"Any Community... Flourishes only When Our Members Feel Welcome and Safe..."

UPDATE: I wrote a letter apropos of this to Chancellor Carol Christ...


Somehow I do think the New York Times could have put more thought into their questions for the community of the University of California at Berkeley https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/09/19/us/formacist-ucberkeley-callout.html?_r=0.

I think that they could have written better questions, if only they had read the "Terms of Service" they require those of us answering their questions to agree to.

From the "Terms of Service":

You shall not... [write]... any libelous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, abusive, or otherwise illegal material.

Be courteous. You agree that you will not threaten or verbally abuse other Members, use defamatory language, or deliberately disrupt discussions with repetitive messages, meaningless messages or "spam."

Use respectful language. Like any community, the online conversation flourishes only when our Members feel welcome and safe. You agree not to use language that abuses or discriminates on the basis of race, religion, nationality, gender, sexual preference, age, region, disability, etc. Hate speech of any kind is grounds for immediate and permanent suspension of access to all or part of the Services.

Debate, but don't attack. In a community full of opinions and preferences, people always disagree. NYT encourages active discussions and welcomes heated debate on the Services, but personal attacks are a direct violation of these Terms of Service and are grounds for immediate and permanent suspension of access to all or part of the Service....

The NYT... is not responsible for the content of [yours it publishes, but] NYT reserves the right to delete, move, or edit Submissions that it, in its sole discretion, deems abusive, defamatory, obscene, in violation of copyright or trademark laws, or otherwise unacceptable...

Their questions and my answers:

Is there any type of speech you think should not be allowed on campus?

A university has three goals:

  1. A university is a safe space where ideas can be set forth and developed.
  2. A university is a safe space where ideas can be evaluated and assessed.
  3. A university is a safe space where young scholars can develop, and gain intelligence and confidence.

Speech whose primary goal is to undermine and defeat one or more of those three goals does not belong on a university campus.

If you come to Berkeley, and if your speech is primarily intended to—or even, through your failure to think through what you are doing, has the primary effect of (1) keeping us from developing ideas that may be great ones, (2) keeping us from properly evaluating and assessing ideas, or (3) driving members of the university away, your speech does not belong here.


Did U.C. Berkeley’s history as a beacon of free speech influence your decision to attend?

Of course.


Has the issue of free speech come up in any of your classes? If so, how was it raised and what was the context?

I raised it last spring in one of my lectures, at the start, when we could hear the helicopters and the sirens.


Are you concerned about campus safety during Free Speech Week?

Of course. There are lots of people who want to take advantage of free speech week to neither:

  1. develop ideas that may be great ones,
  2. thoughtfully and rationally evaluate and assess ideas, nor
  3. make the university a welcoming place for young scholars.

Some will want blood in the streets. Some will hope to take advantage of blood in the streets. Somebody may wind up dead, or maimed, as part of a game of political-cultural dingbat kabuki largely orthogonal to the three proper missions of the university.

It is a serious concern.

UPDATE: a letter:

2017 09 21 Christ Free Speech pdf

2017 09 21 Christ Free Speech pdf

2017 09 21 Christ Free Speech pdf