Just To Show That Some Judges Get It Right…A Campus Speech Decision From The Sixth Circuit

Judges have been taking an ethics  bashing here recently, so I feel it’s only fair to report that the three-member U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in a 2-to-1 decision, determined that the University of Michigan’ speech police, known there as its Bias Response Team, chilled free speech on campus and thus violates the First Amendment.  The Team’s function is to investigate incidents reported by students that are deemed racist, sexist, hostile to LGBTQ students or otherwise “offensive” to the right groups of people. For example, if I were a student there, the creation of such an entity would be profoundly offensive to me.  That presumably wouldn’t matter.

Speech First, a Washington, D.C.-based civil liberties watchdog, sued Michigan last year, seeking an injunction to halt the activities of the BRT. The lawsuit argued that the Bias Response Team is illegal because it could potentially deter students from making statements or engaging in conduct that some on campus might find offensive but are still protected under the First Amendment. The university’s definitions of “harassment” and “bullying” were ominously broad, though Michigan did refine them after the suit was filed. The looming presence of a speech and conduct response team that could be focused on a non-conforming student by a single complaint could reasonably be expected to make students hesitate to express themselves.

Ya think? Nonetheless, a U.S. District Court judge initially denied the injunction last year. [Note: Here I have deleted a series of comments about the agenda and political affiliation of this judge and those who reason like him. I am trying to practice more self-restraint, today anyway.] Continue reading

Ethical Quote Of The Month, And Ethical Acceptance Letter Of The Decade: The University of Chicago

acceptance_letter

This is all over the web, but as an ethics site, Ethics Alarms can hardly not join the throng.

The tragedy is that we have to regard anything in this letter as the least bit remarkable. I now eagerly await the wave criticism of the message, condemning it  as insensitive and racist.They have already started. Grand View University professor Kevin Gannon argued in a blog post,

Students ought to be challenged, even made uncomfortable, in order to learn in deep and meaningful ways. And, of course, collegiate education is where students must encounter perspectives different from their own… and that’s what this Dean and the anti-trigger-warnings, no-safe-spaces crowd are counting on-that the surface veneer of reasonableness in these admonitions to the Class of 2020 will obscure the rotten pedagogy and logical fallacies that infest this entire screed…Displaying empathy for the different experiences our students bring to the classroom is not a threat to our academic freedom. Allowing for a diversity of perspectives to flourish, even when that diversity might challenge the very structure of our course and its material, is not a threat but an opportunity.

Slate calls the letter “strange” and notes..

[T]he letter’s author, John Ellison, betrays a common misunderstanding of “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces”—both of which exist for the exact purpose of “building a campus that welcomes people of all backgrounds.” Trigger warnings are not intended to shield students from controversial material; they’re intended to warn students about disturbing content so that they won’t be shocked by it.

You know, like what happens in real life: we get an early warning before anything happens that might upset or “shock” us. Ellison understands perfectly: trigger warnings and safe spaces are part of a strategy to marginzlize individuals, groups and ideas by stigmatizing them as “controversial,” “disturbing,” and “shocking.”

I’ll also be watching to see if the university administrators will stand behind their bold words.

Maybe this will serve as a splash of ice water in the faces of Dean Ellison’s spineless and feckless colleagues around the country, like those in the University of Missouri, whose capitulation to campus race-baiters and grievance bullies has cost the school over 2,000 students. It may also be the final gasp of truly liberal higher education in the U.S.

We shall see….