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Uncensored: U of Chicago makes free speech its hallmark

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Anton Ford, a philosophy professor associated with UofC Resists, leads chants at an event featuring Corey Lewandowski. Feng Ye/The Chicago Maroon

Media literacy, thorough event planning emphasized on hyper-tolerant campus

By CHRISTOPHER HEIMERMAN
For Illinois Press Association

CHICAGO – No American university is more committed to free speech on campus than the University of Chicago, according to a recent FIRE student survey.

Whether or not faculty and administrators are Spider-Man buffs, they subscribe to the sage advice of Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

“This is important: Our faculty are not the kind of faculty that will just invite a speaker to come and have free reign,” Dean of Students Michele Rasmussen said. “It’s usually a defined program, where it’s an atmosphere for those ideas to be challenged.”

The university scored highest out of the 55 universities that took part in the survey conducted by The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit focused on protecting free speech rights on campuses.

The survey covered universities’ openness, how willing they are to invite a speaker to address controversial issues, self-expression and administrative support.

Geoffrey Stone (left), an Edward H. Levi distinguished law professor who’s filled various leadership positions at the university during his 47-year tenure, says the university has emphasized First Amendment rights since its inception in 1890.

GeoffreyStoneIn 2014, the university’s president, Robert Zimmer, addressed a nationwide trend of free speech challenges at universities by enlisting Stone and other distinguished professors to draft a statement clearly spelling out that under virtually no circumstances the university would prohibit free speech.

The “Chicago Principles” have since been adopted by 70-plus universities, including Princeton, Columbia, and multiple Big Ten universities, including the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, which ranked 42nd in the survey. The University of Wisconsin was a notch above at 41st, and the U of I-Chicago was 44th.

The universities effectively lopped off the first half of the principles, which pertained to the University of Chicago specifically, but kept the universal elements.

Stone said arrogance often gets in the way of sharing intellectual property among higher education, “so adopting another’s statement is hard to do.”

Further, he said, universities have to be prepared for students and faculty who oppose expression of free speech from opposing or extreme viewpoints.

“It takes a good deal of courage, frankly,” Stone said. “It does piss off a lot of people.”

 

Media literacy is key

The crux of the “Chicago Principles” is summarized nicely in the document’s reference to a dissenting
opinion from Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in a Sedition Act case in 1918.

“... The ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas – that the best test of truth is the
power of the thought to get itself accepted in the free competition of the market,” the dissent reads.
Stone said free expression was integral to desegregation, interracial marriage, and the women’s rights
movements.

“They would have been flat-out rejected without hesitation at different times in the past,” he said.

He said the university was among the first to offer benefits for gay marriages.

“At a point in the past, that would have been regarded as absurd,” Stone said. “Because we have allowed the advocacy of those challenging positions, we’ve learned and changed our minds about things. We always have to be open to challenges.”

The difference today, he readily concedes, is the speed at which information, and misinformation, travels. Five years ago, Stone began teaching a Freedom of Speech course that keyed on vetting information.

“We live in an environment where it’s more important than ever for people to be skeptical,” Stone said.

As baseless claims and conspiracy theories flood the media – both social media and broadcasts and print publications – consumers must scrutinize the content.

“Our students are living in that society. That’s the reality of the world we’re living in,” Stone said.

He said shielding students from misinformation fails to prepare them for the real world.

Three years ago, the university retooled its orientation program to emphasize media literacy to new students as soon as they arrived on campus. Not coincidentally, the university borrowed heavily from the orientation program of Purdue University – one of the first institutions to adopt and adapt the “Chicago Principles.”

MicheleRasmussen“We sort of returned the favor,” Rasmussen (left) said, laughing.

In a large venue, faculty, students and special guests speak, do a Q&A session and role-play. Videos of such figures as Barack Obama are shown. It’s all done in an hour.

“It’s not too preachy, and it brings some abstract concepts down to a level students can understand,” Rasmussen said. “It’s not effective to have a bunch of talking-head administrators.”

It was obviously difficult to conduct orientation virtually, she said. Another challenge has been meeting students at their level, given that about two-thirds of the University of Chicago’s students are graduate students.

“One could argue they’re even more diverse than undergrads,” Rasmussen said. “They represent different age groups, some have families, and they’re from different countries.”

Rasmussen said interactive modules have been built, and much of the First Amendment work has been folded into curriculum and separate exercises. For instance, the law school had its students write a speech code.

“It ended up looking a lot like the ‘Chicago Principles,’ ” Rasmussen said.

 

Infrastructure keeps events ‘on the rails’

Controversial figures are more than welcome to speak at a campus event – as long as they’re willing to be rebutted.

Many such events at the University of Chicago have failed to materialize, because speakers have refused to take part in a debate or a Q&A session.

