Latest News and Commentary: National

January 9, 2022
By Ilana Redstone
Tablet Magazine

Excerpt: When I ask a room full of students why someone might support using race in determining college admissions, they usually have a few answers ready. They offer reasonable points like, “to offset historical and current disadvantage” or “because of the unique challenges that members of underrepresented groups face.” But the opposite question—why someone might oppose the use of race in college admissions—often yields one response: racism. When pressed, few students can come up with alternative suggestions; they struggle to think of any principled reason why someone might take that position. The asymmetry in the students’ ability to produce morally reasonable arguments for both positions is particularly notable given that, according to Pew, 73% of Americans agree with the statement that “colleges and universities should not consider race or ethnicity when making decisions about student admissions.”

A similar exercise can be repeated with other controversial topics like, for instance, white privilege.

January 9, 2022
By Ian Grenier
Daily Gamecock

Excerpt: In 2021, Republican politicians and public officials constantly tried to interfere with academic operations at South Carolina’s universities. This trend, which does not seem to be slowing, is a dangerous threat to academic freedom in South Carolina. In one example of this interference, Gov. Henry McMaster signed the “REACH Act” into law in April. This bill, which had been bounced around the state legislature for years, mandates that state universities require their students to take a class that teaches certain aspects of American history, including the country’s “founding documents.”

This threat is clearly shown by the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education’s (CHE) recent move to request section-specific syllabuses from USC and other universities to ensure compliance with the REACH Act. By trying to interfere in USC’s operations through bills like the Republican-sponsored REACH Act, Republicans are hoping to stop professors from teaching ideas that might stand against the GOP’s hard-right politics.

January 7, 2022
By Abby Cruz
ABC News

Excerpt: The University of Pennsylvania came under fire this week after a law professor made inflammatory comments about Asians and the Asian-American community during an interview. Amy Wax, in speaking to Brown University professor Glenn Loury on "The Glenn Show," said: "Maybe it's just that Democrats love open borders, and Asians want more Asians here. Perhaps they are just mesmerized by the feel-good cult of diversity. I don't know the answer, but as long as most Asians support Democrats and help to advance their positions, I think the United States is better off with fewer Asians and less Asian immigration."

Those comments sparked outrage on campus, with the dean of the law school calling them "anti-intellectual and racist." "Like all racist generalizations, Wax's recent comments inflict harm by perpetuating stereotypes and placing differential burdens on Asian students, faculty and staff to carry the weight of this vitriol and bias," Dean Theodore Ruger said in a statement.

January 6, 2022
By Matt Barnum

Excerpt: A planned San Antonio charter school was on the verge of winning final approval from the Texas Education Agency last August when a final set of requests arrived. Among them: The school needed to scrub its website and application of a quote by “How to Be an Antiracist” author Ibram X. Kendi.

In documents obtained by Chalkbeat, the agency indicated that the proposed school, Essence Preparatory, had included “statements, authors, or written works” violating a new Texas law that limits how race and slavery can be taught. But that law does not bar specific authors, and the quote does not appear to run afoul of any portion of the law. Essence Prep’s experience sheds new light on how laws opposing “critical race theory” are being used and interpreted behind the scenes. Texas’ enforcement also had practical consequences for the school, costing it both money and time.

January 6, 2022
By Michael Smith
Michael Smith's Law Blog

Excerpt: Earlier this week, Gail Heriot at the Volokh Conspiracy wrote a post criticizing the editors of the Emory Law Journal for refusing to publish an invited article after the author, Larry Alexander, refused to make substantial edits to the piece. Initially, Heriot did not include a copy of the article in her post--it was unclear if she did not have access to it or if she simply declined to do so. Instead, Heriot provided a paraphrased version of portions of the article and some heavily edited quotes from correspondence sent by the Editor-In-Chief to Alexander.

Once a link to the article was posted, commentators began to speak out in favor of the Emory Law Journal's decision, noting that it exercised reasonable editorial judgment in rejecting an unsupported and needlessly offensive article. Many of Alexander's initial defenders have not reacted to criticism of the article itself.

January 6, 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 5, 2022
By Greg Gonzalez
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

Excerpt: In 2021, FIRE was pleased to see the New Jersey Legislature overwhelmingly pass Senate Bill 108, a bill designed to protect student journalists, but we are a bit less excited about its recent enactment after last-minute changes to the text. 

The legislature first sent the bill to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk in June, but he returned it to the legislature using a conditional veto, which gave the legislature a choice: Accept amendments offered by the governor, attempt to override the veto, or let the bill die. Murphy’s conditional veto sought two changes, which were accepted in late December. While the governor’s addition of “obscenity” is not a problem because obscene content (actual obscenity, not “swear words”) is also unprotected, the inclusion of “profane” speech is a clear affront to students’ free speech rights.



January 5, 2022
By Aleksandra Appleton

Excerpt: Proponents and opponents squared off Wednesday over a sweeping bill to regulate how Indiana schools teach about race and racism. The hearing, the first of likely many about Senate Bill 167, covered the basics of the bill and included several hours of testimony. It would ban educators from teaching eight specific ideas, would give parents a say in regulating curriculum, and would require schools to post lessons and materials online.

The bill echoes the measures other conservative-led states have taken to excise from classrooms discussion about race. Its proponents argue that it would codify parental say over what their children learn in school, and would prevent the teaching of divisive ideas and political ideologies. Criticism of the bill ranged from its detailed requirements — like the burden on teachers to post lesson plans and materials online — to the chilling effect it could have on teaching and learning the history of racism.

January 5, 2022
By Charles Cooke
National Review

Excerpt: When confronted with the astonishing news that, henceforth, students at Yale “may not visit New Haven businesses or eat at local restaurants (even outdoors),” one might naturally wonder what sort of person would pay $60,000 to be locked down and told what to do. But the question answers itself:  Of course Yale’s students will comply. And, worse still, their doing so will not represent some egregious departure from the norm, but the latest exercise in the sort of obedient box-ticking that helped them get into Yale in the first place.
If Yale asks them to go outside and stand like flamingos in the quadrangle, they will do it. There is no incentive for Yale to be prudent here, because there is no incentive for its students to demand it be prudent. They’re not there to be respected; they’re there to get stamped. Knowing full well that Yale’s students need Yale more than Yale needs its students, Yale staffers have set the game up to benefit themselves.

January 4, 2022
By CBC News

Excerpt: A tenured Calgary professor who made headlines in 2020 for criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement and espousing the educational benefits of residential schools confirmed Tuesday she has been fired. Frances Widdowson had been an associate professor at Mount Royal University in the department of economics, justice and policy studies since 2008. She gained notoriety in 2020, when she said the Black Lives Matter movement had "destroyed" the university  [and] that residential schools gave Indigenous children an education that "normally they wouldn't have received."

This prompted more than 6,000 people to sign a petition calling for her firing. At the time, MRU president Tim Rahilly said the school was "reviewing the concerns in light of our strong commitment to academic freedom and freedom of expression and our established expectations of the behaviour of all members of the MRU community." On Tuesday, both MRU and Widdowson confirmed to CBC News that she had been fired.