Harvard, Where Civility Trumps Free Speech

Last year, Harvard’s Freshman Dean Thomas Dingman drew the wrath of former Dean of Harvard College Harry Lewis, as well as the mockery of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for pressuring incoming students to sign a pledge that "the exercise of kindness holds a place on par with intellectual attainment." This year, Dean Dingman abandoned the criticized pledge tactic (in what turns out to be nothing more than a tactical retreat) but not his overriding commitment to imposing on students’ freedom of conscience. Without any public pre-announcement (which doomed last year's thought-reform efforts), Dean Dingman managed to slip a stealth re-education program into Harvard's freshman orientation week. As part of this “sensitivity training” students were made to perform skits where they acted out civility, as the Harvard administration defined it. In my most recent column for Minding the Campus, co-authored with my research assistant Juliana DeVries, I explain how this turn of events fits the Harvard administration into a long history of authoritarian intrusions into freedom of thought, yet nary a word of protest has been heard from Harvard students, alumni, faculty, and governing boards.

The column after the jump... 

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Eliminating Free Thoughts in the Name of False Safety

Administrators at the University of Rhode Island, in an attempt to make their campus more "welcoming" and "safe," recently agreed to implement "sensitivity training" in response to a student protest that centered on campus GLBT issues. A closer look at the events preceding the protest makes clear that the accommodations do more harm than good. As I explain on Minding the Campus, not only do they disrespect the intelligence, maturity and backbone of GLBT students at URI, but they fail to prepare students for the real world where the sometimes-unpleasantness of a free society is, thankfully, protected by the First Amendment.

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