“It wasn’t because of the political views,” Rasmussen said. “They weren’t willing to have the back-and-forth discourse.”

She said the university has “hundreds, if not thousands” of speakers on campus, and that faculty and administration collaborate to know what’s on the calendar and plan each event in such a way that “it doesn’t go off the rails.”

They designate protest areas, train staff to de-escalate situations, and provide ample security. Disrupting events is not allowed, and if interrupters persist, they’re removed.

“We take events management and planning very seriously,” Rasmussen said. “When you see a lot of events on a college campus that goes off the rails, when you dig a little deeper, it’s usually because of bad planning of the event. You need to do that work up front to ensure you have the kind of event you want.”

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MaroonHead

After kids broke a piñata that represented Donald Trump by hitting it with a long stick, the head of the piñata hung in front of the protesters. Feng Ye / The Chicago Maroon 

Rasmussen said the university has “had plenty of dust-ups over the years,” but its employees will neither be gagged nor disciplined for exercising their First Amendment rights.

“That just doesn’t happen at the University of Chicago,” she said. “This is not the kind of place where you’re going to see administrative overreach.”

Stone conceded it’s challenging to tell students and faculty they will hear ideas they find offensive, even revolting.

“That’s not easy, and the reason they have to learn to do that is they cannot trust anyone in positions of authority to decide what ideas cannot be spoken,” he said.

He and Rasmussen emphasized the university provides “safe spaces”, which are spelled out in the principles as various student organizations.

“You don’t have to just sit there, take it, and feel upset,” Rasmussen said. “There are places you can take your concerns, and get support. We do have safe places, where students can step out of a controversial situation.”

 

‘A slightly cynical point of view’

Rasmussen said there isn’t a threshold at which the university will determine a point of view too outrageous to be allowed on campus.

That doesn’t sit well with Caroline Kubzansky, a fourth-year senior who’s worked for The Maroon student newspaper since she set foot on campus. She’s now the managing editor, and is skeptical of the university’s motivations.

“I take a slightly cynical point of view on the university’s emphasis on free speech,” she said. “The university’s efforts have struck me as a marketing scheme.”

She said a culture of curiosity is a good thing, and that universities deserve credit for thinking outside the box, and outside the domain of scholars. But she thinks the university’s policy is perhaps too tolerant.

“[The Chicago Principles] is a way of saying that people don’t immediately tar and feather conservatives for what they have to say,” she said. “Sometimes it might be too good at not tarring and feathering people with reprehensible viewpoints.”

The university does not require its professors to provide content warnings before they introduce content that’s bound to be offensive to some, if not repulsive or potentially incendiary.

Kubzansky said that while she respects the policy, she’s grateful all the professors she’s had alert their students

“Most professors who care about that stuff will put it in anyway,” she said. “In the circles I run, it’s called manners. Try not to blindside someone with something offensive.

"The world is awful enough as it is.”

Return
Press Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 11, 2024

Contact Information:
Craig Baumberger
craigbaumberger@yahoo.com
 

Fly with the 'Sky Soldiers'
 

Coming Aug. 24, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation in Creve Couer, Missouri, will bring its Bell UH-1 “Huey” and AH-1 “Cobra” helicopters to the Greenville, Illinois, Airport Airstravaganza. The public will be able to purchase rides on each of these historic warbirds. This will be a unique opportunity for people to get a close look at two of the most important aircraft utilized by the US Army during the Vietnam War and in the years following. Vietnam veterans will be able to recall their experiences when they flew, rode in, worked on, or were supported in combat by these warbirds.

The Army Aviation Heritage Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to finding, restoring, and flying Army aviation aircraft from the Vietnam era up until the 1990’s. Its vision statement:

"Empowering the past to inspire the future, the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation and Flying Museum envisions a world where the courageous legacy of Army Aviation pioneers lives on, igniting the spirit of innovation, service, and excellence in generations to come. Through dynamic preservation, immersive educational experiences, and community engagement, we honor the bravery and sacrifice of those who charted the skies before us, while fostering a deep appreciation for the evolution of flight, military service, and the critical role each has played in shaping history. Guided by our commitment to preserving heritage, educating minds, and inspiring hearts, we aim to be a beacon of excellence, enriching lives, and building a bright and patriotic future for our nation."

There are three chapters nationally with the local chapter based at Creve Couer Airport in Creve Couer, Missouri. They welcome visitors at their hangar on Thursdays and Saturdays. Membership is open to the public and not limited to veterans or pilots. 
 
