Latest News and Commentary: National

June 14, 2022
By Timothy Ryan, Andrew Engelhardt, Jennifer Larson and Mark McNeilly
Inside Higher Ed

Excerpt: It was a Monday in April, and everyone followed the script. Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro gave a speech at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The event’s clickbait title—“Men Cannot Become Women”—left little doubt about Shapiro’s intent to stir up controversy. He succeeded. News coverage had all the familiar trappings: the efforts to disband the club that organized the event; university administrators’ carefully worded statement about free speech; the counterprogramming; and the student protesters’ midspeech interruptions.

This ritual has played out countless times at universities across the country, reinforcing an image of college students as closed-minded, fragile and hopelessly divided by political tribalism. That image is wrong. Students want to hear diverse and dissenting viewpoints on campus, but they feel put off and sometimes intimidated by the strong partisans who dominate political discussions.

 

June 13, 2022
By Conor Friedersdorf
The Atlantic

Excerpt: One of the most closely watched free-speech battles in higher education reached its denouement recently at Georgetown University’s law school, where that foremost obsession of the American intelligentsia––a problematic tweet!––sparked a months-long investigation of a newly hired legal scholar who was supposed to run Georgetown’s Center for the Constitution. Ilya Shapiro’s inquisition revealed how diversity bureaucrats and other administrators, seizing on a vague mandate to make campuses more inclusive, are essentially overturning free-speech protections.

June 13, 2022
By Jack Fowler
National Review

Excerpt: A federal-court agreement last Friday (June 10) in Free Speech v. Khator et al. has overturned a University of Houston policy that conservatives charged was unconstitutional and threatened students’ free-speech rights. The extreme “harassment” policy issued by the school (Renu Khator is its president) in late 2021 sought to stretch its scope and disciplinary powers to anything said or communicated anywhere, anytime, on campus, off campus, or on social media.

June 12, 2022
By Peter Berkowitz
RealClear Politics

Excerpt: Earlier this month in Vengalattore v. Cornell University, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit provided a welcome affirmation of colleges’ and universities’ obligation to respect due process on campus. The court resolved a technical question of law and remanded the case for consideration on the merits of critical elements of the complaint. But Judge José Cabranes’ stern concurrence stressed that nothing less than the future of liberal education in America is at stake in this case – and the many others like it winding their way through the courts.

June 11, 2022
By Michael Poliakoff and Peter Wood
American Council of Trustees and Alumni

Excerpt: In May, Gov. Glenn Youngkin sent the Council of Presidents of Virginia’s public colleges and universities a detailed letter setting out his expectations. Among his most urgent requests is that university administrators promote intellectual diversity and the free exchange of ideas. That includes a bold, overdue reform: hiring faculty of diverse political persuasions.

June 10, 2022
By PEN America

Excerpt: There’s a lot of misinformation out there about educational gag orders – the legislative restrictions on the freedom to read, learn, and teach that are now law or policy in 19 states. Below, PEN America responds to five popular (but incorrect) myths about educational gag orders.

June 10, 2022
By Samuel Abrams
American Enterprise Institute

Excerpt: Excerpt: I have been in the world of higher education for over two decades and have spent well over half that time serving as a professor at one of the nation’s most politically active and progressive liberal arts colleges. As such, I have had the chance to watch ideas and movements take root on our nation’s campuses of higher education and eventually pervade the nation’s socio-political zeitgeist.

Around a decade ago, the way in which students on college campuses began to talk to others, raise questions, and engage in discourse changed. A palpable fear emerged if one said the “wrong thing.”

June 9, 2022
By Robert Maranto, Catherine Salmon and Lee Jussim
RealClear Education

Excerpt: To cancel the cancellers, we must demote their enablers: certain university leaders who care little for traditional academic values like free thought and fair play and who use their large bureaucracies to crush dissent. Some of the university presidents who make high six-figure salaries, for example, should be made to suffer 90% reductions in base pay and get busted back to being assistant professors teaching sophomores, under grownup supervision. Recent events suggest that University of Central Florida president Alexander Cartwright and Princeton president Christopher Eisgruber should be among the first to get the treatment.

June 9, 2022
By Graham Piro and Alex Morey
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

Excerpt: Amid a controversy last month over whether popular writing professor Aneil Rallin’s sex-related reading assignments were too “triggering” to teach, Soka University of America suggested its “Faculty Adjudication Committee” would review the issue and reach a just result.

“The university relies on the determination and recommendations of the faculty in these cases,” a Soka spokesperson told Inside Higher Ed in May after FIRE warned the school not to punish Rallin for classroom instruction clearly protected by academic freedom. “We will await the output of the faculty adjudication committee’s review and recommendations.” But just two people on that committee showed up to vote. And they couldn’t agree.

 

June 9, 2022
By Colleen Flaherty
Inside Higher Ed

Excerpt: The recent wave of educational “gag orders” restricting the teaching of race, gender or other so-called divisive concepts is a dire threat to what makes American higher education unique and sought after. Such legislation is a far greater threat to free speech than any problem it might be trying to solve, and it also risks colleges’ and universities’ accreditation. Institutions must speak out against this kind of government censorship, which is not politics as usual.

These were the major themes that emerged during a Wednesday panel organized by the free expression group PEN America and the American Association of Colleges and Universities.