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Let’s Talk About Speech

April 28, 2016

The empty stage of the Yale Repertory Theatre looked like the set of a talk show. A black-and-white photograph of the New York City skyline hung in three panels in the center, and two empty frosted-glass tables stood on either side of the stage, each flanked by a black podium. Lights on the walls shifted sunset-like from orange to pink. On March 1, Yale students, professors, New Haven locals, and even high school debate teams shuffled into the Rep clutching grey pamphlets that declared: “Free Speech is Threatened on Campus.”

This was a public debate hosted by the nonprofit Intelligence Squared, but its resolution might have been lifted from any of the endless finger-wagging think pieces that appeared in response to anti-racism demonstrations last semester at the University of Missouri, Yale, and other colleges. And although the debate had been scheduled long before last November, higher-ups at Intelligence Squared chose the topic specifically because of its relevance to Yale, according to Dana Wolf, the executive producer of Intelligence Squared U.S.

Free-Speech Advocates Are Not Trying to Silence Students

March 08, 2016

A recurring falsehood in the ongoing debate about campus culture, politics, and policy.

Last week, I surveyed the overwhelming evidence that free speech is threatened on campus. But I did not address a counterargument that uncharitable skeptics of that position keep repeating: that those who defend liberal values in higher education are really trying to silence or distract from students who speak out against racism.

That is a pernicious falsehood every bit as bankrupt as the similarly uncharitable belief that all accusations of racism are really just cynical power grabs built on lies.


Despite the fact that the falsehood has been explicitly repudiated by so many defenders of free speech, and stands in stark conflict with the principles that they espouse, it was repeated again last week in the Intelligence Squared debate on campus speech.

The Glaring Evidence That Free Speech Is Threatened on Campus

March 04, 2016

A debate at Yale highlighted the disconnect between those who would downplay the problem, and the growing mass of evidence that they’re wrong.

At a recent Intelligence Squared debate, an audience filled an auditorium at Yale University to weigh the timely proposition, “Free speech is threatened on campus.” The debate concerned higher education generally, not just the host institution. And at the event’s conclusion, having heard arguments on both sides of the question, 66 percent of the crowd agreed: free speech is threatened. That represented a 17-point shift from a poll taken as the event began. The evidence is that persuasive.

Are Students Demanding a Limit to Free Speech on Campuses Today?

March 04, 2016

More of this year’s freshman class expects to participate in at least one protest while they’re in college than at any other time in the last 50 years. The portion of all students who claim to be these prospective protesters? 10%. Among black students, the proportion rises to 16%.

While some argue the rise in college protests can be attributed to the fact that marginalized students are finding their voices and demanding better, others see a threat to free speech in these campaigns [...]

At Yale this week, Intelligence Squared convened a debate about whether free speech is threatened on campus, ending the night with two-thirds of audience members siding with the “yes” camp.

Intelligence Squared Debate: Free Speech Is Threatened on Campus

March 04, 2016

Intelligence Squared presented an excellent debate on Tuesday at Yale —“Resolved: Free speech is threatened on campus.”

Yale was a particularly apt venue for this debate. Yale has a proud tradition of freedom of speech, and its official statement on free speech, the “Woodward Report” of 1974, is one of the strongest defenses of free speech in the academy. But the infamous controversy of this past Halloween, and the way that Yale handled the controversy, have led many to doubt Yale’s current commitment to free speech. This year, Yale only narrowly avoided ranking among the 10 worst colleges in the United States for free speech, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). So this debate was particularly timely, and it clearly struck a nerve at Yale.

Tell Us: Is Your Speech Policed in Your Dorm?

March 02, 2016

On Tuesday, an audience gathered at Yale to hear a debate on the proposition, “Free speech is threatened on campus.” The question pertained to institutions of higher education generally, not just the host university. The outcome: a clear majority agree that free speech is threatened. But that wasn’t yet true when the event began.

