January 20, 2015

SO VANDERBILT LAW PROFESSOR CAROL SWAIN WROTE AN OPED IN THE NASHVILLE TENNESSEAN ABOUT ISLAM and a Muslim student group at Vanderbilt organized a protest against “hate speech.”

Then ex-Saturday Night Live star Victoria Jackson showed up and led a counterprotest. Here’s how the Vanderbilt Administration responded:

Dean of Students Mark Bandas emailed the student body to say that that Muslim students had told him they have “felt welcome and safe at Vanderbilt until you read this piece.” He assured them that the school’s “top priority” has not changed: “Ensuring that this campus is welcoming to, and supportive of, all of our students.”

At the same time, Bandas told students to use their freedom of expression to challenge “polarizing speech” and “engage in dialogue with … those with whom you disagree.”

According to Yamin, the student organizer and publicity chair for the Muslim Student Association, Bandas even volunteered to provide a sound system and setup crew for her protest.

But Yamin only met the dean halfway in his call to engage with her critics. . . .

The overall tone of the protest, though passionate, did not attack Swain personally.

Yamin herself acknowledged after the event that Swain “has substance and that she is an educated woman” and has “a lot of qualifications to be teaching at Vanderbilt.”

But Swain’s speech must be curtailed, Yamin said: “What I’m really trying to show her is that she can’t continue to say these kinds of things on a campus that’s so liberal and diverse and tolerant.”

Well, actually, that’s what it means to have a campus that’s liberal, diverse and tolerant. You need to continue your education, Yamin. That said, this has been better handled than many campus speech fights lately.

And here’s a roundup from Scott Jaschik at Inside Higher Ed.