A letter to the Gateway Editor


In his banal and frighteningly incoherent article, staff writer Phil Brown delivered a reaching, under-developed opinion about an issue he hasn’t taken enough time to thoughtfully digest. Skipping over dull, narrow-minded, patronizing platitudes like “Who doesn’t believe in the ideals of free speech?” and “Free speech is an ideal anyone can get on board with…”, the language of the article exposes a lack of critical thinking outside the sphere of emotional response.

First, where is the letter? I am annoyed by the choice of the Gateway to exclude a JPEG of or a link to the University of Chicago’s letter. If included, the careful reader would see Phil Brown’s neglect by omission of the crucial word “intellectual” before “safe spaces” in the third paragraph.

When intact, “intellectual safe spaces” refers to a solace of the mind some seek when confronted by ideas they have been conditioned to block or argue against.

Accredited academia is an institution where ideas with substance are discussed, reviewed, debated and tested. There are many ideas without substance that need not influence the talk of the classroom. Those offended should get used to their ideas being challenged because their personal views do not influence the truth of the matter: the evidence provided by and things proved by science do not require your endorsement.

The University of Chicago letter portrays intellectual safe-space advocates as simply wanting to shrink ideas that cause them discomfort, which is uncharitable and malicious. And, who is to say to which information students should and should not have access? What about the students who do wish to engage in controversial discussion? Those students are deprived of their right to learn when teachers and speakers are neutralized by student groups acting under the crap banners of “religious liberty”
and “political correctness” to name a few…

Take note: I am not suggesting that someone with certain experiences not needing to be described here doesn’t have the right to receive disclaimers or trigger warnings before particular lectures or seminars. However, I believe the position of the University of Chicago is one solely regarding the idea of intellectual safe space. There were far too many lectures shut down on university campuses in Chicago the previous year, three being by Palestinian human rights activist, Bassam Eid, whose lectures were protested by an anti-Israel group.

Please understand that the decision of the university to bring in controversial speakers does not mean that the university agrees with the views of the speaker. It seems more likely that a free exchange of ideas is actually the point. Review the events of last May, when the DePaul University Republicans brought in the controversial Milo Yiannopoulos last May.

The Black Lives Matter movement stormed the stage, and physically assaulted the speaker for presenting his views. Yiannopoulos was banned for life; the president of the university announced his resignation. Now, regardless of whether one agrees with Yiannopoulos on anything, his (silly) views deserve to be heard. For those that disagree, there’s typically a Q&A. Get up and slam his views then and there; peacefully protest all you want. However, by taking the stage and physically slamming the speaker, BLM took on the role of “aggressor,” “suppressor,” and actually caused the space to be unsafe.

To all readers: I’m beginning to believe that our generation has forgotten what confirmation bias means. It is not only the right of those speaking, however unpopular their views, to be afforded the time and space to speak, but it’s also your right to hear views that contradict any previous held notions. Listen to what is argued before you, respond with the hope of positioning yourself and move toward discussion. That’s integrity, that’s discourse.

I invite Phil Brown to review the University of Chicago’s letter. The “safe space” movement is suppressive when the University of Chicago is taken at its actual wording: intellectual safe space. By removing oneself from a situation where cognitive dissonance can occur, one does limit their experience by censoring and neutralizing dissenting ideas. What is more educating than experiencing a conflict of ideas, relaying them through the mind and memory, through one’s experience, and then changing one’s views when found to be flawed or becoming more certain of a held position? A movement that punishes and threatens the free exchange of ideas is one that deprives its students of their right to learn.

— Recent UNO graduate, Jared Brown