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Free Speech Among Harvard 2017 Freshmen...a Violation?

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Jun 6 in Education ✍ by Virginia (4,092 points)
edited Jun 6 by Virginia

On Facebook, in a private subgroup to a chatroom, the prospective students "posted messages joking about child abuse, sexual assault, paedophilia and the Holocaust"...plus racial slurs. Harvard administrators learned about the group and investigated, then withdrew offers of admission from ten participants in that chatroom. 

(And you even had to make a special application to the subgroup, by inventing and posting an obscene meme.)

Personally, however, I am glad Harvard did that. They seem to be trying to hold their students to a standard. I am getting TIRED of certain kinds of "free" speech, obscene and dismissive of others. The Q/A site I recently left was accepting posts that were not only violent and sexually explicit, but deeply disrespectful of women. I have kinda had it...I think we need some kind of line. 

Then seeing that video from Evergreen State College in Washington, well, I am ready to say Good For Harvard! (Is this a bit of a rant? Okay well I think I feel better now...tx for listening!)

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-40170652

3 Answers

Marianne Jun 6

Sadly, too many people are confusing free speech and/or free opinions with slurs, foul language and insults.


There seems to be also a serious backlash, if considering the new - or rather recrudescent surges of sexism, racism, religious intolerance, hate-mongering and increasing violence.


Such groups or subgroups encouraging abuse and crimes should be banned.



Virginia Marianne Jun 7

Marianne, as you see I feel the same way...and there IS a fine line, a greyed/blurry line...I am not even sure I can fully justify my opinion, I just know how I myself feel.

Marianne Marianne Jun 7

Virginia, I know very well how it feels to have to justify everything we are doing, saying, wishing or feeling. And being constantly controlled, supervised, rushed around and spied upon is neither easy. We have also our limits and need our private sphere.

But freedom involves also a sense of responsibility, and teens are still growing - physically and mentally.


Virginia Marianne Jun 7

@ Marianne...yes, such a valid point...they are still growing.

Marianne Marianne Jun 7

Yes, and everybody seems to forget that:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolescence

Virginia Marianne Jun 7

Hmmm...this article even mentions that "Some scientists have questioned the universality of adolescence as a developmental phase, and argue that traits often considered typical of adolescents are not inherent."

it seems the science is still unsure as to what is going on with human maturation into adulthood! What I do myself know, is that some decisions I made even as late as age forty, I might not want to be responsible for...I was still maturing...in fact, I would say that even now, it is more that I am learning to recognize when my decisions are well-founded, and when I do not want to put so much reliance on my ability...


Marianne Marianne Jun 7

You are not the only one to have doubts and to question various sources and "facts" or assumptions. Experience is teaching us that younger people cannot have an insight into many hidden aspects or anticipate, as older people do after a certain number of experiences, and we never stop learning.

Things which seemed clear and simple at age 20, and even at age 40, become suddenly more complex when you grow older and take a closer, a second, or a third look into things, as many little details and new perspectives appear, which seemed to have little or no importance in the past.

Furthermore, much more knowledge, new findings, recent technologies and updated data, are more easily available than in the past - in spite of all the propaganda, controversies and fake news.

Virginia Marianne Jun 8

Marianne, yes to me, aging is quite fascinating...I actually do see adolescence and young adulthood as developmental phases, and inclined to give them lots of tolerance as they mature...sounds like you might feel the same way!

Marianne Marianne Jun 8

@Virginia

Yes, that is true - though our experiences vary, as surroundings and influences do, and the frame for these evolutional and development phases should allow teens and young adults to grow at their natural rhythm and provide a motivating, logical guidance - not only empty theories, prejudice or laxism and fake.


Virginia Marianne Jun 8

Marianne, I think I see you suggesting something with which I would totally agree...that mature adults need to bear some responsibility to provide a reasonable, guiding structure for youth - and not just smash/kill them when they get onto an unwholesome path.

Marianne Marianne Jun 9

Yes, I think that appropriate education should not train and crush children into slavery, shame, unhealthy living conditions, and blind obedience, but canalise and guide them into independent thinking, spiritual awareness and into becoming responsible adults, enabled to take their own decisions.

