RWP was born in Manchester, in the north of England, in the late 1950s, so he is very old. He really liked the north of England, which by 1965 was hip and had three TV channels, and where he went to a coed school. His parents, for reasons best known to themselves, then yanked him away, to Belfast and then Dublin, which had one TV channel that started up at 6 pm with the Angelus (Catholic call to prayer). He also had to go to an all boys school, where he realized he really missed girls. This probably let him focus on schoolwork, though, and at age 19, after he had finished college, he set off for America, where he still resides. He has a bachelors degree in biochemistry and a Ph.D. from Harvard in biophysics, and has lived also in Mainz, Germany, Setauket NY, and Richland WA. He currently divides his time between Nebraska, Rosslyn VA, and Florida.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

(1) A bad week for freedom at UNL

Harvey Perlman's proclamation about goings-on at the Association of Students at the University of Nebraska (ASUN) senate got the attention of a national campus free-sppech watchdog group, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). In a nice piece on recent incidents at the Senate and the university repsonse, Ari Cohn of FIRE wrote:
Of course, the blame for all of this “unlearned liberty” doesn’t rest solely with the students. With administrators like UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman, it’s no surprise that students misunderstand the principles of free speech. Perlman addressed the incident in a message to the entire UNL community, saying:
Racial epithets and racial impersonations are not acceptable anywhere but especially in an institution devoted to education and progress. ... I am deeply hurt that use of this language has been used here, for purposes I can’t imagine and in venues where civil discourse and its values are honored. We don’t need to debate any nuance of free speech to conclude such language is harmful, despicable, and intolerable.
Perlman is seemingly unaware of the purpose for which the offending words were spoken. This message conveys no sense of context, as if a student had inexplicably launched into a racist tirade without prompting—when in fact Murphy chose his language specifically to make a point about free speech and the nuances of words that make banning them a bad idea.
As far as anyone knows, Mr. Murphy is still awaiting expulsion from the Senate. Meanwhile, over the weekend, the New York Times, distributed on campus by the same ASUN, published a column by Ta-Nehisi Coates which had no fewer than 13 instances of the spelled-out N word, which got Mr. Murphy in trouble. One law for us, another law for them.

But then, above all else, Nebraska has lacked self-awareness and a sense of irony during this whole affair. Hasn't anyone even noticed that their chintzy slogan Not Here, Not Now, Not Ever doesn't exactly broadcast tolerance?

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