Latest News and Commentary: National

December 21, 2022
By Asra Q. Nomani

Excerpt: For years, two administrators at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJ) have been withholding notifications of National Merit awards from the school’s families, most of them Asian, thus denying students the right to use those awards to boost their college-admission prospects and earn scholarships. This episode has emerged amid the school district’s new strategy of “equal outcomes for every student, without exception.” School administrators, for instance, have implemented an “equitable grading” policy that eliminates zeros, gives students a grade of 50 percent just for showing up, and assigns a cryptic code of “NTI” for assignments not turned in. It’s a race to the bottom

December 20, 2022
By Tyler Coward
Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression

Excerpt: A bill filed in the Texas legislature ahead of the state’s 2023 session needs substantial reworking to pass constitutional muster. House Bill 1006 seeks to eliminate “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” offices at public colleges and universities in the state.

FIRE has no position on state funding for administrative DEI efforts at higher education institutions, provided that such restrictions do not undermine academic freedom.

However, the bill includes other provisions — some positive, and some unconstitutional — affecting free expression on campus.

December 20, 2022
By Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression

Excerpt: Most college students in the United States should be able to expect that freedom of expression will be upheld on their campuses. Public institutions are legally bound by the First Amendment, and the vast majority of private institutions promise their students free speech rights. However, FIRE’s annual review of our Spotlight database of speech codes reveals most schools maintain policies that infringe on those rights. 

December 19, 2022
By The Editorial Board
Wall Street Journal

Excerpt: Parodists have it rough these days, since so much of modern life and culture resembles the Babylon Bee. The latest evidence is that Stanford University administrators in May published an index of forbidden words to be eliminated from the school’s websites and computer code, and provided inclusive replacements to help re-educate the benighted.

December 19, 2022
By John Wilson
Academe Blog

Excerpt: Adam Kissel has written an article in the Federalist titled “The Smart Lawmaker’s Guide To Writing Anti-Critical Race Theory Laws That Will Stand Up In Court.” As scary as that headline is, the full essay is much more alarming in its open advocacy of repression.

Kissel’s piece was in response to a federal judge striking down Florida’s Stop WOKE Act that explicitly silenced professors who teach about “critical race theory” (CRT). But instead of criticizing political censorship by Republicans, Kissel is full of sympathetic advice on how to more effectively censor views he dislikes while evading that pesky First Amendment.

December 16, 2022
By Robin Beres
Bacon's Rebellion

Excerpt: The Cadet newspaper and The Cadet Foundation were honored, by unanimous acclimation, to become full members of the Alumni Free Speech Alliance (AFSA). By this honor, Virginia Military Institute (VMI) cadets, alumni, faculty. and staff at VMI now join a prestigious collection of alumni groups representing Ivy League and other major institutions of higher education across the United States. These include Bucknell, Cornell, Davidson, Harvard, Lafayette, Macalester, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton, Stanford, University of North Carolina, University of Virginia, Washington & Lee, Wofford, and Yale.

December 16, 2022
By Committee on Education & Labor Republicans
U.S. House of Representatives

Excerpt: “Freedom of speech and thought on college campuses is essential to one of the most important missions of the university: the search for truth. While censorship can come from the right or left, many colleges and universities are now zealously devoted to advancing left-wing ideas and are willing to disregard evidence and logic to do it. Universities should be a marketplace of ideas, not temples to a single political dogma.”

“When students or faculty speak out against established norms, they are canceled, fired, or otherwise stigmatized by peers and university administrators. This is not what our founding fathers intended for our country or for our universities.”

December 16, 2022
By Stephanie Saul and Vimal Patel
New York Times

Excerpt: Claudine Gay, the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, will be the university’s first Black leader, and the second woman. She will take office just as the university faces a Supreme Court decision on affirmative action.

Click here for link to full article

PFS Editor’s note: The Claudine Gay appointment should draw attention to her alleged role in Harvard's destruction of the career of its superstar black professor Roland Fryer, as detailed in an April 15, 2022 Quillette article by Rob Montz, headlined “Why Did Harvard University Go After One of Its Best Black Professors?” which we also excerpt below, at some length because the Quillette article is behind a paywall.

Excerpt: Roland Fryer Jr.’s life is a movie script: A man abandoned by his mom and raised by an alcoholic dad became the youngest black professor to ever secure tenure at Harvard University. After ascending to the academic elite, Fryer . . . put his genius to work investigating the most hotly contested issues of race in America, and translating his findings into concrete programs that dramatically improved the lives of poor black kids. . . More recently, Professor Fryer made national news when he jumped into an issue lying at the core of modern American race politics: police shootings.

[His and his colleagues’] findings, reported in 2016, didn’t entirely fit the usual narrative. . . . And this challenge to politically correct dogmas seems to have earned Fryer some powerful enemies at Harvard. . . .

Four years ago, Fryer’s critics got an opportunity to undermine him when a former administrative assistant accused him of sexual harassment. That complaint initiated a Title IX proceeding, an opaque process that even non-conservatives acknowledged as being vulnerable to abuse. . . . And then, all of a sudden, his career was derailed by an opaque sexual-harassment investigation. And no one seemed to want to say anything about it. Until now. Drawing on previously unreported documents and interviews with his colleagues and friends, my new documentary makes the argument that Professor Fryer was targeted for ideological reasons. Despite the best efforts of some of the university’s elite, Fryer is still at Harvard, but with severely downgraded status, denied the resources he once had, [his lab closed and employees dismissed],  and marked with a sexual-harassment stigma. . . .

Harvard’s own investigators ultimately found that Prof. Fryer had never sexually propositioned or touched anyone, and their original recommendation for punishment was “training” on setting boundaries. One of the six administrators [whose names Harvard has never disclosed] behind his punishment, Arts and Sciences Dean Claudine Gay, even reportedly went so far as to ask Harvard’s president to revoke Fryer’s tenure. It’s notable that other Title IX cases at Harvard involving professors charged with more serious offenses have resulted in significantly less severe punishments. Click here for link to full Quillette article.

December 16, 2022
By Francis Menton (a blogger and partner in Willkie, Farr & Gallagher)
Manhattan Contrarian

Excerpt: Yesterday I got two emails from Harvard University, as I presume all other Harvard alumni also did.  There’s big news:  the Presidential Search Committee has announced who will become the next President of the University.  It’s Claudine Gay, currently Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the largest constituent piece of the institution.  She will become President on July 1, 2023, when current President Larry Bacow steps down (after only five years).

The picture emerges of Gay as the enforcer-in-chief of wokist orthodoxy at Harvard.  I guess that’s the main qualification for the presidency today.

December 15, 2022
By Seminar by the Free Speech Center
First Amendment News and Insights from MTSU

Excerpt: They're the words that are so powerful that society largely refers to them with only an initial.

Yet the N-word and countless epithets fueled by racial, gender and other discrimination are inextricably tied to the study of history, literature and society. How can professors successfully navigate controversial language in their classroom? How does academic freedom apply? What about the use of controversial words by students? This seminar, led by Will Creeley, an attorney with the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, addresses these and other key issues facing America's professors.