2021年11月4日 星期四

What Does a University Owe Democracy? 大學欠民主一個保護學術勇氣的文化

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2021/11/05 第357期 訂閱/退訂看歷史報份
紐時周報精選 What Does a University Owe Democracy? 大學欠民主一個保護學術勇氣的文化
Turning Pay Walls Into Welcome Mats 這些網站要付費 讀者照樣埋單
What Does a University Owe Democracy? 大學欠民主一個保護學術勇氣的文化
文/Bret Stephens


Last November, Dorian Abbot, a geophysicist at the University of Chicago, posted a series of slide presentations on YouTube making a case against the use of group identity as a primary criterion in selection processes. He was immediately targeted for cancellation.


So Robert Zimmer, Chicago's magnificent president (now chancellor), stepped in with a clear statement of support for academic freedom. The controversy evaporated.


Then, in August, Abbot and a co-writer published an op-ed in Newsweek making the case that diversity, equity and inclusion policies violate "the ethical and legal principle of equal treatment." It led to another cancellation campaign, this time in protest of his invitation to deliver the prestigious Carlson Lecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was going to speak about "Climate and the Potential for Life on Other Planets."


This time, the campaign worked. As Abbot has detailed, a department chair called to tell him the school would be canceling the lecture "in order to avoid controversy."


The two episodes are a stark illustration of the difference between the culture of intellectual courage nurtured by Zimmer and the Coward Culture at work at MIT and other institutions ostensibly invested in the cause of free expression.


It's also a reminder that our universities are failing at the task of educating students in the habits of a free mind. Instead, they are becoming islands of illiberal ideology and factories of moral certitude, more often at war with the values of liberal democracy than in their service.


I've been thinking about all this while reading "What Universities Owe Democracy" by Johns Hopkins University's president, Ronald Daniels.


Daniels' core point is that, at their best, universities serve as escalators for social mobility, educators for democratic citizenship, stewards of fact and expertise, and forums for "purposeful pluralism" — the expression and contest of ideas.


Courage isn't a virtue that's easily taught, especially in universities, but sometimes it can be modeled. After Abbot's talk was canceled at MIT, conservative Princeton University professor Robert George offered to host the lecture instead.


Courage begins with de-cancellation. Wisdom, thanks to books such as Daniels', can then take wing.


Turning Pay Walls Into Welcome Mats 這些網站要付費 讀者照樣埋單
文/Marc Tracy

這些網站要付費 讀者照樣埋單

You had to pay to get in.


Roughly 250 people paid $15 or $20 apiece to attend a party hosted by the staff of Defector, a subscription website started a year ago by journalists who had quit (or were fired from) the sports news site Deadspin after refusing to heed a request from their bosses that they "stick to sports."


The party guests were accustomed to paying. They were Defector subscribers, for the most part, meaning they had paid $79 for a year's subscription, allowing them to get past a strict paywall to read articles like "What 1993 Video Game Tony La Russa Taught Me About Baseball" and "Please, I Am Begging You, Stop Putting the Giants in Primetime."


In charging for access to its website, Defector differs from its predecessor, Deadspin, which belongs to a digital-media generation that gives readers free access and tries to make money by selling ads.


It remains a challenge for online publications to persuade readers to pay, and it's perhaps more difficult to get them to pay again after the initial subscription. Defector is optimistic that it will hang on to its fan base as it heads into its second year.


Print newspapers charged readers for a century, and readers never questioned the idea that they would have to pay for journalism. The first generations of online-only news sites, eager to build their audiences by pulling readers away from old habits, offered up their work free of charge.


Defector and digital newsletter platform Substack are part of a wider shift, one made possible by readers who have come to see paying for journalism as the right thing to do, rather than an annoyance.


The Daily Memphian, a nonprofit news site in Memphis, Tennessee, is also part of the wave, with readers contributing the bulk of its revenue. It started in 2018 in response to the shrinking of the local newspaper, The Commercial Appeal. Nearly 17,000 subscribers pay $99 per year (or $12.99 per month) for The Memphian, and they have renewed their subscriptions at a rate of 90%, said Eric Barnes, the publication's CEO. Ad sales, sponsorships and donations cover the rest of a $5 million annual budget that supports a newsroom of 38.


"People paid for news for decades," Barnes said. "Why can't they pay for it now?"


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