Amid a nationwide debate over academic freedom and student health and safety, the university’s dean of students is telling incoming freshmen not to expect opportunities to excuse themselves from intellectual challenges and uncomfortable conversations, according read review to the school’s student newspaper, The Chicago Maroon . “Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at adds with their own,” the letter from Dean John Ellison said, sent Wednesday to the class of 2020. “Members of our community are encouraged to speak, write, listen, challenge and learn, without fear of censorship,” the letter also said. “You will find that we expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion, and even disagreement. At times this may challenge you and even cause discomfort.” In a welcome letter to freshmen, the College made clear that it does not condone safe spaces or trigger warnings: pic.twitter.com/9ep3n0ZbgV The letter included a link to a report by the Committee on Freedom of Expression that articulates the university’s stance on the free exchange of ideas. “It is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive,” the report says, addingthat”concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members of our community.” Reaction to the letter has been mixed. “It’s about time that a university administration stood up to the bullies who are trying to repress free speech on campus,” Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor and constitutional law expert, told NBC News on Thursday. “If it said, ‘We are going to shut down all conservative speech or all speech that offends students,’ it wouldn’t be violating the First Amendment. It would be violating basic academic principles and would be undermining what it is that makes a modern university great,” Eugene Volokh, a UCLA professor of First Amendment law, told NBC News.
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