Thank you for Cass Sunstein’s column (“Students can learn from use of insensitive words,” CDT, June 25), which does not go nearly far enough to condemn the practice of defining inadvertent, backhand insults and political opinions as “microaggressions.”
In a time when the country is reeling from the macro-aggression committed at the Charleston, S.C., AME church, it’s absurd to be overly concerned about such impolite slips.
The University of California at Berkeley has clearly gone off the rails in threatening to discipline people for remarks like describing a black student as “amazingly articulate” (any student who can write an entire paragraph with a logical progression and no grammatical or spelling errors these days is, frankly, amazingly articulate!), as well as statements like, “I believe the most qualified person should get the job,” “America is the land of opportunity” and “Affirmative action is racist.”
I disagree with the latter, but to forbid that statement is to make a mockery of free speech.
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UC Berkeley and other elite schools have long made clear through their admissions and hiring processes that conservative opinions are unwelcome; one of the results is that elected conservative politicians are more and more completely unwilling to support public education.
But to impose a speech code that forbids even slogans and platitudes invites disrespect for any so-called university. This is of a piece with requiring “trigger warnings” to protect infantile young adults from ideas and facts that may bring discomfort. UC Berkeley deserves a gigantic lawsuit and a resounding Bronx cheer, and so does any similar speech code anywhere.
Steven H. Smith