Columns

Dichter ’17, Gulati ’17: Some speech hurts — and that’s okay

By and
Op-Ed Contributors
Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Last week’s controversy over two opinions columns published in The Herald demonstrated the misconceptions and misgivings many members of the Brown community have toward the principle of free speech. Luckily, Brown’s mission statement provides a strong affirmation of this principle. It states, “The mission of Brown University is to serve the community, the nation and the world by discovering, communicating and preserving knowledge and understanding in a spirit of free inquiry, and by educating and preparing students to discharge the offices of life with usefulness and reputation.”

This statement highlights the purpose of institutions of higher learning: to teach students how to think, not what to think. Universities need to produce students capable of asking hard questions, engaging in difficult conversations and refuting ideas they may find abhorrent. Judging by the reactions from students, The Herald and the administration to the articles published last week, it is clear that Brown is not living up to this mission.

In the face of controversial or offensive speech, many students at Brown respond with calls for censorship. Last week, multiple student groups published statements demanding The Herald’s editorial board uphold an “obligation to ensure that the pieces it publishes are … not racist, classist, cissexist, heterosexist, sexist or ableist.” They argue that lecture series, debate societies and student newspapers should not provide a platform for opinions that are offensive. Disregarding the fact that such a standard would be impossible to determine objectively, the more pressing issue is how students deal with speech that offends them. As Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis put it, when confronted with opposing viewpoints, “the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.” Open dialogue forces us to critically examine our own beliefs and leads to the discovery of knowledge. Ultimately, students are well within their rights to ask for censorship, and The Herald is well within its rights to censor material it deems inappropriate for publication. Nevertheless, when students ask for insulation from unpopular, controversial or offensive ideas, they cheapen their own educational experience and fail to live up to the goals of higher education.

Many of the individuals calling for censorship are motivated by a bona fide commitment to social justice. What these individuals fail to understand is that freedom of speech is one of the most fundamental tools for promoting social change. It was only with the protection of free speech that civil rights activists in the 1950s and 1960s were able to protest injustice and bring about powerful changes in society. Censorship is a tool of oppressors; those who strive to overcome oppression should not adopt the same tactics of the institutions they criticize.

The Herald certainly deserves some blame for the way it has handled this situation. We recognize that The Herald has the right to editorial discretion. It can publish articles, retract columns and offer apologies as it sees fit. But as Brown’s oldest and most-circulated newspaper, The Herald is in a unique position to foster the marketplace of ideas on campus. It should not shy away from publishing ideas that inflame, provoke and offend, nor should it bow to the pressure of student outrage and apologize for publishing contentious opinions. The opinions section provides a forum for any member of the community to be heard. By publishing opinions, The Herald is solely a conduit for conversation and should not apologize for being such.

It is unfair to place blame solely on the student body and The Herald for misunderstanding the principles of free expression when the administration has had such a mixed record on the matter. This administration had a chance to respond to this controversy by unequivocally affirming the value of free discourse, no matter how objectionable the subject matter. They didn’t even have to look very hard to find an example of such a statement. President Michael Roth of Wesleyan University responded to students’ calls to censor and defund the school’s newspaper after it published an opinions column critical of the Black Lives Matter movement by saying, “Debates can raise intense emotions, but that doesn’t mean that we should demand ideological conformity because people are made uncomfortable. As members of a university community, we always have the right to respond with our own opinions, but there is no right not to be offended. … Censorship diminishes true diversity of thinking; vigorous debate enlivens and instructs.”

In contrast, the recent op-ed written by President Christina Paxson P’19, Provost Richard Locke P’17 and Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy Russell Carey ’91 MA’06 is a tepid endorsement of free expression. Their open letter to students states, “We can do all that we can to benefit from listening to, learning from and feeling the experiences of others, as well as bringing to bear the wealth of scholarly resources in our community to teach and learn about these issues. This is the commitment from those of us in the University leadership — a commitment we hope our entire community will share.”

