Latest News and Commentary: National

May 11, 2021
By Gabrielle Tumani
OU Daily

Summary: Oklahoma University (OU)’s Faculty Senate has recently met to discuss the potential impacts of House Bill 1775, which was recently signed into law in the state and restricts the teaching of critical race theory in Oklahoma schools. Faculty concerns range from the bill’s definition of Critical Race Theory, which OU Executive Director of Government Affairs John Woods called “very poorly defined” and “very poorly articulated and incorrect in a lot of areas,” as well as general fears regarding what the law means for academic freedom in the state’s public universities.

OU’s administration currently interprets the law to only restrict a mandatory course, “Gateway to Belonging at OU,” a diversity and inclusion class that all incoming students will be required to take. The faculty senate has taken House Bill 1775 as a sign that the public’s understanding of Critical Race Theory is “skewed” and “narrow.”

 

May 10, 2021
By The Editors
National Review

Summary: While Critical Race Theory’s advocates insist that it simply seeks to teach students how to “think critically,” the actual fruits of the theory show it to be a more dogmatic and politically radical project. One of the theory’s most prominent champions, Ibram X. Kendi, played a significant role in opposing test-centric selection processes at elite schools in New York City which will likely reduce Asian student acceptance by 24 percent, while increasing black students’ enrollment by 50 percent.

However, the theory is beginning to prompt backlash. Weary of what many see as outright discriminatory practices, states such as Idaho and Texas have passed laws or are pursuing other initiatives at various levels that prohibit public schools from teaching critical race theory. While some these initiatives appear to be overly restrictive or otherwise flawed, they point to the beginnings of organized pushback to Critical Race Theory.

May 9, 2021
By The Editorial Board
The Washington Post

Excerpt: A white first-year student at Rutgers Law School was participating in virtual office hours last October when she used the n-word while quoting a legal opinion. She seems to have known the word was anathema since she gave a clear forewarning.

We think she could and should have avoided using a word that is larded with so much hate and has caused so much pain and harm. But the controversy that has ensued — as too often happens in these increasingly fraught times — has gotten out of hand.

The co-dean of the law school expressed support for a voluntary ban by faculty on the use of triggering and hateful language, but other professors argued — reasonably, to our mind — that such a policy would be at odds with the First Amendment, academic freedom and the mission of the university.

In order might be a touch of forgiveness — a trait that Americans were once known for.

 

May 9, 2021
By Bob Kustra
Idaho Statesman

Excerpt: If certain Idaho legislators are not bona fide white supremacists who cannot abide the technicolor coat of a changing America today, at the very least they feed white supremacists in Idaho with their hysterical concerns over critical race theory and social justice.

Social justice? Is it possible that anyone in 21st century America could find fault with the definition of social justice you can find on any internet search — equal rights and equitable opportunities for all across various aspects of society. There may be different approaches and timelines to dealing with these challenges, but could anyone stand in the way of students discussing this issue in class?

As far as the Idaho Legislature is concerned, the answer is yes.

Their solution is simple: pass a law to intimidate school administrators and teachers with the threat of breaking the law for teaching about racial discrimination and violence against minorities.

May 9, 2021
By The Editorial Board
Boston Globe

Excerpt: Academic tenure as it stands in the United States today is in serious need of reform. Once granted, the ironclad protections of tenure too often serve to permit subpar teaching. The nearly irrevocable nature of tenure creates a perverse incentive for universities to rely on lowly paid adjunct professors instead, who lack basic job protections and can be fired at will. With tenured seats disproportionately occupied by white men, tenure stands as an obstacle to more diverse faculties. And the system even undermines academic freedom — the very principle it’s supposed to support — by creating an incentive for young scholars to self-censor in order to please an all-important tenure committee.

May 8, 2021
By Dung Nguyen
The Northerner

Excerpt: The Office of Inclusive Excellence introduced the Bias Incident Response Team in a public town hall discussion via Zoom on Wednesday, April 21. Based on Northern Kentucky University’s Bias Incident Response Protocol, the team is tasked with responding to reports of incidents involving bias and prejudice on campus and creating a more supportive campus environment.

“Part of the issue is living with the First Amendment freedoms we have; that also means that we are not in the position to silence people,” said Jack Harrison, professor of law and BIRT member during the town hall discussion.

“But one of the things that the First Amendment rights do allow us is to respond to that speech. There is nothing that says that speech cannot respond to speech, so if there is offensive speech, that certainly invites the opportunity for debate, discussion, response—not in a threatening way but a respectful way.”

 

May 8, 2021
By Masha Gessen
New Yorker

Excerpt: In late April, the Canadian Association of University Teachers, which unites a majority of college faculty in the country, took the extraordinary step of censuring the University of Toronto, Canada’s top-ranked institution of higher learning. The move amounts to a boycott: the association is asking members not to accept job offers or attend conferences at the school. The censure vote came at the end of a nearly eight-month controversy, which centers on a single rescinded job offer from a tiny program at a small school within a very large university. The entire affair, however, resides at the precise intersection of scholarly freedom, the place of the university in broader political conversations, and the influence that financial donors wield over academic institutions.

 

May 7, 2021
By Jonathan Turley
jonathanturley.org

Excerpt: We recently discussed the controversy at Cypress College involving a professor becoming irate after a student, Braden Ellis, stated that he felt police officers are heroes in our society. The College later put the teacher on leave. Now the faculty union at Cypress College has denounced the school for “a failure to be anti-racist” in its treatment of the teacher.

However, there is a notable omission in the statement from Christie Diep, president of United Faculty of the North Orange County Community College District, and Mohammad M. Abdel Haq, its lead negotiator: a criticism of the professor for her overtly hostile and biased treatment of the student.  

My concern is over academic freedom.  This professor, in my view, was clearly wrong in her response to this student and the intolerant atmosphere of her class toward his conservative viewpoints. However, firing a professor over such an incident chills the values of academic freedom that are the foundation for higher education.

May 6, 2021
By Azhar Majeed
First Amendment Watch, NYU

Excerpt: In Idaho, members of the legislature have been trying for over a year to prevent public universities from using state funding to support “social justice”-related activities, organizations, and events on campus. They have advanced budgets that have cut funding and have threatened further cuts. This led Boise State University to suddenly cancel 52 diversity-related classes in March of this year.

The message to colleges—and to individual professors—is clear: teach disfavored topics or viewpoints, and risk losing state funding.

House Concurrent Resolution 12, introduced in March, plainly states that “the Legislature should reduce funding to public universities commensurate with the spending on any social justice courses, programs, services, and trainings.” While the resolution is non-binding, its ideological thrust is unmistakable, declaring that “social justice education does not serve the common good.”

May 6, 2021
By Teri Sforza and Eric Licas
Mercury News

Excerpt: The faculty union at Cypress College has taken the administration to task for not defending the adjunct professor who repeatedly interrupted a student in an online speech class as he tried to argue that many police officers could be seen as heroes.

“The failure to issue a clear and strong statement of support for faculty under the existing circumstances is a failure to be anti-racist,” said the May 3 letter, signed by Christie Diep, president of United Faculty of the North Orange County Community College District, and Mohammad M. Abdel Haq, its lead negotiator.

The adjunct professor who has not been identified out of concerns for her safety, has taken a leave of absence for the remainder of her assignment.