Because I really don't feel it. Actually, because the moderators squelch abuse, I feel like I can be more open, because I don't feel like saying something is going to open me to personal abuse here.

That's the problem with trying to rule lawyer free speech and free expression - it's not that clean. The case of the heckler's veto is illustrative in this regard.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:09 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm trying to follow the "if you don't have anything useful to say, don't say anything" axiom, so in brief, I thought this article was a great leaping off point for a conversation on this topic and, in my own experience, open conversation is stifled in a hostile environment.

Basically, just because we have the right to be assholes or racists doesn't mean we should view the qualities of asshole-ness or racism as valuable and worthwhile. Pointing out bad behavior is not in and of itself bad behavior. Its all right to be made to feel bad about something that you're doing that's hurting people and hopefully that can be a leaping off point for treating people better.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:13 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love the idea that "norm-shaping" should be out of bounds, particularly since describing norm-shaping as out of bounds is, itself, norm-shaping.

But the whole "the thing you're saying is the thing itself!" turnabout is the essence of the "criticizing me isn't free speech!", so it fits right in.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:20 PM on November 12, 2015 [12 favorites]


Maybe the College Kids Should Destroy College? 

To focus so much scrutiny on the little events—students screaming at professors, professors screaming at students—is to miss the most broad question raised by the kids driving these sorts of clashes: What if we just did college differently? Friedersdorf alleges that the students at Yale who don’t want to engage in further debate about Halloween costumes are anti-liberal, but his column is inherently regressive—it is essentially a very longwinded argument in favor of the status quo. Friedersdorf thinks of colleges in the grand tradition of incubators of thought, and implicitly argues that there’s no real reason to change how they operate or their reason for existence.

But this characterization of colleges is idealist. It’s something out of a movie. An imagined utopia of 40 years ago. What exactly is so important about Yale that the school isn’t worth breaking? Plenty of great and smart people who have immeasurably improved our lives on Earth have passed through Yale—or any Ivy—but so too have some of the literal worst people alive. John Yoo went to Yale. Dick Cheney went to Yale. George W. Bush went to Yale, lmao. The entire investment banking industry, which exists to cheat this country and its people out of their money, inhales graduates of Ivy League schools. If the elite institutions that shaped these people—both the aerospace engineers and the robber barons—were suddenly turned on their heads, what exactly would happen? Are we sure the world would be worse off? How bad could it be if we tried to find out?

posted by NoxAeternum at 2:36 PM on November 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


So, do you feel like your right to free expression is limited here?

Yes, I do. Beyond my personal feelings, I don't understand how you can have speech restrictions without free expression limitations unless you are seeing some distinction between restrictions and limitations that escapes me. How do you restrict something without limiting it?

I do understand your point that by limiting the speech of some you facilitate the speech of others, and I think there could be reasonable differences and fruitful discussion about whether that was a good idea. But I don't understand what you mean by saying speech has been restricted but free expression has not been limited.
posted by layceepee at 2:36 PM on November 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


The way I see it, the only way you really can make the argument that free expression is limited is by taking an incredibly literal view of the argument. In which case, yes in a very strict, literal reading restrictions do restrain absolute free expression.

But at that point, I think the point has been lost (and you're now just looking for details to point out. I don't see how, in a more realistic sense, being told to be aware of others is a real block on free expression. As many of the commentators have pointed out, Conor seems to be wanting to not really shake up the status quo - after all, he's closer to the top than the bottom in it.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:46 PM on November 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't see how, in a more realistic sense, being told to be aware of others is a real block on free expression.

I didn't say that being told to be aware of others is a real block free expression. I said that speech restrictions are limitations to free expression. I don't think being told to be aware of others is a restriction on free expression, literally or otherwise.

It's interesting to me that you seem to claim, in the name of free expression, the very thing that Chu pointed out it was unreasonable for Halloweeners dressed in blackface to expect. They were having their “right” to wear blackface and not be made to feel uncomfortable about it by being scolded by members of the community taken away. In other words, by wearing blackface, they were opening themselves up to the possiblity of being personally abused based on the exercise of their free speech. And that's exactly how it should be.

