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Colleges at the Crossroads

Taking Sides on Contested Issues


Edited By Joseph L. DeVitis and Pietro A. Sasso

Focusing on crucial issues in higher education, this book challenges readers to go beyond taken-for-granted assumptions about America’s colleges and universities and instead critically examine important questions facing them in today’s troubled world. Each chapter presents divergent perspectives, that is, "pro" and "con" views, in the hope of stimulating reasoned dialogue among students, faculty, administrators, and the public at large. Readers will explore how internal factors in the academic community often interact with external social, economic, and political influences to produce conflictual results. They will see that academe is hardly value-neutral and inevitably political. This book urges them to transcend strident political persuasion and instead engage in the careful analysis needed to make colleges better.

The text provides in-depth appraisal of key topics of controversy: the purposes of higher education, liberal education, academic freedom, political correctness, tenure, shared governance, faculty workload, admissions tests, student learning, Greek life, the worth of college, equity and social justice, athletics, student entitlement, technology and distance instruction, and college amenities. The book will appeal to students, faculty, staff, and all those interested in the future of higher education. It is especially useful for courses in contemporary issues in higher education, foundations of higher education, higher education and society, college student development, and the organization and administration of higher education.

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10. Free Expression and Political Correctness: Contextualizing the Controversies and Finding a Way Forward (R. Scott Mattingly / J. Bennett Durham / Matthew R. Shupp)


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10.  Free Expression and Political Correctness: Contextualizing the Controversies and Finding a Way Forward



Is higher education stifling freedom of expression in an era of political correctness? Yes, as a broad trend across many institutions, it is. It seems hard to argue otherwise, considering the implications of the many recent controversies at colleges and universities over campus protests, disinvited speakers, microaggressions, trigger warnings, and more. This was evidenced at a recent Intelligence Squared debate featuring public intellectuals with relevant expertise, as two-thirds of the audience left in agreement that free speech is threatened on campuses today (Intelligence Squared U.S., 2016).

However, it is our contention that the national conversation about political correctness and threats to freedom of expression in higher education is generally missing the root cause of the problem. While the public and pundits alike tend to fixate on symptoms, the true crisis is the growing inability of our culture to promote dialogue between individuals from diverse cultural and ideological groups. We believe that education is the way forward and that colleges and universities have an obligation to lead by example in creating campus cultures that embrace our common humanity while equitably addressing the needs of diverse constituencies. Below, we provide context for the concepts of free expression and political correctness, analyze their ← 141 | 142 → relationship to the current environment of higher education, and...

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