Provided the weather is nice, I plan to hold this meetup in Washington Square Park, between 6th & 7th Streets on Walnut in Olde City. If you don't want to sit on the grass, just bring a folding chair or picnic blanket to sit on. You can also bring any type of food or drink you want, although I don't think alcohol is allowed in the park.
(If it looks like it'll rain, we'll move our discussion to nearby Café Walnut, right off the park on the corner of 7th & Walnut.)
The park is fairly easy to get to if you're using public transit. With SEPTA, take the Market-Frankford Line & get off at the 5th Street Station (corner of 5th & Market), and walk 2 blocks south on 5th and then turn right on Walnut Street and walk 1 block west. With PATCO, just get off at the 9th-10th & Locust stop and walk 3 blocks east. For those who are driving, parking in the neighborhood can be tough to find. If you can't find a spot on the street, I'd suggest parking in the Washington Square parking deck at 249 S 6th Street which is just a half block away.
FREE SPEECH & HATE SPEECH ON CAMPUS:
HOW DO WE DISTINGUISH A REAL CRISIS FROM A MORAL PANIC?
This meetup will address the issue of free speech & "de-platforming" of speakers on American college campuses that has been heavily discussed & debated in the news media over the past 3-4 years, and we'll try to assess whether this is indicative of a real crisis or merely a moral panic stirred up by conservative pundits & politicians to castigate left-wing student activists & liberal professors and give legislators an excuse to cut funding for higher education. We'll also address recent concerns about hate speech & hate crimes on college campuses, and try to assess whether this is a real crisis or merely a moral panic stirred up by left-wing activists & liberal professors to castigate conservatives and push for more funding for diversity programs.
NOTE: While this meetup will focus mostly on the free speech rights for visiting speakers & students, but there's a Political Agnostics meetup directly before our meetup (from 1-3pm) that will look at free speech as it's exercised by college professors. To check out the outline for that discussion & RSVP, go here:
This will be our second meetup that analyzes free speech issues from a scientific perspective. Last August, we looked at research on how exposure to new information can change people's minds to see if the "marketplace of ideas" concept can be empirically verified, both in terms of getting people to adopt new scientific theories & getting people to develop more empathy for their out-groups. We discussed how some polls suggest that tolerance for gays & lesbians and support for same-sex marriage appears to have gained support more rapidly among Millennials than attitudes towards racial minorities and support for policies like affirmative action, which appear to have stagnated in recent decades.
We also looked at the debate over whether minor social slights related to race, gender or sexuality cause lasting psychological harm comparable to school bullying or workplace harassment, or conversely whether "microaggression" training actually primes people to experience minor social slights as traumatic. We finished by looking at research on why people hold stereotypes and engage in hate speech, as well as psychological factors that play a role in determining our overall views on hate speech & free speech. If you want to review that material, click on the following link:
The Philadelphia Political Agnostics meetup covered the rise of left-wing student activists known as "Social Justice Warriors" (SJWs) in a discussion back in May of 2016. The material covered student activism from a psychological & sociological angle, delving into why there's been a recent uptick in student protests on college campuses and why once obscure concepts like privilege theory, safe spaces, and trigger warnings have suddenly attained national prominence. The economist Steve Horwitz theorized that a shift towards "helicopter parenting" in the[masked]s that left Millennials prone to resolving interpersonal conflict by appealing to authority figures. The psychologist Nick Haslam and sociologists Bradley Campbell & Jason Manning argued the shift in young people's attitudes has been matched by an institutional shift within academia towards a "victimhood culture" where even minor social slights -- a.k.a. "microaggressions" -- are increasingly seen as serious infractions that must be dealt with by administrators in a draconian manner. The social psychologist Jonathan Haidt argued that left-wing social theories that have become prominent in academia inculcate this "victimhood culture" in students in a way that's essentially the inverse of cognitive behavioral therapy and encourages a host of cognitive distortions (e.g. catastrophizing, labeling, dichotomous thinking, excessive blaming, emotional reasoning).
