Harper to debate state of free speech on US campuses

February 29, 2016

, Penn GSE
Dr. Shaun Harper

In the last year, protests have spread on campuses across the country against racial injustice, gender and sexual orientation discrimination, and sexual violence. Are these protestors spurring needed conversations, or are calls for trigger warnings in the classroom suppressing free speech?

That will be the question 6:30 p.m. March 1 at Yale University in the latest Intelligence Squared U.S. debate, featuring Penn GSE’s Shaun Harper.

Based on traditional Oxford-style debating, Intelligence Squared brings together experts with opposing viewpoints to have a civil discourse around pressing issues of the day.

For this debate, Harper will team up with Yale philosophy professor Jason Stanley to argue that freedom of speech is thriving on college campuses. Arguing that campus protests are crowding out speech that has been protected, if unpopular, will be writer Wendy Kaminer and Columbia linguistics professor John McWhorter. ABC’s John Donovan will moderate.

The debate will be livestreamed online and viewers will be able to vote for the side they believe carried the argument. It will also be recorded for future broadcast on public radio stations across the country.

Speaking with the New Haven Register, Harper said he is preparing to make his case conclusively.

“There’s been no evidence from the climate work that we have done that students are not allowed to freely express themselves,” Harper told the Register. “People say all kinds of things to them all the time that are racist, that are hurtful or harmful.”

The Register reported that while Harper didn’t want to reveal his whole plan, he did plan to include a “bombshell” in the 90-minute debate. 


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