Although fewer than 1% of survey participants reported that their institution had adopted a policy on trigger warnings, 7.5% reported that students had initiated efforts to require trigger warnings on campus, twice as many (15%) reported that students had requested warnings in their courses, and 12% reported that students had complained about the absence of trigger warnings. Despite a media narrative of "political correctness," student requests concerned a diverse range of subjects from across the ideological spectrum.
The report is here (the authors include two former colleagues of mine from the Law School). Their task was a difficult one, given the law, and most of their recommendations seem sensible and judicious. Permitting concealed carry in classrooms is going to be met with a lot of unhappiness, to put it mildly, but the reasons they give for that prohibition, given the law and given the safety issues, are not foolish ones. I guess my inclination would have been to bar carrying weapons in classrooms, and let the matter be resolved by legal challenge or subsequent legislative action. I imagine the other proposed prohibitions will all survive challenge or scrutiny. I do not envy the situation my former colleagues now face.
Today’s Democrats are what used to be called moderate Republicans. The Republicans have just drifted off the spectrum. They’re so committed to extreme wealth and power that they cannot get votes ... So what has happened is that they’ve mobilized sectors of the population that have been around for a long time. ... Trump may be comic relief, but it’s not that different from the mainstream, which I think is more important.
Because there are only two viable political parties in the U.S., the fact that one of them is dominated by crazies of various stripes is a serious matter, for the U.S. and the world.
It's nice to see the whole world making fun of the not-so-crypto fascist wannabe Donald Trump, but this recent poll out of Iowa is important, since it shows Senator Ted Cruz, a pure right-wing religious crazy out of Texas, leading the pack, including leading Trump by 5%. The Iowa Republican caucus is dominated by religious conservatives--in past cycles they have anointed Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, both of whom, however, went down in flames not long thereafter. Ted Cruz is the natural for them, given those precedents (and given that Ben Carson is becoming increasingly pathetic in public). So prediction: Cruz wins Iowa, Trump wins New Hampshire, and the field begins to narrow (say farewell to Carson, Fiorina, Kasich, Paul etc.), with Rubio hanging on, maybe Christie, maybe even Bush. We then head to South Carolina, where the conservative Christian vote also looms large, and Cruz is likely to do well again (but it's an "open" primary so so-called "independents" could turn out for Trump). I've no prediction on Nevada, but come March 1, we have a huge number of contests. Cruz, Rubio, Bush (if he's still standing), and Trump have the resources to compete if they want. But if Rubio hasn't won anything by March 1, he may be finished. So, too, Christie. The Republican Establishment hates Cruz almost as much as Trump, I suspect, but if forced to choose, I'm fairly confident who'd they prefer. If Cruz is the nominee, this would be yet another windfall for the Democrats.
UPDATE: This should help Senator Cruz lock up Iowa! (Thanks to Richard Galvin for the pointer.)
MEANWHILE: Two-thirds of likely Republican voters support Trump's proposal to ban Muslims--so does one-third of all voters (I guess that includes the Republican ones). This tells us what's in store if there are more incidents like San Bernadino. Those organizations defending civil rights had better be gearing up their legal strategies, because if mass hysteria sets in, the courts may be the only hope.
DECEMBER 10 UPDATE: The latest New York Times/CBS poll for the Republican nomination shows Trump first with 35% and Cruz now moving ahead to second with 16%. That leaves 49% of likely Republican voters picking others or undecided: 13% for Carson, 9% for Rubio, 4% for Rand Paul, 3% each for Bush, Christie, Kasich, and Huckabee. Cruz will get most or all of the Carson and Huckabee support (kicking him up to 32%), and should be easily competitive with Trump for much of the rest, esp. since Cruz looks fairly sane by comparison. I expect that Cruz will win both Iowa and South Carolina, which will give him the needed momentum going forward, plus he also has the financial resources to compete. Even the problematic Hillary Clinton will crush him in the general election, so says my crystal ball.
