Truth Bowl CQ 2019-03-20 Free Speech with Consequences

Challenge Question for V2 of Truth Bowl (the ad hoc version)

You are a professor of philosophy at a large university. You’ve just received a panicky phone call from your former schoolmate Pat, the chair of humanities at a struggling liberal arts college out East. You vaguely remember hearing the school brought in an investment banker alum as president to pull off a turnaround. Pat informs you that said banker has invited a controversial book author to campus as a publicity stunt, and in one hour Pat is expected to face that author in some sort of debate.

Pat (and you) have never read the book or heard the author speak. However, many of your peers consider him a right-wing reactionary with the ear of Trump, who wants to abolish modern education and replace universities with some sort of theocratic communes. Previous invitations for him to speak at major universities have been rescinded due to outraged protests by students and faculties. That’s probably why this college president jumped at the chance to gain notoriety as the first school to host the author — and didn’t tell anyone until the last minute.

Several colleagues have urged Pat to quit and boycott the event, since it feels like a setup; better to be a martyr than risk legitimizing someone who seems both willing and able to destroy everything they stand for.

There isn’t much time. The only background material you have to go on is one relatively balanced book review.

Challenge Question: What advice would you give Pat, and why?

Options include (but are not limited to):
– Directly engaging with / critiquing (the ideas of) the author
– Proposing a debate format that would ensure Pat’s views get a fair hearing, despite the lack of preparation (Pat has enough authority to dictate the format, but not enough to escape the debate )
– Providing a clear rationale why it is Pat’s moral duty to boycott the event

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