Williams College in Massachusetts is trying to embrace the free speech policy put forth by the University of Chicago. It’s a widely respected position on the issue which has even been endorsed by FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education).

The move has sparked protests from student activists who claimed “free speech harms.”

Jeremy Bauer-Wolf reports at Inside Higher Ed:

Free Speech ‘Meltdown’

A faculty petition at Williams College to adopt the Chicago principles, which many free speech advocates consider the gold standard of free speech philosophy, has divided the campus and pushed administrators to review the college’s policies.

Williams is in “meltdown,” said Luana S. Maroja, an associate professor of biology and one of the faculty members who led the charge for the college to endorse the Chicago principles, known formally as the University of Chicago’s “Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression.” At least 60 entities — including colleges, universities and higher education systems — have embraced the Chicago principles since they were first introduced four years ago.

The growing support for the principles is due in part to a promotional campaign by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a civil liberties watchdog group. Those who disagree with basing policies on the Chicago principles don’t dispute the importance of free expression, especially in academe. But these critics say that reliance on the principles alone can ignore the role of a college in promoting inclusivity and diversity.

This all began when Reza Aslan, who was fired from CNN for vile remarks about President Trump, visited the school and suggested only some forms of speech should be allowed:

The problems at the Massachusetts institution began in September with a panel discussion on free expression in which a well-known religious scholar took part. The scholar was Reza Aslan, a best-selling author and professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside. Maroja, who attended the event, said Aslan dominated the conversation and made statements that baffled her, including that administrators should dictate what can and cannot be said on college campuses, and that only “factual talks” had a place in higher education. She said students cheered these remarks.

“This nonsense was met with intense student applause,” Maroja wrote in a blog post about the roundtable. “It was appalling.”

After the talk, she and a couple of other professors decided to start the petition for Williams to adopt the Chicago principles…

After professors drafted a petition calling for the adoption of the Chicago principles, student activists began objecting immediately:

After the professors drafted the faculty petition, which Maroja said about half of the college’s roughly 400 professors signed, they scheduled a meeting in November to discuss the proposal. Maroja said a formal vote on the petition was not scheduled to take place at this meeting.

She said a group of about 20 students showed up, some carrying signs proclaiming “free speech harms” and other similar sentiments. Maroja said the students were disruptive and eventually started yelling at white, male professors to sit down and “acknowledge their privilege.” Maroja said she attempted to engage the students — as a Hispanic woman, she said she understood prejudice — and told them that shutting down speech they find offensive would only invigorate bigoted speakers.

A handful of black student activists also crashed a student government meeting and went off in a profanity laced tirade. Greg Piper writes at the College Fix:

Williams College asks students not to invite speakers who ‘would offend minority students’

Black student activists at Williams College are no shrinking violets. They took over a recent student government meeting, unloading a string of vulgarities against elected student leaders for allegedly favoring white students with more funding than black students get.

They used anti-gay and even anti-black language, if you can believe it: “to be here [at Williams] is like sucking white dick every fucking day.” “We want some money to fucking cook some fried fucking chicken and be niggers.”

This was live-streamed, by the way.

Here’s a video of that incident. NOTE: Not safe for work, extremely strong language warning:

How do you solve a problem like this? Where do you even begin?

Featured image via YouTube.


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