But Paxson and the other administrators undermine this commitment in a previous paragraph by saying that “the current leadership of The Herald has forthrightly owned that they caused harm and did not live up to the expectations of the Brown community.” The latter statement seems to contradict the former. If there is an expectation in the Brown community of lively discourse and free inquiry, how exactly did The Herald fail to live up to that expectation by publishing last week’s columns? Is Paxson implying that ideas that offend people are outside the bounds of acceptable discourse at Brown?

A commitment to the free exchange of ideas must be unqualified; in order to truly embrace the ideal of free inquiry, the entire campus community must be willing to engage with all ideas, especially ones they oppose.

Daniella Dichter ’17 can be reached at daniella_dichter@brown.edu, and Rohan Gulati ’17 can be reached at rohan_gulati@brown.edu.

  • mxm123

    http://www.brownrisd.hillel.org/home/studentlife/EI.aspx

    Dani Dichter is a member of the Brown RISD Hillel. An organization which openly censors who can speak at its premises. Furthermore the national Hillel organization openly collaborates with other organizations that wish to legislate free speech on campuses.

    Hypocrisy much Dani. Or are you afflicted with the PEP disease ? (http://www.rawstory.com/2014/07/liberal-on-everything-but-israel-theres-a-name-for-that/)

    • Arafat

      mxm, Is it true Muslims are responsible for 95% of the murders of journalists?

    • Schueler

      mxm123: you are embarrassing yourself with these ad-hominem attacks

      • mxm123

        Why ? Does the Hillel not censor ? Or are you trying to pull an Arafat on me.

  • Avetis Gevorkyan

    0/10 would not recommend would not read again 0/10 many disappointments 0/10

  • brown ’17er

    Thank you for having the courage to say this!

    • in Bey-o speramus

      This is a deeply popular opinion at Brown and in the rest of the world, it take absolutely no courage to state that you enjoy the status quo.

      • Stop your garbage

        Evidently not popular enough since the article was still pulled…

        • in Bey-o speramus

          And was put back up by the demands of the student body, INCLUDING the groups of color who thought it shouldn’t have been published in the first place. This is not an issue of censorship, this is an issue of editorial standards, or the clear lack thereof.

  • Pair of Ovaries?

    “vigorous debate enlivens and instructs” — And what if it’s folks very lives, histories and existences that are up for debate? Is that still acceptable and within the bounds of legitimized discourse within higher education?

    I say this as a Jewish woman myself, Dani, if your school legitimized Nazi hate speech which you felt threatened your very existence would you feel okay putting it “up for debate”?

    • advicedoge77

      Look, everyone in this country has a first amendment right to freedom of speech. One of the sacrifices we make is that we don’t always agree with what everyone else has to say. That’s why we end up with the KKK still free to meet up and hold rallys, etc. However, that doesn’t mean that our country *endorses* or somehow *legitimizes* the KKK by allowing them to speak. The same applies to the opinion column in the BDH. It hasn’t legitimized the argument by publishing it, it’s just a forum for free discussion.

      • Mermaid

        False. The government, through the FBI, systematically shut down and destroy the Black Panther Party. That was NEVER done to the KKK, which is still alive and well today. Therefore, this country has endorsed the KKK. It has let it continue terrorizing communities of color and spew racist hate speech.

        • Michael Hayes

          The Black Panther Party was not a political organization, it was a criminal one. Why wouldn’t the FBI investigate? The FBI also investigated the Klan and won many convictions for various criminal acts. Around 1994 I was in a small east Texas town that was the location of a Klan “march”. The Klan had to bring in members from several states to get a grand total of about a dozen marchers. The counter protest numbered in the thousands. The KKK is only alive and well in the hateful imaginations of those who desperately need white racism to justify the hatred of whites in our culture, laws and regulations.

        • matt10023

          Black rights movements are still alive and kicking and I’d argue a lot more socially acceptable than the KKK. It’s also fair game to denigrate whites as those who enjoy privilege just because of the color of their skin.

