Latest News and Commentary: National

December 24, 2021
By Sarah Bahr
New York Times

Excerpt: In the summer of 2020, shortly after the murder of George Floyd, Kelly Latimore, a white artist who grew up surrounded by images of a white Jesus, decided to make a course correction. He’d paint the Virgin Mary and Jesus with gold halos encircling their heads — and both would be Black. Also, his image of Jesus would resemble Floyd, a Black man who had been killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis.

The painting, titled “Mama,” attracted little notice in February after a copy was installed at the law school of the Catholic University of America in Washington. But in November, The Daily Signal, a conservative website, published an article about the work and about the university’s recently published report on diversity and inclusion, and students created a petition calling for its removal. That month, the painting was stolen.

December 23, 2021
By Jeffrey Sachs
PEN America

Excerpt: Last week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis introduced the Stop W.O.K.E Act, a bill he says would allow parents to sue school districts that teach “critical race theory” and, if they win, to recoup legal costs. Critics warn that this private right of action, similar to one contained in Texas’s controversial anti-abortion law, marks a new front in the education culture war and will drown school districts in costly litigation.

Nothing about it is new. PEN America has been closely tracking these educational gag orders which prohibit teachers from discussing certain topics related to race, sex, and American history in the classroom. Sixty-six have been introduced so far in 2021, and not counting Florida’s bill, nine include a private right of action. Two of these nine bills have died, but six are either pending or have been prefiled for the 2022 legislative session and one has become law.

December 23, 2021
By Sophie Corso
The College Fix

Excerpt: Officials at Purdue University had two students arrested and turned over to the county for criminal prosecution after they hung up posters criticizing an administrator for his handling of sexual assault allegations.

Students Allison Vaglica (pictured) and Richard Lu were booked by the public university’s police department and turned over to Tippecanoe County, according to police reports recently obtained by The College Fix.

There has not been a court date set as of December 22, according to a docket search of the county court system

December 22, 2021
By Corey Friedman
The Wilson Times

Excerpt: School boards, superintendents and principals in the Garden State are on notice: No more censorship thinly disguised as teaching. New Jersey became the 15th state to enact New Voices legislation on Tuesday, when Gov. Phil Murphy signed Senate Bill 108 into law. High school student journalists now have the right to report the news without administrative interference.

The victory for free speech and press freedom didn’t come easily. State lawmakers first introduced a New Voices bill in December 2015 following two censorship controversies — one school removed a newspaper adviser who stood up for his students and another tried to block the publication of an investigative story on the district superintendent’s alleged misconduct. Such shenanigans are now against the law in New Jersey, but unless you live in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont or Washington, they can happen anytime at your local high school.

December 21, 2021
By Angela Morabito
Campus Reform

Excerpt: Speech First, a group that advocates for college students’ First Amendment rights, has joined with Southeastern Legal Foundation to ask the Supreme Court to end race discrimination in college admissions. The two organizations jointly filed an amicus brief in the case of Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina (SFFA v. UNC). They write, “The Court should vindicate the cause of free speech on campus by abandoning the theory that racial discrimination is worth tolerating in higher education because it supposedly advances First Amendment goals.”

As Campus Reform has reported, a federal court in North Carolina ruled in October that UNC is permitted to continue using race as a factor in admissions. Students for Fair Admissions appealed the ruling, though the Supreme Court has not yet said whether it will take up the case.

 

December 21, 2021
By Brianna Calix
Fresno Bee

Excerpt: A former medical student is seeking a public apology and to be reinstated as a student at California Health Sciences University in Clovis in a lawsuit that alleges the school violated his First Amendment rights over racist and discriminatory comments he made. Nicholas Sciaroni, a Fresno native who served in the U.S. Army, made the allegations in a lawsuit filed Dec. 13 in Fresno County Superior Court. Sciaroni formerly attended Fresno State, where he helped revive the campus Turning Point club.

The lawsuit says Sciaroni’s classmates and school guests were offended by derogatory comments he made about people of color and immigrants, among other things. One classmate alleged Sciaroni stated, “This country is going to turn into a third world shit hole full of mud houses because of immigrants.” The university’s investigation found Sciaroni admitted encouraging classmates to Google the phrase “White family,” but he denied referencing a Jewish conspiracy theory.

December 20, 2021
By Margaret Peppiatt
The College Fix

Excerpt: Students at Lewis & Clark College are calling for the dismissal of an English professor for alleged “inappropriate behaviors” and “harmful messages,” according to some of his students. Earlier in the fall semester, William Pritchard, an associate professor of English, penned a two-page apology letter and read it out loud in class after showing a movie clip with blackface and facilitating a discussion on the subject that students perceived as defending blackface.

But the apology did not ease students’ concerns, as they have described it as performative and lacking sincerity, and they have since lodged more allegations against the scholar, who has worked at the Oregon-based college since 2003. Students from three of his English courses have signed on to a 14-page letter arguing he should be terminated for “inadequate performance and repeated violation of duly adopted policies of the college.”

December 20, 2021
By Corey Kendig
The College Fix

Excerpt: Tom Hafer is a Massachusetts Institute of Technology alumnus who cares deeply for his alma mater, so much so that he’s withdrawing his financial support in order to help save it.

Hafer graduated more than 50 years ago, but said in a telephone interview he cannot support the school until it renews its commitment to free speech and academic freedom. He’s helped launch an alumni group called the MIT Free Speech Alliance, which encourages other alumni with similar concerns to join in the effort.

“What the free speech alliance is doing makes me have hope for MIT,” Hafer said. “It shows me that if change is going to happen, it has to start with the people, and not the administration.”

One of Hafer’s main concerns is MIT’s decision earlier in the fall semester to disinvite University of Chicago Professor Dorian Abbot as the keynote speaker for a prestigious annual lecture. Abbot is under fire for his criticisms of diversity, equity and inclusion. Hafer is concerned about other issues, too. In a November column he co-authored for City Journal, he also referenced MIT’s new mandatory diversity training.

December 19, 2021
By Kenin Spivak
National Review

Excerpt:  Two weeks ago, Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit on behalf of Kari MacRae, a Massachusetts high-school teacher recently fired in retaliation for social-media posts objecting to critical race theory and gender fluidity in schools. The complaint alleges that the district was particularly concerned with a TikTok video MacRae posted before being hired.

The legal battle over cancel culture is intensifying. Remarkably, schools and universities often admit that their actions are predicated on centrist or conservative views expressed by educators, or their refusal to embrace so-called anti-racist seminars. Schools assert that such views and behavior constitute hate speech, insubordination, and lack of collegiality. The National Association of Scholars tracks disciplinary actions taken against university educators for writing or speaking against progressive dogma. From January 2020 through October 2021, NAS recorded 127 incidents, including at least 50 in which a professor was terminated, forced to resign, or placed on administrative leave.

December 18, 2021
By Anna Krylov and Jay Tanzman
Quillette

Excerpt: Earlier this year, I (Anna) did something that my friends feared I would come to regret: I publicly spoke out against the intrusion of illiberal thought into science and education, with a letter entitled The Peril of Politicizing Science, published on June 10th in The Journal of Physical Chemistry. In that letter, I drew on my own early life in the USSR, where communist “ideology permeated all aspects of life, and survival required strict adherence to the party line and enthusiastic displays of ideologically proper behavior.” I noted that certain names and ideas are now forbidden within academia for ideological reasons, just as had been the case in my youth.

Although some did try to cancel me, I received a flood of encouraging emails from others who share my concern with the process by which radical political doctrines are being injected into STEM pedagogy, and by which objective science is being subjugated to regressive moralization and censorship.