Jim Dey: Is New Emphasis on Student ‘Safe’ Spaces Putting Them at Risk?

November 29, 2015

By Jim Dey at The News-Gazette 

Back in February, Northwestern University Professor Laura Kipnis, disturbed about the campus environment concerning sexual harassment, emotional "triggers" and issues involving consent, wrote an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Headlined "Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academe," Kipnis' piece challenged campus orthodoxy on these sensitive subjects. Some critics challenged her assertions, but two students did more than that.

They filed a complaint alleging discrimination and retaliation with the university against Kipnis under federal law's Title IX guidelines.

The complaint was laughable on its face. But Kipnis endured months of administrative runaround trying to find out, specifically, what the charges against her were and what was required to mount a defense.

Finally, the professor went public, and embarrassed university officials quickly dropped the charges.

That incident and another involving censorship in a medical school magazine prompted University of Chicago President Morton Shapiro to appoint a special committee to examine the school's history of and commitment to free speech.

The committee, led by law professor Geoffrey Stone and made up of academics from across the campus, subsequently issued a ringing defense of free speech principles as a mean of fostering discussion by allowing "all members of the university community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge and learn." That means, the statement declared, that "debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought to be offensive, unwise, immoral or wrong-headed...

Schools: University of Illinois at Chicago University of Missouri – Columbia Northwestern University Yale University Cases: University of Missouri: Policing of “Hurtful” Speech Yale University: Protesters at Yale Threaten Free Speech, Demand Apologies and Resignations from Faculty Members Over Halloween Email