"The Best Campus Climates are Those That Make People Think"
September 6, 2012
by Nico Perrino
In a piece published on The Chronicle of Higher Education's website last week, Boston College professor Alan Wolfe reminds readers that "[t]he best campus climates are those that make people think." We agree.
However, as Wolfe points out, on two separate occasions in California this summer, administrative bodies forgot this truth when they called for censorship in response to various instances of heated debate surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The first occasion occurred when the California assembly unanimously passed a nonbinding resolution late last month calling for a ban on public funding to any activity that could be considered anti-Semitic at University of California or California State University system schools; the other was when UC's Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion issued a report earlier this summer suggesting policies be instituted that ban "hate speech."
Wolfe rightly states that when faced with calls for "sensitivity training," a ban on public funding and "hate speech," or any other potentially unconstitutional policy or program in response to campus conflict, administrators should remind their communities that a liberal arts education, not censorship, is the best response. Wolfe writes:
We happen to have academic disciplines, especially in the humanities, that deal with the very questions at the heart of this controversy. Courses on justice might question whether exposure to an uncivil demonstrator is on the same level of injustice as lacking access to good public schools. Political scientists can ask why the United States has resisted passing laws against hate speech while countries in Europe are more inclined to do so. Historians can ponder whether oppressed groups are better off focusing on their own needs or viewing their oppression as a template for the oppression of all. Literary theorists can talk about diasporas and compare the experiences associated with them.
The whole op-ed is worth a read and is available on the Chronicle's website.