Book. In Praise of Dangerous Universities And Other Essays (2022)— Mark Mercer

What is a Dangerous University? In a 2010 University Affairs/Affairs universitaires opinion article, Mark Mercer explains “By [dangerous university] I mean a place where you’ll encounter disturbing ideas.”[1]

In this article, Mercer contrasts a safe university with a dangerous university as follows:

A safe university isn’t a university free of theft, vandalism and violence. It’s not one where the ice is cleared quickly from the sidewalks. Rather, a safe university is a university at which no one will hear racist, sexist, or homophobic comments, or any discriminatory slights against a person’s religion, nationality, age or disability…

…A dangerous university is not one given to making people feel good about themselves, at least not on principle. It is not about affirming identities or celebrating cultures or contributions.

Rather, a dangerous university is about investigation and criticism, about constructing from evidence and argument alone a view of the world, and about knowing how to put that view to the test. It is a university at which one will encounter disturbing ideas and values, sometimes spoken by the very people who advocate them. It is a university at which people speak freely and at which no view is out of bounds.

Noting unequivocally — via Ann Coulter’s cancelled speech at the University of Ottawa — the arrival of the safe university, Mercer warns “intelligent and spirited high-school students throughout the nation now realize they have one overriding concern: to make sure that the university they choose is dangerous.” And, to this end, he provides a short check-list to help these students identify and avoid safe universities. Yet he’s not hopeful that his warning and advice will be heeded, “I fear, though, that we, the professoriate in Canada, have already condemned the entire next generation to safety.”

Now, in 2022, twelve years after the article In praise of dangerous universities, Mercer’s book of the same title has been published. The chapters are comprised of subsequent articles. Some revised, others amalgamated. And, as Mercer notes in his introduction, while most were written in response to some specific event, “their themes … are perennial. (sample preface, x, Mercer)” [2]

In this compilation it appears that while Mercer’s fears haven’t been allayed, neither has his hope. Excerpts from this past summer’s Media Release stand in testimony to this observation[3]:

In Praise of Dangerous Universities articulates a vision of the university in which professors and students attempt to understand the world through inquiry and critical discussion; it explains what policies and institutional arrangements would best enable them to do so; and it argues that a democratic society of free and equal citizens needs universities that prize their academic mission above all else…

…This engaging collection, written in the thoughtful, civil, and non-partisan style for which Mercer is known, provides a needed antidote to the Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity virus that is turning the true university mission on its head.

In Praise of Dangerous Universities And Other Essays (July 19, 2022) by Mark Mercer is available at Amazon.ca, here. And at Amazon.com, here.

Mark Mercer is a Professor of Philosophy at St. Mary’s University (SMU), Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Visit Professor Mark Mercer’s webpage, here. (http://professormarkmercer.ca) I recommend perusing Dr Mercer’s publications under “Journalism and Commentary,” here. And I draw attention to Dr Mercer’s documentation of “Disciplinary Action by My University,” here, which concerns Dr Mercer’s mention of the “n-word” while defending Verushka Lieutenant-Duval.

Mark Mercer is also the President of the Society for Academic Freedom and Scholarship (SAFS).

*Note: You’ll find that Mercer’s contact information is publicly available via a number of the links I’ve provided. Dr Mercer is very approachable no matter your position on academic freedom, EDI, and related issues.

Resources

[1] Mark Mercer, “In praise of dangerous universities,” In My Opinion, University Affairs/Affairs universitaires, May 3, 2010, https://www.universityaffairs.ca/opinion/in-my-opinion/in-praise-of-dangerous-universities/. Accessed December 24, 2022.

[2] Mark Mercer, In Praise of Dangerous Universities and Other Essays, Frontier Centre for Public Policy, Canada, July 19, 2022.

[3] “MEDIA RELEASE – New Frontier Centre Book Calls on Universities to be Dangerous,”Frontier Centre for Public Policy, August 4, 2022, https://fcpp.org/2022/08/04/media-release-new-frontier-centre-book-calls-on-universities-to-be-dangerous-2/. Accessed December 24, 2022.

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