Wall Street Journal Law Blog, University of Chicago Law School Shouldn’t Be a ‘Safe Space,’ Say Professors:
At the center of the debate roiling higher education over “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces” is the University of Chicago. Its administration recently drew national attention by suggesting that campus efforts to accommodate sensitive students and insulate them from potentially upsetting ideas pose a threat to free thought.
A sizable segment of Chicago’s faculty have now entered the fray, attaching their name to a public letter addressed to entering students that takes issue with the university’s firm stand and defends trigger warnings and safe spaces as legitimate checks against intimidation and emotional trauma.
More than 150 professors joined the letter. But it’s interesting to note which names were absent: as of Wednesday, not a single law professors had signed it.
The letter wasn’t widely circulated around the law school, according to law professors. But they say the faculty rejoinder has generated little enthusiasm among them.
“I’d be surprised if anyone would sign on to this,” Chicago law professor Brian Leiter, a professor of jurisprudence and legal philosophy, said of the Chicago faculty statement. “You can’t get a legal education without studying the most unpleasant aspects of human existence: murder, rape, treachery, betrayal, dishonesty,” he said. At Chicago, “all views get to be heard as long as you can argue for them,” he said. “It’s the essence of the institution. if certain ideas offend, tough noogies,” he said, adding that his law school values civility. ...
[Tax Prof] Daniel Hemel, a former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan and one of the law school’s youngest faculty members, raised similar concerns. “The proliferation of safe spaces and the expansion of the set of prohibited viewpoints pose a threat to the free exchange of ideas on college campuses,” he wrote in a short essay.