Latest News and Commentary: National

May 26, 2021
By Ronald Krotoszynski Jr., professor at the University of Alabama School of Law
The Washington Post

Excerpt: Across the United States, state legislatures are showing a newfound interest in — and aversion to — critical race theory, or CRT, an academic movement that systematically considers how even seemingly neutral laws, regulations and social norms can have different impacts on particular racial and ethnic groups. It examines how legislatures at times target racial minorities for adverse treatment — such as recent voter suppression laws in Arizona, Georgia and Iowa — and, at other times, are simply indifferent to how new laws will impact those outside the majority.

These laws are both misguided and unconstitutional; they constitute bad educational policy, and in the higher education context, they violate the First Amendment. The federal courts should reflexively invalidate anti-CRT laws on First Amendment grounds.

 

May 26, 2021
By Kate Scanlon
Catholic News Agency

Excerpt: Jack Denton, a Catholic member of Florida State University’s class of 2021, was removed from his position as president of the student senate last June after comments he made in a private GroupMe text messaging forum were made public.

Denton was later reinstated to his position by the student supreme court in October, which said it agreed with him that his removal as head of the student senate was part of “unconstitutional retaliation for his private statements” and a First Amendment violation.  However, Denton sued the university on Aug. 31, 2020, alleging that his religious freedom was violated and that the university’s leadership failed to reinstate him. This week, the university reached a settlement with Denton, agreeing to pay his lost wages from the loss of his office, as well as $10,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees.

 

May 26, 2021
By Scott Shackford
Reason Magazine

Excerpt: Boise State University canceled 55 classes of diversity-themed ethics courses in March all because of a single complaint that a white student was "mistreated and demeaned" in class. A subsequent independent investigation found no evidence that such an incident ever happened.

At the same time this complaint was filed, though, lawmakers were proposing cutting more than $400,000 from the university's budget. This budget cut was put forth by Republican lawmakers upset by social justice and critical race theory they believe is taught there. The timing of the anonymous complaint and the drastic action taken by the university, coupled with the lawmakers' attack on college funding, looks a lot like culture war political combat pitting conservative politicians against progressive academics. The college was not rewarded for capitulating to lawmakers. Instead, lawmakers in early May cut a total of $1.5 million from the university's budget.

May 26, 2021
By Matt Reed
Confessions of a Community College Dean, Inside Higher Ed

Excerpt: Academic freedom isn’t license to spout whatever you want. It’s a hunting license for truth. It’s a suspension of disbelief in the name of discovering or confronting truth. Sometimes the truth is unpopular, or in conflict with powerful interests. Big Tobacco wasn’t happy with the scientists who found the link between smoking and lung cancer. But the link was the truth, and we are better off as a society for knowing that. Certain powerful industries aren’t happy about the scientific consensus that has developed over decades regarding anthropogenic climate change. But the data are the data. In Hannah-Jones’s case, a powerful political group doesn’t want to hear anything negative about American history. But the facts are the facts, whether you want to hear them or not.

May 26, 2021
By John W. Childs
Real Clear Politics

Excerpt: The fathers of Yale University chose as their motto Lux et Veritas – “Light and Truth.” Well, it looks like the Lux just went out at Yale. It seems that the Yale Corporation has just learned what successful communist regimes have always known: free speech and free elections are dangerous to the establishment.

Typically, Yale handpicks its slate of candidates [for its board]. However, a token exception in the rules has permitted alumni to petition the university to nominate a candidate for the slate. It’s a rigorous process, requiring so many alumni signatures – more than 4,000 this round – that few made it onto the ballot.  

In the 2021 elections, such a candidate was Victor Ashe, Class of 1967. Ashe, a former mayor of Knoxville, Tennessee, and ambassador to Poland, is something of a conservative – and, horrors, a known donor to Republican political campaigns. He managed to win enough support to make it onto the official slate. No mean achievement – and apparently enough to panic Yale’s leadership.

 

May 25, 2021
By Andrea Morris
Christian Broadcasting Network

Summary: The University of Alabama’s Young Americans for Liberty chapter has sued the school for its unconstitutional free speech policies. Attorneys from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a nonprofit religious freedom law firm which is representing the students, allege that the university’s policy that requires students to receive official approval five days before “expressive activities” on campus are a violation of state and federal law. This policy allows university administrators to decide what sort of viewpoints and types of protest are allowed on campus, which directly violates the FORUM Act, which forbids university administrations from requiring students to receive prior approval for speech-related events.

 

May 25, 2021
By Leslie Postal
Orlando Sentinel

Excerpt: Ron DeSantis ran for governor promising to make civics education a priority in Florida’s public schools. He’s fulfilling that by pushing reforms to celebrate “the success of the United States” and to ensure no one is “teaching kids to hate their country.” But critics see his efforts as injecting “highly partisan” and “highly biased” content into the curriculum, with an inappropriate dose of religious values.

They don’t like that proposed academic benchmarks ask students to understand “the influence of the Ten Commandments” and identify “disorderly protesting” as a characteristic of “irresponsible citizenship.” DeSantis’ education commissioner, Richard Corcoran, added fuel to those complaints when he spoke earlier this month at Hillsdale College, a conservative Christian school in Michigan tapped to help Florida revamp civics lessons. Corcoran said his goal was to “keep all of the crazy liberal stuff out” of state classrooms.

 

 

May 25, 2021
By Aaron Terr
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

Summary: An independent investigation of Boise State University’s decision to abruptly suspend 55 diversity-based classes taken by 1,300 students in total has found that the suspension’s precipitating event – allegations that a white student was harassed and demeaned on the basis of her race – did not actually occur.

The closest incident to the one used to justify the course suspension was an instance where a student left a class early in tears after calling her instructor’s logic “stupid.” However, this professor defended the student from her peers objections. Additionally, the student informed investigators that she did not feel disrespected by professor in any way.  The likelier explanation for this suspension is that it was an attempt by Boise State’s administration to appease lawmakers shortly before a budget vote that would have cut the school’s funding.  This move failed; the school’s funding has been cut by approximately $1.5 million.

May 24, 2021
By Jonathan Turley
jonathanturley.org

Summary:  Jeffrey Lax, a professor and Deputy Chair of Columbia’s Political Science department, has come under fire for harassing Gabriel Montalvo, a student of Baruch College. Mantalvo attempted to defend former President Donald Trump on a Facebook post critical of Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis. In response, Lax called Mantalvo a “Neo-Nazi murderer lover,” and also comments, “[why] don’t you just drop dead, you Neo-Nazi enabler.”

These comments from Lax could be seen emblematic of a growing trend among certain left-wing academic circles to dismiss any politically disagreeable arguments as malicious or otherwise harmful. Mantalvo has not called for Lax’s firing for his social media outburst, and considering these statements were made as an individual, it is unlikely that there is any ground for professional consequences.

Lax every right to expose his true self on social media. Indeed, social media helps expose such blind rage and bias in such moments. If he shows the same intolerance and anger in class, Columbia should take immediate action. Until then, he has every right to make a complete fool of himself.

 

May 22, 2021
By Alex Parker
RedState

Summary: John Staddon, Duke University professor emeritus of psychology and neuroscience, has been removed from a prestigious email listserv run by the Society for Behavioral Neuroscience and Comparative Psychology Division 6. Professor Staddon was kicked out of the listserv after he questioned the idea that sex is not binary. The listserv’s managers argue that Professor Staddon’s posts violates its code of conduct, which condemns “all forms of discrimination.” However, this same code of conduct also expresses support for expressing differences in opinion and perspective.