Latest News and Commentary: National

December 15, 2022
By Colleen Flaherty
Inside Higher Ed

Excerpt: The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Academic Senate approved guidelines for departmental statements on political subjects earlier this month. The guidance doesn’t—and, as mere advice, can’t—ban statements about social or political issues. But it doesn’t endorse such statements, either.

“Departments as such should avoid statements on what we call here ‘external’ matters (state, national, or international policy matters),” the guidelines say. Any such declarations, where deemed necessary, should instead be signed by specific professors. Those in the department with dissenting views should be able to express them in the same forum, the guidance also says.

December 14, 2022
By Safia Abdulahi
Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression

Excerpt: You don’t have to spend much time on MSNBC or Fox—or even the congressional deliberations on C-SPAN, for that matter—to see that Americans’ collective ability to engage in civil discourse is in doubt. Colleges are not immune, as evidenced by speaker shutdowns and students’ own doubts about whether they can speak freely on campus.

It was with those concerns in mind that Ryan Kennedy, an associate professor of political science at the University of Houston, sought and received an institutional grant to create a co-curricular program with small group discussions, moderated by well-trained peers, about some of the most contentious issues facing society today.

December 14, 2022
By Arien Wagen
Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression

Excerpt: When I started at Northeastern University in fall 2020, I had no idea how I wanted to spend my time as an undergraduate. Northeastern’s campus environment is shaped by its cooperative education (or “co-op”) program, and students tend to be very career focused. Most Northeastern students major in STEM or business fields. 

When I came across FIRE’s Campus Scholars program, I saw an opportunity to share my interests with the broader Northeastern community. With the help of FIRE as well as the Intercollegiate Studies Institute and members of the Ortelian Society, I hosted two mini-conferences to start conversations about free speech and civil discourse on campus.

December 12, 2022
By Bion Bartning
Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism

Excerpt: In July 2020, Timothy Jackson, a professor and scholar of music theory at the University of North Texas (UNT), published an article about Heinrich Schenker, an Austrian Jew who developed a system of music theory that became widely influential after World War II. He wrote the article in response to another professor’s claim that “Schenkerian theory is an institutionalized racial structure . . . that exists to benefit members of the dominant white race of music theory” and that music theory suffers from “deep-seated whiteness.”

December 12, 2022
By David French
Persuasion

Excerpt: A few years ago I was invited to an off-the-record meeting with senior executives at a major social media company. The topic was free speech. I’d just written a piece for the New York Times called “A better way to ban Alex Jones.” My position was simple: If social media companies want to create a true marketplace of ideas, they should look to the First Amendment to guide their policies. 

How does all this apply to Twitter, Facebook and every other large social media platform on the planet? First, it means giving up the quest for a free speech utopia and embracing viewpoint neutrality. There is no way to create any meaningful free speech environment that allows for actual debate while protecting participants from hurtful ideas or painful speech.

December 12, 2022
By Ryan Hall
Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism

Excerpt: Earlier this year, I was fired by Western Kentucky University after I canceled my classes to protest the bias and politicization happening on campus and in the classroom. In the last year, students had repeatedly admitted to me that they simply ape their professors' politics to get through their coursework, and to avoid confrontation or grading bias.

I hate that I must state this to forestall the obvious labels many will attach to me, but I am a liberal. I've never voted for a conservative in my life. I see racism being lauded as equality, and former defenders of free speech are now among the most censorious. “Liberal” means something wholly different to the latest batch of college administrators and education school graduates who have quickly declared new, hardly-examined rules by which we must all live.

December 9, 2022
By Andrew Koppelman
Chronicle of Higher Education

Excerpt: The federal courts are creating a new constitutional right: Public-college teachers can now impose their religious beliefs on students. Only two such cases have been decided thus far, but their rulings come from high federal courts, one from the U.S. Supreme Court and the other from a federal court of appeals. Their similarity of approach, and their resemblance to other extravagant recent treatments of religious liberty by the justices, is grounds for alarm.

December 8, 2022
By Mike LaChance
Legal Insurrection

Excerpt: The next Harvard University president must champion free speech for the sake of the university’s integrity and reputation, according to a new petition signed by students, faculty and alumni. There is a culture at Harvard “that is not conducive to free exchange of ideas,” petition co-organizer and university undergraduate Victoria Li told The College Fix by phone on December 4.

More than 200 students, 31 alumni and 11 faculty members have signed it so far.

December 8, 2022
By Sarah Weissman
Inside Higher Ed

Excerpt: Two tenured professors at Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio are suing former and current administrators at the college. The faculty members claim they were retaliated against after they raised concerns about course scheduling practices disadvantaging students of color in an interview with a local media outlet last year. The college denies the allegations.