This is interesting, and some of it may foreshadow the future of academic philosophy in the United States, e.g., "I’ve encountered two types of people who are having trouble adapting to the field. First, there are those who bridle at the left-political conformity of English and who voice complaints familiar from the culture wars" (other parts are more specific to English, I suspect).
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, in an opinion by my colleague Judge Frank Easterbrook, upheld a city ordinance prohibiting possession of assault weapons (and the like), arguing that the ban was compatible with the Supreme Court's decision in Heller (2008), which invented an individual right to own weapons under the Second Amendment. The Supreme Court has now declined to hear an appeal of the 7th Circuit's decision, a good sign that the majority of the justices are not at all keen to expand the reach of the crazy Heller decision so that it protects even more kinds of gun ownership (at issue in Heller was ownership of a handgun).
The latest from the inequality pornography industry, complete with hand-wringing about what to do. Here's an idea: seize every fortune over five million dollars and redistribute that wealth to meet human needs. Imagine that?
...after lots of helpful feedback and workshops over the last year or so. My "case" is only against arguments that speech has some unique positive value; I think the libertarian approach towards speech regulation in the U.S. is basically the right one, given the nature of our political culture. I also think, but don't discuss in this paper, that universities are a special case (something Marcuse also thought in the famous, or infamous, essay on "Repressive Tolerance"); I will take that up in a separate paper.
It's good the New York Times is shining a light on this mischief. Illinois was a natural target in one way, given the number of ex-Governors who ended up in jail, and the dysfunctional finances (which the current plutocrat in office, Bruce Rauner, promptly made worse by letting the state income tax slip back from 5% to 3%). But the legislature is controlled by Democrats, so right now there is total deadlock. Rauner had the advantage of running against a weak Democrat in the last election, but unless he is sent back to his country club in three years, things could get a lot worse.
Pretty damning editorial; I'm surprised they weighed in, but the NYT does tend to take a strong interest in Ivy League matters, given the class structure it represents. (I was a residential adviser in "Wilson College" [always known simply as Wilson College] long ago; I didn't realize it was named for Woodrow Wilson until this latest controversy, however! I just assumed it was named for some wealthy white guy of the past.)
[M]any concepts that refer to the negative aspects of human experience and behavior have expanded their meanings. These concepts increasingly extend outward to capture qualitatively new phenomena (‘horizontal’ expansion) and downward to capture quantitatively less extreme phenomena (‘vertical’ expansion). I illustrate these forms of semantic creep by reviewing changes in the concepts of abuse, bullying, trauma, mental disorder, and prejudice over recent decades. In each case, the concept’s boundary has stretched and its meaning has dilated. I argue that this pattern of ‘concept creep’ reflects a dominant moral agenda within social, developmental, and clinical psychology, involving an escalating sensitivity to harm.
Hmm, this sounds familiar, doesn't it? Haslam further explains the two kinds of "expansion" as follows:
The first, ‘vertical expansion,’ occurs when a concept’s meaning becomes less stringently defined, so that it encompasses quantitatively milder variants of the phenomenon to which it originally referred. For example, the concept of obesity would have undergone vertical expansion if the critical body mass index threshold was lowered, thereby swelling the number of people defined as obese. The second form, which I call ‘horizontal expansion’, occurs when a concept extends to a qualitatively new class of phenomena, including application to a new semantic context. For example, the concept of ‘refugee’ has expanded to include people displaced by environmental catastrophe, whereas it originally referred only to those displaced by conflict.