Critics of Leftist Assault on Campus Win over Yale Audience in Free-Speech Debate

March 02, 2016

Portrayed as ‘ignorant at best and immoral at worst,’ non-leftist students self-censor.

In recent weeks, speakers such as conservative Ben Shapiro and anti-feminist Milo Yiannopoulos have faced angry crowds of progressive students who tried to shut down their campus speeches with interruptions and physical confrontations.

Yet it took an evening of civil debate between scholars and writers to convince a divided Yale University audience that “free speech is threatened on campus.”

The public radio show and podcast Intelligence Squared U.S. hosted the Tuesday evening Oxford-style debate at Yale, moderated by ABC News correspondent John Donvan.

Debate at Yale Rep in New Haven Examines Free Speech on Campus

March 02, 2016

The atmosphere on college campuses has changed, a Columbia University professor argued before an audience full of Yale students and New Haven residents Tuesday. And that change has created spaces in which free speech is not extinguished, but threatened.

A majority of the audience agreed.

After a debate hosted by Intelligence Squared U.S., a nonprofit that provides free online access to debates held across the country on issues facing society, 66 percent of the audience left convinced that free speech is threatened on college campuses. The event was held at the Yale Repertory Theatre.

Students Unswayed by Free Speech Debate

March 02, 2016

Before a nearly full auditorium at the Yale Repertory Theater Tuesday night, the NPR show “Intelligence Squared U.S.” hosted a debate on the motion that free speech is threatened on college campuses. But despite the robust turnout, most students’ opinions on the topic remained largely unchanged, with students stating that many of the arguments advanced at the debate were ideas they had already heard last fall.

Debaters Successfully Argue That Free Speech Is Under Threat

March 02, 2016

Do the campus protests and debates that roil around speech that has been deemed “offensive” or “racist” signal a threat to free speech or are we simply moving into a more enlightened time when intolerance is no longer quietly accepted? That was the question posed to two teams of debaters and an audience of Yale University students and New Haven, Conn., residents on Tuesday night.

New Haven Debate Will Focus on Whether Free Speech Is Threatened on Campuses

February 26, 2016

The atmosphere on campuses nationwide has become charged with accusations, on one side, that “micro-aggressions” are hurtful to women and people of color, and countercharges that universities are censoring speakers.

On Tuesday, the issue will land in the spotlight at the Yale Repertory Theatre as four debaters argue for or against the statement, “Free speech is threatened on campus.”

“I don’t think there’s any question that free speech is threatened on campus. I think the question is whether free speech should be threatened on campus,” said Wendy Kaminer, who is one of the debaters in the Intelligence Squared U.S. debate, sponsored by the Adam Smith Society, an organization composed of business school students and alumni.

7 Criticisms Of Affirmative Action That Have Been Thoroughly Disproved

December 11, 2015

During the Intelligence Squared debate last week, Roger Clegg, president and general counsel for the Center for Equal Opportunity, argued that a diverse campus and the interracial conversations that could result from it is not a compelling enough reason to continue racial preferences, even as part of a larger calculus that considers many factors for student admission.

Ahead of Fisher Showdown, Experts Defend Affirmative Action

December 08, 2015

As the Supreme Court of the United States again prepares to consider arguments in Fisher v. The University of Texas at Austin today, the arguments will be presented amid a national environment that seems to have proven that race is still very much a factor on campuses across the country.

Smart Drugs for College Kids

November 05, 2015

Pop a pill, ace a test. If you could take a pill that would instantly make you work harder, improve your brain function and make you “smarter,” would you?

A panel of experts argued this question in a debate this week presented byIntelligence Squared U.S. at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., entitled, “College Students Should be Allowed to Take Smart Drugs.”

Are Smart Drugs a Smart Choice? Experts Debate at SMPA

November 03, 2015

If there was a pill that could make everyone smarter and more focused, how many people would take it?