And what you applaud in the restriction in speech on Metafilter is that your freeedom of expression is facilitated because when the moderators squelch abuse, I feel like I can be more open, because I don't feel like saying something is going to open me to personal abuse here. The difference, of course, is that your speech (as far as I know) is "good speech" while the expression of Yalies in blackface is "bad speech."
posted by layceepee at 3:25 PM on November 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


There is a vast chasm between criticism and abuse. Being made to feel uncomfortable because someone points out that your actions are racist is a far cry from someone spouting hateful slurs in response to someone else's statement. And frankly, considering the history, blackface falls more towards the latter.

Besides, the moderators here are more than willing to hand you enough rope to hang yourself with. There's been more than enough examples of someone espousing in a moderate tone ideas that everyone else finds shocking, and having those ideas dissected by other users.
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:38 PM on November 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Why, in your second paragraph, are you equating "being scolded" with "being personally abused?" Do you think those are the same thing, or are you equivocating using this false equivalence for another reason? (Edit: That was for layceepee and on review NoxAeternum covered it too. And on second-guessing myself and looking it up, "equivocation" was the wrong word here.)
posted by valrus at 3:39 PM on November 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


Why, in your second paragraph, are you equating "being scolded" with "being personally abused?"

I guess because I thought if someone were personally abused for wearing blackface on Halloween, that would be fine.
posted by layceepee at 3:47 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


So maybe I'm mistaken, but isn 't this thread now basically an example of what the FPP describes as a self-serving deflection from the core themes of themes of racial obtuseness, arthritic institutional responses to it, and the feeling, among students of color, that they are tenants rather than stakeholders in their universities?
posted by five fresh fish at 4:02 PM on November 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


Maybe, but that's kind of an, "If you disagree with me I win the argument," sort of construction.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:04 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I guess, though I'm not sure what argument I'd be "winning".
posted by five fresh fish at 4:08 PM on November 12, 2015


Sorry, what I meant to say is that if people arguing against the article is evidence that the article is correct than the article becomes basically unfalsifiable.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:15 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Gotcha.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:17 PM on November 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


ActionPopulated: "I am loving the current wave of take-downs of "p.c. culture" thinkpieces so much."

And, here is one more: Virginia Pasley: "On Campus Racism And The Fairy Tale Of The P.C. Police" in NPR CodeSwitch.

On the daily stress POC experience: "Duara's experiences wouldn't make for satisfying soundbites. "Most of it's quieter. How do you know it's racism then, my friend asked, and not just somebody having a bad day?" he wrote. "And that's the thing of it. You don't. You never do. It'll drive you absolutely crazy."

And, "Maybe we should worry more about the students who seem hell-bent on doing whatever they'd like, history or context or plain old manners be damned. Instead of worrying about the students who point out violent threats on Yik Yak, worry about the students making threats."

Can the reporting and punditry start to move even slightly away from support of the status quo? Not enough, and not quickly enough. But maybe at least some small amount. OTOH, this is in "CodeSwitch."
posted by Gotanda at 4:18 PM on November 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


BTW, that was an "I understand" not a "pulled one over on you", DD.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:32 PM on November 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Gotcha.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:48 PM on November 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


Claudia Rankine on white blindness:
Well, I think there is such anxiety in the white imagination around feeling guilt, implicated -- whatever. The refusal is in the looking. And whiteness is not used to looking at itself as invested in certain norms in order to keep a certain positioning. That's part of the culture. You can't blame individuals because inasmuch as there is systemic racism there is systemic white privilege and the white privileging. In other words, you're not even white, you're just "normal" -- and you're just a "normal" human being -- and [so] how you think or feel is actually where the level playing-field begins. So I think white people tend to believe that: Oh if I say, 'I don't think about race' that must be true, because, I'm normal. I'm the norm. And yet they are making decisions based on race all the time.
posted by AceRock at 6:53 PM on November 12, 2015 [5 favorites]




It's good to see these articles written by faculty who have a clue, who are utilizing their privileged position to speak out, explain, and inform. I only wish there were a video version, maybe made by students, because the low-information majority on media sites like reddit don't read these things, yet stand to benefit so much from learning about it. A video would be an effective way to spread this kind of knowledge, perform outreach, clarify misconceptions, etc.
posted by polymodus at 1:09 AM on November 13, 2015


"Political correctness" is the voice in the racist's head which tells them people will be angry if they say racist things.

