"The Cost of Free Speech: In the Universities It's Almost as High as the Tuition," review of Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus, by Donald Alexander Downs, Weekly Standard, 3 October 2005.
SENSITIVITY HAS TAKEN OVER OUR society, and nowhere more securely than in our universities.
To see what has happened, consider this small fact. Half a century ago, a liberal Harvard psychologist, Gordon W. Allport, published a book, The Nature of Prejudice, that began the social science study of stereotypes. Though of course hostile to stereotypes, he allowed they might have a kernel of truth. For example, he said, fewer Jews are drunks than Irish.
A remark like that could not be made at a university today except in private to trusted friends. And if you made it, you would be testing your trust. Jews and Irish, to be sure, are not protected groups, but to speak so frankly even about them would betray a very troubling levity in your attitude toward groups that are protected.
Sensitivity is today’s version of the soft despotism that Alexis de Tocqueville worried about in democracies, and it would not have surprised him that the worst of it would be found in the halls of the intellect. Only in American universities, some 300 of them, from 1987 to 1992, did the movement for sensitivity go so far as to enact semi-legal speech codes proscribing offensive speech. These codes provoked the ire of a few free speech heroes on the campuses and, more important, prompted them to mobilize opposition to the codes and to attempts by university administrators to enforce them.