Protesting on Campus – Free Speech on Campus, Ep. 3

Laura Kipnis,

Release Date
August 5, 2016


Free Speech

In the third episode of Free Speech on Campus, Laura recounts when students organized a protest against her for writing an offensive paper. Kipnis goes on to explain how lack of tenure is hurting education.

Free Speech on Campus (playlist): Learn about all of the major issues affecting freedom of speech, open inquiry, and academic freedom on college campuses at
Free Speech — Trigger Warnings, Academic Freedom, and More (program): Join Professor Tom Bell, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and the Institute for Justice in this new program, and learn about rights so fundamental, they’re in the very First Amendment.
The Coddling of the American Mind (article): In the name of protecting students’ emotional well-being, college students and administrators are calling for censorship of certain forms of speech. The results are deleterious to students and freedom of thought.
Freedom of Speech: Is There Freedom Of Speech In College? (video): Watch how the first amendment is upheld in publicly funded college campuses.

>> I can speak as an expert on the subject of campus protest because I, myself, was the subject of one. So I wrote this essay after there was a ban at my campus on consensual relations between faculty and students. And I guess I was a little ironic about this.

And it’s a subject you’re not supposed to be ironic about. I pointed out all of the professors married to former students on campuses around the country. I mean, you can barely throw a stone on most campuses without hitting a few of these couples. So as I said took a kind of ironic tone, and that in itself I guess became a cause of controversy.

You’re not suppose to make jokes about this. And there was also a case on our own campus, and I wrote a few paragraphs about this. So I think the accusation against me was that by taking this ironic tone, I was supporting rape culture. So I thought that that was actually a misreading of the essay, but everybody’s entitled to their misreadings.

In any case the protests caused more people to read the essay than would have otherwise. And so I was not unhappy with the situation. And one of the reasons that I can’t complain is that I’m somebody who has tenure at a research university. So I did not feel that my job was in danger.

But that’s not the situation for a lot of other people who get caught up in situations where students are protesting about something that they’ve said, for example, in a classroom. And the reality on campuses now is that more and more faculty are not tenured, meaning they don’t have job security, meaning they don’t have in effect freedom of speech.

And that’s a huge thing. If people are worried about their jobs, I mean, this is really changing the whole nature of the university, and it’s shrinking the educational experience for students. So I was not against students protesting the article that I wrote. I mean, I think the right to protest is as important a right as the right to write a controversial article.

This is what universities are for. They’re for the exchange of ideas and some oftentimes tough ideas. And people have to figure out ways to talk about things that they disagree about without shutting down the source of the disagreement. And not all disagreements are gonna be settled. This is part of the thing that I think everyone has to learn.

Sometimes there are disagreements. There are different positions that are not just going to be resolved, and people have to live with that.