Nobody actually wants "political correctness", they want racists to stop being racists.
posted by beerbajay at 1:17 AM on November 13, 2015 [2 favorites]




I guess because I thought if someone were personally abused for wearing blackface on Halloween, that would be fine.

No, abuse is never okay. As many people have pointed out, the students who spat on people were absolutely in the wrong. But on the same token, criticism is far from abuse. Having your actions called out is a legitimate form of criticism.

As I said before, there's a certain strain of individual who feels that it is a greater wrong to call out bigoted speech than it is to say it. For example, Friersdorf wrote this piece in response to the rather rapey banners at Old Dominion, arguing that, once again, the response to them was "disproportionate". The sense one gets from these pieces is that Friersdorf wants to be considered an ally, yet expects that his questionable speech won't be called out. But now he and other critics like him are getting called out, having it pointed out that allyship is not declared, but demonstrated, and it's hitting them where it counts - in the ego. Hence the whining about "mischaracterization", which boils down to "how dare you have your own opinion about my actions, instead of agreeing with my interpretation!"
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:33 AM on November 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


People on this first amendment derail act like they never had to walk around a group of people in a park. "I have the right to walk through the middle of this soccer game, this is everyones park!". You got a right to, That means no one will arrest your for it. You are still an asshole.
posted by subtle_squid at 7:38 AM on November 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


Oh great, Dawkins has weighed in.
posted by Artw at 8:41 AM on November 13, 2015


No, abuse is never okay. As many people have pointed out, the students who spat on people were absolutely in the wrong. But on the same token, criticism is far from abuse. Having your actions called out is a legitimate form of criticism.

In that case, would you say it would be reasonable for people to criticize someone who wore blackface for Halloween, but you would be in favor of speech restrictions that would prohibit anyone from making comments that were personally abusive in response to such a costume?
posted by layceepee at 9:10 AM on November 13, 2015


but you would be in favor of speech restrictions that would prohibit anyone from making comments that were personally abusive in response to such a costume?

Why are we asking about hypotheticals here?
posted by maxsparber at 9:24 AM on November 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Where/when did the spitting thing happen? Is this documented, or is it another spitting on returning Vietnam Vets thing?
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:48 AM on November 13, 2015


Whether or not it happened, it patently turns the discussion from the real subject -- racism -- to a non-subject, in this case rudeness or some nebulous threat to freedom of speech.
posted by maxsparber at 10:55 AM on November 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


And what I think is happening this time is that there is serious pushback against the usual "freeze peach" crowd. In the past, they've managed to turn their argument into a rhetorical high ground, using their assertions about free speech as a bulwark to protect their "PC run amok" pieces. But this time, there have been a number of adroit thinkers who have been able to dissect their arguments and illustrate that their assertions about free speech were really nothing more than a privileged defense of the status quo.

And it seems that this crowd really isn't liking who they are in the cold light of day.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:37 AM on November 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Saxon Kane: "Where/when did the spitting thing happen? Is this documented, or is it another spitting on returning Vietnam Vets thing?"

I was wondering this too, especially since Friedersdorf refers to the claims that the SAE frat party was turning away non-white women from their party as "alleged". However, according to the Yale Daily News article that he quotes, one of the protest organizers basically confirmed the spitting:
Mitchell Rose Bear Don’t Walk ’16, a Native American student and one of the leaders of the protest, said she has spoken to the fellow who said he was spat on. She emphasized that spitting is “disgraceful” and not the message the protestors were looking to convey, but she confirmed that it did happen.

“The spitting happened,” she told the News Sunday night. “Our movement is founded in the idea that all people’s voices should be heard. We cannot maintain the integrity of this message whilst questioning or silencing other accounts.”
Whereas the frat maintains that theye were only turning away people without Yale IDs, not minorities, despite what a couple of (several?) African American women have contended.
posted by mhum at 12:16 PM on November 13, 2015


I have to agree with the lede here:

A good rule of thumb for processing this unexpected, long-time-coming season of college students protesting the white bias built into the mainstream American university system: anyone who takes anti-racism protestors as more troubling than the racism they’re protesting probably has quite a bit of personal investment in racism—subconscious or not.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:14 PM on November 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


At Amherst they are now explicitly protesting free speech, specifically calling for the discipline of someone making "Free Speech" posters regarding the Missouri photography incident.