However, our discussion also looked at evidence that suggests that this "victimhood culture" doesn't pervade the bulk of the student body and coverage of it may be overblown. Polls of college students indicate that Millennials tend to be more politically progressive than earlier generations, and today's college students are even more progressive than non-students. However, the majority of college students do not appear to favor the more radical positions of the SJWs and hesitate to identify with more radical movements on campus. In several articles, the science journalist Jesse Singal argued: (1) the 40% of Millennials who favor censorship of certain types of offensive speech isn't atypical and doesn't indicate a recent upsurge in support for censorship, (2) anecdotal evidence of students becoming psychologically fragile "snowflakes" is contradicted by the fact that there's no evidence of a rise in mental illness or suicide among today's college students, and (3) a survey on "trigger warnings" in college classes show that their use is actually uncommon and that most class discussions go on without activist disruptions. You can find this material at the following link:
While recent complaints about free speech on college campuses have tended to come from students & pundits on the political right, students & pundits on the political left have countered this by arguing that the *real* threat on campus is from hate speech & hate crimes. Naturally, people on the political right have countered by arguing that these concerns over a wave of "racists" and "fascists" invading college campuses is a moral panic.
The Philly Political Agnostics looked at the statistics on hate crimes & domestic terrorism in 2 meetups back in May of 2017. The general takeaway was that crimes officially classified as "hate crimes" are about 2 orders of magnitude less common than routine forms of violent crime that occur between members of different races/ethnic groups. (Total hate crimes in the early 2000s varied between 7-8K/yr whereas total interracial violent crimes in 2010 were about 380K.) The most common forms of hate crimes are not violent attacks but rather verbal/online harassment or defacement of property. It may be hard to get an accurate count of hate crimes, since watchdog groups claim they often go under-reported or dismissed by local law enforcement. However, the news media often gives certain hate crimes a disproportionate amount of coverage compared to routine street crime, and watchdog groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League have been accused of framing or “massaging” the statistics to make hate crimes & hate groups appear more pervasive. Nevertheless, hate crimes (like terrorist attacks) tend to play upon human psychology in such a way that they provoke far more anger & fear than normal crimes and strengthen in-group/out-group suspicions in a way that tears at the social fabric, so this is the rationale for pursuing them more vigorously & punishing them more severely.
A similar dynamic holds true for riots on college campuses, where politically motivated riots (e.g. when conservative speakers come to campus), while relatively rare, garner lots of media attention and are often strongly condemned, whereas riots after sports games get less media attention and are often met with shrugs and comments like "crazy sports fans will be crazy sports fans." The rationale for this disparity is similar to that for hate crimes - political protests that deplatform speakers & devolve into riots have a big "chilling effect" on free speech, whereas sports riots can cause a lot of property damage but don't generally intimidate anyone. You can find the material on hate crimes & riots, at the following links:
In the last section of our discussion, we'll look at the effectiveness of student protests, and the ways they can possibly backfire by reducing college attendance and generating media coverage for the conservative speakers they shout down. Back in May of last year, the Political Agnostics tackled the broader issue of violent vs nonviolent tactics in protest movements, drawing upon the work of Omar Wasow & Erica Chenoweth In general, we found that 'radical flanks" can help the progress of activist movements, but the chances of a backlash increase dramatically once they use violence: https://www.meetup.com/Philadelphia-Political-Agnostics/events/239786314/
DIRECTIONS ON HOW TO PREPARE FOR OUR DISCUSSION:
The videos & articles you see linked below are intended to give you a basic overview of some of the major debates over free speech on college campuses. As usual, I certainly don't expect you to read all the articles & watch all the videos prior to attending our discussion. The easiest way to prepare for our discussion is to just watch the numbered videos linked under each section - the videos come to about 41 minutes total. The articles marked with asterisks are just there to supply additional details. You can browse and look at whichever ones you want, but don't worry - we'll cover the stuff you missed in our discussion.
In terms of the discussion format, my general idea is that we'll address the topics in the order presented here. I figure we'll spend about 30 minutes on the 1st section, 40 minutes on the 2nd & 3rd sections (discussed together) and 40 minutes on the 4th & 5th sections (discussed together).
