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Universities are usually considered bastions of the free exchange of ideas, but a recent tide of demonstrations across college campuses has called this belief into question, and with serious consequences. Such a wave of protests hasn't been seen since the campus free speech demonstrations of the 1960s, yet this time it is the political Left, rather than the political Right Universities are usually considered bastions of the free exchange of ideas, but a recent tide of demonstrations across college campuses has called this belief into question, and with serious consequences. Such a wave of protests hasn't been seen since the campus free speech demonstrations of the 1960s, yet this time it is the political Left, rather than the political Right, calling for restrictions on campus speech and freedom. And, as Jonathan Zimmerman suggests, recent campus controversies have pitted free speech against social justice ideals. The language of trauma--and, more generally, of psychology--has come to dominate campus politics, marking another important departure from prior eras. This trend reflects an increased awareness of mental health in American society writ large. But it has also tended to dampen exchange and discussion on our campuses, where faculty and students self-censor for fear of insulting or offending someone else. Or they attack each other in periodic bursts of invective, which run counter to the "civility" promised by new speech and conduct codes. In Campus Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know�, Jonathan Zimmerman breaks down the dynamics of what is actually driving this recent wave of discontent. After setting recent events in the context of the last half-century of free speech campus movements, Zimmerman looks at the political beliefs of the US professorate and students. He follows this with chapters on political correctness; debates over the contested curriculum; admissions, faculty hires, and affirmative action; policing students; academic freedom and censorship; in loco parentis administration; and the psychology behind demands for "trigger warnings" and "safe spaces." He concludes with the question of how to best balance the goals of social and racial justice with the commitment to free speech.


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Universities are usually considered bastions of the free exchange of ideas, but a recent tide of demonstrations across college campuses has called this belief into question, and with serious consequences. Such a wave of protests hasn't been seen since the campus free speech demonstrations of the 1960s, yet this time it is the political Left, rather than the political Right Universities are usually considered bastions of the free exchange of ideas, but a recent tide of demonstrations across college campuses has called this belief into question, and with serious consequences. Such a wave of protests hasn't been seen since the campus free speech demonstrations of the 1960s, yet this time it is the political Left, rather than the political Right, calling for restrictions on campus speech and freedom. And, as Jonathan Zimmerman suggests, recent campus controversies have pitted free speech against social justice ideals. The language of trauma--and, more generally, of psychology--has come to dominate campus politics, marking another important departure from prior eras. This trend reflects an increased awareness of mental health in American society writ large. But it has also tended to dampen exchange and discussion on our campuses, where faculty and students self-censor for fear of insulting or offending someone else. Or they attack each other in periodic bursts of invective, which run counter to the "civility" promised by new speech and conduct codes. In Campus Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know�, Jonathan Zimmerman breaks down the dynamics of what is actually driving this recent wave of discontent. After setting recent events in the context of the last half-century of free speech campus movements, Zimmerman looks at the political beliefs of the US professorate and students. He follows this with chapters on political correctness; debates over the contested curriculum; admissions, faculty hires, and affirmative action; policing students; academic freedom and censorship; in loco parentis administration; and the psychology behind demands for "trigger warnings" and "safe spaces." He concludes with the question of how to best balance the goals of social and racial justice with the commitment to free speech.

45 review for Campus Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know(r)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Christine B.

    A pretty good overview of some social, political, and intellectual issues on campus.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Anthony

    As a current student on campus, I found myself recognizing many of the phenomenon discussed in the book and examining them through new lenses. I believe this is a fair criticism of current campus culture, with the themes of free speech and "psychologization" interwoven into each topic that is discussed. This book invites novel thought and questions fundamental assumptions of many students on campus today.

