Latest News and Commentary: National

January 12, 2022
By Laura Testino
Memphis Commercial Appeal

Excerpt: The University of Memphis has canceled a recent grant for its social justice programming, formed in August 2020, after Gov. Bill Lee expressed concerns about the latest initiative, according to a statement from the governor's office. The program has 14 groups focused on improving academic outcomes for students of color, retaining faculty of color and improving pay equity, as well as minority business contracting and creating diverse, equitable and inclusive coursework.

The status of the entire programming is unclear. University of Memphis officials did not respond to requests for information as of Wednesday afternoon. In response to follow-up inquiries requesting what concerns Lee had about U of M's program, what he was told was canceled, and whether he believed academic freedom should be protected at Tennessee universities, Casey Black, spokesperson for the governor's office, said U of M "informed our office that the grant program is no longer active. We don’t have anything further to add about a now-defunct program."

January 12, 2022
By Andrew Koppelman
Chronicle of Higher Education

Excerpt: It is now notorious that the Emory Law Journal commissioned and then tried to censor, as “hurtful and unnecessarily divisive,” an article that denied the existence of systemic racism. When the author refused to bowdlerize his piece, the journal rejected it. This has been portrayed as a familiar left/right fight, except for one detail: One of the authors who withdrew is on the left. Some have been asking, Who is that guy, and what was he thinking?

I’m that guy. I am urgently concerned about systemic racism, which I have written about extensively, but I withdrew to protest the illiberalism that has these student editors in its grip. That illiberalism is bad for the university and bad for racial equality. It reflects an increasingly influential conception of racial equality that is indifferent to the welfare of the people it purports to help.

January 12, 2022
By Rei Perez
The Current, Student-Run Newspaper of Nova Southeastern University

Excerpt: In early Dec. 2021, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced his new proposed legislation titled the “Stop W.O.K.E. Act.” The act seeks to halt all mention of Critical Race Theory in Florida classrooms and professional settings by allowing parents and teachers to sue school boards and employees to sue corporations. Legal fees will be paid by the state when it is proven that the corporation or school board is, in fact, dispersing Critical Race Theory. 

Dana Mills, an associate dean of Research and Strategic Planning of the College of Education at Nova Southeastern, University has studied CRT when he was in his doctoral program. Throughout his years of experience training future educators and having his own children in the Florida school system, he has never found anything close to [CRT]. This proposed law is a step in the wrong direction, said Mills.

January 12, 2022
By Thomas Edsall
New York Times

Excerpt: In one of the most revealing studies in recent years, a 2016 survey of 137,456 full-time, first-year students at 184 colleges and universities in the United States, the U.C.L.A. Higher Education Research Institute found “the largest-ever gender gap in terms of political leanings: 41.1 percent of women, an all-time high, identified themselves as liberal or far left, compared to 28.9 percent of men.” The institute has conducted freshmen surveys every year since 1966. In the early days, until 1980, men were consistently more liberal than women. In the early and mid-1980s, the share of liberals among male and female students was roughly equal, but since 1987, women have been more liberal than men in the first year of college.

It’s clear from all this that the political engagement of women is having a major impact on the social order, often in ways that are not fully understood.

January 11, 2022
By John Wilson
Inside Higher Ed

Excerpt: Self-censorship, we are regularly told, is a great evil afflicting our colleges and our society. Multiple surveys show that a majority of college students self-censor, and these surveys are often cited to prove a crisis in campus free speech. A recent survey by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education found that 83 percent of college students reported engaging in self-censorship, a figure reported with dire alarm and a sharp increase from the 60 percent who reported self-censorship in 2020.

But that increase could have occurred solely because the question was changed from a yes/no answer to a “how often” response—and included the 30 percent who said they “rarely” self-censored and the 32 percent who only did so “occasionally.” Do such surveys really prove a crisis of self-censorship if the responses are so easy to manipulate?