I. THE DIFFICULTY OF DETERMINING WHAT COLLEGE STUDENTS THINK ABOUT FREE SPEECH, HATE SPEECH & TOLERANCE:
- HOW DO THE VIEWS OF TODAY'S COLLEGE STUDENTS COMPARE TO PREVIOUS GENERATIONS?
- HAS THE AMERICAN PUBLIC BEEN DUPED INTO THINKING ALL COLLEGE STUDENTS, OR ALL MILLENNIALS, ARE "SNOWFLAKES" DUE TO NEWS STORIES CONCENTRATING ON THE LUNATIC FRINGE?
- ARE GSS DATA AND POLLS OF MILLENNIALS A DECENT PROXY FOR WHAT CURRENT COLLEGE STUDENTS THINK, EVEN THOUGH THE DATA INCLUDES A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO GRADUATED SEVERAL YEARS AGO OR NEVER EVEN ATTENDED COLLEGE?
- DO POLLS SHOW A RECENT SHIFT IN COLLEGE STUDENTS' OPINIONS ABOUT FREE SPEECH VS HATE SPEECH? DOES THIS INDICATE THAT THE GENERATION AFTER MILLENNIALS - A.K.A. "GEN-Z" OR "iGEN" - ARE DIFFERENT FROM THEIR PREDECESSORS?
- HOW DOES SUPPORT FOR FREE SPEECH VARY DEPENDING ON WHO THE SPEAKER IS? IF STUDENTS DON'T ENDORSE FREE SPEECH FOR VIEWS THEY DISLIKE AND CATEGORIZE IT AS "HATE SPEECH", SHOULD WE STILL COUNT THEM AMONG THOSE WHO SUPPORT FREE SPEECH?
- ARE COLLEGE STUDENTS MORE OR LESS TOLERANT THAN PREVIOUS GENERATIONS? ARE POLLS OR "IMPLICIT BIAS" TESTS A BETTER WAY TO MEASURE THIS?
- DOES THE HIGH LEVEL OF POLITICAL POLARIZATION AMONG CURRENT COLLEGE STUDENTS MEAN THAT GENERAL STATEMENTS ABOUT WHETHER THEY ARE MORE OR LESS OPEN TO CONTROVERSIAL SPEECH OR MORE OR LESS SOCIALLY TOLERANT ARE MISLEADING?
- IS IT MISLEADING TO LOOK AT BROAD TRENDS IN STUDENT OPINIONS ON FREE SPEECH & HATE SPEECH TO ASSESS WHETHER THERE'S A "CRISIS", SINCE IT ONLY TAKES A SMALL NUMBER OF STUDENTS TO DISRUPT SPEAKERS OR PERPETRATE HATE CRIMES?
1a) Christina Hoff Sommers, "Free Speech on Campus: Is It In Danger?" (video - 5:36 min.)
1b) Hannah Cranston & John Iadarola, "The One Lie About Millennials Everyone Believes [i.e. The Most Tolerant Generation]" (video - 5:59 min.)
* Sean Stevens, "The Skeptics are Wrong Part 3: Political Intolerance Levels on Campus are High, and Here is Why"
* Laura Santhanam, "Here’s why it’s so hard to figure out how Millennials feel about racism"
* Haley Glatter, "The Most Polarized Freshman Class in Half a Century: Survey results show first-year college students are more politically divided than ever before."
II. SPEAKER DISINVITATIONS, DE-PLATFORMING & RIOTS ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES:
- IS FIRE'S DISINVITATION DATABASE WHICH SHOWS A RECENT (SINCE 2015) UPWARD TREND IN CAMPUS SPEAKER DISINVITATIONS & DE-PLATFORMING VIA THE "HECKLER'S VETO" PROOF THAT WE'VE ENTERED A "FREE SPEECH CRISIS", OR IS IT TOO EARLY TO TELL?
- WHEN ACTIVISTS SHOUT DOWN & "DEPLATFORM" A SPEAKER, IS THAT AN ATTACK ON FREE SPEECH OR MERELY EXERCISING THEIR FREE SPEECH? SINCE ACTIVISTS AREN'T AGENTS OF THE GOV'T, IS IT TECHNICALLY INCORRECT TO CALL DEPLATFORMING AN INFRINGEMENT IN THE 1ST AMENDMENT RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF SPEECH?
