Latest News and Commentary: National

January 4, 2022
By Dara Kam
Gainesville Sun

Excerpt: A federal judge on Monday refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by University of Florida professors challenging a policy that gives the school discretion in blocking faculty members from testifying against the state in legal cases. Political science professors Sharon Austin, Michael McDonald and Daniel Smith filed the lawsuit after university officials denied their requests to serve as plaintiffs’ witnesses in a legal battle about a new state elections law (SB 90) that will, in part, make it harder for Floridians to vote by mail.

University leaders last month asked Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Walker to toss the lawsuit, arguing in part that the case is “moot” because administrators have changed the conflict-of-interest policy. But Judge Walker on Monday refused to stop the case from advancing, finding that the professors face a “credible threat” that future requests will be denied.

January 4, 2022
By Gail Heriot
The Volokh Conspiracy, Reason Magazine

Excerpt: Being a conservative can make it a little harder to get one's articles published in a traditional law review. And if one is writing about race or sex, it can be quite a bit harder.

I was therefore pleased to learn that my colleague Larry Alexander—one of the University of San Diego's Warren Distinguished Professors of Law—had been invited to write for the Emory Law Journal and that Larry had chosen to write on a race-related theme. But it was not to be. After offering to publish Larry's essay and then trying to edit away the meat of his argument, the ELJ has now withdrawn its acceptance. Editor-in-Chief Danielle Kerker sent an ultimatum to Larry: Either "greatly revise" the essay or the ELJ will have to "withdraw[] our publication offer." Larry understood how destructive to academic values it would be to cower under such pressure. He declined to revise the article.  Good for him.

January 2, 2022
By Isaac Willour
National Review

Excerpt: On November 10, a petition emerged online alleging that Grove City College was being threatened by critical race theory. The petition cites a 2020 presentation by author Jemar Tisby, a single elective course offered at the college, and questionable statements allegedly made by GCC’s director of multicultural initiatives as tantamount to “threatening the academic and spiritual foundations that make the school distinctly Christian.”

The petition gained hundreds of signatures, and the issue garnered coverage from American Reformer and The Daily Wire, as well as a plethora of articles and YouTube videos, all aimed at answering the question: Has Grove City “gone woke”? As a current Grove City student and a journalist who covers ideological trends on college campuses, I believe the question is well worth investigating.

It’s important to note at the outset that I do not write to defend CRT.  I write because conservatives have long defended the values of free speech and open inquiry on campus. We know the importance of defending such speech against leftist attempts at censorship. But we should also defend speech against any attempt to suppress it from our own side.

December 31, 2021
By Harvey J. Graff
Publishers Weekly

Excerpt: In late 2021, I’m confronted with the call to ban books in innumerable circumstances; second, the banning of written literature without reading it; and, third, calls for burning books. This constitutes a movement for illiteracy, not a campaign for approved or selective uses of reading and writing.

Despite media comments and condemnation by professors, teachers, librarians, and First Amendment attorneys, these issues are poorly understood. Parents of school-age children are confused. The young, supposedly in the name of their protection, face the greatest threat to intellectual and psychological development. That danger is most severe for the racially and gender diverse, who see themselves being erased or banned.

 

December 30, 2021
By Joshua Kendall
New York Magazine

Excerpt: The trajectory of Bandy Lee’s life had taken a strange turn of late. A widely respected scholar who has authored over 100 peer-reviewed articles and either written or edited a dozen academic books on violence, Lee was an assistant clinical professor in the law and psychiatry department at Yale for 17 years until the summer of 2020, when Yale declined to renew her contract. The precipitating offense? Tweeting about the retired Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz.

On January 2, 2020, Lee posted a few tweets about a comment that Dershowitz had made in response to an accusation by one of Jeffrey Epstein’s victims that Epstein had forced her to have sex with Dershowitz. Dershowitz was enraged. On January 11, Dershowitz fired off a typo-strewn five-sentence email to several top Yale officials, in which he accused Lee of breaking the Goldwater Rule -- — the ethical guideline designed to prevent psychiatrists from rendering a professional opinion of a public figure without first receiving permission and conducting an examination —  by publicly diagnosing him as psychotic.

