A snowflake advisory has been posted for all four campuses in the MU system–the university has pledged to protect speech that some may find “deeply offensive.”
The original “Commitment to Free Expression” was drafted in 2016. In the months since, the faculty councils of the four system schools–MU, University of Missouri-Kansas City, University of Missouri-St. Louis and Missouri University of Science and Technology–affirmed it. On Monday, the university announced the commitment to free speech as system-wide policy. The announcement was timed to coincide with the beginning of the school year. That it followed a week when the very idea of free speech was being challenged nationwide is fortuitous.
The MU statement contains a fair amount of boilerplate. “Freedom of expression is indispensable to a university’s ability to transmit knowledge.” Yes, of course. “Teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding; otherwise, our civilization will stagnate and die.” A noble sentiment, but one uttered everywhere, including at universities that are hostile to even milquetoast Republicans.
The MU declaration, however, goes further. The university promises to be “uncompromising” in its efforts to promote free speech and to provide the “broadest latitude” to writers and speakers. Then comes the kicker–dear snowflake, find a safe space–“It is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.”
Of course, it remains to be seen whether the university will honor its commitment. The Missourian article announcing the policy cites as examples of speakers who might be “controversial or offensive” the likes of Ben Shapiro and Milo Yiannopoulos. Shapiro is a polite, well-spoken young conservative who left the Breitbart organization rather than support Donald Trump, and Milo is a flamboyant gay provocatuer whose great sin is making fun of fat people.
Shapiro’s opinions align with those of about 60 percent of Missourians. That the Missourian would even imagine him as being “controversial or offensive” shows just how much work is needed to liberate MU from the snowflake friendly-ideologues who have captured it. That said, the Commitment to Free Expression is a good start.