- SHOULD CAMPUS SPEAKER PROTESTS THAT DEVOLVE INTO RIOTS BE WEIGHTED MORE THAN PEACEFUL DISINVITATIONS?
- IF COLLEGE ADMINISTRATORS MAKE NO EFFORT TO APPREHEND & PUNISH PEOPLE WHO DEPLATFORM SPEAKERS, DOES THIS VIOLATE FREE SPEECH?
- IF COLLEGES DON'T PROVIDE SECURITY OR REQUIRE CONTROVERSIAL SPEAKERS TO PAY LARGE SUMS FOR SECURITY IN ORDER TO SPEAK, DOES THAT INFRINGE ON FREE SPEECH?
- ARE SPEAKER DISINVITATIONS A POOR METRIC FOR THE LEVEL OF FREE SPEECH ON A CAMPUS, SINCE A COLLEGE WHERE CONTROVERSIAL SPEAKERS ARE NEVER INVITED WILL HAVE NO DISINVITATIONS?
- SHOULD DISINVITATIONS OF COMMENCEMENT SPEAKERS COUNT AS ATTACKS ON "FREE SPEECH", SINCE GRADUATING STUDENTS DIDN'T OPT TO LISTEN TO THEM IN THE SAME WAY AS SPEAKERS INVITED FOR SPECIAL EVENTS HOSTED BY CAMPUS CLUBS?
- IS THE RECENT TENDENCY OF SPEAKER DISINVITATIONS TO COME MORE FROM THE LEFT MERELY DUE TO THE ACTIONS OF A FEW PROVOCATEURS LIKE MILO YIANNOPOULUS?
- SINCE ABOUT HALF OF CURRENT STUDENTS ATTEND COMMUNITY COLLEGES & THERE'S EVEN MORE STUDENTS AT COMMUTER SCHOOLS, ALL OF WHICH SELDOM OR EVER HAVE SPEAKER DISINVITATIONS OR BIG PROTESTS, IS THAT A POSITIVE SIGN OR ARE THEY MARGINAL WHEN IT COMES TO THE ROLE OF THE UNIVERSITY IN DEMOCRACY'S "PUBLIC SPHERE"?
- WHAT PERCENTAGE OF SPEAKER DISINVITATIONS & DE-PLATFORMING MORE COMMON AS CERTAIN COLLEGES KNOWN AS HOTBEDS OF ACTIVISM (E.G. UC BERKELEY)?
- IS IT UNFAIR THAT FIRE DOESN'T CRITICIZE PRIVATE CHRISTIAN COLLEGES FOR THEIR LACK OF FREE SPEECH, OR JUSTIFIED SINCE THEY DON'T RECEIVE PUBLIC FUNDING & DON'T CLAIM TO OFFER AN ENVIRONMENT FOR FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION?
2a) Campus Reform, "People Can't Name A Time Conservatives Rioted Against Liberal Speakers" (video - 2:09 min.)
2b) Nico Perrino w/ Jason Riley, "Jason Riley his Dis-Invitation from Virginia Tech" (video - 12:00 min, start at 4:50 - listen til 9:35)
* Sean Stevens & Jonathan Haidt, "The Skeptics Are Wrong Part 2: Speech Culture on Campus is Changing"
* Jeffrey Adam Sachs, "There Is No Campus Free Speech Crisis: A Close Look at the Evidence"
* Nathaniel Givens, "Campus Free Speech Crisis a Myth?"
* Ari Cohn, "Is FIRE’s Disinvitation Database ‘shallow’? Hardly."
III. THE BROADER "FREE SPEECH CRISIS" ON CAMPUS: SPEECH CODES, CENSORSHIP, SELECTIVE BANNING OF STUDENT GROUPS, AND THE CHILLING EFFECT IN CLASSROOMS:
- IS FIRE'S RED/YELLOW/GREEN LIGHT RATINGS OF CAMPUS SPEECH CODES BASED ON WHETHER THEY PROHIBIT CONSTITUTIONALLY PROTECTED SPEECH FAIRLY OBJECTIVE?
