By Thomas K. Lindsay
On December 2, 1942, beneath the bleachers of old Stagg Field, the University of Chicago rocked the world of science—and with it, the whole world—when physicist Enrico Fermi and his team engineered the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction, which proved to be an indispensable step in the Manhattan Project’s development of an atomic bomb. Though it would prove to be historic, the initial chain reaction induced by Fermi “was too weak to power even a single light bulb.” Nevertheless, as fellow Chicago physicist Samuel Allison noted at the time, “All of us…knew that with the advent of the chain reaction, the world would never be the same again.”
The U of C appears intent on shaking up the world once more. But this time it aims not at a particular intellectual discovery but rather at preserving the very conditions of discovery itself: the freedom of the mind. With this move, it seeks to combat university censorship of speech and debate, which has become a national scandal. From university speech codes and commencement speaker “dis-invitations” to overt ideological indoctrination in the classrooms, our colleges and universities, whose defining mission is the free, nonpartisan quest for truth, are instead becoming prisons of intellectual conformism.
Not so on the Hyde Park campus in Chicago, where incoming freshmen were mailed a letter last week by Dean of Students, Jay Ellison, which reads, in part: “Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called ‘trigger warnings,’ 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 own.” CONTINUE READING HERE