Why critics of angry woke college kids are missing the point

Wendy Brown says 'academic freedom needs to be appreciated as a collective right of the faculty to be free of interference in determining what we research and teach.'

The halls of academia may appear to be overrun by battles over academic freedom, free speech, identity politics, cancel culture and overreaching wokeness. But why does it look that way? And what are the real causes? The influential political theorist Wendy Brown has spent her career studying the very ideas — those of identity, freedom and tolerance — that are central to current debates about what’s happening on college campuses across the country, as well as to the attacks they’re undergoing from within and without.

“We’re confused today about what campuses are,” says Brown, who is 66 and is the UPS Foundation Professor in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. “We’ve lost track of what’s personal and public and what’s acceptable speech where. That confusion happens in part because boundaries are so blurred everywhere.”

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