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Feb 19, 2004 9:25 am


The Conservative Turn ...



As Tim Burke points out, a thread of his discussion of campus speech codes with Erin O'Connor morphed into the" conservatives in academe" discussion at Critical Mass, when a conservative faculty member at Swarthmore acknowledged her self-censorship. The whole question of why this would happen is a fascinating one. Is conservative speech disproportionately impacted by codes? Why would offensive speech be regarded as having anything to do with conservatism? Is there anything in Liberal or Left values which predisposes their partisans to codify unacceptable speech and why? What legitimacy is there in demands that campuses be made spaces safe from offensive speech? Shouldn't shared good manners, rather than codes, in speech be rehabilitated as a first line of defense? Why would Liberals or Leftists ever abandon the defense of free speech to Conservatives and Libertarians? Shouldn't all parties agree to demand of administrators, attorneys, and trustees an absolutely minimal restriction of campus speech? What would such minimal restrictions be?

Incidentally, if you are skeptical of the possibility of consensus from such diverse perspectives about such matters, I cite you an instance of it on the net. Chris Bertram at Crooked Timber, Invisible Adjunct, and Jacob Levy at The Volokh Conspiracy all recommend that you read John Holbo on"This Whole Conservatives in Academia Thing" and Belle Waring on"The Story of C." at John and Belle Have a Blog. And, mirabile dictu, both Chun the Unavoidable and the Angry Clam are involved in reasonable conversation over there. Do you have any idea how unlikely that is? The Invisible Crooked Conspiracy says: Take up your mouse and read!


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Oscar Chamberlain - 2/19/2004

Actually I can see what the Swarthmore prof is talking about. At one of my campuses most of the faculty is moderate to points left--with the odd libertarian tendency (for example, guns are big up here. Radical hunters exist). And sometimes, gathered at the coffee machine, nibbling on a kringle, we do go unconscious in conversations and simply assume that our points are right.

Someone new would feel excluded by this, if his/her politics did not match. There is no maliciousness here; no desire to exclude, or deny tenure, or anything. We really do believe in freedom of thought and speech.

And we would be all the better for being challenged. And we know it.

But I can understand someone being reticent, at the least until they got to know us better.