Wednesday, February 6, 2019

#37/ Cross v. Gow

Ray Cross, President University of Wisconsin
Chancellor Joe Gow
It is the official position of the University of Wisconsin that the University should respect and promote "free speech" on all of the University's campuses. This commitment to free speech (and how it is being implemented in practice) was the subject of an article in The Wall Street Journal on December 5, 2018:

After disruptive student protests over Milo Yiannopoulos and Ben Shapiro caught the attention of the state Legislature, the Board of Regents enacted a policy last year guaranteeing free speech on the university’s 26 campuses. UW-La Crosse’s chancellor, Joe Gow, took that renewed commitment to free speech seriously. His office distributed pamphlets on the policy to students, faculty and staff and planned the campus’s first-ever Free Speech Week. “Every day is free speech day on our campus,” he tells me. “That’s what we’re about. That’s the mission.”

Unfortunately for Chancellor Gow, he actually believed that the University was serious about this policy: 

As Mr. Gow considered a subject and speaker for Free Speech Week, he asked students for input. Title IX reform, the #MeToo movement, and Stormy Daniels have all been in the news, so the students wanted to talk about sex. The chancellor invited Nina Hartley, an adult-film performer with a nursing degree who’s spoken on sexuality and pornography at Harvard, Dartmouth, Berkeley and other elite schools.

The upshot was this. After Ms. Hartley had appeared, President Cross sent a Chancellor Gow a reprimand, and threatened to deny him a normal salary increase.

The official policy, as adopted by the Regents, says this: 

It is not the proper role of the university to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they, or others, find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive. Exploration, deliberation, and debate may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the university community (or those outside the community) to be offensive, unwise, immoral or wrong-headed.

I think the Regents are right about what kind of debates and discussions should be held on university campuses, and in the case of Cross v. Gow, I am voting for Gow!

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