  3. 4 out of 5

    SundayAtDusk

    This is an very well written book for the general public about what is going on at colleges these days; particularly in regards to students demanding college administrators make everything on campus how they want everything to be. It's the new type of authoritarianism. One could laugh about the matter if it wasn't for the fact administrators are giving the students what they want, at times when they should not; and therefore are often trampling on free speech and thought; as well as allowing som This is an very well written book for the general public about what is going on at colleges these days; particularly in regards to students demanding college administrators make everything on campus how they want everything to be. It's the new type of authoritarianism. One could laugh about the matter if it wasn't for the fact administrators are giving the students what they want, at times when they should not; and therefore are often trampling on free speech and thought; as well as allowing some students to wrap themselves in bubble wrap, never being exposed to anything whatsoever that might disturb or frighten them. Of course, two of the major reasons administrators are doing such a thing are: 1) Students are paying racketeering prices for their education. 2) Many professors spend precious few hours actually teaching students, and they want that sorry situation to continue. Jonathan Zimmerman is neither anti-student nor does he disregard what students are trying to accomplish with their demands. Instead, he seems to be trying to paint an honest picture that is fair to both sides. For example, while, on one hand, he says many students do not actually want to discuss matters, possibly due to never having learned to verbally communicate well; on the other hand, he also states many students have no problem carrying on robust discussions about personal and political matters. Yes, he does attribute that verbal communication shyness to things like texting, where conversations can be controlled, but he definitely does not rant against cell phones or the internet. Dr. Zimmerman further acknowledges students are right in wanting to make campuses less racist, but goes on to say there's no proof whatsoever that all those expensive, mandatory sensitivity classes have any positive effect on most students. Surprise, surprise. You can't demand others think and feel like you do. And anyone who thinks colleges can easily undo 18 years of thoughts and experiences is an extremely optimistic person, not to mention an extremely naive one. In addition, the author explores the campus rape problems, but does not provide very good reasons as to why all cases of rape should not be turned over to the police. The Catholic Church obviously cannot deal with sexual abuse on their own, and it appears much of the time neither can colleges. Although justice does not always prevail with the police, judges and juries, it's still their jobs to reach just decisions. College administrators should not be policing, judging and "sentencing" rapists. That's not their job. At the end of the book, Dr. Zimmerman tells students to stop thinking administrators are the ones who need to change everything; like helicopter parents, one guesses; and to make changes themselves. Yet he almost sounds condescending there, when he suggests things students can do on their own. Moreover, he told his readers in the beginning of the book that the vast majority of college students are only concerned with having fun and/or getting a good job after they graduate. In other words, they are not involved at all in campus politics. By the end of the book, one is somewhat glad to know that. Because, once that diploma is in hand, all the bubbles on the bubble wrap are going to be burst, and there's the real insensitive world out there to deal with . . . a world where demanding others think and feel like you do will quite possibly get you laughed at, shouted at, arrested or injured. For people who are not making thousands and thousands of dollars off of you may care precious little about your wishes, sensitivities or happiness. (Note: I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley and the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mandy

