Just Published: “The Value and Limits of Academic Speech”

Prominent scholars share diverse viewpoints on campus speech debate

Emily Chamlee-Wright
Emily Chamlee-Wright

As we round out another academic year, the issue of free speech on America’s college campuses has never been more timely – or in greater need of thoughtful reflection.

That’s why the Institute for Humane Studies is excited to announce the release of a new collection of essays titled, The Value and Limits of Academic Speech. Edited by Donald Downs and Christopher Surprenant, the volume features a diverse lineup of respected political scientists, philosophers, sociologists and more, who explore historical, cultural, legal, and normative facets of campus speech. Featured authors include:

  • Peter Singer, who argues that, while emotional speech designed to incite racial hatred is not protected speech, this category has been uncharitably extended to include intellectual arguments that listeners find offensive, to the detriment of public debate and discourse.
  • Frank Furedi, who explores the problem of speech codes, wherein by embracing idioms of vagueness, the commanding rhetoric of higher education shuns engaging explicitly with a coherent system of right and wrong.
  • Sarah Conly, who argues that given the educational mission of colleges and universities, it is reasonable to prohibit speakers who do not meet the bar of academic credibility and have a history of engaging in speech that is clearly false.
  • Keith Whittington, who examines how the choice of commencement speakers and common readings tend to be safe choices, missing an opportunity to foster freedom of thought and advance skeptical examination skills.

The Value and Limits of Academic SpeechNo matter what your perspective on campus speech issues, I guarantee that in this volume you will encounter arguments that will challenge your priors. This is by design. Downs and Surprenant have brought together scholars with diverse viewpoints on how best to ensure that colleges and universities remain vibrant intellectual communities. This is why we are so proud to have supported this project. IHS is in the business of ensuring that colleges and universities realize their true purpose as incubators of intellectual growth and human progress–and that only happens if campuses are places where free speech, intellectual diversity, and open inquiry flourish. We learn in large part because we encounter ideas that challenge us to consider perspectives different from our own. If we want to see that diversity of thought flourish on campuses, we need to do our part to promote it in scholarship, as well.

Our hope is that this volume contributes a set of fresh perspectives to the campus speech debate, inspiring its readers to add their constructive perspectives to the conversations taking place on their campuses and within the greater academic community.

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