Latest News and Commentary: National

May 16, 2022
By Josh Moody
Inside Higher Ed

Excerpt: The Texas A&M University system is working on a plan that would make sweeping changes across its 10 libraries. Those changes, still being discussed, would include asking librarians to relinquish tenure or transfer to another academic department to keep it.

The plan grew out of recommendations from MGT Consulting, which Texas A&M hired in June 2021 “to conduct a high-level, comprehensive review of major functional areas,” according to a company report. But as administrators have suggested additional changes, including to employee classification, faculty members have pushed back, arguing that proposed structural changes to the library system will do more harm than good.

May 16, 2022
By Colleen Flaherty
Inside Higher Ed

Excerpt: Soka University of America is accusing its only queer professor of color, Aneil Rallin, of exposing students to “deviant pornography” and “vaguely pedophilic” materials in a class called Writing the Body.

A faculty committee at the California campus will consider the case later this week. It will then make recommendations about disciplinary action—up to dismissal—to the same interim dean who charged Rallin using those terms.

 

May 15, 2022
By Mike Sabo
National Review

Excerpt: The opportunity to speak freely and openly -- especially on controversial topics -- is a cornerstone of civic education. But events that unfolded after the “Politics, Policy, and Panic: Governing in Times of Crisis” conference at Saint Vincent College demonstrate that freedom of speech at America’s institutions of higher education continues to stand on shaky footing.

May 14, 2022
By Jack Shafer
Politico

Excerpt: Like El Niño and solar flares, the impulse to ban books seems to be a cyclical force of nature. In ordinary times, book bannings surge and then, like clockwork, recede away like floodwaters. But these are not normal times. Over the past nine months, we’ve entered a book banning era like none other in our country’s history. Between July 2021 and the end of March 2022, an astounding 1,586 book bannings took place in 86 school districts in 26 states, according to a comprehensive PEN America study.

But behind the noise and the headlines, both the banners and the defenders are delighted by the war over books. The face-offs always leave both constituencies feeling smugly self-satisfied.

May 13, 2022
By Luca Gazianis
Harvard Political Review

Excerpt: You may have never heard of the “persuasion principle” — the idea that the government may not restrict speech out of fear that it will persuade people to engage in harmful, hateful, or even illegal conduct.

What does this bear for our social culture of free speech? Of course, almost nobody would argue that our culture should be as tolerant of speech as our laws must be. Nonetheless, can we glean insights from First Amendment doctrine, through the persuasion principle, that are useful for contemporary conversations on free speech?

May 13, 2022
By Graham Piro
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

Excerpt: A qualified free speech win for a student-run art gallery at Wichita State University, reported earlier this month, is raising questions about the expressive rights of other students who criticize the school’s student government.

Wichita State’s Student Supreme Court overruled the student senate’s decision to yank funding from student-run art gallery ShiftSpace after the group criticized a student senator.

May 12, 2022
By David Ingram
NBC News

Excerpt: E-reader apps that became a lifeline for students during the pandemic are now in the crossfire of a culture war raging over books in schools and public libraries.

In several states, apps and the companies that run them have been targeted by conservative parents who have pushed schools and public libraries to shut down their digital programs, which let users download and read books on their smartphones, tablets or laptops. Some parents want the apps banned for their children, or even for all students. And they’re getting results.

May 12, 2022
By Charles Lipson
RealClear Politics

Excerpt: It is rare to meet someone with true moral courage, someone who risks everything to do what he knows is right. I was privileged to know such a man, George Anastaplo. His story, set during the Red Scare of the 1950s, needs to be told because it applies today, when political zealots again demand rigid conformity.

The time was the early 1950s, and the demands came from ideological crusaders on the right, who insisted on anti-communist loyalty oaths. Today’s crusaders come from the left, demanding pledges of support for “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” (DEI).

May 12, 2022
By Nathan Biller
The College Fix

Excerpt: Georgetown University has not set an end date for its investigation into a professor canceled for a comment he made about then-Supreme Court Justice nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson. Ilya Shapiro has now been on administrative leave for more than 100 days.

He told The College Fix that pending the end of his administrative leave, he will continue “writing, speaking, filing briefs, and otherwise engaging in public discourse in my personal capacity on my areas of expertise, including constitutional law, the Supreme Court, and the importance of free speech and civil discourse.”

May 12, 2022
By Michael Martz
Richmond Times-Dispatch

Excerpt: On the eve of graduation ceremonies for Virginia’s public colleges and universities, Gov. Glenn Youngkin told their presidents this week that he expects them to promote free speech on campus and hire faculty and other staff “with diverse political perspectives.”

Youngkin sent the five-page letter to the Council of Presidents on Tuesday, making clear his expectations on a range of cultural issues important to his conservative political base — from in-person instruction during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to creation of lab schools as a kind of charter school outside of traditional K-12 public education.