Phi Beta Cons

‘Affirmative Consent’ Is in Control Now

Those who disagree can no longer have a civil conversation, some professors think.

Often the term “affirmative consent” is used to describe how many campus policies now dictate students obtain verbal, enthusiastic, and continual consent from their sexual partners during a hookup lest it later be deemed assault or rape.

But affirmative consent has also been employed to control scholarly debate as well. The College Fix reports:

When National Association of Scholars research associate Rachelle Peterson recently attempted to interview a Harvard professor who is part of the university’s divestment movement, he told her he advocated something close to an “affirmative consent” standard for speech.

Professor James Recht suggested that “before engaging in a conversation, both parties should disclose their political leanings and decide whether they are compatible enough for the conversation before they consent to proceed,” Peterson told The College Fix.

Suffice it to say, he hung up the phone in the middle of their conversation.

The stifling experience was one of many Peterson has encountered recently as she studies the campus fossil fuel divestment movement for the right-leaning academic group the National Association of Scholars. It’s prompted her to determine the movement “has become part of a larger war against freedom of thought and freedom of expression on campus.” …

Peterson said she believes the movement has employed something of an “affirmative consent” speech tactic, in which if two people don’t agree on divestment, they can’t talk at all. She acknowledges there are a handful of professors who will still discuss the topic with her, but most now accuse her of attempting to destroy the movement and misquote them.

This tactic has a hold in more than just the campus fossil fuel divestment debate.

Today, if conservative students or even some brave professors question leftist dogma – climate change is settled science, intelligent design is religion, one in five college women are raped, America is a racist country – they are not just protested, they’re told to shut up.

“There’s no place for such …” fill in the blank – nonsense, racism, bigotry, ignorance, hatred – “on a college campus!” They attack the person’s character. There is no room for debate. Peterson, in a recent column for the National Association of Scholars, sums this trend up beautifully.

“The temptation to demonize opponents rather than debate the merits of their case is a strong one,” Peterson states. “… Free speech shrinks when we assume our opponents are not only factually wrong but mercenary. When we scorn humility and assert that conversation among those who disagree is futile, we turn free speech into an urn on the mantelpiece—a repository for the ashes of the great debates of the past when a Lincoln and a Douglas could both assume that disagreement actually mattered.”

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