Latest News and Commentary: National

January 25, 2023
By Graham Piro and Alex Morey
Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression

Excerpt: Reading a book on a college campus should not prompt formal administrative intervention. But that’s what’s reportedly happening at Stanford University this week, after a photo of a student reading Adolf Hitler’s autobiography, “Mein Kampf,” circulated on campus last Friday.

January 25, 2023
By Lori Rozsa
The Washington Post

Excerpt: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is facing mounting backlash regarding his administration’s decision to prohibit an Advanced Placement high school course on African American studies, with Black leaders rallying in the capital, a prominent civil rights lawyer threatening to sue and state lawmakers urging him to reverse the decision.

January 24, 2023
By Malick Ghachem
Chronicle of Higher Education

Excerpt: In 2015 the University of Chicago released a set of guidelines attempting to clarify the institution’s “overarching commitment to free, robust, and uninhibited debate.” Since then, a movement of fervent, self-proclaimed free-speech advocates has urged colleges to adopt Chicago’s principles on free expression as their own. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, over 90 colleges have now done so in some format. And yet this movement is antithetical to diversity of thought, and even threatens to undermine the cause of free expression itself.

January 23, 2023
By Sarah Weissman
Inside Higher Ed

Excerpt: Some members of the Renegade Institute for Liberty, a controversial group of professors at Bakersfield College, are enmeshed in an increasingly vitriolic dispute playing out on the California campus that has pitted students and faculty members against each other and prompted their supporters and critics to take sides.

Opponents of the group, including professors and community members, described interactions at the meeting as the latest incident in a pattern of bad behavior by institute members—including peddling hate speech on social media, criticizing and stalling campus diversity initiatives, and souring the campus climate for minority students.

January 23, 2023
By George Leef
James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal

Excerpt: Public educational institutions are constitutionally forbidden to retaliate against faculty members because of their speech. A professor can’t be fired, demoted, or otherwise penalized just because he or she has said something that bothers administrators.

There have been numerous cases fought on that issue, and freedom of speech always comes out on top. One might think that school officials would learn from that, but they seem strangely obtuse about the legal ramifications whenever they want to go after someone who has gotten their goat. Two such cases have recently been resolved, and a new one has just arisen here in North Carolina.

January 22, 2023
By Jennifer Ruth
Academe Blog

Excerpt: A lot of the higher ed news these days has me thinking about experiences I’ve had in China. (If you have access to the Chronicle of Higher Education, please see “Non-Critical Thinking in China” and “The Increasingly Authoritarian War on Tenure”.) And thinking about China’s history of totalitarianism more generally.

In authoritarian and totalitarian states where knowledge is controlled by one political party largely with the aim of perpetuating its rule, academic freedom does not exist. Every state in the United States where legislation has passed seeking to restrict teaching on race and gender has rejected this basic precept, one fundamental for a functioning democracy. Florida is going furthest and fastest as Ron DeSantis eyes the White House.

January 21, 2023
By Lori Rozsa
The Washington Post

Excerpt: The inscriptions on many of the tombstones at the Pleasant Plain Cemetery tucked in the north Florida woods are so worn by time and weather that they are unreadable. But Marvin Dunn knows their stories.

The painful chapter in Florida’s history known as the Newberry Six lynchings is one the university professor has taken pains to help document over decades of research. It’s also one that he fears will be removed from Florida history lessons under a new education law championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) as part of a broader push to root out ideas he deems “woke.”

January 19, 2023
By Jennifer Schuessler and Marc Tracy
New York Times

Excerpt: The Harvard Kennedy School reversed course on Thursday and said it would offer a fellowship to a leading human rights advocate it had previously rejected, after news of the decision touched off a public outcry over academic freedom, donor influence and the boundaries of criticism of Israel.

January 18, 2023
By Andy Thomason
Chronicle of Higher Education

Excerpt: The presidents of Florida’s 28 state and community colleges said in a statement on Wednesday that they would identify and eliminate, by February 1, any academic requirement or program “that compels belief in critical race theory or related concepts such as intersectionality.”

January 18, 2023
By Sabrina Conza, Graham Piro
Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression

Excerpt: Facing heightened criticism, a Board of Trustees investigation, and now a lawsuit, Hamline University reversed course on Tuesday, claiming the university has been committed to academic freedom all along. The about-face comes after the university doubled and tripled down over the past month on its dismissal of Erika López Prater for displaying a 14th century painting depicting the Prophet Muhammad in her art history course.

After standing firm despite pushback from across the globe for its actions, López Prater’s lawsuit seems to have prompted the small liberal arts college in Minnesota to finally relent. Hamline claimed in a media statement that “language was used that does not reflect our sentiments on academic freedom.” (Note the university’s use of passive voice. Who used the regrettable language, Hamline?)