Liberating Campuses Legally


Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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20 Responses

  1. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Damn fine post, Burt.Report

  2. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    “There is no reason that university administrators, professional academics, and even college students, can’t intelligently and collaborately form at least a broad consensus about what a “reasonable” campus environment is.”

    There absolutely is a reason: The unconcious racism that pervades American society so thoroughly that people can act in ways that are utter KKK-style racist while honestly believing that they’re fair, objective, nonbigoted, reasonable people.Report

  3. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Trackback: We’re All Reasonable Here. Worth your time to read.Report

  4. Avatar Vikram Bath says:

    I think the best defense of the use of the word “reasonable” in a statute is the Louis CK defense: “OK, if you’re so smart, you go make your own and see how good it is.”Report

  5. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    So come, let us reason together.

    Sorry, that’s just wholly unreasonable.Report

  6. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    Bravo on this, @burt-likko. A very, very helpful, and, dare I say, reasonable post.

    I don’t know that I fully agree that we want to apply the strictures of existing harassment law to any and all actions universities might take to ease frictions created by the exercise of speech on campus (though to some I surely would), but that is a matter of reasonable difference about how different cases along the spectrum you describe might best be handled. And I’m pretty open to a variety of ways universities might do that.

    The larger point is that the balancing approach you lay out is exactly how I would like people to approach this problem. Great thanks for this.Report

  7. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    How the hell does this post only have six comments?Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Burt does this. He writes solid, well-researched posts that no one can really in good conscience disagree with.
      And then people wonder why nobody posts comments.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Kim says:

        Yep, Kim is right.

        All I could muster was some snarky bullshit while agreeing with damn near every word.

        Come on, Burt! Be controversial!Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Kim says:

        What the…

        Why are you making so much sense today, Kim?Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Kim says:


        [Ring. Ring.]

        “Thank you for calling Hell, this call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes. My name is Eva, how may I help you today?”

        “Hello, Eva, how are you doing?”

        “Absolutely horrible, thank you. How may I help you?”

        “That’s good to hear, Eva. I’m just calling because, well, some strange things have been happening up here on Earth, strange enough that I wanted to inquire about the weather down there. I guess what I’m asking is, have you had a sudden drop in temperature?”

        “No, no, it’s still torturously hot here.”

        “Oh, that’s a relief. I expect things will be back to normal up here soon, then.”

        “Is that all?”

        “Yes, thank you very much for your help.”

        “You’re welcome. You may receive a follow-up survey call asking you about your customer service experience today. I hope you’ll give me all really awful ratings.”

        “I will, I will!”

        “Good bye.”Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Kim says:

        Oh, sure. Now it’s my fault.Report

    • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Tod Kelly:
      How the hell does this post only have six comments?

      Could be in part burying the thesis statement nearly half of the way through, without clarity about what the piece is going to be about and why I should care. I think this is the point:

      I propose that colleges can look to anti-discrimination law to provide an example of how rules can navigate between these two seemingly mutually exclusive ideals.

      Not sure why or how my life or whatever I care about would be affected. Kind of a plea for moderation, I think. I’m in favor of that, but the piece doesn’t accentuate my fear of extremism.

      Not saying I’m skeptical that a “justification of process” could be made evident or striking enough for me, but for the first part of the post up until this point I’ve been getting signals about something Kirsten Powers may have gotten partly right or partly wrong, but that she for one didn’t seem to think was important, according to Burt, who for his own part refers to the underlying conflicts as “tedious.”

      So, in short, I don’t know I’m supposed to feel or think about most of this. If I were a school administrator or zealous student activist or victim of activism or code-ism or whatever-ism, I’d know whom to attack or defend. Instead, my dander is unstirred.

      Well, you asked.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to CK MacLeod says:

        Just you wait, @ck-macleod . Someone is going to try to gore your ox sooner or later and then where will you be?

        I’ll remove my tongue from my cheek now. I’m a bit giddy with lack of food, lack of sleep, and an unexpectedly resounding success in court this morning.Report

  8. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    I will try and meet @tod-kelly’s suggestion and make some points on @burt-likko’s post.

    1. I noted that Ms. Powers also is a Fox News commentator. This might not mean anything but it does raise a small partisan eyebrow because we all love heretics and the current right-wing really loves themselves some heretics of Democrats who are willing to bash their side.

    2. This is where it stands to make some points between liberals and leftists which is always going to be something you see more when you are involved. The fight over trigger warnings, PC, and reasonableness is probably older than when Chait wrote his essay a few months ago. Lee has pointed out that the Marxist Left has always viewed Freedom of Speech as a kind of middle-class freedom. Something that is really a tool of oppression but guised as a civil liberty or something that only really matters once you have economic security. I sort of have some sympathy for the left-wing view because there is a long history of jerks calling themselves anti-PC as a kind of shield for saying really bigoted statements and stereotypes.

    3. I still can’t decide whether we are dealing with a real issue or an issue on a large handful of campuses. Cory Robin notes that all the stories about PC gone awry or anything else university related happen on our more selective colleges and universities:

    FWIW I know enough people in academics who are concerned with all this stuff and think new students are being a bit heavy on censorship. Some of it does sound like my cohort is getting older and grumpy about “kids these days” as Chris would note though. I often think these stories have a good deal of merit but can be distorted for talking points.Report

  9. Avatar Don Zeko says:

    Saul Degraw:
    Lee has pointed out that the Marxist Left has always viewed Freedom of Speech as a kind of middle-class freedom. Something that is really a tool of oppression but guised as a civil liberty or something that only really matters once you have economic security.

    This seems like a strange distinction to draw, because most of the debates about the left and freedom of speech don’t concern formal free speech rights, i.e. freedom from government censorship, at all. Instead it’s all about what sorts of private reprisals are an undesirable limit on open debate, and by far the most significant reprisal to undesirable speech is getting somebody fired. So it’s not that we’re talking about a right that only matters to those with economic security; we’re talking about when and why it is ok to use social pressure to ostracize someone or deprive them of economic security on account of their speech.Report