Interesting piece at IHE about campuses (not, yet anyway, UVA) about student protesters targetting statues of Thomas Jefferson. The piece concludes with a long quote from Harvard historian Annette Gordon-Reed (who has famously written about Jefferson's sexual relationship with one of his slaves):
"I understand why some people think his statues should be removed, but not all controversial figures of the past are created equal," Gordon-Reed said. "I think Jefferson’s contributions to the history of the United States outweigh the problems people have with aspects of his life. He is just too much a part of the American story … to pretend that he was not there. This conversation about statues and symbols really got going with calls to take symbols and figures from the Confederacy out of the public sphere. Then it shifted to every famous person who was an enslaver and/or white supremacist, basically letting the Confederates off the hook. That's a lot of people to be disappeared. There is every difference in the world between being one of the founders of the United States and being a part of group of people who fought to destroy the United States."
She added: "It’s a line-drawing function, but we draw lines all the time. Statues and buildings for Jefferson Davis and John C. Calhoun? No. Statues and buildings for Thomas Jefferson? Yes, but with interpretation and conversations about all the meanings of his life and influences -- good and bad. The words of the Declaration of Independence that blacks have made use of over the years and Monticello, his home, a slave plantation that has now become a site for substantive discussions about race and slavery, exist together as a part of our history, just as he was. He drafted the declaration, he was a president, he founded a university, he championed religious freedom. The best of his ideals continue to influence and move people. The statues should be a stimulus for considering all these matters at William & Mary and the University of Missouri."
An interesting study, though it's still the case that Americans are more tolerant of offensive speech than citizens elsewhere: "our global survey found that a majority of Americans say that people should be able to say offensive things about minority groups publicly. Two-thirds of Americans say this, compared with a median of 35% among the 38 nations we polled." It is unfortuante that this was framed in terms of "offense," which is usually not part of the definition of hate speech in countries that do regulate such speech.
Now you can find out in one place! My suspicion is the proliferation of demand lists is going to dilute their impact, but we'll see. The lists vary a good bit. Duke's, I thought, was especially interesting (both in terms of concreteness, but also in recognizing the interests of people other than students), though I've not read all of them by any means, just sampling.
ADDENDUM: As one reader points out, the Duke students' definition of "hate speech" is crazy and dangerous, but this kind of stuff appears in a lot of the documents. No serious university is going to adopt such a rule, and I expect the students who draft these things are too inexperienced to know how to craft credible proposals regarding speech.
Many observers of the student protests of the nineteen-sixties noted those movements’ Oedipal aspects. That generation of student activists was seen as killing the father (figuratively) in their organized political resistance to university faculty and administration, and, more broadly, to war and oppression. Today’s student protesters are certainly directing anger at faculty and administrators, but this time the parental dynamic is notably different.
Particularly in the way things have unfolded at Yale, students’ social-justice activism has been expressed, in part, as the need for care from authority figures. When they experience the hurt that motivates them to political action, they’re deeply disappointed with parental surrogates for not responding adequately or quickly enough to support and nurture them. The world in which it’s not bizarre for a young person to rebuke someone for failing to “create a place of comfort and home,” or to yell, “Be quiet … You’re disgusting!,” and storm away, is the world of family, where a child in pain desperately desires empathy and understanding from a parent. The online scorn heaped on the student who was filmed behaving this way represents an unproductive refusal to compassionately translate her behavior across the generational divide. In a piece called “Hurt at Home,” another Yale student wrote, “I feel my home is being threatened,” and contrasted her comforting relationship with her father to the care she felt students emphatically did not receive from the master of Silliman College. Yale tells its students that the residential college is their “home away from home,” but this generation might be the first to insist so literally on that idea.
I've noted some related aspects of this phenomenon, but Prof. Suk puts it quite well. (And note these caveats about the "infantilism" label.) The neediness of these students is quite real, and it's not clear universities are going to be able to meet all those needs in ways consistent with the ideals of freedom that make intellectual life possible.
(Professor Suk, some will recall, was an early entry into these discussions, recounting the difficulties she was encountering teaching rape in criminal law.)
Philosopher Lionel McPherson (Tufts) writes with an interesting perspective on the recent debate about events at Yale:
I wanted to call (or recall) your attention to this:
"Then he left to walk back to his dorm room. He says he saw an officer 'jogging' toward the entrance of another building across the grounds from the building he’d just left.
