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Opinion
Megan McArdle

Campuses Can't Become One Big 'Safe Space'

The left's emerging norm is for no one to say anything potentially troubling anywhere ever.
Quiet on campus.

Quiet on campus.

Photographer: Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images

What’s happening on campus when students demand "safe spaces" where they won't be confronted with troubling ideas? Many people debating that talk about it in terms of restricting freedom of speech. But in a thoughtful lecture recently, Jacob Levy suggests that what’s really at stake is freedom of association -- the way that we come together to build communities of purpose.

If a professor gets up and rants at his mathematics class about Donald Trump for five hours every week, and gets fired, we would not say that the university had violated his free speech rights or his academic freedom. Why not? Indisputably, he has a legal right to say these things. Under most codes of academic freedom, he even has the right to say these things and maintain his employment. But he can be fired because a university is an association with a purpose -- extending human knowledge and passing that knowledge down to the students. And this math professor acted against that purpose.