Scholar Mark Lilla to speak on campus

Scholar+Mark+Lilla+to+speak+on+campus

Tim Eggert

The 2016 presidential election, identity politics, political correctness and university culture will be topics addressed and analyzed in an upcoming lecture from scholar Mark Lilla.

Presented by the Center for Academic and Intellectual Freedom (CAIF), Mark Lilla’s talk, “Identity and Citizenship,” will serve as the second installment in a speaker series titled “Reclaiming Free Speech and Academic Freedom on Campus.” The speech and subsequent discussion will take place at 7 p.m. tonight in the University Center Michigan Room.

Lilla, a professor of the humanities at Columbia University, will elaborate on an argument introduced in his book, “The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics.” By promoting identity politics and political correctness in universities for the last three decades, Lilla explains the academic left has alienated fellow American citizens and forgotten what it takes to win elections, according to CAIF director and English associate professor Gabriel Brahm.

“Lilla will argue in his lecture that people don’t want to live in a world of intersectionality, microaggressions and trigger warnings,” Brahm said. “They want to live in an America founded in free speech.”

In line with the CAIF’s mission, a substantial question and answer period will follow the talk, Brahm said. A representative from each of three student groups—the College Democrats, the College Republicans and the Young Americans for Liberty— will ask initial questions, after which audience members may present additional questions.

Although Lilla is recognized as a leading scholar on the topic of liberalism, his perspectives have been negatively branded by the far-left in academia.

“Academic leftists don’t want him to speak,” Brahm said. “They want to shut him down and stigmatize him because he criticizes identity politics.”

It is because of perspectives like Lilla’s—which invite dialogue, disagreement and discussion— that the CAIF exists, Brahm said.

“The center’s mission is to create a space where faculty and students can speak, listen, think and question without being intimidated by the dogmas that limit discussion in far too many universities today,” Brahm said.

Lilla will serve as a representative of the importance of free expression in national and university discussions, Brahm said.

“To rejuvenate our humanities programs across the country today, we have to reinvent conversation between liberals and conservatives and radicals from left to right,” Brahm explained. “We’re pleased to have Lilla as one voice in that mix because the center stands for a civil conversation that goes beyond the narrow confines of academic leftism.”

The ultimate goal of Lilla’s talk, however, is to offer and explain a new definition of liberalism that focuses on the importance of citizenship.

“Citizens offer a vision of the common good, of where the country needs to head together, and identity politics, Mark Lilla claims, challenges this,” Brahm explained. “Lilla will remind people that there’s more to being a citizen than one’s own narcissistic personal sense of one’s identity and asserting one’s victim identity.”

“I’m in suspense to see what the reception will be like on our campus,” Brahm added. “It’s going to be fascinating and thrilling to see who we turn out to be as a community when we respond to Lilla.”

The speaker series will conclude with a talk by Cary Nelson, jubilee professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences and emeritus professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His speech, “Academic Freedom in Times of Crisis: The Future of Collective Bargaining, Free Speech on Campus, and Prospects for Peace in the Middle East” is scheduled for April 19.

All students and community members are welcome to attend free of charge.