Latest News and Commentary: National

September 12, 2021
By Jonathan Turley
jonathanturley.org

There are different views of what occurred on 9/11 that are expressed (appropriately) on our campuses. Indeed, while some have criticized the holding of critical forums on the anniversary, it is precisely the type of diversity of viewpoints that sustains higher education. However, a student senator at Washington University in St. Louis has triggered a free speech debate after he allegedly removed American flags from a 9/11 memorial display and threw them into the trash. While condemning the action, the school has taken no action against Fadel Alkilani, vice president of finance for the student union.

In a video posted by Young Americans for Freedom, a student identified as Alkilani can be seen stuffing the 2,977 small American flags into bags and attempting to carry them away.  He reportedly attempted earlier to destroy the memorial but was stopped by campus police. Alkilani reportedly told YAF, “I did not violate any university or legal policy. Now go away.”

September 10, 2021
By Jason Tidd
Topeka Capital-Journal

Excerpt: The student body president at the University of Kansas has defended her tweets about "death to America" amid mounting criticism from political figures and the school chancellor. Student Body President Niya McAdoo gained national attention after retweeting a post last week that read, in part, "death to America." The Sept. 3 retweet came from the official @KUPresident handle, which has since had at least one more retweet and an original tweet mentioning "death to America."

In a statement, KU Chancellor Douglas Girod said the post was "disappointing and concerning." However, "the opinions in the student's post are protected by the First Amendment." The university is committed to serving as a "marketplace of ideas," even if they are offensive to some people. Constitutional free speech protections similarly were cited a year ago when Kansas State University President Richard Myers resisted calls to expel a student over "racist messages on social media."

September 10, 2021
By Jana Riess
Salt Lake Tribune

Excerpt: In 2018, Benjamin Park was a summer fellow at BYU’s Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, researching and writing his excellent book “Kingdom of Nauvoo: The Rise and Fall of a Religious Empire on the American Frontier.” The institute gave him funding and a home for the summer, interviewed him for its podcast and trumpeted his involvement on its homepage. The participation of a Cambridge-educated, nationally recognized historian of early America was a feather in the institute’s cap. Until last week, when the news broke that all record of Park’s fellowship and involvement with the Maxwell Institute had been systematically erased from its website.

Was this because Park objected to a speech two weeks ago by Latter-day Saint apostle Jeffrey R. Holland, taking to Twitter to point out the ways the talk was harmful to the LGBTQ community (and to academic freedom)?

September 10, 2021
By Kevin McGruder
Academe Blog

Excerpt: In 2021, the movement against the purported teaching of Critical Race Theory in K-12 schools and public colleges dominated public discussions in many communities and has now resulted in legislation against the teaching of “divisive concepts” in many states. It is a matter of public record, as Jennifer Ruth noted here, that the controversy is a manufactured one, a masterful disinformation campaign to silence advocates of anti-racism. The campaign was conceived by conservative activist Christopher Rufo, and amplified by the American Legal Exchange Council (ALEC) through trainings, and then by the dissemination of sample legislation to state legislators.

As educators, the divisive concepts controversy, while frustrating in its distortion of the facts, provides us with a teachable moment to share information, both with our students and with the larger community. The disinformation campaign fueled by Christopher Rufo is part of a historical tradition in the United States of backlashes to steps toward achieving racial equity.

 

September 10, 2021
By Deepali Kulkarni
The Washington Post

Excerpt: On the auspicious Hindu festival of Ganesha Chaturthi, a group of university professors and activists have organized a conference claiming to work to “dismantle” what they say is a global threat of politically motivated “supremacist” Hindus. Dismantling Global Hindutva, a virtual gathering that begins Friday, bills itself as an academic conference, but its participants and sponsors show little respect for academic principles — least of all the charge from the American Society of University Professors 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure that academics “should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.”

This weekend’s conference, in dismissing and demonizing Hindus who don’t share their viewpoint, violates the letter and spirit of these principles.

