Weekly News Digest, No. 18

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

Upcoming Events

On Wednesday, March 6th, Tyler Lewis will be speaking at American University about the importance of value-driven political communication. Lewis is the Director of Coalition Communications and Research at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Lewis’ talk will be held at 11:30am in MGC 200 and is sponsored by the Project on Civil Discourse.

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.

Hate Speech on Campus

From 2016 to 2018, the percent of African Americans in the freshman class at the University of Maryland, College Park dropped by almost five percentage points. Petula Dvorak notes that this comes “after white nationalist fliers were plastered across campus, after a noose was found at a frat house, after an African American student from another campus was slain in a racist attack by a U-Md. student with vocal, racist views.” Dvorak writes: “Black students are worried they won’t be valued or appreciated at other universities. Or even safe. … The words, the actions, the fliers, the blackface: They matter. And we need to act like they do.” 

Academic Freedom

Judith Friedlander argues in The Washington Post that both the left and the right have gotten the meaning of academic freedom wrong. Today, both sides champion academic freedom as a means to their own ends. One hundred years ago, however, supporters of academic freedom defended “the rights of colleagues whose opinions they did not share.” Friedlander calls for members of academic institutions to “acknowledge complexity, addressing it squarely, instead of shying away or ignoring it completely . . . [and] to look at problems from conflicting points of view and consider all available evidence.”

Free Speech on Campus

The University of Michigan recently restricted housing staff from removing speech – including hate speech – from student doors without student permission. This change is in response to a lawsuit filed by Speech First and does not apply to community areas within housing. If hate speech is posted on a student’s door, housing staff can report it to Housing Diversity and Inclusion or the Division of Public Safety and Security. Several students and residential assistants criticized the change, arguing that the policy will negatively affect those who are targeted by hate speech.

Civility in Politics

George Goens writes in The Hill that incivility and the manufacturing of enemies is dangerous to our political discourse. He argues that we are too quick to turn those with different political viewpoints into enemies – not just adversaries or opponents. Goens writes: “’Enemyfying’ obscures issues and contexts as well as distorts the challenges society faces. Verbal rock throwing actually destroys diversity – the diversity of thought and ideas.”

Thanks for reading!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *