March 7 2017
From A Statement of Principles from a Collection of Middlebury College Professors:
Exposure to controversial points of view does not constitute violence.
Things are so bad on campus that this even needs to be stated?
Still, the Middlebury professors who stepped forward to sign the principles, after the campus erupted in violence because Charles Murray was there to give a talk, have done a very good thing and in general the principles are admirable (read them here or here).
It is a reflection of the sad state of affairs on American campuses that professors must remind snowflakes that controversial points of view can't harm their poor psyches. Still, the other principles are by and large excellent:
Genuine higher learning is possible only where free, reasoned, and civil speech and discussion are respected.
Only through the contest of clashing viewpoints do we have any hope of replacing mere opinion with knowledge.
The incivility and coarseness that characterize so much of American politics and culture cannot justify a response of incivility and coarseness on the college campus.
The impossibility of attaining a perfectly egalitarian sphere of free discourse can never justify efforts to silence speech and debate.
Thirty-seven professors had signed when I counted, and they are to be commended: it is time for faculties to strike back against barbarity on campus.
Injured professor Allison Stanger posted an account of the intimidation she faced (she says she feared for her life) on Facebook. (She faults society at large rather than specifically the campus.)
The Middlebury principles are fine and good, except that it is naive to believe that anyone in the crowd of rioters who shouted down Murray and sent Professor Stanger to the ER was aiming at "a perfectly egalitarian sphere of free discourse."
That implies a noble end and gives them too much credit--implying that perhaps they just got carried away in the pursuit of an "egalitarian sphere of free discourse." Did these rioters look to you like "free discourse" was their thing? Give me a break.
Let's not be too eager to dismiss the breakdown in civility and death of the principles of intellectual inquiry that these pampered hooligans represent.