'I did not pay him any mind, and continued to walk back towards my room. I looked behind me, and noticed that the police officer was following me. He spoke into his shoulder-mounted radio and said, "I got him."’
'I faced forward again, presuming that the officer was not talking to me. I then heard him say, "Hey, turn around!" — which I did.
'The officer raised his gun at me, and told me to get on the ground.
'At this point, I stopped looking directly at the officer, and looked down towards the pavement. I dropped to my knees first, with my hands raised, then laid down on my stomach.'
"...Now, don’t get me wrong: If indeed my son matched the description of a suspect, I would have had no problem with him being questioned appropriately.... The stop is not the problem; the method of the stop is the problem.
"Why was a gun drawn first? Why was he not immediately told why he was being detained? Why not ask for ID first?"
[end of excerpt from piece by Times columnist]
You write, "Manne and Stanley go so far as to write that the racism that exists at Yale 'is not the sort of racism that is generally considered newsworthy...There are no black bodies on the pavement to focus on. The violence being done is subtler...' It's so subtle, in fact, that it's not clear how it constitutes 'violence' at all."
But there were black bodies "on the pavement" at Yale recently--Charles Blow's son, at least. Manne and Stanley are mistaken on that front (and I find it somewhat disturbing that they would miss or ignore a recent incident of this kind). Their strong claim, then, about the "subtle" violence being done is also mistaken. Being ordered to the ground at gunpoint, I would think, clearly does constitute violence. The incident involving Blow's son helps to provide a fuller sense of the "racial climate" at Yale, among other PWIs.
(As an undergrad, I was stopped at Princeton and asked to produce ID when walking to the library while Black. A few years ago, as a professor, I was asked to produce ID when working in my office at night, with music playing at moderate volume, while Black. I wouldn't call these campus police encounters violent, since I wasn't ordered to the ground, nor was a gun drawn. I would call them hostile and not "subtle.")
My own view is that it's generally a mistake to look at what's been going on with black (and brown) students on college campuses, post Ferguson, through a skeptical wide lens on "identity politics," "the new infantilism," "trigger warnings," and the like.
I find myself in agreement with almost everything Prof. McPherson says. Racial stereotyping by police (and disproportionately ominous behavior by the police in connection with that [e.g., drawing a firearm!], even when it stops short of killing people) is wrongful and harmful behavior, and to the extent police harassment of students of color at Yale played a role in recent events, that is an important fact that has not, so far, figured in the public descriptions. Unlike so-called "micro-aggressions" (what I had in mind as an example of "subtle violence") police conduct is subject to meaningful regulation and disciplinary oversight, and with no cost to any other academic values. (Police misconduct is sufficiently serious that even if there were costs to academic values, that's a cost universities ought to bear.)
I also agree with Prof. McPherson's last paragraph, with one small caveat: the phenomena I've lumped under the heading of "the new infantilism" are various, but what they have in common is the idea that certain kinds of lawful speech are verboten lest it cause hurt or offense. I would not class complaints about racist abuse and threats in Missouri, or police misconduct as described by Charles Blow and Prof. McPherson, in that category: to be free of that kind of treatment is required by the rule of law and a commitment to equal citizenship regardless of race. My own view (shared, I'm reasonably confident, by Prof. McPherson) is that a residential college named after an apologist for chattel slavery is also an embarrassment for a university and an affront to its students--not an act of "violence," subtle or otherwise, but a wrong that should be remedied.What I call the New Infantilism is largely a phenomenon at "elite" universities, and is primarily, I suspect, an artifact of class (see for example). I do not have the impression that this phenomenon is limited to white students, but I believe Prof. McPherson is correct that it's probably mistaken to look at recent events, even at Yale, through that lens. (The mindless "identity politics" I've criticized is manifested by those [usually posturing faculty] who purport to speak for the students, and usually on social media. I agree "trigger warnings" are also irrelevant, but still a bad idea for a reason I gave long ago.)