This question was the subject of debate among experts at the Jack Morton Auditorium Monday night. Moderated by ABC News correspondent John Donvan, the panel weighed the medical and moral risks, as well as the benefits, of college students using drugs like Adderall, without a prescription, to help them study.

‘Smart Drugs’ Are Here — Should College Students Be Allowed to Use Them?

November 03, 2015

We use coffee to stay awake, good food and nutrition to stay healthy and alert. But if there was a drug that made you smarter, helped you learn, and made you more focused, would you take it?

That’s a question that Nicole Vincent, associate professor of philosophy, law and neuroscience at Georgia State University, asked to open her TED talk in Sydney last year.

That question also opened a Monday night debate at George Washington University in which two sides argued both for and against whether “College Students Should Be Allowed to Take Smart Drugs.”

Why Banning Smart Drugs for College Students Is Impossible, Evil

November 03, 2015

Should college students be allowed to take Adderall and Modafinil to improve their academic performance, or should universities treat these so-called “smart drugs” the same way Major League Baseball treats steroids? I attended a debate on the subject at George Washington University last night, and came away convinced that banning smart drugs is not only impractical—it’s profoundly evil.

Are Smart Drugs Good for College Students?

November 03, 2015

Should college students take smart drugs? That was the question posed to a panel of professors at an Intelligence Squared debate at George Washington University on Monday night.

Colleges Should Allow Students to Take Smart Drugs

November 03, 2015

Last night, I had the pleasure of debating my views on why college students should be allowed to take smart drugs. My partner, Anjan Chatterjee and I were in support of the resolution. Nicole Vincent and Eric Racine were opposed.

The debate, hosted by Intelligence Squared US (IQ2US) and FIRE, was an engaging conversation about the existing and potential role of these drugs in society, and in particular on college campuses.

Intelligence Squared / FIRE Debate: College Students Should Be Allowed to Take Smart Drugs

November 01, 2015

Intelligence Squared US and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) are embarking on a joint venture (that I am proud to have brokered), to present a series of high-profile debates on college campuses. Our first debate will be tomorrow at George Washington University.

‘Smart Pills’ for College Students: Would That Be Cheating?

October 26, 2015

Should students be allowed — or encouraged — to take “smart drugs” so they can get better grades?

That will be the question on the table on Monday when the public affairs program Intelligence Squared — IQ2 — brings its lively debate format to George Washington University.

Debate on Campus Assault Jurisdiction

September 21, 2015

On September 16, 2015, ALI members Stephen J. Schulhofer of New York University School of Law, Jeannie C. Suk of Harvard University Law School, and Michelle J. Anderson of City University of New York School of Law participated in a debate discussing whether universities are equipped for enforcing policies in response to sexual assault violence, or whether the criminal court system is better suited for the task.

Can a Debate About Who Should Decide Campus-Rape Cases Change Minds?

September 18, 2015

Just before four law professors take the stage here to debate whether courts or colleges should decide sexual-assault cases, the ABC News correspondent John Donvan polls the audience of about 250 people.

Should all rape allegations involving college students be handled by the criminal-justice system? Or should campuses continue to use a separate disciplinary process, with different standards and sanctions, and give students who allege such incidents a choice of how to proceed?

In New York, Law School's Jeannie Suk Debates Title IX

September 18, 2015

Harvard Law School professor Jeannie C. Suk argued at a forum in New York this week that the criminal court system, not campus resources, should investigate and adjudicate cases of alleged sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape.

At the forum—hosted by Intelligence Squared Debates and titled “Courts, Not Campuses, Should Decide Sexual Assault Cases”—Suk and Yale Law School professor Jed Rubenfeld argued in favor of the motion. Michelle Anderson, the dean of City University New York School of Law, and Stephen Schulhofer, a professor at New York University School of Law, argued in favor of university involvement in the contentious issue.