- WHILE 58.6% OF COLLEGES GET A "YELLOW LIGHT" RATING FROM FIRE, IS THE RECENT DECLINE IN COLLEGES THAT RECEIVE FIRE'S "RED LIGHT" RATING (FROM 42% IN 2009 TO 32.3% TODAY) EVIDENCE THAT THERE'S NO LONGER A "CRISIS"?
- WITHOUT A NATIONAL DATABASE, IS THERE ANY WAY TO GET AN ACCURATE COUNT OF COLLEGE DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS FOR STUDENTS' EXERCISING THEIR 1ST AMENDMENT RIGHTS ON CAMPUS?
- IS THE SPLC POLL OF COLLEGE NEWSPAPER EDITORS INDICATING 60% EXPERIENCED AT LEAST ONE INCIDENT OF ADMINISTRATIVE CENSORSHIP IN A YEAR, IS THAT EVIDENCE OF A WIDESPREAD PROBLEM?
- IF COLLEGES DON'T ALLOW STUDENT GROUPS THAT ARE SINGLE-SEX OR LIMITED TO MEMBERS OF A CERTAIN ETHNICITY OR RELIGION, SHOULD THAT BE CONSIDERED A 1ST AMENDEMENT VIOLATION OR A VALID USE OF THEIR ANTI-DISCIMINATION POLICY?
- IF A PROFESSOR GRADES STUDENTS POORLY FOR DISAGREEING WITH HIM/HER IN CLASS, IS THIS A FREE SPEECH INFRINGEMENT OR AN EXERCISE IN ACADEMIC FREEDOM?
- CAN WE QUANTIFY THE "CHILLING EFFECT" SPEECH CODES & DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS MIGHT HAVE ON FREE SPEECH BY POLLING STUDENTS ON WHETHER THEY'RE RELUCTANT TO SPEAK OUT ON CERTAIN ISSUES, OR IS THAT TOO SUBJECTIVE?
3) Greg Lukianoff, "The Least Free Place in America" (video - 5:48 min.)
* FIRE, "Spotlight on Speech Codes, 2018: The State of Our Nation's Campuses"
* Samantha Harris, "Free-Speech Zones: Then and Now"
* Lindsie Trego, "Legal Analysis: Getting the numbers on college [newspaper] censorship"
* Jeffrey M. Jones, "More U.S. College Students Say Campus Climate Deters Speech"
IV. RACIAL COMPLAINTS & THE POST-TRUMP "HATE CRIME EPIDEMIC" ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES:
- HAVE HATE GROUP RECRUITMENT & HATE CRIMES BECOME MORE COMMON ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES SINCE TRUMP’S ELECTION, OR ARE THEY JUST MORE "SALIENT"?
- CAN WE QUANTIFY THE "CHILLING EFFECT" HATE SPEECH & MICRO-AGGRESSIONS MIGHT HAVE ON MINORITY STUDENTS BY POLLING THEM ON THEIR EXPERIENCES, OR IS THAT TOO SUBJECTIVE?
- ARE HATE CRIMES DETERRING MINORITY STUDENTS FROM ATTENDING COLLEGES WHERE HIGH-PROFILES INCIDENTS HAVE OCCURRED?
- DO DIVERSITY ADMINISTRATORS & DIVERSITY COURSE FACULTY HAVE A VESTED INTEREST IN OVER-REPORTING HATE CRIMES IN ORDER TO SECURE MORE FUNDING?
- HOW MANY ALLEGED HATE CRIMES ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES HAVE BEEN EXPOSED AS DELIBERATE HOAXES SINCE TRUMP'S ELECTION?
4a) CBS News, "Racial complaints spike on college campuses [in[masked]]" (video - 2:10 min.)
4b) CBS News, "Reports of hate crimes on the rise at American universities [since Trump's election]" (video - 3:02 min.)
4c) Duke Pesta w/ Amanda Tidwell, "Campus Hate-Crime Hoax Epidemic" (video - 7:19 min.)
*Dan Bauman, "After 2016 Election, Campus Hate Crimes Seemed to Jump. Here’s What the Data [from the Education Dept, FBI, ADL & SPLC] Tell Us."
