Phi Beta Cons

Professor Discretion is Advised

The Mohammad cartoon controversy seems to have had only limited play on the nation’s campuses, largely because of an understanding that speech which offends or may offend is not protected by the quaint Enlightenment values of free expression and free inquiry. If students were meant to simply receive dew-pure gospel from their professors, this would not be a problem. But since learning centers on debate, investigation, and occasional resolution, the self-censorship culture becomes, to borrow a battered term, anti-intellectual.
This very problem has been identified at Century College in Minnesota, where geography professor Karen Murdock decided to post, with disclaimer and reportedly underneath a curtain, the twelve cartoons of Mohammad, since she had heard students debating on the topic but was worried that they had simply not seen the relatively tame toons. And of course that is very likely, as few main college newspapers and only a few political ones have published the images. Her display, which was on a bulletin board along with a notepad for comments from students, was repeatedly torn down and replaced. She’s now facing intimidation from the Century administration, which FIRE reports has ordered her to desist from allowing students to bear witness to the blasphemy.

We are a college. We are supposed to be a forum for the free exchange of ideas. If we can’t talk about this controversy at a college, where are we supposed to talk about it?

The Internet, perhaps? What a blow to the soul of colleges if mere pixels are better equipped to handle controversy.

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