Weekly News Digest, No. 16

Welcome to the sixteenth installment of the Project on Civil Discourse’s Weekly News Digest, hosted on our Real Talk blog.

Upcoming Events

On Thursday, February 7th, Dr. Alice Dreger will speak at American University about cultivating the virtue of disloyalty. Dr. Dreger, a historian and researcher, will draw from real-life histories to explore ethically productive disloyalty. For more details or to RSVP, click here.

On Thursday, March 21st, the University of California’s National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement will host their #SpeechMatters conference at their Washington Center. With a focus on the future of free expression on college campuses, the conference will feature panels on civil discourse and online speech, along with a keynote lecture and other functions. For a detailed schedule and list of speakers or to register, click here.

Discourse on Campus

A Duke University professor apologized over the weekend after asking students through email to only speak English in department buildings and settings. In the email, the professor acknowledged the challenge of learning a non-native language but warned students that it could reflect poorly on them, affecting future opportunities in the department. This raises important questions about discourse and communication in various settings, including who and when can make such requests and where they should draw that line.

Free Speech on Campus

Earlier this month, Keith Whittington – author of Speak Freely: Why Universities Must Defend Free Speech – spoke with the American Council of Trustees and Alumni about why college trustees should defend free speech. He focused on recent remarks by Temple professor Marc Lamont Hill and the ensuing reaction by university trustees and the public. Whittington says: “If universities are going to be vibrant, intellectual places, if people are going to feel comfortable voicing controversial ideas, then we need to be very tolerant. We should also be concerned about whether or not we can construct an effective, fine line between people’s scholarship and teaching, on the one hand, and people’s public remarks, on the other hand.

Jeffrey Adam Sachs argues that the campus free speech crisis ended last year, using data from the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) on speaker disinvitations, faculty terminations, and university speech policies. Sachs examines several explanations for this trend, including self-censorship, policy changes, tactics, and a change in campus culture.

Civil Discourse

Next Avenue, a public journalism service for older audiences, offers several practices for moving toward civil discourse in an age of polarization. These include speaking from humility, avoiding binary thinking, and using language that engages and allows for fruitful conversation.

Thanks for reading!

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