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Articles / Preparing for College / University of Chicago vs. Political Correctness

University of Chicago vs. Political Correctness

Dave Berry
Written by Dave Berry | Aug. 25, 2016

If you're a politically correct (PC)-minded high school senior or junior doing a search for candidate colleges, you may want to take a look at how some schools are reacting to matters of political correctness. Take the University of Chicago, for example.

Yesterday, August 24, the campus newspaper, The Chicago Maroon(whose name lends itself to derision, thanks to Bugs Bunny),

(“The independent student newspaper of The University of Chicago since 1892"), just published a full-frontal article headlined: “University to Freshmen: Don't Expect Safe Spaces or Trigger Warnings." Noting the thesis of Dean of Students, Jay Ellison's, letter to first-years:

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."

Holy counter-revolution, Batman! What nerve!

Imagine … an esteemed institution of higher learning putting its foot down against PC nonsense! How dare they?!

One is reminded of Animal House's Faber College Dean, Vernon Wormer, who once said, “The time has come for someone to put his foot down. And that foot is me!" Go, Dean Ellison!

Naturally, this statement has caused shock waves throughout the PC community. Surprisingly, though, a supportive wave of thumbs up has also emerged. This gives credence to the so-called “silent majority" whose voices and attitudes are generally ignored (or shouted down) by the the mainstream press, boisterous progressives, and on other liberal sounding boards.

In order to aid any high schoolers searching for possible colleges to apply to this or next fall, I thought I would reveal a closer look at UChicago's position on free speech, a.k.a. PC. As they say, forewarned is forearmed.

The Maroon shows Dean Ellison's actual letter, which can be viewed without a magnifying glass by clicking on the image:

Also, here's some brief context from reporter, Pete Grieve's (an oddly appropriate name, eh?), article:

Incoming first-years received a letter from the College today making clear that the University of Chicago does not condone safe spaces or trigger warnings …

… In May, Student Government (SG) passed on an opportunity to reaffirm the University's commitment to free speech when members voted to indefinitely table a resolution that would have condemned any student who “obstructs or disrupts" free speech.

The resolution, which was presented to SG by the president of the College Republicans club, second-year Matthew Foldi, came in the wake of three high-profile incidents in which speakers invited to campus were shut down or interrupted by protesters …

… in April members of the Armenian Students Association interrupted an event with a scholar who they say denies the Armenian Genocide. Again, we don't want to run long, but we could be more explicit about what happened.

After the Alvarez event was shut down, David Axelrod – Director of the Institute of Politics and CNN Senior Political Commentator – wrote a letter to the editor in The Maroon: “The great irony is that, through their actions, [the protesters] ensured no one would get the chance to ask Ms. Alvarez challenging questions." …

… As [Ellison's] letter to freshmen began to circulate on discussion forums and social media, students and alumni praised the University's message on its commitment to free expression.

Other students criticized the letter, saying that the University disguises hate speech as “discourse."

In the letter, however, Dean of Students Jay Ellison wrote, “Freedom of expression does not mean the freedom to harass or threaten others." …


One of the forums on which Ellison's statement appeared is College Confidential's. There are two active threads:

UChicago Safe Space

University to Freshmen: Don't Expect Safe Spaces or Trigger Warnings

Frankly, I was surprised by the comments of support on these threads for Dean Ellison's free speech stand, given the usual outspokenness of CC's progressive members. This relates to my “silent majority" comment above.

To illustrate that, here are a few (not just supportive) comments from these two threads:

– Glad to know that University of Chicago has finally suspended freedom of speech.

– DD was happy to see that — she read that passage to me as she was going through the packet. She's a pretty hardcore lefty but really loves to think/talk things through and to hear/consider other POVs.

– The acid test will be if somebody invites David Duke to the campus (He is running for the Senate after all), just to test the University's commitment.

– If UChicago can attract liberal students who can sit through a talk by David Duke and Milo Yiannopoulos without fainting and conservative students who can sit through Maryam Namazie without losing their cool, then UChicago would have achieved something admirable.

– The booklet they sent [along with Ellison's letter] is a fascinating look at free speech and academic freedom Should be required reading for every college student.

– I wonder will Yale, Oberlin and Amherst follow Chicago's lead?

– Ah so that was what was in the small yellow package that came today. I was really hoping for a pizza cutter or some other swag! Call me pedestrian.

– Recent development among the class of 2020: some students find the letter's dismissal of safe spaces and trigger warnings “inappropriate and unsafe."

– If those students can't tolerate a little criticism, perhaps they belong at Yale instead.

– But in many of these campus “debates" it devolves to “If you disagree with me you are a racist."

– Not many colleges see the importance in intellectual diversity, which I believe is just as (if not more) important than ethnic and religious diversity

– Outstanding. U of C is the grownup in the room. Sad that it seems exceptional though.

– My school hosted Donald Trump a couple of weeks back. As annoyed as I may have been that he was there, I also found it REALLY cool.

– Most colleges don't have specific required classes, so it's already easy to avoid courses that you think would make you uncomfortable. How do trigger warnings make this worse? Don't you still get a bad grade if you take a class and don't engage with some of the material?

– It seems to me that if I am a professor or TA at the University of Chicago, I am not allowed to include trigger warnings in my course, or else I might be disciplined.


Of course, I was curious as to what the Maroon (why do I always hear Bugs say that other word?) readers had to say. Here are a few of the (currently) 204 comments to Grieve's article:

– Good for Dean Ellison! It's about time that someone stood up against this PC nonsense.

– Liberals, in their contempt for free speech, and support for crushing dissent, are the poster children for the dictatorship they hope to impose on all others, in the name of tolerance. Totalitarianism disguised as tolerance.

– Whoa! A university, U of Chicago, has turned its back on safe rooms, trigger warnings, and disruptions that prevent alternative speakers.

I guess the only snowflakes you will find will be in the trees after a storm.

Hopefully we have seen the turning point away from national suicide with politically correct nonsense. Three cheers for the University of Chicago.

– Dream on! This guy has only been successful in pi**ing off the PC Brown shirts. A large protest and petition effort will soon form. They will get rid of him if they have to bus in the rabble rousers from Wisconsin.

– Hurray UofC for standing up to teenage tyrants! If they want a “safe space" they can go in their dorm room with their binky and blankie.

– FINALLY FINALLY FINALLY…….A College that fights back.


In the spirit of Mr. Rogers, then … Boys and girls, can you say " not so silent majority"?


Check College Confidential for all of my college-related articles.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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