Fun With Words

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Our Amazon Product du Jour illustrates a seeming contradiction: how can a school branding itself as a university also be a champion of diversity?

I'm sure others have remarked on this. I'm sure others have combed through the etymology of those terms trying to reconcile the conflict. But I'm too lazy to look. Why has nobody upped their game, demanding triversity? Or tetraversity? Or…

Well, never mind that. Yesterday, we briefly examined the abhorrent/hilarious performance of university presidents testifying before a Congressional committee about their obviously hypocritical embrace of free speech. The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression's (FIRE's) Nico Perrino has a good suggestion: Don’t expand censorship. End it..

Yesterday, the U.S. House Committee on Education & the Workforce held a hearing on “Holding Campus Leaders Accountable and Confronting Antisemitism.” For hours, members of Congress grilled the presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on their responses to anti-Semitism on campus following Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel — and many observers noted the hypocrisy of leaders of institutions with checkered records on free expression suddenly claiming their institutional commitments to free speech prevented them from cracking down on anti-Semitic speech.

Of course, one can understand the frustration of critics who rightly observe how quickly college administrators — including those at Harvard, Penn, and MIT — will reach for speech codes when certain disfavored views are expressed, yet don the cloak of free speech when they are more sympathetic to the speech at issue. Speech codes depend for their very existence on the exercise of double standards, as FIRE co-founder Alan Charles Kors has said.

But the solution to this moral cowardice is not to expand the use of vague and overbroad harassment codes so that they apply in more cases. Rather administrators should eliminate these codes and defend free speech in all cases. No hypocrisy. No double standards.

I suspect that the intellectual rot has set in too deep for the "elite" universities to take this advice.

Bonus, a tweet from Harvard's own Steven Pinker (who quotes a FIRE tweet referencing a different statement):

Click through for especially recommendation number four.

Also of note:

  • Neither was reverse racism, but we got that too. Glenn Reynolds, the Blogfather, pbuh, says, at his substack: Reverse Speech Codes Aren't the Answer.

    So the shocking pro-genocide/pro-Palestinian marches at top Ivy League schools have put their administrations into a pretty pickle.  They want to escape responsibility for student speech, but their efforts to plead “free speech” ring hollow, when they’ve been eagerly policing student – and faculty – speech for years. Just ask IowaHawk.


    But as much as I enjoy seeing these people stew in the juices of their hypocrisy – and believe me, enjoy it I do -- it is nonetheless true, as Eugene Volokh cogently points out, that free speech principles, and the First Amendment where it applies, prevent things like a selective ban on anti-semitism, or on “advocacy of genocide” or whatever. 

    But think how much easier the life of these administrators would be if they and their institutions had just had some principles.  If they had a record of allowing student and faculty speech on everything without punishment, they could point to that record and say, sure, some of our students are saying monstrous things, but we believe in free speech and that the best way to deal with monstrous ideas is by discussing, and refuting, them in the open.

    Of course, they can’t say that, because it isn’t true – and, more importantly, it obviously isn’t true.   Top universities have for years been denying the value of free speech, and even suggesting it is some sort of questionable relic of white supremacy, or Christian Nationalism, or something.  They’ve been centers for the belief that the way to deal with ideas you don’t like isn’t to refute them, but to ruthlessly suppress them.

    I'll once again point out (with a little pride) that the University Near Here is at the other end of the FIRE scale which Iowahawk references.

  • But that wasn't the only fun at that hearing. Another major idiocy didn't get the coverage it deserved, as described at the College Fix: MIT president defends blacks-only dorm: ‘Positive selection,’ not ‘exclusionary’.

    The president of Massachusetts Institute of Technology defended a blacks-only dorm on her campus Tuesday before a U.S. House committee, saying the segregation is not “exclusionary” but “positive selection by students.”

    “Actually at MIT, our students affiliate voluntarily with whichever dorm they want to. It’s not exclusionary, it’s actually positive selection by students which dormitory they want to live in,” MIT President Sally Kornbluth said during a hearing about rising antisemitism on college campuses.

    This can't end well, can it?

  • By which I mean: not my fault. David Harsanyi points the finger: Yes, Inflation Is Sort Of Your Fault.

    “If people are so mad about high prices, why do they keep buying so many expensive things?” wonders Annie Lowrey in an Atlantic piece headlined, “Inflation Is Your Fault.”

    Well, I assume demand remains high because individuals work and save to purchase things they need and like for themselves and their families — even when they’re mad about the price. We’re not automatons, after all.

    But let's skip to David's bottom line:

    Debt, spending, and inflation are all the culmination of long-term irresponsible behavior, compounded by many administrations and Congresses. If voters keep putting the same people into office — the ones who botched budgets, and Covid, and recoveries, and pretty much everything else — then yes, you’re also at fault.

    As someone who pretty much always votes for the election-losers lately, it's not exactly my fault. But I'm far from certain the pols I voted for would have done better.

Last Modified 2024-01-09 9:05 AM EDT