      • Pair of Ovaries?

        No, my friend. This comment stream is a forum for free discussion. A blog is a forum for free discussion. A message board is a forum for free discussion. The BDH and their op-ed column is a institutionalized, legitimized forum, sanctioned by years of history in print and online at Brown. The BDH publishing these pieces is in fact different from the KKK meeting up and rallying. The BDH printing these pieces is a statement that these are legitimate opinions and ideas that merit institutionalized discussion.

        • Stop your garbage

          Pair of Ovaries is just fabricating arbitrary guidelines for what forums are legitimate enough to be censored. The BDH is not affiliated with Brown, meaning Brown University cannot technically be accused of endorsing the beliefs found in an op-ed. More importantly, publishing an article is not synonymous with ENDORSING that article, a fact that for some reason seems to continually slip the minds of the incessant morons who continually publish on this forum. An opinions section necessarily takes many different opinions….if all articles preaches the same mantra it would not be an opinions section!

          And frankly I have to argue that neither article preaches blatant racism or eugenics in any form (I’m saying this as someone who has read both many times), so your “what if a Nazi came to speak at Brown” analogy is meaningless. By the way – I would argue that a multitude of arguably “anti-Semitic” speakers have already come to campus with LINES of students falling out the door. Yes, I am Jewish. I attended several of these lectures because I think that listening to different opinions is kind of important for all college students and people who wish to learn anything in life.

          • matt10023

            At Brown, it’s OK to be antisemitic if it’s couched in opposition to Israel here. Of course it would be NOT be OK to racist in opposition to the Rwandan genocide. Double standards are fine though, provided you’re going after whites and Jews.

        • Man with Axe

          But then you should be accepting the opinions since they were legitimated by their publication in the BDH. That you don’t accept them shows that this “legitimization” is an absurdity. You have no more trouble dismissing these ideas than if they were on a message board, so what’s the harm of putting them in the BDH? Are you saying that some people are so dim that they accept everything they read in the papers?

    • Michael Hayes

      Nonsense! You advocate censorship by pretending that controversial ideas are no different than a knife at your throat or speech that advocates violence against “folks very lives..” Only a sheltered drama queen could make such a foolish assertion. The truth is just the opposite. Free speech lessens the chances of real violence by exposing violent ideas to criticism. Censorship is a fascist, and stupid act.

      If Lichter’s school allowed Nazis to speak that is not legitimizing Nazi ideas. That is more like target practice, as in shooting fish in a barrel.

      By the way, who among us is so virtuous that they can safely be entrusted with determining which, and more importantly whose opinions are “safe” and which/whose are not? I un nominate the fascists!

      C’mon, own up to your intolerance here girlfriend.

      • Pair of Ovaries?

        As a Jewish woman, if someone allowed Nazis to come and speak at Brown, I would feel personally threatened by their presence and their institutionalized legitimacy. For me, it would be unacceptable for my university to grant their ideas a platform for debate- even if that meant exposing their violent ideas to criticism. I would feel personally unsafe, invalidated, and unvalued on this campus.

        • Michael Hayes

          Neither your feelings nor your identity as a Jewish woman trump others right to speak. But if Im wrong then I want you know that your fascism makes me feel unsafe…yada…yada..unvalued….yada…misgendered and I demand you stop.

        • kazeegeyser

          As a Jewish woman (and alum), I would feel deeply offended and angry with Brown if a Nazi came to speak. But I wouldn’t feel threatened or silenced by their ideas.

          • Pair of Ovaries?

            Genuinely curious– you would not feel threatened if the university handed them a microphone to share their ideas? You would not live in fear that someone in the crowd would agree with them, starting neo-nazi sentiment within the university?

          • kazeegeyser

            You know, I don’t really worry that intelligent people who I go to school with are susceptible to that sort of hateful commentary and if they are, I wouldn’t blame it on Brown providing a neo-nazi the platform. There are plenty of more convenient ways to be pulled in by white supremacists or whatever than by a person giving a talk at a liberal university.

