Alan Charles Kors on Speech Codes, Libertarianism, And the Case for the Humanities


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"I guarantee you," Alan Charles Kors tells Nick Gillespie, "that Reason published on a campus would be defunded and that you'd be up on harassment charges every other week."

Kors knows what he's talking about. As the Henry Charles Lea Professor of European History at the University of Pennsylvania and the co-founder of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), he has long agitated against repressive speech codes at the nation's colleges and universities. Along with co-author (and fellow FIRE co-founder) Harvey Silverglate, Kors made a book-length case in the 1999 polemic The Shadow University.

Kors' interest in free expression—especially in an academic setting—blends seamlessly with his scholarship on the Enlightenment (he's the editor of Oxford's encyclopedia on the topic) and his commitment to classical liberal ideals of unfettered inquiry and freedom of conscience. Nobody is in a better position to talk about the resurgence of in loco parentis in higher education and the corrosive effects it has not just on undergraduates but professors and intellectual discourse as well.

Earlier this summer, Kors (a Reason contributor) sat down with Reason TV to talk about the persistence of authoritarianism on campuses, his experiences building an experimental multicultural dorm at Penn in the early 1970s, why the much-beleaguered humanities are more important than ever, and much more.

About 35 minutes. Shot by Jim Epstein with Meredith Bragg and edited by Epstein. Interview by Nick Gillespie.

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