Also they are asking for official permission to walk out of class, which is just pathetic.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 1:38 PM on November 13, 2015


An example of the Free Speech Diversion, from a book published in 1960:
A mural depicting an early-day Charleston port scene, with Negro slaves at work about the South Carolina port, was ordered removed from an army cafeteria in Washington in March of 1954. Maj. Gen. L. K. Hastings, the quartermaster general, ordered the mural cut out because he was convinced that the painting was a potential powder keg which could increase racial tension. A number of Negroes at the installation thought the mural inoffensive, but others complained that it had prompted white workers to make derogatory remarks about Negroes.

Then, as would be expected, the District of Columbia unit of the NAACP urged removal of the mural because the slave picture reflects on race and color of Negroes, thus encouraging anti-Negro sentiment. At first blush, this business of commercial, literary, and musical censorship seems only the foolish petulance of a hyper-sensitive and inferiority-complexioned racial group which is chagrined over its own characteristic color. On second look, the practice begins to take on a more ominous outlook, something in the nature of the distortions so terrifyingly portrayed in George Orwell’s book Nineteen Eighty-Four.
posted by AceRock at 1:46 PM on November 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


At Amherst they are now explicitly protesting free speech, specifically calling for the discipline of someone making "Free Speech" posters regarding the Missouri photography incident.

Except that is not what they are doing. What they are doing is protesting the use of "free speech" as a cudgel to defend the status quo:

President Martin must issue a statement to the Amherst College community at large that states we do not tolerate the actions of student(s) who posted the “All Lives Matter” posters, and the “Free Speech” posters that stated that “in memoriam of the true victim of the Missouri Protests: Free Speech.”
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:06 PM on November 13, 2015


Nah, at Amherst, they're explicitly protesting the putting up of trollish posters proclaiming that the Mizzou protesters killed free speech, and attacking the concept of safe spaces. They're calling on (via free speech) the campus leadership to decry them (more free speech), and advise the people who put them up that if someone files a complaint (which would plainly constitute free speech), that they may be subject to college discipline (an exercise of the right of free association) that might require them to attend sensitivity training (also an exercise of the right of free association, also, the horror!)
posted by burden at 2:07 PM on November 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


That last comment confused me because I was thinking of "assembly" instead of "association." I learned pretty much nothing about freedom of association in school.

So now I have to go read a book! Thanks for nothing! /s
posted by knuckle tattoos at 3:35 PM on November 14, 2015




Typically trenchant piece by Lindy West who is now being swarmed by dipshits whose ability to parse her article stops at having read 1984 back in high school.
posted by maxsparber at 1:52 PM on November 16, 2015


And now we're getting handwringing pieces about how calling out "free speech" advocates is enabling conservatives, like this one from Slate. What really makes me shake my head is how absolutely clueless the arguments come across as:

From this admittedly privileged position, the email seemed like yet another example of PC sanctimony, the kind that gives us lists of politically inappropriate Halloween costumes that include the dentist who killed Cecil the lion (“perhaps take a pass when it comes to costumes inspired by recent painful events”) and sexy nurse (“let’s not objectify a serious career”).

Except that the "sexy nurse costume" complaint is a very serious point about issues of objectification of a primarily female profession! Which illustrates the point - if you want people to take free speech seriously, stop using it as a club to beat down opinions you don't like!
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:27 AM on November 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


And Friersdorf continues his rectocranial inversion with his latest load of tripe, where he claims that the Yale protestors are being denied "constructive criticism".

