Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

George Will: On Campus, a Freedom from Speech

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

George Will: On Campus, a Freedom from Speech

Article excerpt

Yale's president, Peter Salovey, dealt with the Crisis of the Distressing Email about Hypothetical Halloween Costumes about as you would expect from someone who has risen to eminence in today's academia. He seems to be the kind of adult who has helped produce the kind of students who are such delicate snowflakes that they melt at the mere mention of even a potential abrasion of their sensibilities.

Salovey gave indignant students a virtuoso demonstration of adult groveling. With a fusillade of academia's cliches du jour, he said the students' "great distress" would be ameliorated by "greater inclusion, healing, mutual respect and understanding" in the service of "diversity." But of course only diversity that is consistent with the students' capacious sense of the intolerable.

Salovey said he heard their "cries for help." The cries came from students who either come from families capable of paying Yale's estimated $65,725 costs for the 2015-16 academic year or who are among the 64 percent of Yale undergraduates receiving financial aid made possible by the university's $25.6 billion endowment. The cries were for protection from the specter of the possibility that someone might wear an insensitive Halloween costume.

A sombrero would constitute "cultural appropriation." A pirate's eye patch would distress the visually challenged. And so on, and on.

Normal Americans might wonder: Doesn't the wearing of Halloween costumes end at about the time puberty begins? Not on campuses, where young adults old enough to vote live in a bubble of perpetual childhood. Which is why Yale was convulsed by a mob tantrum when, as Halloween approached, a faculty member recklessly said something sensible.

She said in an email it should be permissible for someone to be a bit "obnoxious," "inappropriate," "provocative," even "offensive." She worried that campuses are becoming places of "censure and prohibition." And she quoted her husband, Master of Yale's Silliman College, as saying "if you don't like a costume someone is wearing, look away, or tell them you are offended. …

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