In the aftermath of the canceled Trump rally at UIC, I have been thinking about the letter that the UIC faculty sent to the university administration asking to cancel the rally. In the end, Trump did for the faculty what the administration would not. If Trump comes back in the fall as the Republican nominee, I have already drafted a letter for the faculty to send to the candidate.
Dear Mr. Trump: We are delighted to hear that your unfortunate experience last March has not deterred you from planning a fall rally on our campus. Based on what happened back then, we know that there is serious potential for ugly confrontations and maybe even violence. But we have reconsidered our own position, and this time we don’t want you to give in.
Here’s why: We professor types are a funny breed, hopelessly trusting in the value of free public discussion, even when candidates like you say some pretty unpleasant and noxious things. In fact, our faith in the free exchange of ideas is so strong that we encourage our students to open their minds and use their intelligence to weigh the merits of what may seem to be the most silly or extreme propositions.
Let us be clear that we have anxieties about the physical safety of our students, but we care even more about giving them opportunities to develop intellectual courage. It has been said, of late, that some universities seem more concerned about the emotional and physical security of their students than their ability to look intellectual opposition in the face. But that is not how we feel here. We are sure that our administration will take every measure possible to protect our students’ safety at your rally. And we as professors will leave no stone unturned to protect their right to be exposed to the exotic and ruthless ideas you have.
As a side note, we are not convinced that, if you become president, you will work as hard to protect dissonant voices as we are doing with this letter, but we won’t allow that to dissuade us.
We do want to warn you that some students will come to your rally with notebooks in hand as part of their academic research. Our students in history, political science and sociology will be there to figure out how you have become so popular with voters who have little to gain from most of your policies. And those in math and economics will be checking out the amazing way in which you make up numbers.
We don’t want to be disingenuous. Virtually none of us intend to vote for you this fall. But in no way does that undermine our enthusiasm for your coming visit. Never before has our campus hosted a man with views so unpopular with us — reliably left-leaning professors and a student body of Hispanics, blacks, immigrants and foreign students. But that is why it is so important for our university, and our country, that none of us allows the threat of physical violence to overturn a longstanding academic tradition.
Voices, even yours, should be heard rather than throttled.
Dale Sorenson is a resident of Oak Park.