Someone needs to take the shovel away from him at this point, because he's not going to get rid of it on his own.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:23 AM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


In apparently response to Friersdorf, a Yale student proudly proclaims "FUCK BRIAN!":
"So why was it that this Tuesday my voice was silenced? Why was it that when I tried to speak my mind by swearing at Brian for the entirety of an Organic Chemistry lecture, I was told by my TA, a representative of this university, “Maybe you could not say that, because it is entirely irrelevant to our discussion of the Robinson Annulation, and it also made Brian feel threatened”? Excuse me? Why are we coddling Brian by not allowing his education to be disrupted for fifty minutes as I repeatedly yell “FUCK BRIAN” while standing on a table and waving my hands in the air?"
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:58 AM on November 18, 2015 [7 favorites]


Are the posters that the Amherst students are protesting really offensive enough to require sensitivity training? I disagree with #alllivesmatter, but I'm not sure that I think someone who advocates that position should be required to attend some sort of formal reeducation.
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:29 PM on November 18, 2015


That is what I believe to be intolerant: a refusal to agree to disagree, however passionately and impolitely; a rejection of the notion that earnest differences held by people of good faith are not cause for punishment, even if they are mistaken, or unwittingly insensitive, or give offense; a stance that amounts to "error has no rights."

...Without this kind of criticism, the activists err more than they otherwise would. And they will keep garnering unusually intense opposition from people who dissent from their ideology so long as they insist that dissenters should be punished. If they abandon that premise, persuading the public to support their cause becomes a whole lot easier.
... from the article NoxAeternuum links.

Friedersdorf seems to have especially gotten on everyone's radar by writing in emotional reaction to the video of Tim Tai's interaction with the protestor's at Missouri over whether he could a safe space.

I have yet to see it but from the transcript he gave was harrowing. But, then again, it was one person interacting with a group of people involved with a righteous cause. And the thing about groups against one in real life is that, in the case of a group, you seem to have to average the intelligence of the people there and then divide that sum by the number of people present. But what people see seems to be dependent on whether they find themselves rooting for the underdog or their shared cause.

While I am of no fixed opinion in regards to what he writes, say what you will about Friedersdorf, he does try to sincerely engage with the people who write to disagree with him and quotes them at length in his articles.

On the latter, so far, that is something not often reciprocated by his critics.

To his mind, he is trying to respectfully disagree. As to whether anyone on any side in these attempts at dialogue are truly listening to each other is another thing entirely. So far, it seems to be a comedy of straw manners.

Except it is not so much a comedy as a tragedy.

And yet. What comes to mind is La Rochefuoucauld's maxim The judgements our enemies make about us come nearer to the truth than those we make about ourselves.
posted by y2karl at 2:52 PM on November 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Here's the thing - there is no way to "respectfully disagree" with the idea that dressing in blackface is horrendously offensive, tonedeaf and more than a little racist, and all in all a dick move. It's just not possible.

Or that a banner hung outside a fraternity house during freshman induction saying "fathers drop off your daughters here (and hey, why not your wives while you're at it)" is creepy, more than a little rapey, and trivializes the massive problems with sexual assault on college campuses.

Or that a prominent feminist saying that she doesn't consider transgender women to be women is a transphobic bigot whose sentiment encourages an atmosphere of violence towards transgender individuals.

You can't "respectfully disagree", because the act of disagreement is inherently disrespectful.

And that is the point that Friersdorf continually misses. He wants to be able to disagree with such positions, but not suffer any repercussion for doing so. But that's not the way things work. He has the complete freedom to agree and disagree with whatever stances he wants - he just needs to accept that some disagreements will show him to be agreeing to racist, sexist, or other offensive positions. And he needs to accept that will color how other people see him.
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:43 PM on November 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


When there's nobody using the power of society to argue that you aren't really a person, it's easy to think "you're not really a person" is just one position of many which can be debated without consequence.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:57 PM on November 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sorry, what? Friersdorf is saying blackface isn't offensive? I rather think you are completely misrepresenting his argument. Gonna have to ask for citations on those claims.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:00 PM on November 18, 2015


This is taken from his rebuttal to Cobb, as was pointed out earlier in the thread:

It is with painful awareness of racism’s persistence, not ignorance or apathy or a desire to divert attention from it, that I reaffirm a belief that resilience is among the most valuable things anyone can learn in an institution of higher education.

I also recommend you read his response to the Old Dominion protesters from earlier this year (which I had linked to earlier), where he called the outcry over the quite rapey banners an overreaction over crude speech.

So no, I don't think I'm misrepresenting his argument at all. He might consider it being offensive in the academic sense, but never to the point that the person making such statements should actually face any sort of opprobrium.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:33 PM on November 18, 2015


Ross Douthat: A crisis our universities deserve - "Colleges have encouraged political correctness. Yet, they have also exploited their students."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:05 PM on November 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Or as the great Walter Sobchak might have put it: “Say what you want about the tenets of political correctness, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.”

