Latest News and Commentary: National

June 7, 2021
By Sarah Lyall and Stephanie Saul
New York Times

Excerpt: On March 26, a group of students at Yale Law School approached the dean’s office with an unusual accusation: Amy Chua, one of the school’s most popular but polarizing professors, had been hosting drunken dinner parties with students, and possibly federal judges, during the pandemic. At the law school, the episode has exposed bitter divisions in a top-ranked institution struggling to adapt at a moment of roiling social change. Students regularly attack their professors, and one another, for their scholarship, professional choices and perceived political views. In a place awash in rumor and anonymous accusations, almost no one would speak on the record.

The students provided what they said was proof of the dinners, in the form of a dossier featuring secretly screen-shotted text messages between a second-year student and two friends who had attended. “Where are we — in Moscow in 1953, when children were urged to report on their parents and siblings?” a professor said.

 

June 7, 2021
By R.R.Reno
Wall Street Journal

Excerpt: A decade ago I relished the opportunity to employ talented graduates of Princeton, Yale, Harvard and the rest. Today? Not so much. If students can be traumatized by “insensitivity” on that leafy campus, then they’re unlikely to function as effective team members in an organization that has to deal with everyday realities. And in any event, I don’t want to hire someone who makes inflammatory accusations at the drop of a hat.

Some resist. They would seem ideal for my organization, which aims to speak for religious and social conservatives. But even this kind of graduate brings liabilities to the workplace. I’ve met recent Ivy grads with conservative convictions who manifest a form of posttraumatic stress disorder. Others have developed a habit of aggressive counterpunching that is no more appealing in a young employee than the ruthless accusations of the woke.

 

June 7, 2021
By Steven Mintz
Inside Higher Ed

Excerpt: If we are serious about instilling cross-cultural understanding and global and multicultural awareness, we need to engage with the ways that those around us make sense of their histories. As a classroom teacher, I find that many of my students, and perhaps most, subscribe to one or another counternarrative.  I have learned that if I fail to engage with that understanding of history, the students are likely to regard me as a dupe or a tool of a sanitized, whitewashed, deceptive, or partial version of the past.

This isn’t a matter of political indoctrination or teaching students to hate their country.  It’s about teaching American history’s biggest lessons:  about the costs of “progress,” the forces underlying the nation’s growth and expansion, the complex and often conflict-riven nature of intergroup relations, and the ongoing moral civil war about what this country stands for.

 

June 6, 2021
By Michael Powell
New York Times

Excerpt: The A.C.L.U., America’s high temple of free speech and civil liberties, has emerged as a muscular and richly funded progressive powerhouse in recent years, taking on the Trump administration in more than 400 lawsuits. But the organization finds itself riven with internal tensions over whether it has stepped away from a founding principle — unwavering devotion to the First Amendment. Its national and state staff members debate, often hotly, whether defense of speech conflicts with advocacy for a growing number of progressive causes, including voting rights, reparations, transgender rights and defunding the police.


The organization, said its former director Ira Glasser, risks surrendering its original and unique mission in pursuit of progressive glory. “There are a lot of organizations fighting eloquently for racial justice and immigrant rights,” Mr. Glasser said. “But there’s only one A.C.L.U. that is a content-neutral defender of free speech. I fear we’re in danger of losing that.”

 

June 5, 2021
By The Economist

Summary: Britain’s Essex University recently opted to rescind a speaking invitation criminology professor Jo Phoenix after students objected to her belief that gender identity is not as important as biological sex, known as the “gender-critical” viewpoint. A lawyer hired by Essex to investigate the decision found in her report that the rescinded invitation and subsequent blacklisting was likely in violation of Professor Phoenix’s Free Speech rights and British law.

The event is a flashpoint in a growing conflict between transgender activists and gender-critical adherents. Transgender viewpoints, largely originating from American campuses, argue that questioning the importance and validity of an individual’s gender identity is a rejection of their humanity. Conversely, gender-critical activists are concerned that transgender activism threatens female-reserved spaces, like sports teams, prisons, and shelters. The Essex University lawyer’s report is expected to serve as a rallying cry for gender-critical academics, at least in Britain.

