Letter to the Editor: professor defends students right to write

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By Letter to the Editor

This letter was written in response to last week’s letter to the editor by Professor Jeffrey Corbin.

To the editors:

While I am delighted to see faculty interact with students on the pages of Concordiensis, I am surprised to see Prof Jeffrey Corbin accusing a student of engaging in “a rather personal attack” against another student. Specifically, Prof Corbin claims that Mr Brian Karimi personally attacked Ms. Erin Delman. This is a serious charge for which Prof Corbin presents no convincing evidence.

In support of his accusation Prof Corbin states that Mr Karimi refers to Ms Delman’s writing as “demeaning” and “crass”. But attacking a person’s writing, or a person’s argument (as Mr Karimi also does in his piece), is not the same as attacking that person. Prof Corbin also states that Mr Karimi “repeatedly called Erin out by name”. But what else could Mr Karimi have done to refer to the person whose views he criticizes? Surely Prof Corbin uses Mr Karimi’s name (although, oddly, Prof Corbin refers to Mr. Karimi as “Mr. Karimi” yet to Ms. Delman as “Erin”). Using someone’s name is hardly a personal attack; I hope that Prof Corbin does not take my using his name now as a personal attack against him. Mr. Karimi happens to think that Ms Delman is wrong about policies concerning water bottles on campus. Whether he is right or wrong about this issue, his views about Ms Delman’s arguments do not constitute a personal attack – and they do not support Prof Corbin’s assertion that Mr Karimi’s piece was focused “on Erin herself” or that it “crossed the line”.

Prof Corbin’s ultimate concern, however, is perfectly reasonable: he does not want to see students’ willingness to voice their opinions thwarted by fears that they may be personally attacked as a result. Neither do I, of course. But I can think of very few things likelier to stifle students’ exercise of their free speech than the fear that their own professors are going to be so quick to publicly chastise them for expressing themselves.

Leo Zaibert

Department of Philosophy

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