Latest News and Commentary: National

September 13, 2022
By Louis Bonham
Legal Insurrection

Excerpt: Anyone with even the slightest knowledge of the state of the American academy today knows that employment discrimination runs rampant on campus. Not the old-fashioned kind where women, blacks, Jews, Catholics, Asians, gays, or communists were excluded from employment opportunities, but the modern Kendian variety, in which overt discrimination against white men (and, in many disciplines, Asian men as well) is embraced as official university policy and as a necessary part of being “antiracist.”

But just as the law eventually destroyed the Mob’s garbage cartels in the Big Apple, the law may finally be coming for the overt employment discrimination practiced on most campuses today. The form of the destructor may be a test case filed on September 10: Lowery v. Texas A&M University System.

September 12, 2022
By Marcus Pennell
The Washington Post

Excerpt: My birth certificate reads “Meghan.” But my peers at Northwest High School in Nebraska knew me as “Marcus.” Changing my name wasn’t supposed to be a political statement. But our local school board has turned it into one.

As a student at Northwest, I wrote for our newspaper, Viking Saga. In late March, we were told by the board we would no longer be allowed to publish any name that wasn’t on our birth certificate or use gender-variant pronouns. The Saga’s staff disagreed with the new policy. So with our next issue, we knew we wanted to make a statement. Whether the administration, parents or other students liked it or not, there were LGBTQ kids at Northwest, and taking away our liberty to be ourselves wasn’t going to change that. And then? The school board told us they were canceling our newspaper class starting the next academic year.

September 12, 2022
By Jeremy Young
Daily Beast

Excerpt: We’re in the midst of a legislative war on American education. At the heart of this conflict are educational gag orders—state legislative attempts to restrict teaching, training, and learning in K–12 schools and higher education.

Nineteen states, home to 122 million Americans, now have some sort of educational gag order on the books. The entire year can be summarized in a single word: escalation. And things are about to get even worse.

September 11, 2022
By Graeme Wood
The Atlantic

Excerpt: Discovering a point of agreement with a colleague is always alarming. The Atlantic wants more readers rather than fewer, after all, and agreement is poisonous for a subscription base, just as it is for intellectual culture. But here we are: Adam Serwer, in a counterargument to Caitlin Flanagan’s essay and my essay after last month’s attack on Salman Rushdie, agrees that the attack was ghastly and an assault on free speech.

Luckily he disagrees with us on everything else, in particular the association Flanagan and I drew between censorious attitudes in the United States and the rather more lethal censoriousness in Iran.

September 10, 2022
By The Editorial Board
New York Times

Excerpt: Fights about free speech can feel rhetorical until they are not. Here’s what censorship looks like in practice: A student newspaper and journalism program in Nebraska shuttered for writing about pride month. The state of Oklahoma seeking to revoke the teaching certificate of an English teacher who shared a QR code that directed students to the Brooklyn Public Library’s online collection of banned books. A newly elected district attorney in Tennessee musing openly about jailing teachers and librarians.

Acts of censorship are often tacit admissions of weakness masquerading as strength. This weakness is on full display with the imposition of so-called educational gag orders, laws which restrict the discussions of race, gender, sexuality and American history in K-12 and higher education.

September 9, 2022
By Katherine Knott
Inside Higher Ed

Excerpt: Missouri attorney general Eric Schmitt is misusing the state’s open records law to violate academic freedom and chill the speech of journalists by requesting emails from University of Missouri journalism school professors, PEN America, a free speech and literacy organization, said in a statement Thursday.

The Columbia Missourian reported last week that the state attorney general’s office had requested emails through the state’s sunshine law from two professors regarding their partnership with PolitiFact. The professors worked as editors at the Missourian, which the university supports financially.

September 9, 2022
By Marcela Rodrigues-Sherley
Chronicle of Higher Education

Excerpt: After the British royal family announced on Thursday that Queen Elizabeth II was sick, Uju Anya, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University, tweeted, “I heard the chief monarch of a thieving raping genocidal empire is finally dying. May her pain be excruciating.”

Anya then went to teach a three-hour graduate seminar, not anticipating what would happen next. Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, saw her tweet and responded with a judgment that unleashed a firestorm of criticism against the Nigerian-born academic.

September 9, 2022
By Amanda Nordstrom and Alex Morey
Foundation for Individual Rights in Expression

Excerpt: When three professors came to FIRE with allegations Claremont McKenna College took adverse action against them for quoting the racial slur, “n*****,” from works of literature in class, we got to work. We penned a letter to CMC asking for more information, and we urged the college to both abide by its strong academic freedom commitments and ensure it would not punish faculty for their pedagogically relevant speech.

 Our initial concerns remain, and we are freshly troubled that Chodosh is doubling down on practices that appear to threaten academic freedom.

September 8, 2022
By John Wilson
Inside Higher Ed

Excerpt: Gag orders on college campuses are all the rage right now, as Republican legislators seek to ban the discussion of critical race theory and other “divisive concepts” that offend conservative sensibilities. A new PEN America report, “America’s Censored Classrooms,” identified 137 educational gag bills introduced so far in 2022, compared to 54 in 2021, which marked a dramatic increase from previous years.

While these external attempts at censorship make headlines for the dire threat to academic freedom they pose, few academics are aware of the gag orders imposed by colleges themselves.