          • Pair of Ovaries?

            I guess that’s where we differ. I would blame it on Brown for providing a neo-nazi the platform if there were a consequent neo-nazi sentiment on campus.

        • Brown17

          I am a Jewish woman as well. But I would encourage you to read this article written by a well-respected Brown professor. http://www.browndailyherald.com/2013/10/31/miller-70-fascism-open-campus/

          • Pair of Ovaries?

            Thanks, I appreciate that, but I happen to disagree with Professor Miller.

        • A Jewish Man

          I think it’s a fair assumption that the vast majority of people, at least once in their lives, will be exposed to the idea that genocide is tolerable (or any other terrible, messed up idea). I would much rather people be able to be exposed to these arguments in a space where they can be torn down and exposed as horribly ignorant than in some echo chamber of misguided reason and hate.
          To truly defeat an enemy, you must understand them. No person employs perfect reason all the time – if someday I am approached by a neo-nazi with a very well-thought out argument about why Jews are inferior, I stand a better chance of debasing his argument if I’ve seen a thousand intelligent academics collectively do so in a public setting. If I am sheltered from his ideas until this moment, I may not see a way to refute them and stand a chance of internalizing them..

        • Man with Axe

          “…[A]llowed Nazis to come and speak at Brown…” Do you think that the Nazis would be “allowed” to speak in downtown Providence? Or Skokie, Illinois? Would you feel just as threatened as you imagine you would be if they spoke at Brown? Why would you feel threatened by their speech at Brown if, as I presume, you would not go to hear them speak? Do you think that they will actually and literally threaten you in some fashion other than that your feelings would be rubbed raw?

          Wouldn’t you prefer to have them speak and you and all your friends could peacefully protest them and debate them and demonstrate the falsity and malevolence of their ideas?

      • SocialJusticeScientist

        Hate speech is violence.

        • Michael Hayes

          No, violence is violence. Busting your nose into a bloody mess is violence. Slitting your throat is violence. Firing 2000 ft per second projectiles into your soft flesh is violence. Hate speech is just words. Your butthurt does not trump others free speech. Censorship is fascism. And censorship Fascists are far more likely to provoke real violence than classical liberals who defend free speech and vigorous debate.

    • Cherven

      “and what if it’s folks very lives, histories, and existences that are up for debate?”

      Have you ever studied philosophy?

      • Adam

        or theology for that matter?

        I’ve gotten used to being blatently told that I’m wrong, the way I live my life is wrong, my way of thinking is wrong, my habits are wrong, the way I eat, sleep, and talk is wrong, that my opinions are wrong, and my beliefs are wrong. I think critically about all these points, and choose to do or to change that which makes sense to do or to change. I don’t get upset or shut anyone down, but I don’t automatically accept everything people tell me either

    • matt10023

      As a Jewish person who had relatives murdered in Germany and later in Poland, I would not ban all speech just because it aligns with Nazi ideology. When the ACLU fought for the rights of neo-Nazis to march in Skokie IL, that was an endorsement of the right to speech, not the speech itself.

      There’s an important difference between a subjective threat, and an actual threat. Those who argue that the holocaust never happened are not threatening me directly even if I find their speech hateful. Words are the appropriate response, not censorship.

      It’s easy to find people who “feel threatened” by speech. Take for instance the black power movement of the 1960s that suggested the need for violence in resistance to the dominant white culture. Shall we ban the writings of Malcolm X now if it makes some whites feel threatened?

      Of course not, but using subjectively felt threats as a litmus test can justify censorship even for those whose words we can respect.

  • brown16

    This is awesome! Going to exercise my free speech right now:

    “Black people are biologically less intelligent than whites. It’s also too bad that Indigenous Americans all died to white diseases – they obviously weren’t biologically superior either. All this privilege is meant to be.”