    *Thanks to Netgalley for providing an ARC of this book* The book definitely made me think about my own beliefs more specifically than I ever had before, especially with regard to free speech. The history he includes about many topics including affirmative action, the definition of “political correctness”, as well as “microaggressions” were interesting (if lacking, considering I read “Dear White People” earlier in the same day and the history of the word “microaggression” was a bit more nuanced th *Thanks to Netgalley for providing an ARC of this book* The book definitely made me think about my own beliefs more specifically than I ever had before, especially with regard to free speech. The history he includes about many topics including affirmative action, the definition of “political correctness”, as well as “microaggressions” were interesting (if lacking, considering I read “Dear White People” earlier in the same day and the history of the word “microaggression” was a bit more nuanced there). I felt that the book lacked the most clarity on the part of history the author is most out of touch with: this generation. As someone who leans favorably towards trigger warnings, I can tell you with certainty that he did not represent the use of them as accurately as I and many others would like to see them used. Obviously there are many ways to look at it, but completely ignoring the fact that we use rating systems to warn about content and that prefacing many movies, TV shows, and video games with phrases as simple as “This material may be sensitive for some viewers” is a common practice in this “Real World” we’re all so concerned about college kids entering. I’m unsure of what the author’s credentials are or of the necessity for the conclusion to endorse Hillary Clinton so strongly, and perhaps it’s merely my anecdotal fringe evidence, but I happen to know former student activists who now work in higher ed so I feel pretty removed from this rhetoric that “it’s hard to find that spirit on college campuses today”. I have definitely not experienced “silent classrooms” or students afraid to speak for fear of being called a racist. I have had many lively debates in my classrooms throughout my college years, and also contrary to his assertion, I learned to speak in class more as time passed rather than less, because I became more confident in my education and my personal opinions. People who fear that are probably just actually racist and don’t want to be called out on it. He also shows a strong confidence in the legal system in that he presents the arguments of law professionals about the difference in evidence necessary for universities versus the courtroom, but glosses over why these two institutions are completely separate, merely attributing a rational and thought out critique of the justice system to a sentence by Jon Krakauer. Probably because that would unravel a huge chunk of his argument. And then, the inevitable, ‘Kids these days don’t know how to talk to each other because they’re always on those damn phones!’ argument. The conclusion was definitely the worst part of the book, it came out of nowhere for me, I was honestly unsure of what the author’s personal leaning was for most of the book (especially because the back of the book made it seem more negative than it largely was) and I was very disappointed. I disagree with the conclusions drawn, but it was informative and it made me think, and that’s all you can ask from a book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Darren

    You may be forgiven for clinging to the idea that universities, especially in the west and the United States in particular, are hotbeds of free speech and exchange of ideas. However, the reality in many cases may be sadly different and it is not necessarily being constrained by those who you may imagine. Instead the “political left” seems to be ramping up restrictions on free speech, wrapped around altruistic reasons that might not always pass muster. This book takes a critical look at this some You may be forgiven for clinging to the idea that universities, especially in the west and the United States in particular, are hotbeds of free speech and exchange of ideas. However, the reality in many cases may be sadly different and it is not necessarily being constrained by those who you may imagine. Instead the “political left” seems to be ramping up restrictions on free speech, wrapped around altruistic reasons that might not always pass muster. This book takes a critical look at this somewhat sensitive subject, handling it in a fairly informative, strait-laced manner, that allows objectivity to shine through. Self-censorship and the fear of expressing an opinion, no matter how innocuous it might be, seems to be an ever-increasing problem. It is not a reaction to being unable to express clearly racist, sexist or homophobic opinions either; yet far too many “sensitive souls” are seemingly prepared to discover a slight or offence in order to shut down opinions or viewpoints that they disagree with and thus assume no one else should have the right to. The issues can affect everybody in different ways. It can get in the way of academic appointments, it can influence student progress and it has tremendous power that seems not to be in check. It all contributes to an interesting, concerning read that deserves a wider audience, yet the book’s price may place it outside the reach of many who should read it and could benefit from it. Hopefully public libraries will carry a copy for the general reader’s consultation. Despite good attempts being made towards equality between the races and sexes at universities, there is still a great degree of inequality due to financial and societal pressures. At the same time, many of the student body protests are not even related to matters directly affecting students – talk about a lack of focus and insight. The author has not pulled his punches and has looked critically at both sides of the argument. A balanced and justified rant, you may call it, and justly so. Maybe there is a wider problem within universities; faculty spend on average just 11 hours on teaching-related activities, many students spend just 13 hours on study and even one-third of undergraduates admitted to a survey spending less than five hours a week studying. Maybe if greater focus was made on the primary reason that should exist for being at a university then some of the problems may not be as acute and troubling. Looking at this book as a non-American reader it was truly eye-opening and quite baffling at times. No doubt other countries and their universities can have similar issues but this American experience seems to take matters to a much higher, totally different extreme; and that is very sad indeed. A fascinating book that lifts the lid on what appears to be a very concerning situation. Yet, can and will anything be really done? Autamme.com

