A WONDERFUL video on the value of free speech at universities

The University of Chicago doesn’t hide its defense of free speech and open discourse in the footnotes. It puts free speech front and center, in a video directed at all students thinking of applying to the University. It states our university values forthrightly, explains why they matter, and shows that we have held them since the university was founded, sometimes against rich and powerful opposition.

What’s amazing–and disheartening–is that these same values are not adopted by every college and university. What’s their principled objection to diversity of thought and free speech?

A few may have such principled objections, based on their notions of “social justice.” They know what is socially just; they know what is not; and they know the whole topic is just too important to debate. So, they reason, agree with us or at least have the courtesy to keep quiet.

DePaul is like that. It took away the students’ chalk last year after someone had the temerity to write “Trump 2016” on a sidewalk. This Catholic school banned a poster, “Unborn Lives Matter,” for fear it would upset black students. There’s more robust debate on the back of a cereal box.

But most university administrators have no principled objections to free speech. They just go with the flow, unwilling to face the opposition from students and faculty that would greet them if they urged a hearing for unpopular viewpoints.

The poster boy for this invertebrate position is Peter Salovey, president of Yale. It’s bad enough he fails to defend free speech. He goes further, patting himself on the back for supporting the First Amendment. “Lux et Veritas” may be the university motto, but only if the lux is environmentally-friendly and the veritas is approved by local truth squad. Otherwise, not so much.

Salovey’s stance is similar to most college administrators. They simply do what successful career bureaucrats always do: protect their positions and that of their institutions from any controversy. That may keep the campus quiet, but is that really the highest goal of education?


I’m reluctant to post too much about my own university, despite my great admiration for its intellectual traditions and commitment to free speech.

It seems too much like preening.

(CAVEAT: Even at Chicago, there are some departments and centers that fall well short of the aspiration of diverse viewpoints. They are the same ones that rot and stink in the sun on all campuses.

There are also student groups that are happy to stomp out speech with which they disagree. The misnamed “Students for Justice in Palestine” leads this vile pack, as they do on many campuses. They show no signs of accepting John Locke’s 1689 “Letter Concerning on Toleration,” or the Enlightenment ideals that build upon it and serve as this country’s foundation.

Even with these gaps and missteps, Chicago’s values in principle and in practice are far better than at places like Swarthmore, Yale, or Berkeley, where free speech and discordant views go to die. They are buried in unmarked graves, unmourned by students who fritter away hard-won constitutional freedoms so they can signal their higher virtue.)


This University of Chicago video is exactly what all schools should be saying to their prospective students. The punchline comes in the first 3 minutes, but the whole 10 minutes are worth watching.

Kudos to the university’s faculty and administrators who put free speech and diversity of ideas front and center. Kudos to the Dean of the College and the admissions department for underscoring these principled commitments.

Kudos, too, for adopting the informal motto: 

Audiatur et Altera Pars: Listen Even to the Other Side.


DePaul, Where Free Speech Comes to Die. They have already banned chalk! Now, they ban a poster. See if you can guess why!

Some students at DePaul want to put up a pro-life poster.

You might think that would be uncontroversial at a Catholic university.


This is DePaul, where Free Speech Comes to Die.

They not only banned the poster. They cited “Catholic values” for banning it. You have to give them credit for a droll sense of humor.

Here’s the poster and here’s one article about it.

Now, just for fun, see if you can guess how this poster violates Catholic Values?

Here is the open letter from DePaul’s President explaining his reasoning.

As we have declined to host a proposed speaker and asked students to redesign a banner that provokes the Black Lives Matter movement.
Some people will say that DePaul’s stance unfairly silences speech to appease a crowd.  Nothing can be further from the truth.
–Letter from DePaul Pres., Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., to the university community about speech and DePaul’s values
That statement is pure Orwell. DePaul flatly prohibits speech on a major topic but maintains it wrong to say its stance “unfairly silences speech.” Actually, that is exactly what it does. The DePaul President’s letter could have be drafted by Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.

What is DePaul’s rationale for banning speech?

Here is the rationale they offer:
We accept that there is a distinction between being provocative and being hurtful.  Speech whose primary purpose is to wound is inconsistent with our Vincentian and Catholic values.
— DePaul’s Guiding Principles on Speech and Expression
  1. DePaul only protects speech if it is “not hurtful” and
  2. DePaul’s administrators alone will determine what is hurtful.

My hunch is they won’t  make the determination alone. Showing the backbone of overcooked vermicelli, the administrators will listen very, very carefully to see if any approved victims’ group complains. If they do (or might conceivably do so), then the speech will be deemed “hurtful.” After that, the “hurtful” speech will be prohibited.

It goes without saying that prohibiting speech could not itself be hurtful. How could it possible hurt anyone to tell them to shut up? Silencing opposing views is apparently consistent “with our Vincentian and Catholic values.” (They certainly have history on their side, but I’m sure it is not the history they want to be associated with.)depaul-free-speech-we-welcome-all-views-200px-margin-left

That’s DePaul’s policy, where nothing could be further from the truth than real free speech.