The UH-1 was first developed by Bell Helicopter in the 1950s to fill the need for a utility helicopter for the US Army. They were manufactured in large numbers starting in the early ‘60s and played a major role in enhancing the mobility of infantry in Vietnam. Seven thousand saw action in Vietnam with an estimated three thousand destroyed. They continued to serve the Army well into the 1980s anywhere troops might be deployed. They were replaced by the Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawk.

Bell also developed the AH-1 Cobra. It was designed as an armed escort for the UH-1 transporting troops in Vietnam. It was developed around 1965 and entered service in 1967. It played an important role in protecting the lightly armed and armored UH-1s as they delivered troops, supplies and especially performed their famous Medevac role in Vietnam. The Cobra could respond quickly to suppress ground fire from the enemy. The Cobra had various armaments, most common being pod mounted rockets and nose mounted mini gun. Over a thousand were manufactured for the US Army. Three hundred were lost in combat. It was replaced by the AH-64 Apache.

      

Ticket prices
Huey $125
Cobra $800
To purchase advance tickets: Go to “armyav.org
For “Airstravaganza” information, call or text 618-322-3532
For questions about the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation:
Gateway (MO) – Army Aviation Heritage Foundation or call 636-362-4839
“Airstravaganza” is hosted by: EAA Chapter 1382/Greenville Pilots Association


 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 1, 2024

Contact Information:
Alison Maley, government & public relations director
(217) 299-3122
alison@ilprincipals.org

Illinois Principals Association names new executive board and board members
 

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois – The Illinois Principals Association, which serves more than 6,500 educational leaders throughout the state of Illinois, announces the following school leaders to serve as the Executive Board for the IPA, effective July 1, 2024. 

President – Cris Edwards, Richland County Elementary School, Olney 
Immediate Past-President – Dr. Paul Kelly, Elk Grove High School, Elk Grove Village   
President-Elect – Dr. Angie Codron, Normal West High School, Normal 
Treasurer – Shaun Grant, South Elementary School, Chillicothe  
Secretary – Dr. Courtney DeMent, Downers Grove North High School, Downers Grove  

Other new board members include: 

– Diversity & Equity Chairperson – Sonia Ruiz, Jane Addams Middle School, Bolingbrook 
– Dr. Jennifer McCoy, principal of Lexington High School, Lexington, as state director for the Corn Belt Region 
– Dr. Rebecca Gabrenya, principal of Marquardt Middle School, Glendale Heights, as state director for the DuPage Region 
– Mandy Hughes, principal of Glenbrook North High School, Northbrook, as state director for the North Cook Region 
– Doug Owens, principal of Tri-City Elementary School, Carterville, as state director for the Shawnee Region 
– Heather Baker, assistant principal of Northview Elementary School, Peru, as state director for the Starved Rock Region 
– Nick Stoneking, assistant principal of Edison School, Macomb, as state director for the Western Region 

For information about other board members and IPA regions, please visit www.ilprincipals.org/board and www.ilprincipals.org/regions.  

The Illinois Principals Association mission is to develop, support, and advocate for innovative educational leaders. For more information about the IPA, please visit www.ilprincipals.org

### 


 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 24, 2024

Contact Information:
Purple Wave Auction
Ph: (866)-608-9283
marketing@purplewave.com
www.purplewave.com
 

Purple Wave Auction announces new territory sales manager

Greg Ditch to serve Purple Wave as a territory sales manager in Northern Illinois
 

MANHATTAN, KANSAS (June 24, 2024) - Purple Wave Auction is pleased to announce that Greg Ditch has joined the company as a territory sales manager. Purple Wave Auction is a leader in online, no-reserve equipment auctions, serving the agriculture, construction, government, and fleet industries. The company provides opportunities for customers to buy and sell equipment with confidence.

In his role as territory sales manager, Greg will facilitate relationships with new sellers while also connecting with current sellers in his market. He will work closely with the sellers to evaluate their assets, help them through the auction process from start to finish, and share equipment with potential bidders.

Prior to Purple Wave, Greg worked for Purple Wave’s strategic partner, Copart, where he was the assistant general manager at its Chicago North yard. He brings more than 20 years of experience in the automotive and power sports industries, having held various roles, including owner, sales manager, and finance manager.

"I would like my customers to know they are more than customers; they are friends and can count on me to help them achieve their goals. Don't be afraid to call, email, or text. I am here to help solve problems and create opportunities", says Greg.

Greg Ditch
281-221-0996
greg.ditch@purplewave.com

# # #

ABOUT PURPLE WAVE AUCTION
Purple Wave Auction was founded in 2000 and has become a leader in online equipment auctions. The company provides the easiest, most straightforward way to buy and sell equipment in the marketplace. Purple Wave is committed to the core values of trust, team, care, and passion and delivers those values throughout all offered services to bidders, buyers, and sellers.


 

 

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