Latest News and Commentary: National

September 6, 2021
By Anugrah Kumar
Christian Post

Excerpt: A Christian teacher in Virginia, who was fired for refusing to refer to a trans-identified student by using male pronouns even though the student is female, has appealed his case to the state Supreme Court. Peter Vlaming, who taught French at West Point High School for seven years, appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court after the Circuit Court for the County of King William dismissed the case, conservative legal firm Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing Vlaming, said in a statement.

Vlaming was placed on administrative leave in 2018 after he said he couldn’t in good conscience comply with the superintendent’s order to refer to a female student as a male. However, the teacher consistently used the student’s preferred name instead of the student’s given name, and although he attempted to avoid the use of any pronouns in an effort to accommodate the student, he was nonetheless directed to cease “avoiding the use of male pronouns” to refer to the student, even when the student wasn’t present, ADF said.

September 5, 2021
By Lee Beaudrot
FSUNew.com

Excerpt: Students who have recently started classes for the semester may have noticed a new addition to the traditional first day review of policies and expectations. Professors and instructors have introduced the “Intellectual and Viewpoint Diversity Bill” in the state Senate. However, the actual contents of the bill and the motivations behind it are much less innocuous.

The basic contents of the bill, passed just a few months ago include:

    A provision that allows students to film during classes but prohibits posting said videos online.
    Instituting an annual survey of faculty and students at Florida public universities that asks about their political and social views.
    A somewhat confusing attempt to prevent universities from “shielding” students from certain types of speech.

The information given on the first day of classes is just the tip of the iceberg. The bill is meant to ensure that publicly funded universities in Florida aren’t acting as so-called "indoctrination" centers. The governor said as much when he signed the bill.

 

September 4, 2021
By Jonathan Turley
jonathanturley.org

Excerpt: Faculty across the country are being asked or required to take courses on diversity and equity as part of anti-racism programs. There are remarkable differences between these programs, including one at the Colorado University at Boulder where faculty and graduate students are taught to shed the “cultural norms of white supremacy” and to “decolonize” their classes.

The university’s Equitable Teaching Conference, hosted by the University’s Center for Teaching and Learning, included a session titled “Anti-racist pedagogy and decolonizing the classroom,” taught by Dr. Becca Ciancanelli.  One of the slides reportedly warned against “perfectionism,” “sense of urgency,” “quantity over quality,” and “individualism” as “Cultural norms of White Supremacy.”

The presentation at Boulder suggests that faculty and students should avoid individualism as a trapping of white supremacy in their own lives.

September 4, 2021
By The Economist

Excerpt: Something has gone very wrong with Western liberalism. At its heart classical liberalism believes human progress is brought about by debate and reform. The best way to navigate disruptive change in a divided world is through a universal commitment to individual dignity, open markets and limited government. At home, populists on the right and left rage at liberalism for its supposed elitism and privilege.

As young graduates, many illiberal progressives, have taken jobs in the upmarket media and in politics, business and education, they have brought with them a horror of feeling “unsafe” and an agenda obsessed with a narrow vision of obtaining justice for oppressed identity groups. They have also brought along tactics to enforce ideological purity. Progressives of the old school remain champions of free speech. But illiberal progressives think that equity requires the field to be tilted against those who are privileged and reactionary. That means restricting their freedom of speech.

See also https://www.economist.com/briefing/2021/09/04/how-did-american-wokeness-jump-from-elite-schools-to-everyday-life and

https://www.economist.com/briefing/2021/09/04/left-wing-activists-are-using-old-tactics-in-a-new-assault-on-liberalism

 

September 2, 2021
By Katie Mulvaney
The Providence Journal

Excerpt: A Superior Court judge has ruled for Rhode Island College in a long-running dispute over a former graduate student’s allegations that the college violated his free-speech rights and retaliated against him based on his conservative political views.

Judge Susan E. McGuirl this week dismissed a lawsuit brought against Rhode Island College by William J. Felkner, finding that the school and its faculty were shielded from liability by qualified immunity -- a legal doctrine that safeguards government officials from being sued for damages for constitutional violations, unless they breached a clearly established law or constitutional right.

McGuirl concluded in the 32-page decision that existing case law clearly establishes that “academic disputes are within the realm of academic freedom and discretion,” and as such the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity based on the facts as presented.

 

September 2, 2021
By Eboni Springfield
The Northern Iowan

Excerpt: The return to campus has been long-awaited by students, faculty and staff. As young scholars fill the seats of classrooms and cafeterias, student organizations fill laptops with content and information, athletes and gravity defiers push limits in the Wellness and Recreation Center, there is one thing students must know.

There is a new free speech policy recognized by all Iowa state universities. The Board of Regents and the state of Iowa have made sure the thoughts and beliefs of students are welcomed and encouraged on UNI’s campus. This applies to every student, no matter how big or small the idea may be, or how common or unpopular the opinion.

Interestingly enough, in 2021, all three Iowa state universities need to be reminded of what it means for a campus to support free speech even though this basic human right has been protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution since 1791, almost 230 years ago.

September 2, 2021
By Melanie Lefkowitz
Cornell Chronicle

Excerpt: The relationship between truth, democracy and freedom of expression will be explored in the first event of the 2021 Peter ’69 and Marilyn ’69 Coors Conversation Series.

The Sept. 9 forum will feature Robert P. George, the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University; and Cornel West, the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Chair at Union Theological Seminary.

The series, which launched in fall 2019, brings together speakers with diverse political viewpoints and provides the Ithaca campus community with a forum for intellectual discourse on difficult yet timely issues.

September 2, 2021
By Christian Schneider
The College Fix

Excerpt: Sarah McLaughlin started working at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education back in 2012 as part of Drexel University’s undergraduate co-op program, where she worked directly with students and faculty facing rights violations as part of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program. In recent years, she’s turned her attention to the relationship between American higher education and the rest of the world, writing smart, insightful pieces about the influence of foreign governments on campus free speech rights in the U.S.

The Fix interviewed McLaughlin about the threat American education faces from foreign influence and what can be done about it.

September 1, 2021
By John Warner
Inside Higher Ed

Excerpt: With its recently released update to its “Scholars Under Fire” database, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education wants us to know that the threats to scholarly speech have “risen dramatically” since 2015, and that the primary threat comes from students from the political left.

It’s worth examining how (and perhaps why) FIRE came to this conclusion, what their system of classification misses, and also to understand why attempts to quantify threats to free speech and academic freedom are generally unhelpful when it comes to navigating these complicated issues.

Inside Higher Ed’s Colleen Flaherty outlines some of shortcomings of FIRE’s methodology in her write-up of the database. For one, FIRE chooses to not count instances of harassment that don’t carry at least a potential threat of professional sanction as threats to speech.

September 1, 2021
By Katie Shepherd
The Washington Post

Excerpt: At a heated Texas school board meeting in late July, a man accused a Black principal of promoting critical race theory and “the conspiracy theory of systemic racism.” The man named the principal several times during his remarks, despite a school board policy barring direct attacks. Just over a month later, the district has suspended Colleyville Heritage High School Principal James Whitfield without explanation, he told The Washington Post on Tuesday.

“I was not given any clear reasoning behind the decision and was not given a timetable regarding further steps,” Whitfield said in a Facebook message. “I was simply told that it was in the best interest of the district.” Kristin Snively, a spokeswoman for the district, stated over email, “The decision to place Dr. Whitfield on administrative leave was not a result of the complaints made by members of the community against him.”