Lawrence University vs. Free Thought

, Malcolm A. Kline, 4 Comments

When Students for Free Thought, a group at Lawrence University, attempted to screen the documentary Can We Take a Joke? on their campus late in the Spring, they discovered that their classmates were not a particularly light-hearted , free thinking bunch.

“Can We Take a Joke? includes footage of incidents where outraged college students shouted down speakers they disagree with,” the film’s director, Ted Balaker noted in a column distributed by the James C. Martin Center for Academic Renewal. “Ironically, that’s pretty much what happened at the Lawrence screening. Some students shouted at the screen, then a dispute erupted; one student was asked to leave, and organizers stopped the film halfway through the screening.”

Guess who the university president sided with?

“At the core of our educational mission is the free exchange of ideas, viewpoints, and information; we are committed to productive discussion of issues that are crucially important to every one of us, and to our community as a whole,” university president Mark Burstein wrote in a e-mail to the “Lawrence Community” on May 23, 2017. “Moreover,” he continued, “while we recognize and support the value of expressing, discussing, and debating ideas, we do not believe that all ideas have equal value.”

“We hold equity and the creation of a just society as core principles, and will continue to affirm these in all we do.” In other words, he sided with the hecklers.

Perhaps these educated elites need to realize that if you protest a joke too much, you become one.


4 Responses

  1. Talha S

    August 10, 2017 6:58 pm

    All greed is good they said, and then the deficit happened!

    All of anything without bounds is a joke.

    Protest too is a form of free speech.

    Interesting the article doesn’t delve into content of the movie beyond the title, embarrassing content perhaps.

    Reminds of being watching “faces of death” back in high school with fellow students, similar reaction (with more of a disgust-tinge to the protests)

  2. Kevin Garcia

    August 11, 2017 7:24 am

    “All greed”? who said this? When? Interesting that no source is cited.

    Protest that infringes on someone else’s speech is no longer speech but coercion. One wonders how long this line will be sustained once “protesters” interrupt the wrong kind of speech.

    If you had made the slightest effort (click on the link) you would have seen plenty of information about the video concerned. But then you’d have to have a genuine interest in the issue.

  3. The dude

    August 11, 2017 9:46 am

    Free speech is definitely under attack on almost all college campuses, Lawrence is a great example of that. Students are taking self-righteousness to dangerous extremes. Having said that, the above mentioned group, Students for Free Thought, has multiple members that are outright racist and intolerant of other people’s beliefs and identities. What I find puzzling is that a group that aims to promote free speech was being led by those that think that only certain groups of people deserve to speak their mind. I believe that restricting free speech is going to be the downfall of our free market of ideas based society. I also believe that the bigotry and racism displayed by some of that group’s leaders show that they are merely hiding behind the ideal of free speech to promote a bigoted, racist agenda. This why I believe that the university did the right thing ruling against the official recognition of the group and I hope that a free speech group with better leaders emerges on our campus soon.

  4. Genna

    August 14, 2017 10:39 pm

    I’m actually in the group and there is not one person that is a racist in it; I don’t know where “the dude” is getting his facts. I liked this article and I think it sums up what happened pretty well. Also, it wasn’t just that the movie was heckled down, I received threats of violence and reactions that far exceeded what I could have possibly imagined after the showing of a documentary and the game of outrage telephone that ensued. Truly eye-opening all around.

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