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Free Speech Is Threatened on Campus

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  • Are Protests Against Speakers Threats or Examples of Free Speech?

    Clip: Debaters from both sides answer an audience question about student campaigns to protest speakers from coming to their schools and whether that demonstrates freedom of speech or intolerance of speech.

  • Free Speech Is NOT Threatened on Campus

    Shaun Harper, Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Race & Equity in Education at UPenn, and Yale University Professor of Philosophy Jason Stanley argue AGAINST the motion "Free Speech Is Threatened on Campus."

  • Free Speech Is Under Siege on Campus

    Wendy Kaminer, writer and lawyer, and Columbia University Professor of Linguistics John McWhorter argue FOR the motion "Free Speech Is Threatened on Campus."

Debate Details

Protests have erupted on university campuses across the country. To many, these students are speaking out against racial injustice that has long been manifested in unwelcoming, sometimes hostile environments. But to critics, their demands have gone too far, creating an atmosphere of intolerance for opposing or unpopular points of view. Are the protestors silencing free speech, or are they just trying to be heard? And are the universities responding by defending free speech, or by suppressing it?

The Debaters

For the motion

Wendy Kaminer

Writer & Lawyer

Wendy Kaminer, an author, lawyer, and civil libertarian, has been writing about the intersections of law and culture for the past 30 years. Her subjects... Read More

John H. McWhorter

Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and weekly columnist for the New York Sun

John's academic specialty is language change and language contact. He is the author of 11 books, including Losing the Race, an anthology of race writings... Read More

Against the motion

Shaun Harper

Exec. Dir., Center for the Study of Race & Equity in Education, UPenn

Recognized in Education Week as one of the 12 most influential professors in the field of education, Shaun R. Harper produces groundbreaking research... Read More

Jason Stanley

Professor of Philosophy, Yale University

Jason Stanley is the Jacob Urowsky Professor of Philosophy at Yale University. Before coming to Yale in 2013, he was Distinguished Professor in the... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • Protesters are shouting down those they disagree with and demanding protection from views they find offensive.
  • Certain topics have been labeled off the table for discussion, leaving no room on campuses for diverse or unpopular ideas.
  • While some of the issues being protested are legitimate concerns, students have gone too far with their demands.
Against The Motion
  • Rather than closing down speech, the protests have spurred productive discussions about race and diversity on campuses.
  • The protests are not hypersensitive reactions to discrete events, but a response to long-simmering tensions and hostile environments.
  • By mobilizing for ideas they believe in, these students are not catastrophizing—they are exercising their right to free speech.

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The Research

The Research

Campus Politics: A Cheat Sheet

Alia Wong and Adrienne Green
January 19, 2016

This cheat sheet and timeline provide a working overview of how things look right now and include highlights from some of the most high-profile campus protests.

Race and the Free-Speech Diversion

Jelani Cobb
November 10, 2015

The freedom to offend the powerful is not equivalent to the freedom to bully the relatively disempowered.

Can We Start Taking Political Correctness Seriously Now?

Jonathan Chait
November 10, 2015

Political correctness is a system of thought that denies the legitimacy of political pluralism on issues of race and gender.

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