- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 30, 2016

A political science professor at the University of Chicago says American universities are teeming with perpetually offended “delicate snowflakes” who are destroying free speech in academia.

“‘Safety,’ as it happens, is a magic word on campus,” Charles Lipson wrote in an essay for Real Clear Politics. “It has its own special meaning, well beyond legitimate concerns about robbery, sexual assaults, and coercive threats. Some students have stretched the term to mean ‘I feel unsafe because I disagree with your ideas. So shut up. Right now.’ “

“Today, dean-of-students offices are devoted to comforting delicate snowflakes and soothing their feelings. If that means stamping out others’ speech, too bad,” he continued. “The deans are typically helped by small bureaucracies with Orwellian titles such as ‘the Office for Diversity and Inclusion.’ The title is deceptive; these offices are ideologically driven. They are not about ‘including’ Chinese-Americans, Cuban-Americans, Jews who support Israel, or evangelical Christians who may feel themselves beleaguered minorities on campus. The diversity police have zero interest in encouraging diverse viewpoints. Instead, they are university-sponsored advocates for approved minorities, approved viewpoints, and approved grievances. Full stop.”

Mr. Lipson offered a five-step plan that he believes will resolve the “assault on free discussion” on college campuses. First, he asked that university leaderships show “some intellectual courage.”

“Their boards of trustees should demand to know if free speech is protected on their campuses, in principle and in practice. Then, they should hold the school administrators accountable for results,” he wrote. “Second, universities should tell students, beginning with their acceptance letters, that ‘our school believes in free speech, open debate, and diverse opinions. You will hear different views on controversial topics. You are urged to read, write, and develop your own views, but you may not suppress others.’ Stress that core value during orientation week. Urge students who seek shelter from intellectual challenges to go somewhere else.”

Step three included assigning a ranking administrator to free speech ambassador.

“He or she should make regular reports to the university president, faculty, and board, just as others do about gender discrimination, physical safety, and other issues,” Mr. Lipson wrote.

“Fourth, demand that student affairs offices stop suppressing basic academic freedoms and start supporting them. Begin by restoring the rightful meaning of ‘student safety.’ It shouldn’t be distorted to shield students from uncomfortable ideas,” he continued. “Finally, let students know that they have every right to protest peacefully. They have every right to hold their own events, opposing what others’ advocate. But they have no right to disrupt others, and they will be punished if they do. Stop coddling rabble-rousers who come to campus specifically to disrupt academic events, as they often do. Universities routinely ignore these problems, despite their corrosive effects.”

Mr. Lipson warned that the First Amendment is being “smothered in an avalanche of delicate snowflakes,” and if universities don’t act fast, they will fail at upholding their “basic mission of promoting the exchange of ideas, real learning, and innovative research.”

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