English 165FS: Special Topics: Free Speech and Toleration on Campus
Do we have free speech on campus? What is free speech? Can we tolerate the speech of others? What are the legitimate limits to that toleration?
These are some of the questions that we’ll engage in this class. We will do so in three ways:
I: First, we’ll read the classic works that define the First Amendment Tradition in the US. That tradition includes British precursors (John Milton on a free press and John Locke on toleration), The Declaration of Independence and the First Amendment to the US Constitution, John Stuart Mill “On Liberty,” and the central legal cases that have defined Constitutionally “protected” speech (Abrams v US; Masses v. Patten; Whitney v California). What are the guild rights and protections that come with the “academic freedom” of professors?
II: Second, we’ll study a short history of speech on campus:
We’ll begin by considering the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley (1964); and the failed effort to write speech codes for campuses in the 1980s. We’ll also discuss the most interesting recent news stories and commentary upon speech on campuses like the University of Missouri, Yale, Dartmouth, Middlebury, Evergreen, and Milo at Berkeley. These protests have raised vital questions: Should those campuses purge the names of the slavery supporters of the past? Are safe spaces, trigger warnings, calling out “micro-aggressions,” and disinviting offensive speakers legitimate ways to limit free speech on campus? Do they build civility, inhibit robust speech, or “coddle students”?
III: Thirdly, each student will do a research project on one campus free speech incident somewhere in the US. This could involve web research, a narrative presentation of the case, and finally a legal analysis to develop a judgment on the case.
Requirements: attendance; 2 short 2-page papers; a late mid-term; and a final 5-page paper that you will give to the class in a 3-minute presentation.