"You're wrong, Walter Ross, and you're an asshole."

Old Ross has found quite a stable gig as the go-to destination for laundering Jonah Goldberg-quality opinion and analysis of liberalism, but this piece might be a new low, even for him. On his way to the thinly-veiled PC SJWs = Nazis comparison, he blames political correctness for campus rape and the exploitation of student athletes.

Yes, of course he plays the obligatory shell game where the university administration is just using the PC SJWs as pawns (de Boer uses the same gambit), but the obvious implication is that today's so-called radicals who dare to object to bigotry on campus are part of the reason universities have gotten away with this exploitation. By painting protesters as useful idiots being propped up by the universities, Douthat and his fellow travelers turn the very real problems with university life into creations of the dreaded University-Protester Industrial Complex, enemies of the free exchange of ideas that supposedly existed at one time on college campuses (at least for the classes of people Douthat and friends care about.)
posted by tonycpsu at 8:56 AM on November 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


When Free Speech Becomes a Political Weapon
Consider the structure of the events at Yale. After the Intercultural Affairs Committee sent its original email, Erika Christakis opposed it — not merely its content, but the very act of their issuing it. The students then opposed her opposition — alleging that she ought not to have spoken as she did, given her position as associate master of Silliman College. And many pundits have, in turn, opposed their opposition — holding that the students ought not to be protesting thus. So far, so similar; these speech acts are on a par not only constitutionally, but also insofar as each opposes the one aforementioned.

Given these symmetries, why the markedly different reactions? Part of it is that, when people lower down in social and institutional hierarchies criticize the speech acts of those higher up, it often reads as insubordination, defiance, or insolence. When things go the other way, it tends to read as business as usual.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:43 PM on December 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Erika Christakis has announced that that she intends to resign from teaching at Yale. Her husband has also announced that he will take a semester sabbatical.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:02 PM on December 7, 2015


Christakis became "hesitant" and "distracted" after the protests. Pretty hard to feel safe on campus after the spittle-flecked hate and bullying we saw in the videos. And thus Yale loses a pair of damn fine teachers whose courses were so popular they had to add extra classes.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:36 PM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Pretty hard to feel safe on campus after the spittle-flecked hate and bullying we saw in the videos.

Then perhaps she can now understand how many minorities feel in a society that does its level best to remind them of exactly where they stand.

And thus Yale loses a pair of damn fine teachers whose courses were so popular they had to add extra classes.

Nobody had a problem with them teaching. They just thought they shouldn't be involved in creating safe living spaces for students.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:53 PM on December 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Pretty hard to feel safe on campus after the spittle-flecked hate and bullying we saw in the videos.

It must suck to be vilified for something one actually did.
posted by Etrigan at 9:01 PM on December 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


Nobody had a problem with them teaching.

Protesting students demanded their dismissal.

They just thought they shouldn't be involved in creating safe living spaces for students.

Students helped select Christakis as Master of Silliman.

It must suck to be vilified for something one actually did.

Neither Christakis engaged in bullying or hate.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:31 PM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Protesting students demanded their dismissal.

As masters of the residential house, not as professors.

Students helped select Christakis as Master of Silliman.

And then changed their mind after the two showed that they had little concern for making sure all the students within the house felt safe and welcome.

Neither Christakis engaged in bullying or hate.

Bullshit.

Saying that the college sending out a message to remind students that racially offensive costumes would, you know, offend other students and that the school would really appreciate it if students would refrain from being dicks to one another was a horrible attack on free speech was very much a form of bullying. It's a genteel sort, a way to say that minorities are only tolerated as long as they abide by standards of the majority, but it is bullying. And it's telling that once she got a taste of the sort of shit that minorities deal with on a routine basis throughout society , her response is to just quit.

Pity that minorities rarely have that option.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:10 PM on December 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


The letter discusses Christaki's rejection of responsibility for policing student costumes: Is it okay if you are eight, but not 18? I don’t know the answer to these questions. It places responsibility on students: …tell them you are offended. Talk to each other.

