Latest News and Commentary: National

September 22, 2022
By American Association of University Professors, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapter
The Daily Tar Heel

Excerpt: The UNC-Chapel Hill chapter of the American Association of University Professors calls upon Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz and Provost Chris Clemens to publicly support and defend UNC students, faculty and staff who are supportive of Palestinian rights or critical of Israeli policies and practices. In this particular case, in this political climate, blanket statements about the first amendment, such as the one circulated at the beginning of the semester, are not enough.

September 22, 2022
By Albuqurque Journal Editorial Board
Albuqurque Journal

Excerpt: If there’s a silver lining to the national attention of angry protesters storming a ballroom to shut down a young conservative speaker at the University of New Mexico, it’s how the university has handled it thus far.

Tomi Lahren, invited to speak on campus by a group of conservative students, was met at the student union last week by about 100 protesters who tried to push their way into a ballroom, banging on doors, smashing windows, knocking a hole in a wall, shouting obscenities and pulling a fire alarm. UNM, to its credit, issued a statement Friday saying it was investigating the melee and would hold accountable those who broke laws or university policies. UNM also affirmed its commitment to free speech and a marketplace of ideas.

September 22, 2022
By Academic Freedom Alliance Press Release

Excerpt: In a victory for free speech on public university campuses, the University of North Texas has agreed to pay $165,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees for violating a math professor’s First Amendment rights when it fired him for writing a joke criticizing microaggressions on a chalkboard in the teachers’ lounge.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys represent Nathaniel Hiers in his lawsuit against the university. After discovering flyers in the mathematics department’s faculty lounge about “microaggressions,” Hiers jokingly wrote on the chalkboard, “Please don’t leave garbage lying around,” with an arrow pointing to the flyers. The following week, the head of the math department fired Hiers by cancelling his contract to teach in the spring, admitting that he fired Hiers because he criticized the flyers and didn’t express “honest regret” about his actions.

September 21, 2022
By Alison Cross
Hartfield Courant

Excerpt: Dozens of Southern Connecticut State University faculty members sent a letter to the Southington Board of Education Monday, calling the opposition to a sophomore English teacher’s vocabulary packet on race and gender a “politically motivated attack on free speech.”

Signed by 62 SCSU faculty members, the letter voices support for the Southington High School teacher, criticizes the board for what the SCSU faculty perceive as engagement in partisan politics, and refutes the claim that the teacher’s assignment was critical race theory — a legal framework taught at the post-graduate level.

September 20, 2022
By Connor Goodwin
The Atlantic

Excerpt: At a packed school-board meeting near Rockford, Illinois, earlier this year, a woman waved blown-up images from Maia Kobabe’s illustrated memoir Gender Queer in front of the Harlem School District board.

What is the fate of a book like Kobabe’s after it is debated and banned? It might seem, on the face of it, desirable: One children’s-book author on tour in Virginia told me that she hoped her book would be censored, citing widely reported accounts that bans drive sales. The ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom has a telling statistic: It estimates that a staggering 82 to 97 percent of book challenges go unreported on.

September 20, 2022
By Susanna Granieri
First Amendment Watch at NYU

Excerpt: A professor at Southern Utah University filed a lawsuit against the university, stating it violated his right to free speech by sanctioning him for refusing to use students’ preferred pronouns.

Richard Bugg, a theater professor at Southern Utah University, (SUU), filed the lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Utah Aug. 31. Bugg, represented by attorneys Jerry Mooney and Randall Garrou with financial support from the Faculty Legal Defense Fund of the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, (FIRE),  argues that he is “opposed to the coercion of speech that is taking place on our campus and on most campuses,” the lawsuit stated.

 

September 20, 2022
By Speech at Dartmouth College

Excerpt: Those seeking to suppress free speech sometimes think that provocative, even extreme and obnoxious, political speech is dangerously divisive.  It should be suppressed.  I think that is profoundly wrong.  I think it is the very opposite.  Toleration of all versions of political speech is the crucial unifying factor in our country. 

September 19, 2022
By Elizabeth Harris
New York Times

Excerpt: At least 50 advocacy groups pushed to ban books during the last school year, according to a report that the free speech group PEN America released on Monday, highlighting how challenges to reading material have become a political issue across the country.

“This is a concerted, organized, well-resourced push at censorship,” said Suzanne Nossel, the chief executive of PEN America. The effort, she said, “is ideologically motivated and politically expedient, and it needs to be understood as such in order to be confronted and addressed properly.”

September 19, 2022
By Jonathan Friedman and Nadine Farid Johnson
PEN America

Excerpt: More books banned. More districts. More states. More students losing access to literature.

“More” is the operative word for this report on school book bans, which offers the first comprehensive look at bans throughout the 2021–22 school year.  This report offers an update on the count in PEN America’s previous report, Banned in the USA: Rising School Book Bans Threaten Free Expression and Students’ First Amendment Rights (April 2022), which covered the first nine months of the school year (July 2021 to March 2022). It also sheds light on the role of organized efforts to drive many of the bans.

September 19, 2022
By Brian Lopez
Texas Tribune

Excerpt: Texas banned more books from school libraries this past year than any other state in the nation, targeting titles centering on race, racism, abortion and LGBTQ representation and issues, according to a new analysis by PEN America, a nonprofit organization advocating for free speech.

The report released on Monday found that school administrators in Texas have banned 801 books across 22 school districts, and 174 titles were banned at least twice between July 2021 through June 2022. PEN America defines a ban as any action taken against a book based on its content after challenges from parents or lawmakers.