Monday, October 03, 2016

Free Speech in Academia

It's no secret that free speech is under assault in universities across the Western world.  Sadly, it's only news when someone stands up against that assault.  What's interesting is when the person standing up against it runs the University of California system, the flagship campus of which was at the forefront of the free speech movement back in the 1960's.  It's a start, but she doesn't go far enough:
All that said, Napolitano’s acknowledgment that American universities are facing a crisis of free speech, and her sharp criticism of illiberal activism, is an important step forward for the movement to save universities from the forces of censorship and intolerance. Let’s hope that a critical mass of students and faculty will back her up.
It's not just in the United States, either:
I came to England a few days ago in order to participate in a conference in Winchester on the fate of free speech in the academy, U.S. as well as British editions. We'll be publishing the papers for that conference in The New Criterion come January, but I can reveal now one thing that struck me about our deliberations.  Two years before, we had held a conference on a similar topic (which you can read about here): "Free Speech Under Threat." To some extent, what transpired in Winchester a few days ago comes under the rubric of what the philosopher Yogi Berra called "déjà-vu all over again."

But there are differences. In the couple of years since we last considered the issue of free speech, blatant assaults on free speech have grown much more common to the point where they are less scandalous than simply business as usual. People are harassed, shunned, sacked, fined, even jailed in some Western countries for expressing an unpopular opinion.

It is difficult to maintain a perpetual sense of emergency, however, and it’s my sense that many incursions upon free speech are now met more with a weary shrug than the outrage they would have occasioned even a few years back.
They intend to wear us down.  Eternal vigilance is the price we must continue to pay in order to maintain our freedoms.

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