Free Speech Waffle

This post is a compilation and extension of tweets that I made on March 9. I was responding to and riffing off of a post by Jonathan Haidt, who himself was responding to a feature in Boston Magazine, about Middlebury College, the location of the latest highly visible no-platforming-campaign-turned-violent, this time during a scheduled lecture by Charles Murray.

One interesting nugget from that piece referred to the statistical breakdown of faculty support of policies of speech suppression, according to UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute. The article focused mainly on the high numbers of faculty from humanities disciplines who are in strongly in favor of suppressing free speech under certain circumstances. The example circumstances in the survey were prohibitions on racist or sexist speech on campus (note that the question was not should such speech exist, or is such speech good or bad, but should such speech be explicitly prohibited by institutions.)

While that certainly got my goat, it didn't particularly surprise me. What really bothered me were the national figures across all disciplines, which indicated only 12% strongly disagreeing with suppressing speech on campus. In that survey, 33% were strongly in favor of suppressive measures, and 55% "somewhat agreeing and disagreeing." It was this that sent me on a bit of a rant.

Media and communications professors tacitly suppressing speech. Up is down, down is up.

I haven't decided what I want to do regarding my professional organization's statement. I'm not fond of call-out culture, and I don't see it as an effective rhetorical technique, which is why I didn't rush to denounce them and start up some kind of social media battle. I'm considering waiting for our annual meeting and bringing it up at the general assembly for discussion and debate, but I wonder what would happen.

I can't imagine they'd renounce or amend the statement. I got so mad I considered running for president of the organization, but I realized that was stupid. Moves like that are rarely done by one person, the board of directors would've had to support such a statement, and my time means too much to me to spend it in meetings arguing against the wind. I've seen it happen over firsthand when I served on the board and as an officer, which is why I never ran for president before. So I guess the annual meeting will be where I make my case.

Considering the deafening silence in response to my tweets, I might be standing there alone speaking against this. But I have a feeling I won't be.