March 07, 2007
MORE ON THE WISCONSIN STORY at Inside Higher Ed.:
Certain kinds of statements “trigger fast reactions,” Knight said. “There have been occasions when the reactions were well founded,” he said. “But there have been others that were not well founded or were somehow in between, so a dose of prudence and caution is always useful.”
Knight said he was not bothered by administrators acknowledging the pain felt by those offended by something alleged to have been said — the pain being real even if the person never said the words in question. But Knight said he worried about holding forums for people to express their pain when the facts were still being gathered, as happened at Wisconsin. “That can create its own dynamics, which is a problem,” he said. “In creating a forum, inevitably that will suggest that there is a real problem. The forum is not being held to discuss a perception, but what seems to be a reality i.e. that someone has said something that is racist or sexist or vilely offensive.”
He added that while it is “laudable for administrators to pay heed to community sentiments, that can come at a quick and high cost to the sense of freedom necessary for faculty to teach controversial and sensitive subjects.”
Administrators with a bit more backbone would be nice, too. Law schools are supposed to understand due process.