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Table of Contents

The Academic Bill of Rights: Yea or Nay?

The Academic Bill of Rights - What is It?

It's My Right!...

Thelmo Resolution in Support of Civility, Free Speech and Dialogue

Is Tolerance Enough

If We Agree in Love

The Responsible Use of Freedom

Sticks and Stones...

What's Out There: Researching Academic Freedom

Alumni Accomplishments

The Kenya Connection

Laurentian Reviews

Table of Contents

“Is Tolerance Enough?”

A “shop talk” (campus-speak for a seminar for the brainstorming of views on pedagogy) at the Center for Teaching and Learning attracted over three dozen faculty and staff to the topic “Is Tolerance Enough? Civility and Disagreement in the Classroom and Beyond.” They were presented with these questions: In an intellectual community, how do we best deal with disagreement over fundamental issues, both in the classroom and among colleagues? Are calls for increased “civility” just another way of avoiding conflict by sweeping it under the rug of politeness and “tolerance”? Do the values of academia demand engagement rather than tolerance? How do we remain open to the possibility of our own intellectual error such that we can genuinely learn from others? How do we create classroom spaces that forward these goals?

The questions provoked a lively hour of interchange – all of it civil. Overheard:

Civility does not always mean being nice. It means supporting equal participation. It means not just tolerance, but an obligation to engage all with respect. The closer connection we see today between people and ideas leads to more categorizing of people, and thus to more ad hominem attacks.

--Eve Stoddard, English/global studies

Do we treat students differently from how we treat each other? Do we hold students to different standards? How far does tolerance extend? Do we have an obligation to engage those who are disrespectful, or just to let them talk without engagement? New scholarship in racism, sexism and so on has made people defensive.

--Steve Horwitz, economics

It’s OK to criticize without being disparaging.

--Liz Regosin, history/academic advising

It’s possible to argue against Affirmative Action and not be racist – but you have an obligation to support and defend your position. We need to teach students--and ourselves--to distinguish “I’m right” discourse from “here’s my contribution to the exchange of ideas” discourse.

--Steve Horwitz

Students instinctively try to put moral values on each other’s views.

--Donna Alvah, history

Professors have to challenge those who claim the moral high ground, but do it even-handedly. Our students should expect that we will push them to defend and sharpen their arguments, regardless of whether we agree or disagree with what they say.

--Karl Schonberg, government

Critique is the highest form of respect, if one is engaging the issue and not the personality.

--Grant Cornwell ’79, philosophy/academic dean

It’s human nature to associate the message with the messenger. This is part of the evolution of our ability to detect deception. If we are going to go against human nature and disassociate the two, we need etiquette – we need rules.

--Ron Sigmundi, psychology

Martin Luther King Jr. is a model for respectful interaction—even under relentless verbal and physical attack he called for civility, not rules.

--Rance Davis ’80, student life

We all need a stronger commitment to be less hostile, less angry.

--Pat Alden, English/international studies

We must have trust so discourse is benign, not virulent. Lack of trust leads to lack of civility.

--Kerry Grant, English

To achieve trust, it’s necessary to find commonality.

--Ron Sigmundi

This faculty doesn’t model trust.

--Mary Hussman, English/outdoor studies

We have lost the impulse to find common ground. We need to recover that impulse.


Most college students are at an age when they are going through profound changes, among the most important of which is learning to empathize and see the world from the perspective of others. As we work to help them do this, we should think carefully about the extent to which we push them to specialize in a particular academic field. We need to broaden their views, not narrow them, if we want them to find commonality.

--Karl Schonberg