It's about time.
The University of Chicago has issued a warning to incoming freshmen not to expect either "safe spaces" or "trigger warnings" on its Hyde Park campus and reiterated that open debate and commitment to intellectual freedom will be the hallmark of their experience there.
They all received a letter recently from John Ellison, dean of students, which went beyond the usual platitudes of such letters and made several points about what he called one of Chicago's "defining characteristics," which he said was "our commitment to freedom of inquiry and expression." Ellison said civility and respect are "vital to all of us," and people should never be harassed. But he added, "You will find that we expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion and even disagreement. At times this may challenge you and even cause discomfort."
To that end, he wrote, "Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called trigger warnings, we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial and we do not condone the creation of intellectual safe spaces where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own."
Kudos to Dean Ellison!
Furthermore, Ellison's forthright defense of campus free speech at the University of Chicago is quite a departure from the stances of two other Chicago-area colleges. The Daily Caller reports:
Ellison’s approach is in sharp contrast with that taken at another Chicago university, DePaul. A May visit by conservative journalist Milo Yiannopoulos descended into chaos after it was disrupted by student activists and school security refused to restore order. Later, the school banned Yiannopoulos from returning, and it also preemptively banned journalist Ben Shapiro for good measure.
And the Washington Post published this op-ed in January by Morton Shapiro, president of Northwestern University:
I’m an economist, not a sociologist or psychologist, but those experts tell me that students don’t fully embrace uncomfortable learning unless they are themselves comfortable. Safe spaces provide that comfort. The irony, it seems, is that the best hope we have of creating an inclusive community is to first create spaces where members of each group feel safe.
So it took real courage for Ellison to break ranks with the notion that the primary goal of a university education is to make students feel "comfortable."