Latest News and Commentary: National

January 1, 2023
By Christopher Ferguson
Quillette

Excerpt: I’ve been teaching college for 25 years. I love my job, and I’ll probably die doing it. But the challenges I’ve seen for academia in the last few years are the worst I can remember. From the Right, politicians are attempting to diminish academic freedom, suppress speech, and weaken tenure. From the Left, implausible theories are enforced like sacred dogma by zealous activists, feckless administrators, and online mobs, creating a different, but equally dangerous attack on academic freedom. Public confidence in universities is dropping, as are enrollments. How bad is it for us professors, working in academia?

December 30, 2022
By Nico Perrino
Detroit News

Excerpt: The constituency for principled free speech advocacy grew smaller in 2022.

It was never that big in the first place. However, in recent years, free speech advocates benefited from a marriage of convenience with conservatives justifiably concerned about their side being censored in higher education, the media and by Big Tech. But now, some conservatives see “wokism” as a greater threat — and censorship an expedient tool to combat it.

December 27, 2022
By Roger Kimball
The Spectator

Excerpt: Peter Salovey must be fretting.

The longtime president of Yale University has done everything in his power to pander to the forces of woke identity politics. He changed the name of Calhoun College at Yale because students didn’t like that it was named after John C. Calhoun, a supporter of slavery in the early nineteenth century.

Salovey covered over or ripped out artwork across the university that a specially appointed committee deemed insensitive or offensive. He shoveled tens of millions of dollars into “diversity” initiatives in an effort to appease student crybullies.

December 27, 2022
By Harvey Silverglate
Boston Herald

Excerpt: Re-balancing our campuses would have beneficial effects well beyond economics. It would also massively reduce the number of student disciplinary cases that plague our college students who walk on eggshells for four years, lest they violate – frequently unknowingly – some subjective campus rule prohibiting speech that would be fully protected off-campus. Whereas “hate speech” is protected by the First Amendment in the greater society, on a non-public college campus, the First Amendment simply does not apply. Hence, it is a violation for a student to say something to a fellow student that some bureaucrat deems “demeaning” or “hateful.”

December 27, 2022
By MIT Free Speech Alliance

Excerpt: At last week’s final fall semester meeting of the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, attendees voted by a roughly 2 to 1 margin to adopt a formal university statement on freedom of expression. This welcome development comes roughly six months after a working group of MIT faculty proposed adopting it – one of ten recommendations the group made for improving MIT’s free expression climate. 

“The MIT Free Speech Alliance has from the beginning advocated the free expression statement’s adoption, and we’re very pleased to see the faculty take this step,” said MIT Free Speech Alliance President Charles Davis ‘87. “We especially commend the faculty who tirelessly fought for the statement’s adoption as it was debated this fall.”

December 23, 2022
By Jonathan Friedman, Kasey Meehan, Jeremy C. Young, Samantha LaFrance, Tasslyn Magnusson
PEN America

Excerpt: The past year has been a challenging and sometimes frightening year in education. Legislators, activists, and lobbyists have descended on both K-12 and higher education to censor, restrict, and intimidate. Most commonly, they have targeted curriculum and books about racism, gender, sex, and history, using fear to limit students’ educational horizons, and sending the message that some ideas—and even, some identities—do not belong in public schools, libraries, or universities. 

The state of educational censorship continues to worsen. But as any free speech advocate will tell you, efforts to censor often bring unexpected consequences: benign speech gets banned accidentally, laws backfire on their own supporters, and administrators scramble to define the undefinable.  

December 22, 2022
By Eugene Volokh
The Volokh Conspiracy, Reason Magazine

Excerpt: FIRE has the details, though you can also read the full brief (written by FIRE's Adam Steinbaugh and me, with many thanks to our excellent local counsel Zachary Phillipps of Wofsey Rosen Kewskin & Kuriansky, LLP). I've been writing about this law since 2010, so I'm especially pleased to have been involved in this case, where I hope the law will finally be cut back.

December 22, 2022
By Steven McGuire
Newswe

Excerpt: When Dictionary.com announced "woman" as its word of the year, it cited a spike in searches after Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson declined to define the word during her confirmation hearing. "It was a rare case of not just a word in the spotlight, but a definition," the site observed.

December 21, 2022
By Vimal Patel
Wall Street Journal

Excerpt: On the first day of the fall semester, Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the law school at the University of California, Berkeley, learned that a student group created a bylaw that banned supporters of Zionism from speaking at its events.

Mr. Chemerinsky said he rarely used profanity but did so in that moment. As a constitutional law scholar and co-author of a book about campus free speech, Mr. Chemerinsky said that he knew the group, the Berkeley chapter of Law Students for Justice in Palestine, had the legal right to exclude speakers based on their views. But he also knew the bylaw, which eight other student groups also adopted, would be polarizing within the law school and used as a cudgel by forces outside of it.