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Cafe Society to discuss freedom of speech on college campuses

By Staff | Jun 20, 2016

The next session of the Cafe Society on Tuesday will discuss the importance of preserving freedom of speech on college and university campuses. Across America institutions of higher learning are increasingly becoming business enterprises with all of the policies, processes and procedures to protect the bottom line rather than a place where students can be nurtured and guided in developing their analytical skills and learn to deal with a multitude of competing, if not conflicting ideas. In that process they learn to disagree, or differ while still conducting a civil, constructive dialog and to explore options that may lead to productive compromises, if not consensus.

These informal weekly discussions are held from 8:30 to 10 a.m. every Tuesday morning, usually in the Rumsey Room of the Shepherd University Student Center. However this next session on June 21 will be held in Room 256 of the Scarborough Library.

Cafe facilitator Mike Austin shared, “An important ingredient in any successful college experience is the opportunity to learn to articulate your perceptions, and points of view on a wide range of issues. But the real learning process exponentially increases when you have to defend your views and objectively listen to others who might not agree. The content might be derived from courses of instruction, or dialog among the students and faculty on current local or national issues, such as the present Presidential campaign. But the judgmental process doesn’t mature in a purely artificial environment where there is no give and take. Losing an argument can actually be a very enlightening experience. My impression is that all too often in college campuses today, there is too much emphasis on being ‘politically correct’ or avoiding contentious issues that might dissuade donors or adversely impact recruitment. Student dialog among themselves, with the faculty, and hopefully mentors within their host community should be encouraged and structured around substantive and meaningful issues. There is a huge difference between building a consensus after an open and honest exchange of views and simply espousing the homogenized, school book – safe solution.”

He added, “One of the most interesting results of the current Presidential campaign thus far, has been increased awareness that young people today think differently about important, political, economic and social issues. What better way to help them refine their thinking, learn to use good judgment after assessing the facts, and gain confidence in their convictions, than to test them, articulate and defend them in the supportive college environment. There we have the resources to provide critical and constructive evaluations, to put issues in a broader context, to observe the merits of our heart-felt opinions when they have to come up against competing points of view. We should not be too quick to close debate, to artificially reach a consensus and in so doing, learn the wrong lessons. Our students today are paying a very high price for their education. We ought to ensure that it is well grounded in the give and take of competing ideas. Once they enter upon their chosen professions, their opportunities to hone those argumentation, debating, and advocacy skills will be limited.”