December 29, 2021
By Jeffrey McCall
The Hill

Excerpt: College administrators are now acknowledging they have created environments on their campuses that diminish free expression and choke intellectual liveliness. For years, the game plan was to simply disavow the stifling of free expression on college campuses, while at the same time imposing speech codes, running ideological orientation programs, and hiring faculty and student affairs staffers who all think alike. That denial strategy, however, has become unworkable as alums, prospective students and the public at large signal that the game is up.

Acknowledgement that some colleges lack true commitment to free expression, backhanded as it was, came in a report released late in the fall semester by the Academic Leaders Task Force on Campus Free Expression, an initiative of the Bipartisan Policy Center. The report was entitled, “Campus Free Expression: A New Roadmap.” That such a report had to be generated is an admission that free expression principles had drifted away at many colleges and universities.

 

December 28, 2021
By Charlotte Waldron
The College Fix

Excerpt: A former University of Wisconsin system lecturer turned Republican legislator introduced legislation to hold public universities accountable for violations of free speech and academic freedom. Republican Rachael Cabral-Guevara’s legislation would eliminate free speech zones, prohibit security fees based on the “anticipated content of speech or anticipated reaction to speech,” require an annual survey of students and staff to assess the speech climate on campus and protect academic freedom.

The goals of the legislation would be enforced through a potential loss of state grant money. The attorney general, a district attorney and individuals who had their free speech rights on campus violated could bring a lawsuit against the trustees of the particular college. The Wisconsin Technical College System supports the free speech protections and the surveys but said it is concerned about the loss of student financial aid as a punishment for violations. The UW-Madison faculty are also opposed to the legislation.

 

December 27, 2021
By Charles Houseworth
The North State Journal

Excerpt: A new alumni led group is forming to promote free speech, diversity of opinion, stimulating debate, and academic freedom at UNC-Chapel Hill.  UNC-CH has tens of thousands, probably over a hundred thousand, alumni worldwide.  The UNC Free Speech Alliance will be a force to ensure that all UNC stakeholders, but particularly alumni, are given a strong voice.

The UNC-CH group is part of a growing trend among alumni groups across the United States that are being formed out of frustration by what they see as increasing restrictions on free speech and diversity of opinion at their colleges and universities.  A national alliance has been formed of ten such groups.  This Alumni Free Speech Alliance (AFSA) includes groups representing alumni at Cornell, Davidson, MIT, the University of Virginia, Washington & Lee, Yale, Lafayette, Princeton, VMI, and Wofford. The UNC-CH group will soon be seeking formal membership in AFSA.

 

December 27, 2021
By Philip Carl Salzman
Minding the Campus

Excerpt: The Enlightenment ideal of the university is a community of scholars seeking the truth. The methodology of this ideal is a multiplicity of voices and views engaged in discussion and debate, in seeking and adducing evidence, and in drawing and challenging conclusions. Western universities have gradually but decisively moved away from the Enlightenment ideal. Many institutions have formally committed to Black Lives Matter, “anti-racism,” and societal transformation. Today’s “social justice” university has prioritized the political goals commonly conceptualized as “diversity, equity, inclusion.” These goals are applied within the university through policies that shape admissions, funding, hiring, promotion, residences, ceremonies, and awards.

In practice, “social justice” means preferential treatment for females and certain minorities along with the marginalization of overperforming minorities such as Asians (a.k.a. “white adjacent”) and Jews (a.k.a. “hyper-white”). It also necessitates discrimination against all males and the majority of whites and Christians. Assessment tools such as standardized exams, for example at the University of California, are abandoned altogether to guarantee equal outcomes between demographic groups.

Either academic freedom will be defended, or the university will become a political cult in which nothing but approved ideological truths may be spoken.

 

December 27, 2021
By Justin Klawans
Newsweek

Excerpt: A proposed Oklahoma state law would allow parents to seek up to $10,000 for each day a book is kept in their child's school library after it was nominated for removal.

The proposed law, Senate Bill [SB] 1142, was introduced to the state legislature on December 16 and would go into effect during the 2022-2023 academic year if passed. It would affect both public school districts and public charter schools throughout the state.

SB 1142 would allow parents who believed their child's school was carrying a book in violation of the law to "submit a written request to the school district superintendent or charter school administrator to remove the book."