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That extension of the harm principle, if applied uniformly to all speech acts, means that anyone who takes offense gets the right to sanction, if not veto, the speech of others, at which point no one can speak at all.
To forestall this risk, the great principle of toleration requires suspending the use of formal sanctions against disagreeable speech.
But what Salovey cannot do is claim that Yale respects the principle of free speech, especially after the resignation of the Christakises following the relentless personal attacks on them as a result of Erika’s thoughtful email.
What Salovey should have done was spoken forcefully and publicly in their defense and entreated them to stay. It was incumbent on him to endorse explicitly and publicly the commitment to free speech that President Robert Zimmer announced for the University of Chicago not too long ago.
Instead, it acts as an institutional arbiter that offers some groups special protection and leaves others to fend for themselves.
It is quite chilling to read the Yale website, which heralds the university’s new commitment to the principles of diversity and inclusion across all aspects of Yale life: recruitment, mentoring, communications and the like.
That is why both assault and defamation have long been actionable harms.
Keep up with this story and more , “College Sex Meets the Star Chamber,” Yale’s current policy on sexual harassment has led to a massive expansion of Yale’s control over the life of its faculty, students and staff.On top of that, the accused is denied the central right of cross-examination, even though he will face dire sanctions if convicted.It is impossible to know from the articulation of these standards exactly how any particular case will play out, or whether the Yale system will guarantee some modicum of consistency across separate cases.The combination of loose definitions and dubious procedures is poisonous to the protection of free speech. It is equally instructive to realize that one does not have to introduce formal procedures to pose a grave threat to free speech on campus.
Salovey takes great pride in noting “the Yale administration did not criticize, discipline, or dismiss a single member of its faculty, staff, or student body for expressing an opinion.”That sentence may be technically true, but it does not explain why Salovey did not mention the unfortunate fate of Nicholas and Erika Christakis, both of whom resigned from Yale under massive pressure after student protesters demanded that Nicholas be removed from his position as master of Silliman College. Because Erika had written an email that took issue with a letter from Yale’s Intercultural Affairs Committee that warned students against various insensitive forms of behaviors, like wearing offensive Halloween costumes.
Given their own strong precommitments, this mixing of functions necessarily builds in an institutional bias against any claim that given speech acts should be protected.