    Thanks Brown Daily Herald! Now I don’t have to feel bad about my ~opinions~!

    /s

    • Law Student

      Black people have lower IQs on average, but many individual blacks are smarter than average.

    • Bunny

      if that’s really what you got from Maier’s articles, you clearly can’t read critically. Are you sure Brown is the right place for you?

      good grief.

  • Tyler Levin

    Finally, someone gets it right!

    Thank you so much for writing this article. I could not agree more- Liberals only seem to support free speech until people start saying things that make them upset.

    • Pair of Ovaries?

      talk to me when you’re a person of color, please.

      • Squirrel

        You are disregarding his comment because he is not a person of color? So only a person of color can have a legitimate view on the subject matter? If so, do you disregard all of the white people who share your opinion?

        • Pair of Ovaries?

          I actually am white, thanks very much. No white person in this country will ever know what it is like to be a person of color in this country.

          Regardless, this is not about what “hurts” people or makes them “upset.” This is about invalidating and silencing the experiences of folks of color, which is unacceptable, and just another active manifestation of white privilege.

          • Squirrel

            I agree with the first part of the statement, yet you still did not answer the question of whether or not you disregard his comment. It sounds as though you do (which is alright you obviously have the right to). I was just trying to get some clarity from your statement.

            Second, I think you are right that it is wrong to silence those experiences but that doesn’t mean one cannot say those things. If that was true, a lot of people would be in jail for saying factually incorrect things.

          • Pair of Ovaries?

            First, I am certainly not advocating for any sort of legal repercussions.

            I do not fully disregard Mr. Levin’s comment, but I do believe ethnic background is important in these discussions. Mr. Levin (and myself for that matter) have benefitted from our whiteness, meaning we have not had to live a single day as a person of color. We have no subjective understanding of what that existence feels like. That is important.

          • Michael Hayes

            If you do not have a subjective understanding of what PoC’s existence feels like, then I think I shall disregard your opinions on this subject on the grounds that they issue from someone who proclaims to know nothing of it.

          • Squirrel

            Interesting. I don’t want to put words in your mouth but what I am interpreting your previous statement (of not “fully disregarding”) as claiming that Mr. Levin’s comment is, to some extent, somehow worth less because he is not a person of color. I agree that his opinion is different than one of a person of color but i don’t believe that it should be held as inferior. This is undoubtably a controversial issue, but I believe the argument we are having has gotten to the point which we will not be swayed one way or the other. I am glad we have had this discussion and that I got to hear your point of view. I hope you appreciated hearing mine as well 🙂

          • Tyler Levin

            No, it’s not about that, unless “invalidating” means disagreeing with.

          • Pair of Ovaries?

            As a white person, by disagreeing with the systemic oppression that makes PoC “upset” you are in fact invalidating their lived experiences (that you never for a second had to suffer).

          • Tyler Levin

            So basically what you’re saying that that white people are always wrong when it comes to racial issues? Huh, that doesn’t sound racist *at all* to me.

            The reality is that tons of people have victim complexes and would rather blame their shortcomings on “the system/white people” than take personal accountability.

          • Pair of Ovaries?

            And you suggest PoC take personal accountability for what exactly?

          • Tyler Levin

            I’ll give you an example:

            On my facebook feed, I saw students complaining that last week’s BDH were so upsetting, that they couldn’t work or study for their midterms. Give me a break. Incidents like this are used as excuses by liberal crybabies who can’t accept that they live in a world where people may disagree with them.

          • Michael Hayes

            You are more charitable than I am. It is obvious to me that the demands for censorship are a naked attempt to exert control over ones fellow citizens; to reduce their freedom, wealth and power by punishing their attempts to advocate for their own self-interests and their own views. Its a Fascist move.

          • Pair of Ovaries?

            You my friend are just fulfilling every privileged white man stereotype in the book with the ideas you’re sharing.