And this makes them the bullies and haters. Not the group that mobbed them, screamed at them, abused them, demanded their heads. Not the group that demanded that student costumes be prohibited by administrators. Not the ones demanding silencing instead of discussion.


Gotcha. We shall have to disagree.

I wonder if we'll see the intellectuals who commit to liberal freedom of expression cloister in a University that rejects the role of student social body policing, while those less tolerant of offensive expression gather will elsewhere, in the same sort of way extreme South Baptist and Mormon intellectuals gather at their religiously-proscribed campuses.

The University of Wyoming banned a swirl of sticks and carbon. It's a dangerous thing, demanding that administrations regulate freedom of expression.

It'll be interesting to watch Yale over the next few years. You don't usually see staunch advocates for freedom of speech and discussion leave a university.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:08 AM on December 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Not the group that mobbed them, screamed at them, abused them, demanded their heads. "

To be fair, Christakis did specifically say she thought college students should not be held to the same standards of behavior as adults in the "real world" and that it was okay for them to behave in regressive or offensive ways, so I am forced to assume that if your characterization of the students behavior is correct, Christakis has no objection to such behavior. She stands up for silencing tactics like racist costumes, and feels the correct approach is just to talk about it, not get upset. So I'm sure when students are making verbal demands, a far lesser attack, she holds herself to the same standard of not getting upset - kids will be kids! - and just talking to them.

I mean, I guess just talking to them didn't really WORK, but she knew that about the racist costumes and still advocated for it as a solution, so I know she's not concerned about stopping offensive or regressive student behavior, just giving it adequate space to play out without the students being called on it. Because "American universities were once a safe space not only for maturation but also for a certain regressive, or even transgressive, experience" by students. So I'm really not sure why, if you admire her work and ideas, you're calling for the students to be stopped from behaving in what you characterize as regressive or transgressive behavior ("spittle-flecked hate and bullying"), which she considers a key feature of American colleges that people like you are trying to remove!

Or did you mean it's only okay for students to behave in regressive or offensive ways towards minority students, but when its a white teacher you suddenly object? Because that'd be pretty fucked up.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:04 AM on December 9, 2015 [6 favorites]


It must suck to be vilified for something one actually did.

Neither Christakis engaged in bullying or hate.


They argued for bullying and hate to be allowed, while in a position of authority.
posted by Etrigan at 5:42 AM on December 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


No. They argued that having the institution dictate student expression is a bad idea. They argued that peer pressure is the appropriate tool for challenging student expression.

But, hey, rejoice! The people who rejected authoritarian control of students have lost! Their heads have rolled! Criticism of institutional policing of student expression is very unpalatable now — censorship has won! Let us welcome the reign of The Administration.

Surely nothing can go wrong there. School Administrators are renown for their love of controversial art and opinion. And if course, all the world's best professors want to work at institutions who dictate what can be said or done. Bite your hamburgers into the shape of a gun, because zero tolerance policies are the best!
posted by five fresh fish at 7:17 AM on December 9, 2015


They argued that having the institution dictate student expression is a bad idea.
And while students, undergraduate and graduate, definitely have a right to express themselves, we would hope that people would actively avoid those circumstances that threaten our sense of community or disrespects, alienates or ridicules segments of our population based on race, nationality, religious belief or gender expression.
That horrible institution, dictating its hopes at its students.
posted by Etrigan at 7:26 AM on December 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yale's letter was pretty much "racially offensive costumes are rather dickish, and we hope that our students will refrain from being dicks to one another."

I daresay that someone who sees this as some affront to the idea of free speech and expression has pretty much lost the plot.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:53 AM on December 9, 2015


Which is my point. I don’t, actually, trust myself to foist my Halloweenish standards and motives on others.

The Christakis did not reject the student association letter. The Christakis rejected students' demands that House Masters (administrators) dictate which costumes students may wear. They promoted peer pressure as the solution. That is a stance that is supportive of the student association.

I'm sure the next Masters or Administration will either ban costumes outright, or will kick students out for dressing in a way that causes someone to claim offense. Zero tolerance.

The real fun will come when art like the Yale student's performance piece involving abortion blood mass as a media is banned. Too controversial! Too offensive! No more Piss Christs! No more Myras! No more Carbon Sinks — our corporate sponsors are offended!

