Noted Evolutionary Biologist Jerry Coyne: ‘Free speech on campus in peril’

November 2, 2012

Noted evolutionary biologist, author, and University of Chicago professor Jerry Coyne has kind words for FIRE’s work on his blog Why Evolution is True this week. In an entry titled "Free speech on campus in peril," Coyne reacts to FIRE President Greg Lukianoff’s recent op-ed in The New York Times. Coyne notes with dismay that his institution earns a "red light" rating from FIRE, "primarily because of its policies against hate speech and speech that is biased." Coyne writes: 

This distresses me. If someone wants to make a speech on campus calling me a "dirty Jew," then by all means let them. I’ll defend myself with other speech, and defend their right to insult my religion, politics, or anything else. Speech-code policies turn campuses into mini Islamic Republics, in which anybody can be offended and force authorities to stifle whatever bothers them. College students are adults, and should have the same rights as American adults who aren’t in college. They aren’t babies whose sensitive feelings need to be coddled.

We strongly agree. Occasional offense is part of living in our pluralistic democracy, and censorship-whether on campus or in larger society-is an unacceptable response to speech with which we disagree. 

Thanks very much to Professor Coyne for the note!