 

June 4, 2021
By Caleb Ecarma
Vanity Fair

Excerpt: Idaho governor Brad Little last month signed a bill supposedly designed to bar state-funded schools and universities from “indoctrinating” students into the view that “any sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin is inherently superior or inferior.” While Idaho’s law, which is the first of its kind, may not sound disagreeable in theory, it is a different story in action, as the legislation could ostensibly ban educators from teaching that present-day financial inequality is linked to America’s history of systemic racism.

Oklahoma, Georgia, Louisiana, Florida, Missouri, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Iowa, and Rhode Island have all introduced similar bills or amendments, or have proposed state mandates that would have a similar impact on schools. Given that the right has struggled to demonize Biden, who enjoys higher approval ratings than his predecessor, it seems inevitable that Republicans will seize on culture war battles in hopes of winning back Congress next year.

 

June 4, 2021
By Jacob Sullum
Reason

Excerpt: Stanford Law School Dean Jenny S. Martinez says she did not hear about the university's two-month investigation of third-year student Nicholas Wallace's satirical flyer mocking the Federalist Society until June 1. That was the same day the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) sent the university's Office of Community Standards a letter on Wallace's behalf, noting that the investigation, which put his diploma on hold two weeks before he was scheduled to graduate, violated Stanford's commitment to freedom of expression.

"I would never have approved such a thing," Martinez said in an email to the "Stanford Law Community" that Slate writer Mark Joseph Stern posted on Twitter. "Stanford Law School is strongly committed to free speech, is concerned about actions and climate that have the potential to chill speech, and has shared those concerns with the university."

 

June 4, 2021
By Frederick Hess and RJ Martin
American Enterprise Institute

Excerpt: Conservatives have been rightfully concerned that campus bureaucrats are using these anti-free speech policies to suppress right-leaning ideas. In truth, of course, the suppression of speech is a betrayal of higher education’s core mission whether it targets right or left. Just recently, at Stanford University, the campus censors trained their guns on a student for daring to lampoon the right.

Earlier this week, FIRE — which has done invaluable work defending campus free speech for both the left and right — sent a letter demanding Stanford cease investigating third-year law student Nicholas Wallace, who sent an email to his peers satirizing the Federalist Society and elected Republicans. Wallace announced that the campus Federalist Society chapter would be hosting a conference entitled “The Originalist Case for Inciting Insurrection.” After the Federalist Society Complained, Stanford appeared to hold hostage his degree, which carries a three-year sticker price of $200,000, until they completed their investigation.

 

June 3, 2021
By Cary Nelson
Inside Higher Ed

Excerpt: On May 21, the day after a ceasefire was announced in the latest war between Gaza and Israel, a coalition of women’s and gender studies departments and programs made it clear that, for their part, the war of words, at least, will not stop. More than 100 such academic programs signed a statement condemning Israel’s “indiscriminate bombing” of Gaza, thereby endorsing the accusation that Israel’s conduct constitutes a war crime.

This national effort to organize an entire academic discipline -- its teaching, research, policies and administration -- around anti-Zionism represents a new and dangerous phase in the politicization of the academy. The individual faculty members in these departments have academic freedom. But for departments to officially adopt one position in such a debate is another matter. Once a department and its chief administrator sign on to a set of political positions, the academic freedom of those who disagree is compromised.

 

June 2, 2021
By Lauren Noble
RealClear Education

Excerpt: Last week, Yale University’s governing board, the Yale Corporation, announced a decision to abolish the petition process allowing alumni to seek a spot on the ballot in the annual Alumni Fellow Election. In a letter to alumni, Senior Trustee Catharine Bond Hill disguises this disenfranchisement as a “best practice.” What provoked this ham-handed edict? For the first time in nearly two decades, a petition candidate appeared on the ballot, thanks to the vigorous candidacy of former U.S. ambassador to Poland and Knoxville, Tennessee mayor Victor Ashe. His message of openness, transparency, and reform inspired more than 7,000 alumni to sign his petition.

For years before the recent petition candidacies, alumni requested more information about the candidates, only to be denied and told that the free exchange of ideas would threaten “intergenerational equity.” The Yale Corporation’s latest move revises the university’s motto from “light and truth” to “silence is golden.”