  6. 4 out of 5

    Marya

    Despite the title, this short book focuses exclusively on the idea of free speech and how that is implemented and augmented by college campuses. Zimmerman's main point seems to be that students themselves are requested more guidelines, more restrictions, and more requirements from a rapidly increasing base of administrators all too happy to comply. Professors, meanwhile, are still committed to an earlier era of open communications between all, regardless of how uncomfortable it might make people Despite the title, this short book focuses exclusively on the idea of free speech and how that is implemented and augmented by college campuses. Zimmerman's main point seems to be that students themselves are requested more guidelines, more restrictions, and more requirements from a rapidly increasing base of administrators all too happy to comply. Professors, meanwhile, are still committed to an earlier era of open communications between all, regardless of how uncomfortable it might make people - and as a corollary, less oversight of students and professors overall. If that sounded slanted, it's because Zimmerman is obviously in the professors' camp. Still, the book does more to document and define these ideas than to push a specific agenda. It takes away from the media hype and creates more of something you'd see in a "opposing viewpoints" book. The fact that it can do so in such a short number of pages makes it a valuable contribution to the issue.

  7. 4 out of 5

    DM

    This is an interesting read. As someone who went to a public 4-year university and obtained a BA in Sociology and Ethnic Studies and went to a private Ivy League school for a MSSW program I have been knee-deep in "campus politics" for the past 6 years. Furthermore, I see myself working in higher education. During my time in higher education I took part in a few protests, and I worked as part of a team to facilitate discussions on power, privilege, and oppression on the campus. All that being said This is an interesting read. As someone who went to a public 4-year university and obtained a BA in Sociology and Ethnic Studies and went to a private Ivy League school for a MSSW program I have been knee-deep in "campus politics" for the past 6 years. Furthermore, I see myself working in higher education. During my time in higher education I took part in a few protests, and I worked as part of a team to facilitate discussions on power, privilege, and oppression on the campus. All that being said, this book made me think deeper about the meaning of free speech, the role of university administrations, and the role of students in protesting behaviors they deem inappropriate. I would definitely recommend this book--no matter where you stand on the issue's at hand--because Jonathon Zimmerman makes some salient points.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ilana

    It was about time to have a serious discussion about successes and failures of North American campus politics. Without aiming at a too critical approach, Zimmerman lays the basis for a wider understanding of the current state of the art of academia, with interesting details about evolution and sometimes failures to explain and apply correctly concepts such as 'political corectness' or 'freedom of speech'. Recommended to both academics and students, and anyone interested to understand the complic It was about time to have a serious discussion about successes and failures of North American campus politics. Without aiming at a too critical approach, Zimmerman lays the basis for a wider understanding of the current state of the art of academia, with interesting details about evolution and sometimes failures to explain and apply correctly concepts such as 'political corectness' or 'freedom of speech'. Recommended to both academics and students, and anyone interested to understand the complicated and 'very hard to understand world' of the universities, particularly after 9/11. Disclaimer: Book offered by the publisher in exchange of an honest review

