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University dean bucks ‘safe space’ trend in letter to incoming freshmen

Where institutions of higher learning offered students in past generations an opportunity to expand their horizons, today’s universities have largely become insulated purveyors of leftist groupthink.

Social justice activists — both staff and students — on major campuses have increasingly demanded “safe spaces” or similarly anti-free-speech zones in an effort to silence opinions they do not support. At least one dean, however, is having none of it.

In a recent letter to incoming freshmen, the College of the University of Chicago Dean John Ellison explained students should be prepared to have their pre-existing notions challenged.

“Once here,” he wrote, “you will discover that one of the University of Chicago’s defining characteristics is our commitment to freedom of inquiry and expression.”

In the pursuit of that standard, Ellison explained those on campus are “encouraged to speak, write, listen, challenge and learn, without fear of censorship.”

Going deeper into specifics, the dean noted several demands being made on other campuses by insisting they have no place at the college.

“Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called ‘trigger warnings,'” Ellison wrote, “we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their won.”

He added the school expects little in exchange for what has become exceedingly rare on-campus freedom.

“Civility and mutual respect are vital to all of us,” the letter stated, “and freedom of expression does not mean the freedom to harass or threaten others. You will find that we expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion, and even disagreement. At times this may challenge you and even cause discomfort.”


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