          • Stop your garbage

            You are conflating feelings of discomfort and emotional hurt with actual silencing. This is a common motif I have observed throughout these discussion boards and it is blatantly false. When it comes to “invalidating one’s experiences”, what you accuse Maier of (and as the writers of this article so correctly debunk), free speech sometimes hurts – and that’s okay! You have no right to protection from potentially offensive ideas, no matter how emotionally distraught they make you feel. In the same line of reasoning, freedom of speech also does not protect a writer from criticism; just look at this discussion board – it’s wonderful that we can freely criticize ideas that strike us as wrong or problematic! There is a distinction between speech that causes tangible harm, like direct threats or shouting “fire” in a crowded building, and speech that insights unpleasant or triggering feelings. These are not the same, and it is both ignorant and offensive to continually conflate them. Students at Brown, who possess so much educational privilege, have a knack for invalidating the experiences of students throughout the world who may genuinely live in unsafe environments where they can face life-threatening penalization for expressing themselves. How hypocritical.

            In terms of the “silencing” you discuss: no genuine silencing of any racial or ethnic groups has occurred as a result of Maier’s article. Ironically enough the only person silenced throughout this ridiculous debacle was Maier! Her article was removed, thus LITERALLY silencing her voice, as opposed to the metaphorical and absurd rhetoric people such as yourself have continually tossed around this discussion board. The beauty of free speech is that POC (and anyone else who feels strongly) are welcome to present their own thoughts on this matter, and many students have already succeeded in fighting back with passionate and compelling arguments. There was no need to remove Maier’s article and doing so has only served to deprive others from developing their own conclusions about Maier’s thoughts.

            I do not endorse or support Maier’s op-ed, but I am equally frustrated by the careless rhetoric students have been throwing around this forum. You are not “unsafe” because you are uncomfortable, just as you are not “silenced” because someone used a public platform to voice an opinion you disagree with – particularly when you possess EQUAL ACCESS to the same platform. For someone who cares so much about rhetoric, you’re pretty careless with your words.

          • Cherven

            I don’t disagree with the systematic oppression. I disagree with the idea that it *is* “systematic oppression

          • Pair of Ovaries?

            What do you believe it is then?

          • Cherven

            natural and biological inequality born of genetics, genetics- born social structures, and inequality of history (i.e. animal agriculture, food storage, the rise of civilization, and the emergence of economic and material inequality)

      • ft23

        The writer of this article is a person of color…

  • brown ’17er

    You know what, people can say whatever they want. JUST DEAL WITH THE CONSEQUENCES OF WHAT YOU SAY! You cannot say offensive, provocative things and expect people not to criticize. At the end of the day, even if the Herald retains the right to post such material, then they have to deal with the fact that students will react this way. The students who criticize the Herald for their actions have that same right to free exchange of ideas as the Herald and its writers allegedly do.

  • Brown ’18

    On what basis do you think these articles should have been accepted by the Herald, then? As you state, “We recognize that The Herald has the right to editorial discretion. It can publish articles, retract columns and offer apologies as it sees fit”. Exactly! Newspapers attract criticism for publishing errors or poorly argued op-eds.

    Editors are supposed to screen op-eds for quality — why is being racist not a valid reason to reject an op-ed? (All editorial judgements are personal judgments about the article anyway; editorial opinion is going to play into acceptance/rejection.) You might ask that political opinions should not be considered in the acceptance process, but this means that either you accept every political opinion or you screen for “internal coherence” or something equally vague. (In which case you accept every consistent political opinion?!?!)

    All editorials reflect their newspaper’s opinions. Or they should, if editorials mean anything. Factual, argumentation, political, social opinion all matter. So to claim that the past two articles should have been published for the “free exchange of ideas” boils down to saying that those articles are good, politically and factually.

    It is completely within reason to demand that the BDH acknowledge that they published a racist editorial when they shouldn’t have. Or else I have to assume that the BDH supports racist opinions.