I don't know if you heard about the many scandals - in the past and in present times - about the most gruesome child abuses in formerly highly respected homes, schools, orphanages, reeducation centres, psychiatric hospitals, or by foster families, child traffickers and various religious and similar sects, or in their own, broken families caught in the "spiral of violence". 

But that does not mean that hate, violence, foul play and crimes are acceptable.


Virginia Marianne Jun 9

Marianne, a long time ago - maybe 1990 - I read one of the books of Jonathan Kozol. He criticizes the US education system intensely, and he really opened my own eyes. I do believe much of what he writes is accurate.


Marianne Marianne Jun 12

Yes, there was much abuse in education and similar systems - everywhere, whether religious or not, sectarian, private or public, etc. Unfortunately, some reports about widespread scandals in education in West Europe, like on your side, cannot be found in English - hence I am using again news from English speaking countries:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/may/20/child-abuse-catholic-schools-ireland

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/10932969/Convent-that-forced-young-mothers-to-give-up-their-babies.html


TheOtherTink Jun 6

I dunno, I'm rather inclined to agree with Prof. Dershowitz, that invading a private chatroom is going a bit too far, and smacks rather of Big Brotherism, no matter how distasteful the content. It isn't as if the prospective Harvard students said these things in public, as happened at Evergreen State.

On the other hand, the prospective students should have known that nothing is really private on the internet, and I suppose Harvard, being a private institution, can do what it likes in cases like these.

It would be interesting, however, to see what would happen if one or more of these students brings a lawsuit against Harvard for breach of contract. Maybe Dershowitz would represent them.  :ermm:

O'Tink, I was wondering if you might come in with a more liberal perspective, here...this is certainly a time when our whole society is faced with, and forced to address, such questions - deciding just what free speech means, and where.

I'm sure you know...I was not really comparing the Evergreen situation with Harvard as they are not comparable - it's more they both just gave me the same feeling of brutishness.

@ Virginia,

Oh, absolutely, they are both brutish, but I wish Berkeley, for example, would have prosecuted the rioting students who wore black masks, set fires, broke windows, made it impossible for a lecturer they disagreed with to speak, and were they expelled or otherwise called to account?  Not to my knowledge.  And will those students at Evergreen be called to account? Certainly not; the president of that college has already caved abjectly.

This Harvard action smacks of something cowardly administrators did because it was safe and easy to do, whereas confronting rioters would carry distinct risks that they would not be prepared to face.

Other Tink, see what you think of this possibility...when I was young, in San Francisco, the hippie era...a few students protesting at Kent State University were actually killed...don't recall the whole story now, I think maybe they had called in the National Guard? And perhaps that left a scar on our national psyche, no college willing to risk a repeat of that! 

Could it be college administrators are still caving to student immature bullying in the wake of that tragedy, even though so long ago now?

                                                           * * *

Some kind of response or prevention DOES need to happen...the young idiots turn into a mob mentality...I rather like your idea of new students signing a contract of understanding of expulsion as a condition for admission...

@ Virginia,

You may very well be right that the administrators are deathly afraid of another Kent State.

It seems that the events that unfolded at Kent State had their origin in some demonstrators burning down an ROTC building.

"In September 1970, twenty-four students and one faculty member were indicted on charges connected with the May 4 demonstration at the ROTC building fire three days before. These individuals, who had been identified from photographs, became known as the "Kent 25". Five cases, all related to the burning of the ROTC building, went to trial; one non-student defendant was convicted on one charge and two other non-students pleaded guilty. One other defendant was acquitted, and charges were dismissed against the last. In December 1971, all charges against the remaining twenty were dismissed for lack of evidence.[48][49]

Eight of the guardsmen were indicted by a grand jury. The guardsmen claimed to have fired in self-defense, a claim that was generally accepted by the criminal justice system. In 1974 U.S. District Judge Frank Battisti dismissed civil rights charges against all eight on the basis that the prosecution's case was too weak to warrant a trial.[9]

