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Our “Safe Space” Universities: University of Nebraska On Slippery Slope Toward Suppression of Free Speech

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln recently announced that they have added a campus climate/culture option to their TIPS incident reporting system, allowing students to report incidents that violate “the university’s core values and beliefs”, even if they do not directly violate the written Student Code of Conduct.

“Students, faculty and staff who has been a victim of bias or feels unsafe/uncomfortable due to an incident have access to a number of university resources,” says their website.

The climate/culture option was added “to capture broader issues”, specifically those incidents that “discriminate, stereotype, exclude, or harass an individual based on identity” but are not addressed directly in the university’s Code of Conduct.

“A climate-based concern can include actions that discriminate, stereotype, exclude, or harasses anyone in our community based on their identity (such as race, color, ethnicity, national origin, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, disability, age, or religion). Concerns may stem from fear, misunderstanding, hatred, or stereotypes. Behaviors may be intentional or unintentional. Climate concerns may not classify as a compliance violation but do counter our core values and beliefs.”

Climate/Culture Incident Description

A concerned student reached out to “Live Not By Lies” author and The American Conservative senior editor Rod Dreher about the matter, calling the new expansion “a very slippery slope”.

“I don’t know how anyone can read that type of broad and unclear language and just expect the university administrators tasked with responding to these ‘incidents’ to act with deference to the ideas of free speech,” the student wrote. “That leaves way too many doors open for abuse of such a policy by those who react to expressed disagreement…”

Dreher said the policy “gives tremendous power to students who wish to use it to punish anyone they don’t like.”

Indeed, opening up a reporting mechanism for behavior not specifically outlined in the university’s Code of Conduct not only creates ambiguity about what behaviors will and will not be punished, it opens the doors for suppression of free speech when said speech makes anyone else uncomfortable.

The University of Nebraska student is not alone in his concerns. The protection of free speech on college campuses nationwide has been of concern for several years now.

Justice Samuel Alito recently warned of the current danger to free speech in a virtual keynote address to the Federalist Society.

“One of the great challenges for the Supreme Court going forward will be to protect freedom of speech,” he told his audience. “Although that freedom is falling out of favor in some circles, we need to do whatever we can to prevent it from becoming a second-tier constitutional right.”

This morning I was driving from Portland, Oregon back to my home in the Puget Sound. I spent most of my route listening to Joe Rogan’s old 2016 interview with Jordan Peterson. You should listen. It’s filled with golden moments of deep insight from the West’s current favorite professor.

In that interview, Peterson alleges that universities now do more harm than good due to their rejection of Western principles like free speech.

Rogan: Well it’s just so strange that these sort of courses and these sort of ideologies are thriving in universities, and it’s really disconcerting to someone who has children. And you know that your children are going to go there and they’re going to be –

Peterson: Send them to trade school.

Rogan: Wow! A guy that used to teach at Harvard just said “send them to trade school.”

Peterson: I think the universities – I think you could make a reasonable case that the universities do more harm than good now. I hate to say that.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln just became another reason that Peterson’s encouragement to look at trade school options as alternatives to traditional educational institutions may be a good idea.

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