Debate: Courts, not Campuses, Should Decide Sexual Assault Cases

September 17, 2015

Jed Rubenfeld and Jeannie Suk (for) and Michelle Anderson and Stephen Schulhofer (against) participated in an interesting and extensive debate on this question on September 16; video here. One of the most notable aspects of the discussion was the systematic doubt about the capacity of courts to be fair. Professor Suk noted that campus disciplinary proceedings had a disproportionate impact on the poor and minorities; Dean Anderson responded, to oversimplify, that Ferguson and other incidents make clear that the criminal justice system is worse. All sides agreed that there are excesses in campus discipline which are appropriately being weeded out in courts. Again, to oversimplify, Professor Schulhofer argued nevertheless that campus discipline was necessary for fairness to the accused; given draconian sexual assault sentences, the power of prosecutors, the pressure of sweet pleas, and the unreliability of juries, some form of accountability other than prosecution was necessary so that the lives of minor offenders (or alleged offenders) were not ruined. Taken together, I think most or all parties might agree that the criminal justice system has often been disrespectful of victims, dismissive of sexual assault claims, and also sometimes arbitrary and brutal to those charged with or convicted of sex offenses. If this is so, one wonders what makes the character or ability of professors and administrators so much higher that better results are likely in the academy.

Liberals Are Stifling Intellectual Diversity, Campus Audience Decides After Hearing Both Sides of the Argument

February 26, 2015

WASHINGTON — Before the Intelligence Squared debate held at George Washington University, only one in three audience members said they agreed that liberals are stifling intellectual diversity at colleges and universities, but after hearing both sides of the debate, almost three-fifths of the audience was convinced that liberals are stifling intellectual diversity.

The debate, moderated by John Donvan, an author and correspondent for ABC News, will be aired on National Public Radio stations and is available online.

Encouragingly, Both Sides in Debate on Campus Speech End Up Defending Campus Speech

February 25, 2015

At GW last night, nobody was willing to argue that students should be silenced.

Anyone feeling disheartened by the many ways our First Amendment freedoms are under attack may find solace in the outcome of an event last night hosted by Intelligence Squared at George Washington University. Two teams of two debated whether liberals are stifling intellectual diversity on college campuses—and the side arguing for the proposition won in a landslide.

Interestingly, three of the four participants and both debaters arguing the affirmative indentify as liberals.

Fox News Contributor, Professors Face Off in Free Speech Debate

February 25, 2015

Panelists visiting GW debated whether or not liberals suppressed intellectual diversity on college campuses Tuesday.

The debate, hosted by Intelligence Squared, a non-profit group that organizes discussions around the country, engaged about 100 people in the Jack Morton Auditorium. John Donovan, an author and ABC news correspondent, moderated the event.

Audience members were invited to vote on whether they thought liberals discouraged intellectual diversity on college campuses before and after the discussion. When it began, 33 percent said liberals suppressed intellectual diversity, while 21 percent said they disagreed and 46 percent were undecided.

Campus Debate Convinces: Liberals Stifle Intellectual Diversity on Campus

February 25, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. – After a 90-minute campus debate Tuesday over whether liberals stifle intellectual diversity on college campuses, nearly six in 10 members of the audience agreed – they do.

That according to a vote of the audience taken after the “Intelligence Squared Debate” at George Washington University on the topic of whether “liberals are stifling intellectual diversity on campus.”

Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, along with Fox Newscontributor and USA Today columnist Kirsten Powers, were able to convince 59 percent of those in attendance that there is a pervasive liberal intolerance of different views on campuses, an atmosphere that hinders free speech and debate.

The Core of the Debate

October 01, 2014

A recent debate, “Embrace the Common Core?” hosted by Intelligence Squared, featured some of the nation’s top experts on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The Oxford-style “2 vs. 2” debate show included comments on topics such as whether or not the CCSS are actually right for kids and the rationale behind national standards. In particular, the debate focused on the controversial CCSS-aligned assessments and the cognitive appropriateness of the standards. The debate offered a refreshing take on what is often a politically charged topic. Many other educational bloggers have also offered analysis of this debate, including Diane Ravitch and The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss.