Weekly News Digest, No. 24

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

Student Discussions

Are you interested in the role of political, social, and racial identity in speech? Do you want to talk with your peers about campus speech, civility, or post-truth conversations?

The Project on Civil Discourse is holding twenty student discussions where a group of 8-10 students and two peer facilitators come together to talk about discourse from a variety of different angles. There are five more discussions scheduled for this year. For a list of discussions, click here. To register, click here.

Campus Speech

Last week, PEN America released a report titled “Chasm in the Classroom: Campus Free Speech in a Divided America.” Coming just days after President Trump’s executive order on campus speech, the report “debunks the Administration’s constricted account of free speech threats emanating only from the left” by analyzing more than 100 speech-related controversies. This research follows up on their initial 2016 report, “And Campus for All: Diversity, Inclusion, and Freedom of Speech at U.S. Universities.”

Writing for Inside Higher Ed, Jeremy Bauer-Wolf writes that “students on both sides of the political spectrum have engaged in unhelpful and, for conservatives, intentionally provocative behavior.” University administrators must thread the needle, both responding to legitimate grievances and reaffirming free speech.

Writing for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Katherine Mangan writes that if there is a campus free speech crisis, it is legislators that are making it worse. Colleges are “seeing more incidents of hateful expression and intimidation,” while the “Justice Department is raising politicized alarms over the state of free speech.”

Arguing and Discourse

Jesse Singal writes about erisology, or the study of unsuccessful disagreement. First introduced by John Nerst, erisology attempts to pinpoint the “divergence in people’s fundamental beliefs and assumptions” and understand why that divergence “makes them react to the world in different ways.” Singal writes specifically about decoupling, or the idea of removing “extraneous context from a given claim and debating that claim on its own.”

Trump’s Executive Order

Erin Corbett writes that President Trump’s executive order on campus free speech may be used to silence student activists. Corbett cites recent misdemeanor charges against University of Arizona students who were protesting campus visitors and who may now face jail time.

Peter Berkowitz writes that the order is an imperfect, but necessary, tool for a situation where colleges and universities have failed to act in protecting free speech and expression. While the order is “subject to abuse” and leaves “in disrepair a higher-education establishment” with systematic failures, the “perils of federal action are greatly outweighed by the catastrophe of inaction.”

Thanks for reading!

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