    • Michael Hayes

      And I have to assume that neither you nor BDH knows what “racism” means. Hint: it doesn’t mean “something with which you disagree.”

      • in Bey-o speramus

        Oh? What does it mean? Do you have an academic understanding of racism that would give you ground to be holier than thou or are you literally just gonna pull a dictionary definition out like a five year old despite this being a conversation involving complex concepts and difficult politics?

        • Michael Hayes

          Whats so difficult? Fascists attempt to control others through censorship. Decent people resist.

          As for racism: an irrational animus towards one or more races.

          • in Bey-o speramus

            I mean I think people who passionately defend hate speech aren’t decent people but we have different morals there.

            I mean that’s one definition, not a particularly useful one for anything more than name calling though. Not really useful for discussing systems of oppression.

          • Michael Hayes

            People who defend free speech are observably more decent on average than censors who vomit hate speech all over the Internet.

            Discussing “systems of oppression” is just Farrakhan for hating whitey. Also, how is my definition useful for name calling? Isn’t the truth that you dont like my definition because it makes it much harder on the haters to engage in name calling?

          • in Bey-o speramus

            lol i mean yes i suppose censors who spout hate speech are worse than decent people who support free speech but sorry censors (this is a ridiculous word to use for someone who does not literally work as a censor) who don’t use hate speech are always better than free speech lovers who do.

            And, um, you said that not me. Lol. What does it even mean? Are you actually arguing that systems of oppression is a euphemism or are you going to engage in this free discussion ur so into

          • Michael Hayes

            I am content to let you have the last word.

        • matt10023

          Academics debate the definition of racism all the time and they don’t uniformly agree on what it is. So…. shall we censor some of their opinions if YOU don’t agree with them?

          Let me give you another example of academic thinking. Catharine MacKinnon has written academic works that include statements like “Compare victims’ reports of rape with women’s reports of sex. They look a lot alike”

          She is also very much against the First Amendment since, in her words, it’s a tool of male privilege.

          It would seem that the only speech worth protecting is that which you agree with…….

          • in Bey-o speramus

            I don’t agree with Catharine MacKinnon on many issues and I believe the state has no right to interfere with speech on a broad set of issues…. i do believe that publications have the (constitutional!!) right to post retractions.

  • Some1

    So what knowledge do we discover when racist opinions are published? That PoCs aren’t valued? But it’s ok because we’re all learning, right?

    • BuddyGuy

      THE OPINIONS PUBLISHED WERE NOT RACIST!

      my Lord…

  • PC

    Writers, editors:

    Your foremost commitment as a person in the world must be to the wellbeing of all other people; the “free exchange of ideas” you grasp at ceases to be simply an exchange of ideas when it weighs so heavily in the daily lives of many of our people.

    One of the privileges we’re rightly being asked to look at is the ability to spend one’s time off in the realm of ideas and theories. If ideas were harmless perhaps we could exchange all of them freely. But that time has passed, and these particular ideas have subjugated, and even denied the humanity and pain of, black and brown and native and queer people and so many others, for so many years. Some people live these experiences in addition to having to think about them.

    On your comment that universities should prepare us to think freely and in ways contrary to our own beliefs (and thereby prepare us for “life after college,” i.e. life without trigger warnings): the so-called real world that you cling to is not in fact about the “diversity of ideas” but about a certain group of people who have lived well for centuries on the backs of all the others.

    Your clinging to Brown’s mission statement and to antiquated ideas about free speech (indeed, ones conceived by well-dressed white men and space owners in the late 18th century) exposes you as the ones who cannot think freely, who cannot consider the real impacts of the ideas you trade, and who envision a world where the exchange of ideas is more important than the wellbeing of the people these ideas are supposed to help.

    The mission statement of Brown University does include the quotation you’ve included. Maybe it’s beyond time to think critically about our mission statements.

    • Bob

      “Your foremost commitment as a person in the world must be to the wellbeing of all other people; …”

      Nope. Each person is responsible for his or her own well being. Humans differ from bees.