The more I've read about this event at Yale, the more I think what went down is a tragic farce that undermines one of the most important foundations of University functionality: that bureaucrats and administrators not dictate professors' and students' exploration of ideas, art, and expression.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:41 AM on December 9, 2015


Well, when you're imagining apocalyptic scenarios of suppressed artistic endeavors, then, yes, in your pretend dystopian future, this is a tragic farce.

Int he real world, it is merely people demanding respect, and your continually casting them as the villains in this story is shameful.
posted by maxsparber at 8:51 AM on December 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


The Christakis did not reject the student association letter.

"I'm just sayin'..."

The Christakis rejected students' demands that House Masters (administrators) dictate which costumes students may wear.

Please provide support for this assertion. The coverage so far has said that Erika Christakis replied to an email that was hoping that students would not wear offensive costumes.
posted by Etrigan at 9:00 AM on December 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


> The Christakis did not reject the student association letter.

They absolutely objected to its being sent. It's right here. The reacted as though the initial email ordered students to not wear certain things, rather than asking them to consider the impact of their costumes. They say it is preferable for students to tell others in racist costumes that their costumes are racist than it is for anyone to ask those students to think about the possible impact of wearing a racist costume.
posted by rtha at 9:53 AM on December 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


No imagination required, Max. A spiral of sticks and charcoal was banned by administration.

Christakis did not object to the email being sent. At no point in Erika's letter does she object to the letter. Instead, she explicitly and repeatedly discusses the implications of top-down administrative control of student expression.

I think it obvious that they reacted because some students saw the Intercultural Affairs Council letter as an administrative dictat and had come to the Christakis with their concerns (she states this). I think they reacted because other students came to them demanding that the Masters sanction those who offend (her rejection of that role is stated).

I think it takes deliberate misreading to conclude that the Christakis are objecting to student speech or to students using peer pressure to change student social norms. Especially as they repeatedly and explicitly stated their support of both.

So Christakis are out of there for something they didn't do. Yale loses profs who had rave reviews and classes that were in high demand. And students invite bureaucratic control of their expression.

Some people appear to think this is a win. I think is is a bad misstep and that this is going to bite students in the ass in the end. Ain't much of a university when bureaucrats tell you what you can say or perform. And now that I've expressed that in detail, I'm done with this. Good luck, Yale students. You need it.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:03 PM on December 9, 2015


I guess there will always be somebody awaiting the collapse of humanity that they are sure will result whenever a white person is required to think about their racism.
posted by maxsparber at 12:15 PM on December 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


Dropping a transparently fallcious slippery slope argument immediately before peacing out is a chump move if I've ever seen one.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:31 PM on December 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


Christakis did not object to the email being sent. At no point in Erika's letter does she object to the letter. Instead, she explicitly and repeatedly discusses the implications of top-down administrative control of student expression.

And considering that whole discussion was brought about by said letter, that would qualify as an objection.

I think they reacted because other students came to them demanding that the Masters sanction those who offend (her rejection of that role is stated).

Which is why the students wanted them removed from their position as house masters. She basically said "I will not do my job of making sure that this house is a safe and open environment for all of its residents," and the students responded accordingly.

And here's the point you keep missing in your pearl-clutching over the specter of the Bureaucracy - if you are so worried about students not being able to think and speak freely, then why do you not give a shit about the repeated complaints by minority students that they feel like they are unable to do so because of the culture there? One of the major common threads in all these protests has been that the minority population at these institutions do not feel like they belong, and that makes them feel like they cannot be open in their own thoughts and speech. Why isn't that a problem?

As I said before - if you want people to actually respect academic freedom as a principle, you cannot let it become an excuse for abuse and discrimination - because if you do, then people will see it as a club used to beat them down with.

And I find it telling that when Christakis got to experience the sort of doubts and hesitations that minority students report experiencing throughout their academic careers, she folded like a cheap suit. Luckily, she has the privilege to just leave it behind, unlike those students.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:37 PM on December 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


> implications of top-down administrative control

Dude. The "control" you are alleging was expressed was that students were asked to consider the impact of their costume choices. They were asked to think about their actions. Is that the "control" you're talking about?
posted by rtha at 1:35 PM on December 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


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