Talking About Free Speech on and off Campus

Last week I attended the very interesting meeting of the Heterodox Academy in New York. The association emphasizes the importance of what they call “viewpoint diversity,” and in our time of polarized politics the defenders of free speech the group attracts are often labeled as right wing. In fact, there were people from various parts of the political spectrum at the meeting, even if it is true there were plenty of centrists in attendance. Given our efforts to create greater intellectual diversity at Wesleyan, I was happy to listen and to be a part of the conversations.

My panel at the Heterodox meetings dealt with how academic administrators could help create a more robust culture of free inquiry and expression. Videos of all the panels can be found here (my panel is about a third of the way down the page).

This morning I’m off to Banff for a debate on the impact of safe spaces on the commitment to free speech. I’ll argue that one actually needs a level of safety to have fair access to learning, and that this level (“safe enough spaces”)  creates room for productive intellectual diversity and reasonable argument. The program is part of the Intelligence Squared series, which you can read about here.

I’m pleased to be part of conversations in which I’ll hear different points of view — that’s how learning happens, as I know from my Wesleyan classes.