My thanks to Prof. McPherson (whom I've never met, alas, but have been fortunate to correspond with for many years) for this contribution.
A brief comment about the legal restrictions governing the regulation of speech on campus, since correspondence suggests there are some significant misunderstandings of the legal landscape. A few quick observations:
1. Private universities can, legally, do quite a lot of regulating speech if they want--especially of students, a bit less so of faculty due to contractual protections for academic freedom. But even with respect to faculty, private universities have considerable latitude.
2. Public universities are subject to some constitutional limitations, but they are always subject to the legal regime of Pickering and progeny that I discussed awhile back in connection with Salaita and the University of Illinois. To simplify,in the post-Pickering world, a state university can regulate speech if doing so is neecessary to discharge its central functions, e.g., teaching and research.
3. What that means is that even if it is generally unconstitutional in the U.S. to regulate "hate speech," a suitably tailored hate speech prohibition in a public university would likely be constitutional. So, for example, a prohibition on racist, sexist or simply vulgar abuse in the classroom, between students, or students and faculty, would be defensible on Pickering grounds: students can't learn, and faculty can't teach, if the classroom is disrupted by these kinds of verbal assaults. (A private university could do the same thing, and it seems to me any sensible concept of academic freedom should allow for this.)
4. By contrast, a state university could not issue a blanket ban on "racially insensitive" speech on campus; they could not even issue a blanket ban on "hate speech" on campus. The latter isn't sufficiently tailored to promoting pedagogical or research functions to survive legal challenge I suspect.
5. Most discussion of appropriate and inappropriate restrictions on speech on campus are not based on legal requirements, but on ideals of freedom of thought and inquiry that universities are (often uniquely) thought to stand for. (Recall that even Marcuse, in his critique of "repressive tolerance" for harmful expression, thought universities should be bastions of unbridled expression. [It would be fair to say he was not thinking about the Pickering issues, however!]) This is true, for example, of the widely cited University of Chicago commitment to freedom of expression: a university could provide less protection than Chicago without violating the law, and many do. Yale could, for example, forbid any students from shouting curse words at any faculty member. I would oppose such a blanket rule, because campuses include public spaces where discourse need not be tidy, polite or civil. But with respect to the ideal of freedom of expression on a university campus, speech and actions that have as their purpose to suppress or punish other speech or expression are incompatible with the Chicago-style ideal.
That was the title of a lunchtime talk I gave today for law students here, organized by our OUTLAW* chapter, and also sponsored by the Labor & Employment Law society. There was a lot of talk about some themes from my book, as well as constitutional doctrine, the federal RFRA, state RFRAs, Kim Davis, Title VII, Hobby Lobby (basically following my discussion in this paper), and a few other things. But the main theme was that we are on the verge of a ton of litigation in which the new anti-discrimination norms against LGBT people, reflected in the gay marriage decision of the Supreme Court, as well as many state laws, are going to come up against claims of "religious liberty," the liberty in question being the liberty to discriminate on the basis of LGBT status. We no longer have that kind of litigation seeking religious exemptions from laws prohibiting race discrimination, and my expectation is that in a generation, norms against anti-LGBT discrimination will be sufficiently entrenched to make such litigation unviable in that context too. But until then, or until an authoritative resolution by higher courts, we are going to see lots of anti-gay bigotry seeking validation through America's (generally misguided, in my view) scheme for "protecting" religious liberty. The important case out of New Mexico a few years ago illustrates what's in store; the New Mexico High Court reached the sensible result on behalf of equality values, but I'm sure other courts will not do as well.
*"OUTLAW" is the usual name of the LGBT student group at American law schools.
Continental Philosophy Farhang Erfani, a philosopher at American University, provides a useful set of links to news, events, interviews, reviews, videos, etc. related to "Continental philosophy" (broadly construed)