Welcome to the first installment of the Project on Civil Discourse’s Weekly News Digest, hosted on our Real Talk blog. Each week, the Digest will gather recent articles and stories about civil discourse and campus speech. The Digest will highlight upcoming events as well, such as the Project’s first event of the fall semester: A Conversation with Josh Blackman.
Next Thursday, September 27th, Professor Josh Blackman will be speaking at the Washington College of Law about diversity of opinion and campus speech. He will be joined by Professor Lara Schwartz, director of the Project on Civil Discourse. This event will be held at 12:00PM in Warren NT07 on the WCL Tenley campus, and will be cohosted by the Project on Civil Discourse and the WCL’s chapter of the Federalist Society.
Blackman teaches at the South Texas College of Law in Houston, where he specializes in constitutional law, the United States Supreme Court, and the intersection of law and technology. Visit his website to learn more about him and to view past lectures and articles.
Campus Speech News
The University of Colorado Board of Regents unanimously voted last week to change their policies on academic freedom and freedom of expression. At the meeting, university counsel Patrick O’Rourke said, “We can establish a culture that both balances free speech rights but that expects civility and respect from those who are part of the community.” After the vote, the University of Colorado Boulder launched a webpage explaining their definition of and policies on free expression.
University of Southern California Provost Michael Quick released a statement on Sunday condemning hate speech as “dehumanizing, degrading, toxic, and vile” after leaked screenshots revealed a USC graduate student participated in a chatroom that organized the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va. in August 2017. While the university cannot prevent the student from coming to campus, Dean Yannis Yortos said the student has volunteered not to come to campus while the university conducts an investigation.
Essays on Civil Discourse
Last week, The Economist hosted Steve Bannon at the Open Future festival, resisting public pressure that led The New Yorker to disinvite Bannon from their annual festival. After The Economist announced Bannon would attend, journalist, essayist, and activist Laurie Penny stated she would no longer participate in her panel. Penny explains her choice in an essay titled “No, I Will Not Debate You,” which touches on the far right’s focus on the ethics of disseminating speech rather than its content, the marketplace of ideas, and civility in speech.
“Moderate liberalism cherishes the idea of ‘civility’ because it allows it to believe in its own goodness and relevance.’
Penny’s discussion of civility calls to mind an essay written by Ibram X. Kendi titled “More Devoted to Order Than to Justice.” Writing after Rep. Maxine Waters called for supporters to harass Trump administration officials and the ensuring Democratic backlash, Kendi argues that meaningful change requires confrontation and harassment, not civility.
On its face, Kendi’s thesis seems to diametrically oppose civil discourse. But as future Real Talk posts will explore, not all ideas or viewpoints are created equal, nor do they always deserve civil debate.
Next week, Real Talk will feature a guest post by an American University student who helped create and shape the Project on Civil Discourse during its pilot year, as well as our second Weekly News Digest. Thanks for reading!