In a week when a college football coach praised the mass theft of a campus newspaper as a productive “team-building exercise,” and a blanket funding freeze of student fee-funded media continues at UC San Diego over the protests of just about everyone who’s not Associated Students of UCSD President Utsav Gupta, the announcement of FIRE President Greg Lukianoff’s new book project is aptly timed, to say the least.
In my opinion, higher education is supposed to work as a sort of “sophistication machine” for our society. That is, it is supposed to help us produce a citizenry with a deep, nuanced, complex, and multifaceted understanding of the issues confronting our nation and world. Many critics of higher education point to ideological imbalance within the faculty, grade inflation and diminishing academic rigor, or the increased corporatization of the university as factors that prevent it from fulfilling this crucial function. These are all problems worth investigating. But I believe the most important factor interfering with the success and credibility of higher education is the continuing maintenance of campus speech codes and other policies and practices designed to discourage and even punish free speech and meaningful dissent.
As Greg and others at FIRE have said time and again: With the rise and persistence of speech codes comes the phenomenon of “unlearning liberty” and the slow fizzling of the generation of American minds on which we’re depending to solve the major issues of the twenty-first century. We’re not alone at FIRE in saying that we can’t wait for the book. Read here for more about Greg’s exciting new endeavor.
Elsewhere this week, Samantha has a terrific letter in Lehigh University’s paper The Brown & White, correcting a few of Lehigh’s (to put it generously) misunderstandings about free speech on campus and FIRE’s ratings methodology. Sam has nicer things to say about William & Mary, which—as The Virginia Informer reported this week—eliminated its controversial bias reporting system, emphasizing its status as a “green-light” institution.
Those of you who have been following our coverage of the free speech crisis at UC San Diego are aware of the seriousness of the problem there, as ASUCSD President Gupta’s freezing of all college media persists, and a showdown over the First Amendment looks more likely by the day. (The Daily Nexus at UC Santa Barbara is one of the latest to make sense on the issue.) We’ll keep you posted, but if you want to add your voice to the growing chorus against censorship at UCSD, you can do so here.