Balancing Freedom of Expression and Diversity on Campuses

An account of a recent APLU meeting on this topic, from Inside Higher Ed here. A snippet:

Page, the columnist, said, “I don’t want to call your generation coddled,” but went on to share an example of what he said “troubles me about political correctness.” He cited the reactions of students at Emory University in March when some students chalked “Trump 2016” on campus. Some students said at the time that they felt threatened by the chalkings.

“If there is anything that the First Amendment is for, it is political speech,” he said.

Gillman, of Irvine, offered three strategies he said he hoped research universities would pursue in the wake of the election:

  • “Make it as clear as possible that we are doubling down on the values we have of diverse communities of mutual respect,” he said. “The level of rhetoric in this campaign truly created threats and ignited a kind of hate” that needs to be opposed. “Let’s not be shy.”
  • Academics need to recognize that there are people in the United States “who feel that they are not being heard,” Gillman said. Whatever scholars may feel about Trump voters, they need to find ways to “reach across the divide of opinion.”
  • “We need to remember our scholarly mission,” Gillman said. That means looking at the political trends in the United States and Western Europe, and remembering that “democracies are fragile things,” and that they are challenged by “authoritarian strands” in many countries. Gillman, a scholar of the Constitution, said that universities and their professors “need to spend a bit more time thinking about the conditions that sustain democracy and those that undermine democracy.”

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10 Responses to Balancing Freedom of Expression and Diversity on Campuses

  1. I'm a political man says:

    David Duke ran for senate. Does that mean pro-Duke graffiti is protected political speach?

    Advertising is not the same as political speach. Universities should allow students to discuss and debate controversial subjects from all perspectives. It’s idiotic to think that censoring sloganeering from misogynists somehow conflicts with that mission.

    • anon says:

      Yes, it is. Ref: 1st Amendment. –> “David Duke ran for senate. Does that mean pro-Duke graffiti is protected political speach?”

      • uomatters says:


        On June 14, 1977, the Supreme Court ordered Illinois to hold a hearing on their ruling against the National Socialist Party of America, emphasizing that “if a State seeks to impose a restraint on First Amendment rights, it must provide strict procedural safeguards, including immediate appellate review… Absent such review, the State must instead allow a stay. The order of the Illinois Supreme Court constituted a denial of that right.”[1] On remand, the Illinois Appellate Court eliminated the injunction against everything but the swastika. The Illinois Supreme Court heard the case again, focusing on the First Amendment implications of display of the swastika. Skokie attorneys argued that for Holocaust survivors, seeing the swastika was like being physically attacked.
        The Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the use of the swastika is a symbolic form of free speech entitled to First Amendment protections and determined that the swastika itself did not constitute “fighting words.” Its ruling allowed the National Socialist Party of America to march.[1]

        • I'm a political man says:

          Duke’s right to stand for office was never in question. The constitutional issue is whether a public university can censor speech related to his campaign, and the fact that we’re having this discussion means that pro-Duke (or possibly pro-Trump) graffiti doesn’t pass the Tinker test.

          • anon says:

            Wikipedia says: The test, as set forth in the Tinker opinion, asks the question: Did the speech or expression of the student “materially and substantially interfere with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school?”

            I don’t think chalking the word “Trump” ‘materially and substantially’ interferes with the operation of the school.

            You could make an argument for the swastika possibly, but the original post referenced that students were troubled just by the words “Trump 2016” chalked on the sidewalk.

  2. Freedom of Expression Question says:

    More than 4 million people have signed a petition to electoral college electors:

    Signatures seem to be accruing quickly.

    Is a professor at the UO allowed to discuss this petition with students (discussing it would inevitably involve telling students about this petition’s existence)? If allowed, is it a good idea? Does it depend on the course topic? What does it say about higher education, academic freedom, and/or our democracy if we do or do not discuss such things? And does it come down to how we do it?

  3. And yet... says:

    It does seem to be the left which is always being asked to accommodate the ideas and views of the right — never the other way around.

    • anon says:

      Because the vast vast majority of students and faculty in a university are on the political left. Or at least those are the voices you always hear. So they already have a platform that is socially accepted. The right does not on campus.

  4. Protecting free speech means protecting speech you don't like says:

    So in liberal northern California a history teacher was removed from classroom for comparing Trump to Hitler. The teacher had worked in the school for 40 years. You think you are safe from this at the UO? This is how it begins, folks. Don’t let it continue. Smug about the law professor being removed from the classroom for her blackface costume? Fight for academic freedom, even when you don’t like the message — especially then — or WOW will it come back to bite you.

    • uomatters says:

      For the record, I think Trump is more like Mussolini than Hitler. But I’m no history professor.