That’s DePaul, which encourages mindless conformity and slovenly thinking because students are not forced to confront divergent ideas or make convincing arguments. To defeat an argument, all they have to do is claim narcissistic injury. “That was hurtful. I win.”

That’s DePaul, where political victimhood triumphs because counter-arguments cannot be heard.
That’s DePaul, where free speech and divergent opinions come to die.

“DePaul,” one professor said, “is where free speech goes to die”

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DePaul University may be a top academic institution, but it ranks near the bottom on free speech.

So says the nation’s leading monitor of campus speech codes, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. FIRE has just published a scathing article on DePaul’s speech-suppression policies.foundation_for_individual_rights_in_education_logo

The title: Is DePaul America’s Worst School for Free Speech? The competition for that skunk’s prize is fierce, but you have to admire DePaul’s pluck in pursuing it. Wesleyan is right up there, as usual. So is Northwestern, Marquette, Colorado College, and the University of California, San Diego. The list is here. But that list was published last February. Since then, DePaul has been hard at work suppressing speech, hoping to gain a spot on the list-of-infamy next year.

wiggum-depaul-200pxDePaul’s most impressive act of speech suppression was banning chalk messages from sidewalks. Yes. DePaul’s leaders are imitating Mrs. Krabappel, the Simpsons teacher, who cannot allow Ralph Wiggums to have any crayons because poor Ralphie is so dumb he will eat them. DePaul has taken away the students’ chalk. This came after the mass-fainting and mental-health emergency caused when one student apparently chalked the hate message, “Trump 2016.”

DePaul has not publicly stated whether students will be allowed to watch the evening news or access the internet, where messages like this have occasionally been sighted. One option would be to install child-proof software on all student computers and mobile phones, strengthened to block political messages that differ from university administrators’ deeply-held beliefs.

DePaul’s reason for taking away the students’ chalk would receive an “F” in a first-year law class. Writing for FIRE, Ari Cohn explains:

After some were offended by the chalking—including the grounds crew who erased the messages—DePaul Vice President of Student Affairs Eugene Zdziarski emailed the student community banning any partisan chalking on campus. The justification? That as a tax-exempt entity, DePaul is prohibited from participating in political campaigns and supporting candidates for office.

But as FIRE has repeatedly explained every election cycle, that argument holds no water. Tax-exempt colleges and universities are themselves prohibited from endorsing candidates and participating in campaigns, but their students most certainly are not.

Ari Cohn, writing for FIRE

DePaul’s efforts to suppress speech are a long-running project, as thorough-going as they are absurd. To quote Cohn again

And there have been numerous cases in between now and then supporting the conclusion that DePaul has a viewpoint discrimination problem: In 2006, DePaul charged a student group with harassment for holding an event that satirized affirmative action. In 2010, a student organization advocating for the reform of marijuana laws was denied recognition because the university disagreed with its message. In 2013, DePaul charged a student with conduct violations for publicizing the names of students who had vandalized his group’s pro-life display on campus.

The administration refused even to permit posters criticizing one speaker: the infamous Ward Churchill. For another speech, sponsored last year by conservatives, the university refused to pay for security guards and demanded the students themselves pay for a dozen or more. This year, to atone for having allowed a conservative speaker on campus, the university is funding a year-long series on race, featuring the usual suspects.

There is no cognitive diversity, of course. The university actively discourages it. When discouraging isn’t enough, they flatly prohibit it. They take away the chalk. When it comes to preventing speech they don’t agree with, DePaul’s administrators, faculty, and students are regular Blue Demons.

DePaul versus Differences of Opinion

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♦ DePaul University Launches Year-Long Series on “Race and Free Speech” with NO Conservative Speakers Invited(Heat Street)

♦ Comment: No one who knows DePaul is surprised. No one. It is just the latest in DePaul’s unending efforts to ban any discordant views that might question the complacent judgments and smug pose of moral superiority among students, staff, and faculty.

The speakers are the usual suspects: a warm, fuzzy, and utterly banal list. They will doubtless tap DePaul’s coffers for as much as they can grub.

I know several professors at DePaul who are true advocates for free speech. They tell me, sadly, how dreadful their university is about including dissident views from conservatives. It speaks volumes that I cannot even name the good guys here, lest it make their lives at DePaul even worse.

But this is not really about conservatives. It is about including multiple viewpoints. It is about the one type of campus diversity no one ever mentions: cognitive diversity.

It’s time to call out DePaul publicly for failing to meet what should be a university’s core standards of free and vigorous discourse. DePaul’s administrators and its Social Justice Warriors have other goals. In pushing those goals relentlessly, they have allowed their vision of a good society to crush all alternative views, to quash free speech, and ultimately to lower their university’s standards of teaching, education, and research. Shame on DePaul. (Comment by Charles Lipson)