Angry debates about polarizing speakers have roiled college campuses. Conservatives accuse universities of muzzling unpopular opinions, betraying their values of open inquiry; students sympathetic to the left openly advocate against completely unregulated speech, asking for safe spaces and protection against visiting speakers and even curricula they feel disrespects them. Some even call these students snowflakes -too fragile to be exposed to opinions and ideas that challenge their worldviews. How might universities resolve these debates about free speech, which pit their students' welfare against the university's commitment to free inquiry and open debate? Ulrich Baer here provides a new way of looking at this dilemma. He explains how the current dichotomy is false and is not really about the feelings of offended students, or protecting an open marketplace of ideas. Rather, what is really at stake is our democracy's commitment to equality, and the university's critical role as an arbiter of truth. He shows how and why free speech has become the rallying cry that forges an otherwise uneasy alliance of liberals and ultra-conservatives, and why this First Amendment absolutism is untenable in law and society in general. He draws on law, philosophy, and his extensive experience as a university administrator to show that the lens of equality can resolve this impasse, and can allow the university to serve as a model for democracy that upholds both truth and equality as its founding principles.
In a powerful, highly nuanced, and well-reasoned analysis, Baer draws on his experience a multidisciplinary scholar and senior university administrator to cut through conventional slogans and pieties. After thoroughly exposing the contradictions of free speech absolutism, both on the right and on the left, and debunking the political correctness mantra, Baer makes a strong and compelling case for the university inextricably linking free speech to equality as the bedrock of its contemporary mission. Baer's book is an essential contribution to our understanding of the current culture wars over campus speech and to the momentous challenges that it poses to our citizenry. * Michel Rosenfeld, Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University * Baer's book is a spirited and forceful defense of a position far too often mocked, caricatured, or dismissed. Even those who disagree with Baer's views about contemporary campus controversies are well-advised to think carefully and open-mindedly about his examples, his arguments, and his timely analysis. * Frederick Schauer, University of Virginia, and author of The Force of Law * Baer's in-depth, impassioned analysis highlights the fundamental issues that are at stake in the debates about campus speech. He shows that these debates reflect not only a clash of legal principles and a generational conflict, but also crucial questions about the mission of the university. Even those who do not agree with his conclusions will do well to consider his forceful case for further reflection and his proposals for action. * Nadine Strossen, Immediate Past President, American Civil Liberties Union (1991-2008), and author of HATE: Why We Should Resist it With Free Speech, Not Censorship * Anyone who regards student protestors as over-sensitive, over-privileged narcissists will be moved by Ulrich Baer's new book to think again. Baer explains with great patience why the right to free speech rings hollow unless conditions of equality are in place. Students forced to listen to speakers who implicitly deny 'the worth of their existence' will not feel empowered by the so-called 'marketplace of ideas'; they will feel confused by a university that rejects obsolete and disproven ideas in the classroom but welcomes them when they are retailed by professional provocateurs. Baer's argument is a powerful counter to the First Amendment pieties proclaimed by both liberals and conservatives. * Stanley Fish, author of The First: How to Think About Hate Speech, Campus Speech, Religious Speech, Fake News, and Donald Trump *