UPDATE: Happy April 1st!
Over the years, Wesleyan University and many other schools have been criticized for speech codes that can having a “chilling effect” on the exchange of ideas on a campus. Critics have emphasized that even saying you have “zero tolerance for hate” can backfire because hate, like love, may just be in the eye of the beholder. These critics are right. We need positive speech! I announce today that Wesleyan will go far beyond policies to prevent discrimination, harassment and hate; from now on we will promote positivity, nurturing and love.
Preventing hate speech is not enough! We need a positive program for promoting community through exuberant affection. The administration has decided to require students to be good to one another, to show compassion, and to build community through kindness. There will be monitors, and there will be a point system. Sure, it will seem to some artificial at first, but the latest research in neuroscience shows that after you act in a certain way, the feelings will catch up to the actions. In other words, if you smile a lot, you will begin to feel happier — even if the smiling was just a requirement!
So smile, Wesleyans! Over the next few weeks we will roll out policies (with points to incentivize friendly behavior!) to go beyond prohibitions on nastiness. We will nudge ourselves to niceness, and our community will be all the more welcoming for it!