Civil actions were also attempted against the guardsmen, the State of Ohio, and the president of Kent State. The federal court civil action for wrongful death and injury, brought by the victims and their families against Governor Rhodes, the President of Kent State, and the National Guardsmen, resulted in unanimous verdicts for all defendants on all claims after an eleven-week trial.[50] The judgment on those verdicts was reversed by the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on the ground that the federal trial judge had mishandled an out-of-court threat against a juror. On remand, the civil case was settled in return for payment of a total of $675,000 to all plaintiffs by the State of Ohio[51] (explained by the State as the estimated cost of defense) and the defendants' agreement to state publicly that they regretted what had happened:

In retrospect, the tragedy of May 4, 1970 should not have occurred. The students may have believed that they were right in continuing their mass protest in response to the Cambodian invasion, even though this protest followed the posting and reading by the university of an order to ban rallies and an order to disperse. These orders have since been determined by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to have been lawful.

Some of the Guardsmen on Blanket Hill, fearful and anxious from prior events, may have believed in their own minds that their lives were in danger. Hindsight suggests that another method would have resolved the confrontation. Better ways must be found to deal with such a confrontation.

We devoutly wish that a means had been found to avoid the May 4th events culminating in the Guard shootings and the irreversible deaths and injuries. We deeply regret those events and are profoundly saddened by the deaths of four students and the wounding of nine others which resulted. We hope that the agreement to end the litigation will help to assuage the tragic memories regarding that sad day."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kent_State_shootings

O'Tink, even reading this brings back the feeling of sorrow...horror, that this could happen:

...and I noted in your posting..."even though this protest followed the posting and reading by the university of an order to ban rallies and an order to disperse. These orders have since been determined by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to have been lawful."

It is indeed possible that every college administrator since then likely feels him/herself under the onus of what happened to those young people...

@ Virginia,

Well, it seems to me that at the very least, the administrators, besides letting the rioters burn down buildings, break windows, etc., could take a lot of pictures and then prosecute the perpetrators after things have calmed down. Or are the cowards afraid of further violence if they do that?

If that's the case, then they might just as well turn over the colleges to the radicals right now; the revolution will have succeeded. Maybe the administrators are hoping it will be a delayed Fabian takeover, at least until they can retire on a cushy pension.

Other Tink I did some Googling, and STILL not sure I understand what a "Fabian takeover" means...I did see that Annie Besant was a founding member of a group known as the Fabian Society, and I know her name as she was also a theosophist...apparently the Fabians are democratic socialists, and wish to promote that agenda by a gradual incursion? Like General Fabius did to Hannibal?

Hi Virginia,

As I understand it, the Fabians had very much the same ultimate aims as the communists, except that they did not think violent revolution was the best way to go about it, preferring patience and gradualism instead. And while some of the Fabians might have been honest social democrats, I think this clip featuring some of the distinctly UNdemocratic opinions of a prominent Fabian, GB Shaw, shows the more typical side of the movement.

So what I meant by the college administrators hoping for a Fabian takeover is that they do what they can to prevent a violent takeover of the campuses, but are quite willing (if indeed not complicit) in the gradual takeover by undemocratic elements, who only tolerate socialist Doublethink, nothing else.


O'Tink, WHEW!

First impression: Was Shaw using his credibility as a Nobel laureate (in literature!) to get people to listen to some outlandish and bizarre political notions...?

But then I also recall that in the era of Hitler, eugenics was a popular concept...NOT of course in the sense of gassing inferior or parasitic (as judged by GBS) specimens, more in the sense of selective breeding toward superior humans.

Second thought: Over the years, I have myself wondered if there is ANY organization one can really believe in or place trust...because, as soon as you have an organization you have a target for the opposition to mobilize, and shoot down. Also, an organization cannot really stay true to any clear and fine ideal - there will always be someone coming in to commandeer it to his/her own platform, through irrelevant credentials like GBS or just a charismatic personality. My own tentative conclusion has been that we each must act according to our own best standards, without the umbrella of organizations - which too often devolve.