  9. 5 out of 5

    G

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ulrich Baer

    Zimmerman identifies a crisis in our universities: the tension or conflict between free speech, as a sacrosanct pillar of what education is staked on, and community standards, and "the serious threats to our minority students." He analyses a few areas in which this conflict arises: academic freedom, the question of 'political correctness,'; diversity, equity and inclusion policies and discussions; sexual conduct on campus (and especially Title IX); sensitivity of students (including trigger warn Zimmerman identifies a crisis in our universities: the tension or conflict between free speech, as a sacrosanct pillar of what education is staked on, and community standards, and "the serious threats to our minority students." He analyses a few areas in which this conflict arises: academic freedom, the question of 'political correctness,'; diversity, equity and inclusion policies and discussions; sexual conduct on campus (and especially Title IX); sensitivity of students (including trigger warning, microaggressions, and the rise of psychological experience as a factor of college life); and the politics of professors (who, like just about anybody, live in filter bubbles that might result in confirmation bias and groupthink). Campus Politics lays out the stakes of these debates in lucid and sensible terms, and Zimmerman has a good way of presenting two sides of the arguments that roil campus today without sacrificing nuance. Ultimately he comes down, squarely and repeatedly, on the side of free speech over the concerns on any group or individual in the campus community. He also believes that sunlight is the best disinfectant, and that exposing hateful racist, sexist, or homophobic views to the full campus will result in a better... understanding of their possible merits? This is where I start to disagree with Zimmerman (whom I had the pleasure of hosting for a serious and long discussion at NYU on these topics on the occasion of the publication of this book). Why would we invite a white supremacist speaker, whose notoriety rests on media effects, to the privileged spot of a campus lecture? What is there to learn from someone who considers one race superior to others? My problem is not with the content of such speech (or maybe rather not only), but with the way it skews the platform of speech, and invalidates the 'public' nature of free speech as a public good. It does so by forcing some members of a university's community to defend their worth in terms of their personhood and not by the strength of their argument. The issue, then, is not the sensitivity of students, but the equality that needs to be achieved for free speech to remain a public good (and not just the blanket permission for anyone to say anything, at any time). Zimmerman thinks that administrators inflate the sense of victimization of students. This might well be true in many cases -- and our culture as a whole currently has a problematic tendency to value the suffering as more real, and its overcoming as the truest test of grit. Zimmerman writes that "however imperfectly it has operated in the past, that ideal [of the full and free exchange of ideas] lies at the heart of the modern academic enterprise. It would be a pity to turn out backs on it now, in a misguided effort to guard agains the prejudice and discrimination that still surrounds us." This is very convincing, and I entirely agree that this idea of a free exchange of ideas is central of higher education. I just think that this free exchange is not a given, but something we need to examine carefully. Just consider that a hundred years ago, many of the leading American universities did not accept women students. There were many reasons for this, one among them that women were not considered to be intellectual equals of men. In my view, that exclusion of members of society based on their presumed inferiority was a limitation of free speech - and it was only with the inclusion of women that speech came closer to the ideal of being truly free and public. When women were not allowed to debate men, speech was not truly free. Today's student protests can be seen in the same light. While I do not entirely agree with Zimmerman that free speech can be accepted at face value, I greatly appreciate his careful and systematic - but highly readable and intelligent -- discussion of the areas that produce such controversies today. It's an extremely useful book for anyone who wants to understand that is going on college campuses right now, and how to counter the tendencies of students and faculty to restrict speech for the wrong reasons.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ayoung

  13. 5 out of 5

    Paola Rosa

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  15. 5 out of 5

    Angus

  16. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Levin

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Hessman

  19. 4 out of 5

    Michael White

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kelsey

  21. 5 out of 5

    Cammie Lawton

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jon

  23. 4 out of 5

    Eero Hawkings

  24. 5 out of 5

    Brishti Banerjee

  25. 5 out of 5

    Joanne

  26. 4 out of 5

    Angela

  27. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Gilligan

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

  29. 4 out of 5

    Dana Probert

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kelleen (The Story Graph, try it. Stop giving Amazon your data. See link in my profile)

  31. 5 out of 5

    Michael Villasenor

  32. 4 out of 5

    Phoenix

  33. 4 out of 5

    Cory

  34. 4 out of 5

    pn

  35. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  36. 4 out of 5

    Nora Devlin

  37. 5 out of 5

    Marianne Liang

  38. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Clement

  39. 4 out of 5

    Amit Kurien

  40. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Stazinski

  41. 5 out of 5

    Malory

  42. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Westen

  43. 5 out of 5

    Stacy Sutton Kerby

  44. 5 out of 5

    Monica Rivero

  45. 5 out of 5

    Lisette

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