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Presidents and provosts gather in their safe-space to talk free speech

Last updated on 10/31/2017

Apparently the organizer of the event, Chicago Provost Daniel Diermeier, thought the administrators wouldn’t come or wouldn’t speak freely if they thought their comments would be public. Insider Higher Ed has the report here:

… Just last week, students shouted down talks at Columbia University and the University of Michigan. Those doing the shouting down were generally students aligned with the political left, but supporters of President Trump also shut down a talk at Whittier College by California’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, shouting “America First” and “build that wall” to prevent him from answering questions. And those events followed the interruption of speakers (sometimes preventing events from taking place at all) at the College of William & Mary, Texas Southern University, the University of Oregon and Virginia Tech.

With these events becoming increasingly common, the University of Chicago invited presidents and provosts from a range of institutions to come to campus this weekend for a closed-door discussion of how higher education should respond. The University of Chicago has stated in a series of statements from its leaders and monographs on its history that free expression must be respected on campuses, no matter how controversial the idea being expressed. …

Meanwhile Daily Emerald has an op-ed here, from journalism student Chayne Thomas, arguing for the free speech rights of the students who disrupted President Schill’s State of the University speech:

University of Oregon President Michael Schill was quick to dismiss the protesters of his Oct. 6 State of the University Address on the grounds that “they don’t understand the value of free speech.” While I believe he may be well-meaning in his desire to “teach all of our students and members of the community the value of free speech and tolerance,” Schill fails to acknowledge the defect in his fundamental misunderstanding regarding freedom of speech. Namely, he ignores the fact that speech is tied to access. It is strange that Schill, who has the loudest voice on campus and multiple platforms at his disposal, can claim that his rights and freedoms are being infringed upon, while other’s voices are being silenced.

Marginalized students don’t have a voice on campus, but Schill was able to post a statement on the school website, release a video and directly email all students regarding his speech. He also swung private conversations where $50 million suddenly appeared out of mid-air — conversations that didn’t include student voices. Students don’t typically have access to platforms and forums for speech sanctioned by the university, and this needs to change. …

This is a counter to the Emerald editorial arguing against the protesters:

… Friday’s protest painted the UO student body as unwilling to listen to the viewpoints of others. College students around the country have been criticized recently for shutting down the speeches of controversial right-wing figures such as Milo Yiannopoulos and Ben Shapiro.

What happened Friday was worse. Schill wasn’t there to spew hate-filled rhetoric – he was a university president doing his job.

The organizers, whose gripes include Schill’s “acceptance of fascism and neo-Nazis,” “insurmountable increases to student tuition,” and “ignorantly happy-go-lucky attitude” wrote in their Facebook group for the event that “radical change requires radical action.”

We got the radical action. Still waiting on the radical change.

The organizers failed to suppress anything, as UO released a pre-recorded version of the speech minutes after its cancellation. Instead, the event made headlines for its spectacle and painted the student body as rude, unfocused and angry about … just about everything.

Students who are unhappy with school administration should absolutely protest and make their concerns heard.  The repeated tuition increases are a legitimate gripe, and Schill comes across as tone deaf when he tells students to ask their parents for money or take on more debt. But shouting him off the stage isn’t the way to address those concerns.

The Black Student Task Force has shown that respectful protest can effect change on this campus. Not all of their demands have been met, but they got things done by showing a willingness to work with administration rather than drown it out.

[UOM: After Missouri the administration was terrified by the potential impact of a black student protest that included Black student-athletes. The administration was desperate to work with them.]

For change to happen, there must be dialogue with those in charge of making the changes. Suppressing the speech of others is not how to move forward.

For on the protest and the prejudicial response from UO spokesperson Tobin Klinger see the “free speech” tag.



  1. Conservative duck 10/16/2017

    “Marginalized students don’t have a voice on campus…”
    I’m sorry, what? The Daily Emerald seems to be available to you. Do you not have a Facebook page? A YouTube channel? Twitter? Can you not comment here at uomatters? And that’s not even starting in on all the official student and minority groups and opportunities offered officially by the U of O.
    This is also still a free country, so please feel free to create a platform if you feel that none of the available ones fit your needs!
    “Students don’t typically have access to platforms and forums for speech sanctioned by the university,”
    “Many students want to be involved in our school’s decisions, but don’t have access to create dialogue about it. If the university receives a mysterious $50 million donation, we want to be involved in the conversation.”
    Ms. Thomas seems to be confused. This is a university, not a democracy. It isn’t even a representative republic. It is a business. We sell education certificates for tuition money.

  2. solidcitizen 10/16/2017

    “It is a business. We sell education certificates for tuition money.”

    Right. And when our customers are telling us that we are charging too much for the product we offer, we should definitely tell them to go take a flying leap. I mean, sure, enrollment has been down over the last couple of years, but this should not be a concern. I don’t see why we can’t keep offering the same product for increasing prices forever.

    And yes, why should we offer the customers a venue for giving us feedback on our product? What do we care what they think, right? Maybe they can post something on facebook or YouTube about how shitty this university is. Yes, this is good marketing strategy. We don’t have to listen to the customer when they try to talk with us about the product; they should air their grievances publicly. I can’t see anything wrong with that strategy.

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