It's free speech only if you shut up. 12.20.2005

As seen on Little Green Footballs: I'm not the ideal poster boy

To summarize the story, an adjunct professor, Thomas Klocek, got into an argument with a group of students at a student activity fair at DePaul University where he teaches--and when the students at the "Students for Justice in Palestine" complained, Mr. Klocek lost his job. He's how suing.

The money quote, from the last page of the article:
"I get accused of being against free speech," [DePaul University President Dr. Dennis] Holtschneider said. "But freedom of speech for students requires they have a professor who treats them with respect."

In other words, for the students to have freedom of speech, professors have to shut up.

I'm not sure where to start with this quote. Do I start wondering why it is that self-esteem training and a therapeutic culture has replaced the socratic method and an environment that encourages debate and the search for the truth at universities? That's been handled elsewhere much better than I in various articles, such as Self-Esteem: Downfall of a Great Nation?, or Victor Hanson's observations on our Therapeutic culture in articles such as History or Hysteria?, a theme which started with his book, Who Killed Homer?: The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom.

Or should I start with the observation that this statement effectively says "free speech for me, not for thee?" But at various Universities, this is rather old news: On Campus, Only Some Free Speech Protected, in political debate: Free Speech for Me, Not for Thee: The limits of liberal love for freewheeling debate, and even in the presidential debates: John Kerry: Free Speech for Me, Not for Thee.

Personally, I only have two points. First, if students are coddled in the way Dr. Holtschneider wishes to coddle them, those students will be ill-prepared for the real world where someone who disagrees with you cannot simply be fired and removed from the debate. This sort of therapeutic environment doesn't prepare students; it makes them ill-prepared, and puts them in a position where unless they grow a backbone, they will either withdraw from the public debate to a coocoon of like-minded people, or they will lash out and demand--as their university president did--that their freedom of speech is being denied by those who disagree with them.

Second, and on a related note, free speech requires protection not only of speech which is popular, but also speech which is unpopular. Only in a free marketplace of ideas can we arrive at the truth. But at DePaul University, by eliminating unpopular speech to "protect our children," Truth was not served. Unpopular speech was ended--and as a result, true free speech (and not the therapeutic version Dr. Holtschneider advocates) was destroyed.

posted by William Woody at 11:20 AM

According to the students’ allegations, in the incident concerned, Klocek “continuously referred to Palestinians as ‘those people’ and went on to say that Palestinians ‘do not exist.’ ” If he had talked in the same way about the Jews to Jewish students, I would have little hesitation in treating his comments as anti-Semitic. I do not regard insisting that professors not display anti-Semitism towards Jewish students as unreasonable, and certainly not as an example of intellectual ‘coddling’. No university is obligated to provide a platform for anti-Semitic or Islamophobic views, anymore than they are required to provide a platform for idiots and frauds. They can always continue to contribute to the free marketplace of ideas from outside the campus. As a defender of free speech, I would not force a university to suspend a professor for expressing such views, but I could certainly understand why they might wish to do so. Especially if the pressure to do so came from within the university itself, rather than from a media firestorm. From the little I’ve read about the issue, I think it would probably have been better to caution Klocek than fire him, but then I wasn’t there.
Anonymous Contradictory Ben at 3:39 AM  

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