In a phone interview, Yager told me that he admires the impulse of today’s students to involve themselves in social justice causes that are greater than themselves, that freedom of expression is especially sacrosanct at an art college, and that he is attentive to the fact that any impingement on Paglia’s ideas, regardless of the merits of those ideas, would have a chilling effect on all speech.
“I would hate to neuter all faculty,” he said.
Yager’s concerns seem warranted. While reporting on this story, I emailed scores of UArts faculty members to solicit comment. A few were willing to speak on the record. Many more on both sides of the controversy insisted that their comments be kept off the record or anonymous. They feared openly participating in a debate about a major event at their institution––even after their university president put out an uncompromising statement in support of free speech––though none expressed any view that couldn’t be broadcast on NPR.
“I’m a faculty member at UArts,” one wrote. “I received your email and thought it prudent to respond using my personal email address. I very much doubt that the IT dept is currently monitoring email activity. BUT they have the ability AND certainly can look up records without privacy concerns. So this is a bit safer. Especially since if I do speak with you it’d be paramount that I be OFF the record. The university has social media/email policies for their faculty.”