* Robby Soave, "Hate or Hoax? When It Comes to Campus Bias Incidents, We Usually Have No Idea. A confusing report from BuzzFeed suggests perpetrators are seldom caught and true motivations are often unknown."
* Oliver Traldi, "Can We Determine What Is Offensive By Consulting A Poll? There is a way to argue against censorship of microaggressions. Asking for a show of hands is not one of them."
* Melinda D. Anderson, "How Campus Racism Could Affect Black Students' College Enrollment. With racial discrimination on the rise, students and parents are watching universities’ responses closely, and some say that these concerns could influence decisions of where to attend."
V. STUDENT PROTESTS, THEIR GOALS & THEIR ALLEGED BACKLASH EFFECTS:
- WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON GOALS OF SOCIAL JUSTICE PROTESTS ON CAMPUS?
- HOW OFTEN ARE CAMPUS PROTESTERS EFFECTIVE IN ACHIEVING THEIR GOALS? DOES IT DEPEND ON THE TYPE OF PROTESTS, I.E. VIOLENT VS NON-VIOLENT?
- DO DEMANDS FOR MORE DIVERSITY ADMINS UNINTENTIONALLY CAUSE MORE "ADMINISTRATIVE BLOAT" THAT DRIVES UP TUITION? DO DIVERSITY ADMINS BENEFIT MINORITY STUDENTS (E.G. RAISING RETENTION RATES, DECREASING RACIST INCIDENTS, ETC.), OR WOULD THE FUNDS BE BETTER SPENT IN OTHER WAYS (E.G. HIRING MORE MINORITY FACULTY, MORE STUDENT AID FOR MINORITIES)?
- WHY DID MIZZOU PROTESTORS DECLARE A "NO MEDIA SAFE SPACE" ON THE CAMPUS QUAD & BULLY THE STUDENT JOURNALISTS TRYING TO REPORT ON THEM? DID IT HURT THE PROTESTERS' LEVEL OF PUBLIC SUPPORT?
- IS THE "MIZZOU EFFECT" REAL - I.E. DO LARGE STUDENT PROTESTS AND/OR FREE SPEECH CONTROVERSIES CAUSE A DROP IN STUDENT ENROLLMENT AT THE COLLEGES WHERE THEY OCCUR? IS THIS DUE TO PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS' FEARS OVER A LACK OF FREE SPEECH OR THE PRESENCE OF HATE SPEECH?
- DOES DEPLATFORMING CONSERVATIVE SPEAKERS & RIOTING DETER PROSPECTIVE VENUES FROM HOSTING THEM IN THE FUTURE, OR DOES IT BACKFIRE AND GIVE THEM MORE SYMPATHETIC MEDIA COVERAGE AS FREE SPEECH MARTYRS (A.K.A. THE "STREISAND EFFECT")? WAS IT THE RIOTING OF BERKELEY'S ANTIFA OR THE VIDEO UNEARTHED BY THE REAGAN BATTALION THAT TOPPLED MILO YIANNOPOLOUS?
- IS THERE ANY EVIDENCE THAT CAMPUS PROTESTS MAY HAVE CAUSED A "PC BACKLASH" THAT CONTRIBUTED TO TRUMP'S NARROW WIN IN 2016?
5a) Fabio Rojas, "Do [Campus] Protests Work?" (video - 2:14 min.)
5b) John Brown, "Why Mizzou enrollment is down" (video - 2:28 min.)
* Leah Libresco, "Here Are The Demands From Students Protesting Racism At 51 Colleges"
* David Frum, "Whose Interests Do College Diversity Officers Serve? Administrative bloat is driving up the cost of higher education—without doing much to help the most vulnerable students."
* Jeffrey M. Jones, "HBCU Students Favor Limits on Press Freedoms"
* Daniel Engber, "Measuring the Mizzou Effect: Does a school’s enrollment really go down when students protest en masse?"
* Mark Bray, "Antifa vs. Milo Yiannopoulos: Who won? It’s been a year since anti-fascist protests shut down a Yiannopoulos gig at UC Berkeley, to much media criticism"
* Robby Soave, "Frustration with Political Correctness Was a Huge Predictor of Whether You Voted for Trump. After party affiliation, nothing pegged Trump voters as well as opposition to P.C. culture."