“Education is not meant to make people comfortable. It is meant to make them think.”
—Hannah Gray, President, University of Chicago, 1978-1993
This 11-minute video, which lauds the University of Chicago as a bellwether for free speech on American campuses, was put out by “We the Internet TV”, which I suspect is a somewhat conservative organization (I’m just guessing based on the tone and the call for “ideological diversity,” which you don’t hear from the Left). But this video is mercifully free from right-wing politicking. There are conservatives interviewed, but also some liberals, including Geoff Stone (the law professor who helped develop our free speech code, the “Statement on Principles of Free Expression“), and Professor Ceiling Cat, who has a voice-over about 4 minutes in. On the whole, I think it’s not bad, though the narration is a bit, well, eager.
One bit that interested me was the role of the famous Robert Maynard Hutchins, who became president of the University of Chicago at age 30, serving in that role from 1929-1945, and then as Provost (the chief academic officer) from 1945-1951. He not only abolished varsity football, but shaped the undergraduate college and its famous “great books” curriculum. Hutchins was also a fierce advocate of free speech; as you’ll learn from the video (and this was new to me), during the McCarthy era he explicitly invited the head of the Communist Party of America to speak here, and then refused to bow to the State of Illinois’s demand that the Communist be disinvited.
The video gives you a taste of what it’s like to be here, and shows several deplatforming attempts. It ends with some worry about whether the University’s principle of butressing free speech will succeed in view of the faculty and students’ call for Steve Bannon’s upcoming talk to be canceled. I can pretty much assure you that it won’t be, and that the University will deal with any attempts to disrupt it.
Part of the videomakers’ notes:
Why is the University of Chicago the place that’s leading this fight? And can it resist the mounting pressure to abandon its commitment to free speech? We the Internet TV’s Rob Montz went to the Chi-town campus to find out.
A related video was made for a Chicago Tribune editorial on the U of C as “the University of Common Sense”; this one shows some pushback by students, and more discussion by Geoff Stone.