The Sorensen Monologues

Archive for August 30th, 2016

The University of Chicago guide to free speech

The University of Chicago recently sent a letter to incoming students that bluntly laid out the school’s stance on freedom of expression. This NY Times article gives more background, but unfortunately suffers from a dopey headline that uses “political correctness” as though it were an unbiased term. This commentary on the issue is also well worth reading.

Students, like anyone else, can take things too far, but the whole concept of “trigger warnings” has now been picked up and blown out of proportion by conservatives. In the age of Trump and Black Lives Matter and campus protests by minority students, this letter is tone deaf and inappropriate. It’s largely name-calling and buzzwords with an attempt at plausible deniability.

Some will claim I’m arguing that students should be shielded from points of view they may disagree with. I have not said that at all. I do think that when a university brings in, say, a known internet harasser who uses his public profile to intimidate and abuse women online, students have the right to protest the legitimacy being granted by the university. If anything, the letter suggests that the leaders of U. Chicago are trying to make a “safe space” for themselves so they can frame criticism they don’t want to hear as anti-free speech.

Update: Some important background info for people who mistakenly think this whole issue is about “silencing offensive speech”: “What University Of Chicago Students Think Of Their School’s Campaign Against ‘Safe Spaces’


Jen Sorensen is a nationally-published political cartoonist. She is a 2017 Pulitzer finalist and recipient of the 2014 Herblock Prize and a 2013 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award.

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