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I have served for more than two decades as a university president, the past 17 years leading Columbia University.
Tom Nichols: Don’t let students run the university Because I am of the view that one such disinvitation is one too many, I have said that I will personally introduce controversial figures who were rejected elsewhere.
Nevertheless, I understand when members of our university community raise alarms that certain individuals, based on their track record, cross the line from merely controversial to offensive.
Read: Trump’s redundant executive order on campus speech According to a 2016 Knight Foundation survey, 78 percent of college students reported they favor an open learning environment that includes offensive views.
President Trump may be surprised to learn that the U. adult population as a whole lags well behind, with only 66 percent of adults favoring uninhibited discourse. In fact, Columbia University is something of a magnet for provocative speakers.
First, universities are, today, more hospitable venues for open debate than the nation as a whole.
Second, not only have fierce arguments over where to draw the line on acceptable speech been a familiar occurrence in the United States for the past century, but such dialogue has also been indispensable to building a society that embraces the First Amendment.
The Supreme Court, in its inaugural First Amendment ruling, exactly 100 years ago, upheld the imprisonment of the Socialist Party presidential candidate Eugene Debs for the crime of publicly expressing his support of draft resisters.
Yet the ruling in 1964, journalists who cast a critical light on the activities of the nation’s most powerful individuals did so at their peril.
In both these capacities, I can attest that attitudes about the First Amendment are evolving—but not in the way President Trump thinks.
The president’s claim that the campus free-speech order was needed to defend “American values that have been under siege” ignored two essential facts.