Despite the title of this post, in it I’m asking a serious question. There have been a number of news stories in recent months about the suppression of freedom of speech on college campuses. University of Missouri, Evergreen State, Yale, Oberlin, Middlebury College, Berkeley, the list goes on.
I think I can identify three distinct positions on whether this constitutes a problem or not. The first position is that it’s a tempest in a teapot, just a handful of instances so, consequently, not a problem. In the “not a problem” camp, there is also a Marcusist strain that not only says that it’s not a problem but such suppression happens, it’s widespread, and it’s good. I’m discounting that view.
The second position is that the issue is present on most if not all college campuses these days and, consequently, is a grave problem because it flies in the face of the very purpose of higher education.
The third is that there’s just not enough data to tell.
Which if any of these positions is correct? If it’s the third, how many colleges, how many incidents would be required for the claim to achieve critical mass and, in particular, before the burden of proof transfers from those who claim it’s a problem to those who say it isn’t or that they don’t know?
The word “gaggle” is a collective noun, a medieval hunting term. There is no authoritative answer to how many geese make a gaggle but it’s at least three. Three or more geese flocking on the ground is a gaggle; three or more geese flocking in the air are a skein.