As you probably know, a number of colleges and universities broke into the headlines this fall, with protests led by students who objected to what they described as discrimination and ingrained racism at the institutions they attend. In some cases, the protestors objected to the quality of discourse on their campuses, pointing to particular choices of language or imagery which they considered demeaning, offensive, or just plain oblivious to the reality of their experience.
The dynamics of the discourse were complex, and the backlash came quickly, with critics portraying student demands as but one more iteration of a long-term trend toward a kind of shackling of free discourse on American campuses. Indeed, alarms over a perceived assault on free speech quickly overshadowed the debate about institutional racism – at least, off campus they did.
Tonight, we are debating at Yale – not to revisit the details of that university's particular protest, but to test the larger proposition at the heart of backlash.
This is our motion: "Free Speech Is Threatened on Campus."
Our perspective will be nationwide – focused on public and private universities alike – and our panelists are all people whose lives and careers have been made within university walls. We intend to keep it civil – as always.