The campus speech wars: the problem of freedom in higher education

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University of Alabama Libraries

This study seeks to provide administrators and faculty with a better grasp of the dynamics of the Campus Speech Wars (CSW) so they may develop civic education strategies that more thoroughly address the problem of campus conflicts over freedom of expression. I employ a feminist theoretical perspective to critique a commonly accepted narrative about the causes and solutions of the CSW, the most notable articulation of which is found in Lukanioff and Haidt (2018). I specifically apply Hirschmann’s (1996, 2003, 2008, 2013) feminist framework of analysis to consider four campus cases, which Lukanioff and Haidt (2018) use to make their arguments: Yale University, University of California at Berkeley, Middlebury College, and Evergreen State College. This feminist analysis begins to tease out the interrelated issues of identity, power, and liberal political theory entangled in the CSW. In doing so, it identifies potential priorities for civic learning that more adequately attend to the relational concerns a feminist critique brings to the prevailing discourse influenced by Lukanioff and Haidt (2015, 2018). I argue that administrators and faculty will be more adept at dealing with the problem of freedom in higher education if they can recognize the ideological roots and inherent biases of the ways we think and talk about what makes us free. Such an understanding will be critical if American colleges and universities hope to educate citizens who are more capable of working together to honor liberty for all in our diverse democracy.

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Ethics, Political science, Higher education administration