FREE SPEECH IN THE COLLEGE COMMUNITY by Robert M. O'Neil

FREE SPEECH IN THE COLLEGE COMMUNITY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Reasonably and a bit skeptically, O'Neil reviews the recent high-wire act that higher education has performed over free speech for students and professors, from Stanford's student speech code to classroom ``content warnings'' in Iowa. Picking up from his Classrooms in the Crossfire (1981), O'Neil examines free-speech skirmishes between the camps of political correctness and neoconservativism that began in the '80s. Comparatively recent scandals include the anti-Semitic and racist opinions of, respectively, professors Leonard Jeffries and Michael Levin at New York's City College; incidents involving a perceived racial insult and student thefts of an unpopular undergraduate publication at the University of Pennsylvania; and the rape-torture fantasy a University of Michigan undergraduate posted on the Internet. With experience as president of the University of Virginia and the University of Wisconsin, O'Neil has considerable sympathy with institutions, administrators, and faculty having to deal with such problems. But he has an uncompromising regard for intellectual freedom in education and a clear understanding of the various legal rulings on the First Amendment, which he spells out in case discussions and administrative guidelines. Ironically, in all of the above cases, the courts found against the colleges and universities that attempted to penalize students, often basing decisions on rulings from the McCarthy and Vietnam War eras. O'Neil also addresses issues of religious speech, academic independence, freedom as it relates to student organizations, and the nature of artistic expression, cataloging object lessons in well-intentioned institutions' hasty and ill-conceived actions when they feel the freedom of ideas risks the stability of the ivory tower. A pragmatic, libertarian-minded, and well-informed legal handbook for the First Amendment on campus, albeit less likely to find a place in the student union or the faculty lounge than the administration offices.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-253-33267-2
Page count: 280pp
Publisher: Indiana Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1997