In Response to: Can We Say That?

Regarding Christopher Shea ’91’s article on free speech (feature, Nov. 11), I have to agree with professors Robert George and Carolyn Rouse. I am incredulous at the need some students feel to be protected from “microaggressions,” when in the real world they come in the macro variety. Perhaps it’s an effort to counter an uncontrolled online environment where exchanges descend so easily to the anonymous, vituperative, ad hominem — and cowardly and intellectually lazy — levels.

I am a social liberal. But as a communications professional for more than 30 years, I have been obligated at times to understand and promote points of view I do not share. Rather than trauma, I have experienced a greater understanding of different points of view and therefore have been better prepared, when called upon, to support my own. Ignorance of differing points of view leads to a breakdown of communication, and one need look no further than Washington, D.C., to observe the ramifications for society.

Civility refers to how speech is delivered, not to its content. Therefore, institutional speech guidelines should be limited to delivery, not content. Pusillanimous self-absorption can occur at any age, but is rife among young adults. That’s OK — growing up is scary. But a university does its students a disservice when humoring those who need to feel “safe” from ideas that cause discomfort. Learning how to cope with diversity of thought is an important tool for life. Coping with “microaggressions” in a university environment isn’t a bad place to start.

N. Gregory Pettit ’81
Lexington, Ky.