* * *

I don't really know much about the college campuses; however I CAN see there is ample negative potential, with the immaturity of a student body plus inordinate power held by just a few administrators.

@ Virginia,

I think eugenics was all the rage in progressive circles many years before the Nazis came to power, and the far left of that time (as now) had very undemocratic tendencies, so i don't think Shaw was unique in that regard.

Yes, we do have to act according to our best individual standards, but we can never escape the power that corruptible organizations can exert over us. And there will always be organizations, because in organization there is strength, as the old labor union slogans never failed to remind the membership.


Excellent analysis, Virginia!

:)<3


Hi Marianne and O'Tink,

The corruptible organizations...I actually wish I had asked my father (born 1911) more about the labor unions...he experienced the ruthlessness of logging companies in his youth, and then the tremendous, sometimes violent, struggles of the workers to unionize. By maybe 1950 the timber unions were strong.

But there was also something wrong...I don't really know what. I DO know the union dues, which came out of his small check each month were VERY high. Possibly there was corruption, as in larger cities, I don't really know. My father never said anything against the union, but my impression is he was not happy with them either.

* * *

It is a difficult and ongoing question, what is the best we humankind are capable of, the best we can hope for?

@ Virginia,

I don't think we'll ever find a static "best" situation, because individuals come and go, organizations rise and fall. Unions, for example, arose out of a definite and justified need, reached their peak around 1950, and have been declining ever since.

image

It seems that historical forces always compete with one another, producing something new, the Hegelian idea of thesis + antithesis = synthesis, the synthesis not always being good, but hopefully part of an overall trend of improvement despite the many setbacks.

And yes, greed and avarice have always struggled against the better angels of our nature, compassion and fairness. I suspect that all of these behavioral aspects had much to do with our survival as a species as we emerged from the caves.

The graph is of interest, ty for searching it out, Other Tink...

...and to be accurate, when pondering 'the best we humankind are capable of,' that would indeed never be static but qualified with "at the present moment"...and at some point, with the Hegelian dialectic in mind, maybe there just needs to be some peace in our/my heart, as well as lovingness, for the human situation just as it is...in every dynamic moment...

Yes, "at the present moment," things could almost always have been done better, whether collectively or as individuals. 


Yes, humankind has still much to learn and to adapt to.

Things can always be done better, but sometimes, trying to make already good things "better" can have a worsening effect or result in a "crash".

:)

T(h)ink: you might remember the famous sarcastic term in German "verschlimmbessern", i.e. "worsening by improving or trying to improve things".

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/verschlimmbessern


For you, Virginia, this old Italian phrase refers to the "Nirvana fallacy", i.e. "Il meglio è nemico del bene", popularised by Voltaire (La Bégueule) "... le mieux est l'ennemi du bien", i.e. "the best is the ennemy of good". (They also refer to Shakespeare and King Lear, of course).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perfect_is_the_enemy_of_good

:)


@ Marianne,

Lol, yes "verschlimmbessern" has its counterpart in the American saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Marianne, and O'Tink, I meant to tell you...I just love the word 'verschlimmbessern'...!

It expresses something I seem to do a lot...making things worse when you are really trying to help (sigh...).

@Virginia and T(h)ink

Yes, I think that all of us have experienced this kind of disappointments and often very embarrassing moments.

That reminds me - I don't know why - of Dennis the Menace:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dennis_the_Menace_(film)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dennis_the_Menace_(U.S._comics)

image

image

My understanding is the "subgroup" these students were posting in was off the schools Facebook page. No matter. These students should have their admission to Harvard revoked. Free speech? Meh! I'm glad the school is doing this, those students need to learn there are consequences to their actions/statements. Kudos to Harvard for holding people accountable in an age where there seem to be no consequences for anything.

Hi Angela,

I do feel the same way as you...and truthfully, I am not really sure about the free speech aspect. The students truly did take precautions so their posts should have been private. 

However, when I consult a physician, lawyer, politician or other professional, I would still like to think that even their most private life is at a higher standard than was shown there.

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