Speech, Academic Freedom, and Privilege

By John F. Covaleskie

Abstract:

The past decade has seen two opposing movements gather force on college campuses. Advocates of social justice have pushed for campus policies that make campuses safer as well as more inclusive of and welcoming for historically underrepresented or marginalized students. Policy recommendations include trigger warnings, anti–hate speech codes, and more supportive policies for survivors of sexual assault.

Advocates of maximizing free speech and academic freedom describe these policies as political correctness, coddling students who seek protection on campuses, demeaning such students as “snowflakes.” Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt popularized this argument in “The Coddling of the American Mind,” a widely read and influential Atlantic Monthly article.

In this essay I argue that Lukianoff and Haidt (and the general opposition to the safe spaces movement) are incorrect in their portrayal of today’s college student, and that the policies and practices they oppose are necessary responses to the effects of trauma caused by a history of injustice.

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