[I]t is incumbent on each of us to consider how our free speech may impact another’s life; so-called transgressive actions that attack other members of the community do not create a "safe space" for intellectual maturation; and a university should help all students recognize when a situation raises issues worthy of reflection and debate.Fine, let's raise those questions when the transgressivity is of the approved kind, say, a confused young man using the ladies' bathroom, or the cutting edge artist mocking a religious icon. Perhaps that sort of behavior is part of the sifting and winnowing by which knowledge advances. Or perhaps it's somebody making a grab for attention.
Mightn't it be simpler to recognize in the first clause of the preceding run-on sentence the value of behaving like ladies and gentlemen?
And give the dean credit for at least recalling the role of academic inquiry.
Indeed, it reminds us of the university faculty’s unique role in supporting free intellectual inquiry and teaching students how to take part.But then comes the derailment. Here comes the progressive intolerance, by which some views are not worthy of sharing or understanding, because privilege.
The essential responsibility of a university educator is to teach students to gather information, analyze it critically, reflect upon its larger meaning and use it to make a difference in the world. Our special role is to help students consider how they will navigate society as adults and to help them acquire the intellectual tools needed for that journey. This involves teaching students how to have tough conversations about sensitive issues in a spirit of respectful inquiry -- including discussions with those whose views they neither understand nor share.
To this end, we must show our students how to discern when a situation raises challenging intellectual or societal questions worthy of their consideration. While it is not our job to tell them what conclusions to draw about a particular Halloween costume, it is precisely our job to help them understand that they should give the matter serious thought.
Moreover, to prepare our students to take up the mantle of free speech and engage in vigorous public discourse on the issues of the day (including the impact of racist Halloween costumes on a community), we must teach them how do so in a manner that respects the right of others to join the debate.
Similarly, faculty members who are accorded privilege by their race, gender, ability or other personal characteristics should make an effort to model inclusive principles for students, rather than relying on our colleagues from underrepresented groups to do so. We should show publicly that we are open to becoming more aware of the unearned benefits our majority status confers and to better understanding the ramifications for other community members. We can do this, for example, by reading some of the many books and blogs on these topics and by listening attentively when members of marginalized communities raise concerns -- even when the subject matter is painful to face."Unearned benefits" is the current sneer term that stands in for civilizing institutions, because any reference to civilizing institutions is micro-aggressive. Or something. Probably problematic. Got news for you, Dean
Think "unearned benefits" are a burden? Wait until higher education squanders all the goodwill, and future professors and deans have to earn it all back, ab intio.
Fortunately, there's plenty of pushback from readers, along the above lines, and other lines, in the comments.