Preliminary Report from Harvey Silverglate’s speech

I went to see Harvey Silverglate today. I’ll have a complete writeup later.

Some quotes:

“American college campuses, especially liberal arts campuses, are the least free places in American society”
“One can not say in Harvard Yard what one may say in Harvard Square”
“Humor has taken more of a beating on campuses than political debate”
“If [college administrators] are afraid to say to the outside world what they say to the campus” (aka if his organization publicizes what they are doing and colleges back down) “they must know, deep down, that what they are doing is wrong”
“Restrictions are unconscionable because they enforce a particular viewpoint or ideology”

The basic story he told went something like this:
The mid-1980’s had a lot of “diverse” (read- non-white or non-male) students. College administrators decided that different types of students couldn’t get along without heavy-handed censorship. This was sparked by an ideology spread by a misreading of Herbert Marcuse’s “Repressive Tolerance“. [Interesting note – Herbert Marcuse wrote this essay while he was teaching at Brandeis. He even dedicated it to his students] Administrators got the idea that since some groups have been historically disadvaned, they deserved more freedom of speech than others (thus it’s OK to restrict speech hateful to minorities especially). Soon enough, they started restricting all sorts of speech. We then witnessed the growth of the number of “Mid-level administrators” micromanaging speech. Those in charge of Universities rationalized this by saying that “If we don’t make campus welcoming to potential students, they won’t come”. In a coup of PR, they rebranded their “speech codes” as “harassment codes” and that’s how we got into a situation when students can get expelled from Universities for saying/writing things that are “100% protected by the constitution”

Most shocking moment of the night? David Emer, an officer of the Brandeis Democrats (one of the groups who invited Mr. Silverglate on campus) demanding not only that Mr. Silverglate apologize for using the words “Nigger” and “wetback” in his examples.