Professor Emeritus Manfred Wolf: What is Behind Denial of Campus Free Speech

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS -- Manfred Wolf is a retired professor from San Francisco State University, and the author, most recently, of “Survival in Paradise: Sketches from a Refugee Life in Curacao.” He wrote this op-ed for the Mercury News.

“As a lifelong academic, I’m perplexed and pained,” Wolf writes. “After all, this is so against all the obvious lessons that have been given students about free speech: that speech you disagree with, or find distasteful, or even abhorrent, is permissible, and has as much right to exist as your own speech, which someone else may disagree with or find distasteful or abhorrent. ...

“Our feelings are more malleable than we know. We are subject to the prevailing sentiment of our time and place, of other people, of fashion — and feelings rise and fall with time and place. Just as one set of circumstances might kindle certain feelings in one culture and different ones in another, so one period of time can ignite feelings different from another time.

“Knowing this might restrain your own emotional reaction to protesters — though would hopefully still allow you, and us, to tell them once again about the beauties of free speech.”