When is civil disobedience justified on college campuses?
This questions continues to be asked when reflecting on events like the occupation of Waterman at UVM organized by Nonames for Justice as well as the protests over controversial speakers at Middlebury, UConn, the University of Michigan and Columbia. The Janus Forum Welcomed scholars David Shih and Jonathan Rauch to discuss the topic of Free Speech on College Campuses this past February and this past April members from UVM’s Lawrence Debate Union along with Dr Thomas Streeter and Dr. Winnie Looby participated in a public debate to answer the question of if and when civil disobedience on college campuses is justified. Here is a noteworthy moment from the discussion:
“College campuses are often seen as preparation for real-world activism. Because of this idea, it’s important that we are reflective and responsible with the ways we choose to engage in activism, and that we promote discussions on how to respectfully and effectively address systemic issues”
The Lawrence Debate Union at UVM is sponsoring a debate on when civil disobedience is justified featuring Dr. Winnie Looby and Dr. Thomas Streeter. Dr. Winnie Looby is a faculty member assigned to the Center on Disability and Community Inclusion in the College of Education and Social Services at UVM. Looby’s scholarly work focuses on Interdisciplinary Collaboration, Disability Studies, Early Childhood Special Education, Technology in Education, and Family-School Partnerships. Dr Thomas Streeter is a professor in the Sociology Department at UVM. Streeter’s scholarly work has a focus on media, culture, the internet, media law and policy. Interested in watching the debate? Come to the Memorial Lounge from 6:30 to 8:00 on Tuesday, April 24.
Janus Forum at the University of Vermont
Published by Lilly Oates · March 28 at 6:25pm ·
On February 12, 2018 the Janus Forum welcomed scholars Jonathan Rauch and David Shih to debate whether or not free speech should be restricted on college campuses. Jonathan Rauch is a Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institute as well as an editor and contributer to the Antlantic. Rauch’s scholarly work includes six books and many articles related to political, economic and social issues with an emphasis on the quality of life for members of the lGBTQ community. Rauch published an article titled “The case for Hate Speech” in the Atlantic that can be found here . David Shih is an associate professor of english at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. Shih’s scholarly work is primarily focused on Asian American Studies, Critical Race Theory, Critical Hmong Studies and Antiracist Professional Development. Shih was featured on NPR discussing his views on free speech that can be found here .
Did you miss the debate on free speech on college campuses? Do you want to hear more from Jonathan Rauch on his perspective? Read the article to hear more from Rauch about free speech with regard to gay rights advancement through the years.
This past February the Janus Forum welcomed scholars Jonathan Rauch and David Shih to debate whether or not free speech should be restricted on college campuses. David Shih, associate professor of english at the University of Wisconsin advocated for restrictions saying,
“The marketplace of ideas is a space where ideas struggle for truth and bad ones fall away or burn away, and what remains is truth to be enshrined as knowledge. This is my claim, the marketplace of ideas paradigm does not change the racial status quo. Hate speech is therefore not a means to a truthful end and it may just be the end. One reason for this is because when it comes to ideas about race in the market, americans are less rational consumers because of their personal experiences or their absence of them”
What are your thoughts: Should hate speech be left to fail in the marketplace of ideas? Or should race be an exception that we regulate?
This past September the Janus Forum at UVM hosted a panel discussion on gun control where Cassandra Crifasi (John Hopkins), Michael Huemer (University of Colorado, Boulder), and Sanford Levinson (University of Texas, Austin), all weighed in on the constitutional, social, and moral questions related to gun control. The events that took place in Parkland this past February have revived and prompted the current gun-control debate. With the controversy and pressure from people, especially students, across the country this debate has reached the floor of Congress with many potentials policies at play. Considering this, it’s useful to note the global difference in gun policy, how does the U.S compare with other countries? You can find out information on this from a report done by the Council on Foreign Relations below. And, if you missed the gun control panel discussion you can watch that using one of the links below as well.
Lawrence Debate Union member and UVM student Dan DeDomenico has shared his opinion on our next Public Debate topic of free speech restriction on college campuses below, what are your thoughts?
“The rights of students and faculty to free speech and assembly on their college campuses should not be infringed upon unless speech poses a threat to the physical wellbeing of the student body, the campus, or any individual or group of individuals. With few exceptions, this is common practice and I suspect is not the heart of the controversy over free speech on college campuses. The class of events which has recently become so prevalent in public discourse is the invitation of controversial speakers to events which they arrange in conjunction with their supporters on campus. One thing can be said for certain – any speaker who poses a threat to the safety and security of students or faculty on campus, implicitly or explicitly, should not be invited to speak. This includes speakers like Milo Yiannopoulous, who encourages his supporters to inform immigration authorities of the whereabouts and identities of undocumented persons, or Richard Spencer, who advocates for the “peaceful” removal of nonwhite citizens from the United States. It is far too easy for suggestion of action to become incitement to action, and campuses must prioritize the safety and wellbeing of their student population over some abstract commitment to the ideals of free speech and civil discourse which, it turns out, is not as staunch of a commitment as it intuitively appears to be. With the exception of the recent disinvitation of Chelsea Manning to Harvard Law School as a visiting fellow under threat of the resignation of former CIA director Michael J. Morell’s own fellowship, and the withdrawal of acting director Mike Pompeo from a Harvard forum, very few campus incidents involving public intellectuals actually stray into territory where the right to free speech unhindered by the state as protected under the first amendment might be impinged upon. Students who organize in opposition to guest speakers on campus are in fact exercising their own rights to free assembly and in several states, this sort of assembly is being met with increasing formal opposition, including statutes which would criminalize protest to some degree under state law, or make it a disciplinary offense within public universities themselves. Several states have introduced, and some have passed this sort of legislation. Meanwhile, speakers who expect a warm welcome on campus are not requesting the right to free speech unhindered by government or institutional forces, but the right to a platform where they can lecture students on their views without substantial criticism from the student body or from other worthy public intellectuals. This is incompatible with the mission of the university as an institution which promotes higher learning and civil discourse for a few reasons. First among them is that a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing – hearing the rhetoric of a single speaker outside of the context of the views of their detractors and colleagues can easily leave students less informed than they were when they walked in the room, especially due to the fact that campus provocateurs like Ben Shapiro and Ann Coulter rely primarily on low-tier high school debate team maxims as the foundation for their rhetoric. Neither of these speakers could hold their own against a worthy detractor from the university faculty or the general public the way that they can against riled up undergrads from the other side of a police barricade. Attending a Ben Shapiro event on campus is not an act of meaningful investigation into pressing political issues of the time. Ben Shapiro is not an expert. He is not an academic. He does not conduct research. He is a rather quick-thinking columnist who knows how to push one set of buttons on his sympathizers and another on his adversaries. Universities do not have an obligation to their students or their principles provide a platform to speakers who seek to incite a reaction from the student body without meaningfully engaging in a dialectic with their detractors. Doing so, especially against the wishes of the student body, does not fulfill a commitment to the principles of free speech and civil discourse. In fact, it contradicts those principles by repressing student and faculty assembly in order to privilege the monologue of an agitator over any opportunity for constructive debate.”
Controversial speech has been barred on college campuses across the nation. Is there a limit to free speech? Are college students too quick to disregard opposing views? Find out at our next Public Debate Feb 12! For now you can read more here,