January 11, 2022
By Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

Excerpt:  If professors at the University of Washington want to include a statement of land acknowledgment on their syllabi, they must parrot the administration’s viewpoint or shut up. It has become increasingly common in academia to promote statements that formally recognize indigenous ties to the land occupied by a university, but the UW Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering encourages professors to include a land acknowledgement on their syllabi at the expense of their First Amendment rights.

Professor Stuart Reges learned this the hard way when a land acknowledgement on his syllabus was censored by administrators because it didn’t match a university-approved statement. “I decided to see whether it was acceptable to present an alternate viewpoint,” said Reges. “Obviously their version of diversity does not include conservative viewpoints.”

January 10, 2022
By Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

Excerpt: ATLANTA, Jan. 10, 2022 — Emory University’s laudable free speech promises mean nothing to the Emory Law Student Bar Association, which denied recognition to a free-speech-focused student group because open discussion could cause “harm.” Today, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education called on Emory Law to promptly process the Emory Free Speech Forum’s application for a charter. FIRE first wrote to the school on Nov. 1 and received no response.

“The rejection of the Emory Free Speech Forum exemplifies the exact reason why this club must exist,” said Michael Reed-Price, president of EFSF. “Emory Law School’s Student Bar Association values free speech only so long as the ideas are in line with their viewpoint. The SBA need not agree with our ideas, they must merely tolerate our right to express them.”

Emory University is one of the few institutions in the country to earn a “green light” rating from FIRE for its speech-protective policies. Seeking to bolster this commitment to free speech, EFSF is a non-partisan student group “devoted to fostering critical discourse and open dialogue surrounding important issues in law and society.”

 

January 10, 2022
By John Wilson
Academe Blog

Excerpt: This week, there was what Jonathan Turley called a “major controversy brewing over free speech and censorship at Emory Law Journal.” Robert George argued, “It’s hard to think of a stupider, more self-defeating idea than imposing political litmus tests on articles submitted to major law reviews. But that’s what the Emory Law Journal has done, rejecting on ideological grounds an essay by the brilliant legal scholar Lawrence Alexander.”

George is wrong on every count. The Emory Law Journal did not reject Alexander’s essay. There is no political litmus test that the Emory Law Journal has ever stated or hinted at. Here’s what really happened: Larry Alexander submitted an embarrassingly bad article partly copied from one of his rants on a blog, and when the editors asked him to edit it and provide citations for some of his dumbest arguments, he refused to make any changes and instead tried to present himself as a victim of censorship.

For a very different view, see the following article, which was posted last week.

 

January 10, 2022
By Jaclyn Peiser
The Washington Post

Excerpt: On Wednesday, during an Indiana state Senate committee hearing about a proposed bill that would ban “divisive concepts” in school classrooms, Republican Sen. Scott Baldwin said teachers’ lessons about fascism and Nazism should be impartial. “Marxism, Nazism, fascism … I have no problem with the education system providing instruction on the existence of those ‘isms,’ ” said Baldwin, who co-wrote the bill. “I believe that we’ve gone too far when we take a position. … We need to be impartial.”

Baldwin backtracked those comments Thursday following criticism. In an email to the Indianapolis Star, Baldwin said he was focused on the “big picture” of preventing teachers from telling students “what to think about politics.” “Nazism, Marxism and fascism are a stain on our world history and should be regarded as such, and I failed to adequately articulate that in my comments during the meeting,” Baldwin said.

 

January 10, 2022
By The Editorial Board
Boston Globe

Excerpt: In 2018, the Trump administration launched a major effort, known as the “China Initiative,” to tackle Chinese espionage in the United States. Its primary stated purpose was to root out Chinese spies in American businesses and laboratories who were transferring trade secrets, information, and intellectual property to the Chinese government. That’s a fine and important goal, but three years into the program, the initiative has proved to lack focus and clear guidelines.

The lack of clarity or focus surrounding the program makes it ripe for abuse. In fact, a recent investigation by the MIT Technology Review found that the government has not only refused to be transparent but has also changed its records regarding the program. That’s especially concerning given how the initiative has manifested at academic institutions, as researchers and academics have been targeted by the government for their financial ties to China — potentially encroaching on their academic freedom.