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Trustees | Freedom of Expression

Letter to the Editor: Campus speech is in crisis

THE WASHINGTON POST   |  March 23, 2018 by Michael Poliakoff

Andrew Hartman’s argument in his March 18 Outlook essay, “There is no campus crisis, there are only aggrieved customers,” foundered in the face of data and facts. A 2016 Gallup survey revealed that 27 percent of college students deem it acceptable to censor political speech if they “are upsetting or offensive to certain groups.” Results of the most recent Gallup/Knight Foundation survey are yet more alarming: 37 percent of college students find it okay to shout down speakers.

Mr. Hartman argued that only rarely are a school’s students or faculty silenced. Tell that to Middlebury College professor Allison Stanger, who still suffers from neck injuries received when she attempted to hold a discussion with Charles Murray on campus. Or Evergreen State College professor Bret Weinstein, who refused to leave campus as asked by students of color; the president ordered the campus police to stand down when an angry crowd of students grew threatening. Mr. Weinstein’s saga ended with his resignation and a cash settlement from Evergreen.

President Barack Obama was sufficiently troubled by the threats to campus speech to scold students and faculty at Rutgers University for discouraging Condoleezza Rice from speaking, and he admonished graduates at Howard University to hear out opposing viewpoints. To remedy the problem, we must recognize it.

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