 

September 9, 2021
By John Wilson
Academe Blog

Excerpt: Last week, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) released a new database of more than four hundred “Scholars Under FIRE” since 2015 and announced it in breathtaking terms starting with the headline: “REPORT: 3 in 4 campaigns targeting faculty expression result in punishment.”

In reality, this three-in-four number included any case where a scholar is investigated. Most people would never imagine that an investigation resulting in no punishment could be described as “result in punishment.” Yes, disciplinary investigations can have a chilling effect and colleges need to dismiss meritless cases quickly when free expression is attacked, but FIRE needs to be more careful in its tendency to frame everything in the most alarmist way possible. Even when FIRE does list punishments, the basis for this sometimes is weak, such as listing a “resignation” as a punishment. Voluntarily leaving a job is not the same as being punished.

 

September 9, 2021
By Jonathan Turley
jonathanturley.org

Excerpt: There is an interesting ruling this week out of New York where a federal court has ruled in favor of a conservative student group alleging that the State University of New York at Binghamton has engaged in a pattern of censorship of conservative speakers and events. What makes this lawsuit by the Young America’s Foundation particularly significant is the allegation that SUNY-Binghamton barred events by allowing protesters to shut them down. Lawrence Khan, a U.S. district judge denied SUNY Binghamton’s motion to dismiss.

In 2019, conservative organizations had hosted an event with economist Art Laffer. The event followed a familiar pattern. The university imposed a series of conditions on the sponsoring groups and threatened to shutdown the event if there were serious protests. It then did little to maintain order and promptly removed Laffer within minutes of the event when protesters disrupted the event.

September 8, 2021
By Peter Boghossian
Common Sense with Bari Weiss

Excerpt: I noticed signs of the illiberalism that has now fully swallowed the academy quite early during my time at Portland State. I witnessed students refusing to engage with different points of view.  Questions from faculty at diversity trainings that challenged approved narratives were instantly dismissed. Those who asked for evidence to justify new institutional policies were accused of microaggressions. And professors were accused of bigotry for assigning canonical texts written by philosophers who happened to have been European and male. 

The more I spoke out about these issues, the more retaliation I faced. The years that followed were marked by continued harassment. I’d find flyers around campus of me with a Pinocchio nose. I was spit on and threatened by passersby while walking to class. I was informed by students that my colleagues were telling them to avoid my classes. And, of course, I was subjected to more investigation.

September 7, 2021
By Robert McCoy
Cavalier Daily

Excerpt: A recent Washington Times article, promoted by the University’s Young Americans for Freedom Twitter account, decries “U.Va.’s culture of left-wing intolerance.” The gist of the argument is as follows — Mr. Jefferson’s University ironically shirks the “Jeffersonian tradition” of free expression because the administration, too “timid” when it comes to protecting conservative speech, allows a “militant minority” of leftist students to enforce “cancel culture” on Grounds.

But I’m afraid that the Washington Times may mistake the “Jeffersonian tradition” in action with “cancel culture.” The author holds that leftists on Grounds enforce cancel culture “through a social-media reign of terror.” However, we must distinguish between harassment and criticism of opinions — the latter is essential to free debate, not “cancel culture.” This ideological opposition is actually a manifestation of “the Jeffersonian tradition,” which demands that ideas be subjected to fierce debate.

September 7, 2021
By American Association of University Professors

Excerpt: On September 3, 2021, the AAUP submitted a brief to Texas attorney general Ken Paxton strongly opposing recent political efforts to ban ideas from the classroom. The brief was filed in response to a recent request from State Rep. James White for an opinion on whether teaching about race and racism in America, including critical race theory (CRT), would violate the civil rights of Texans. This insidious political maneuver to ban discussion of racial inequality is part of a broader right-wing assault on the ability to teach truthfully about the impact of racism on American history and society.

These attempts to limit classroom discussion stand in irreconcilable conflict with the principles of free inquiry, free thought, and free expression, which the AAUP has championed for more than a century.