      • PC

        “Humans differ from bees”: now these are the sorts of ideas worth freely exchanging.

        No, but seriously: you can’t live in a society where many other people (often invisible or across oceans) are responsible for your everyday wellbeing, and also tout this conviction of self-reliance. Seems every point of evidence biological, historical, emotional (why else would your conscience exist, and from the youngest age?), and otherwise points to the fact that we are not separate from one another, responsible for our own well-being. The self-reliance and self-determination might be the American myth, but if we differ from bees we might stop buzzing around with the same old myths, right?

        • Bob

          On a macro-level, I agree with you. We rely on people all over the planet for food, clothing, medicine, tsunami warnings, new dance crazes (Macarena anyone?), national defense, and the list goes on. I was thinking more about one’s internal self-esteem, emotions, sense of self, and the like. I am solely responsible for my person-hood, for my identity, for my self-worth. I don’t need the world to validate or protect me. I admit my thoughts on this aren’t particularly cogent but I hope you can parse together what I’m driving at. Also, I really liked your response. It’s almost poetic.Cheers.

  • BrownFann

    I have often thought about how Brown as a place is not fostering open discussion on things that matter: race, class, religion and so on. Students who see themselves as the oppressed in these cases often dominate conversation, making it hard for those who hold other views to chime in. Making it impossible for everyon involved to learn from each other. It is hower undeniable that for generations, we have passed down stories and misconceptions of others and of ourselves (white people).

    The Columbus story is one of those. What makes Maier’s articles particularly offensive is that she is simply churning out these misconceptions taht have been recycled over time. And she doesn’t leave any room for coversation. She has already gone on the offensive, making us aware of the fact that she’s autistic. That she only accepts things that are “rational”. But what is rational? Is she willing to revise her obviously incorrect rationale with factually backed reasoning?

    • everyman

      what “obviously incorrect rationale”? what “fact- based reasoning”? The article is chock full of facts- about the Columbian Exchange. The rationale was fact- based and reasonable. It doesn’t agree with you. Admit it. That’s all you care about. To you, “obviously incorrect” means not politically correct, or in disagreement with your views, whole “fact- based reasoning” means cherry- picked facts that support your egalitarian and leftists beliefs. There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

  • Terry Altherr

    On an intellectual level, I wholeheartedly agree with this column. Delegating censorship powers to the bourgeoisie, regardless of good intent, would be an unthinkable catastrophe due to the systematic biases the bourgeoisie has. However, on a level of conscience, I would have to disagree with this column. While it’s true that the answer to offensive speech is more speech, this never really seems to work. People of Color has continuously protested racism since the age of slavery, whether it was Jim Crow Laws, Birth of a Nation, the fact that lynching wasn’t a crime, and the lack of civil rights emphasis during the New Deal. The problem was that most of these concerns, even though they were expressed through free speech, were mostly ignored. The only reason the 50’s and 60’s were successful is that the white establishment grew weary of supporting such a racist system and felt sorry for People of Color but oppression like de-facto segregation and economic racial inequality were hardly addressed. Today, people are protesting the evils of broken-windows policing but instead of police forces listening to such concerns, their killings of innocent civilians (especially People of Color) has skyrocketed, resulting in more deaths. I should also note that, because people don’t always challenge opinions that can hurt certain people, people can be really screwed over once they’re accepted into the mainstream (i.e. abortion leads to breast cancer). If we want to support free speech, we’re going to have to change our approach big time.

  • ROFL

    Literally loling so hard right now because these authors state the “purpose of institutions of higher learning” is “to teach students how to think, not what to think.” … When the Maier ’17 article Columbian Exchange Day explicitly TOLD Native students how and what they should think about Columbus day. SOS goodnight and goodbye

    • everyman

      yes, but institutions of higher learning aren’t giant opinion articles.

      “Columbian Exchange Day” was an opinion article.