Latest News and Commentary: National

August 22, 2021
By Dave Huber
The College Fix

Excerpt: A group of St. Joseph’s University alumni are withholding donations to the school due to its “move toward the far left.” According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, a main sticking point with the group was the canning of Professor Greg Manco back in May. Technically, St. Joe’s refused to renew Manco’s contract — despite clearing him of any wrongdoing after a three-month investigation into tweets he made criticizing slavery reparations and bias trainings.

The alumni, six members of the classes ranging from 1968 to 1973, first contacted the university about the Manco situation in March. They recently delivered a letter to St. Joe’s officials at an alumni luncheon which blasted “the creeping illness that seems to be taking over the college. “I think it’s taken a leftist turn,” Henwood said of the university. “[It] used to be someplace special. Now, it’s fallen in line with the rest of higher education.”

August 22, 2021
By Isaac Willour
National Review

Excerpt: In July, free-speech advocates at the University of Connecticut took on a student body hellbent on destroying free speech on campus. One of UConn’s First Amendment advocates was harassed with racial slurs and even received a video of an ISIS beheading. Free-speech debacles such as UConn’s illustrate valuable lessons that advocates of conservatism would do well to bear in mind.

In my discussions with UConn students, both conservatives and those on the Left, I heard one description of the current political climate that piqued my interest. “Liberals give in to radicals too easily, and conservatives have some racism problems.” Innumerable members of the political Right cheer on the former characterization — the latter is met with defensiveness, skepticism, and a hearty chorus of “but look at the Left.” This is why conservatives lose on the culture side. We know that the stereotype isn’t true. But the culture doesn’t, and we won’t fix it by yelling.

August 20, 2021
By John Rigolizzo
The College Fix

Excerpt: Stephen Morris, a junior nominated for a position on Auburn University’s student government, was successfully shot down because he expressed Christian and conservative beliefs on social media. He was nominated for the position of chief justice of Auburn University’s Student Government Association. At the session where his nomination was to be taken up, held remotely over video, several members of the student senate strongly opposed his nomination. Morris’s critics accused him of racism over tweets they found offensive, and declared him unfit for service in student government.

One tweet said “If you say ‘Black Lives Matter’ but ignore black-on-black murder, you’re a ridiculous hypocrite.” Another said “’Hate speech’ does not exist. Speech is not violence.” The motion to confirm Morris ultimately failed. In an interview, he lamented the “clear message it sends to the thousands of Auburn students who share my views: keep them to yourselves or be deemed unfit to serve in SGA.”

 

 

August 20, 2021
By Greg Lukianoff and Adam Goldstein
USA Today

Excerpt: Have you ever wondered why, despite strong First Amendment protections, students and professors still get punished for exercising their free speech on American campuses? The answer is the doctrine of qualified immunity, and it is time for courts to restrain that doctrine. Qualified immunity was invented to protect public employees from being unfairly sued for doing their job in good faith. It was intended to be applied in situations where a government employee such as a police officer has to make a split-second decision and couldn’t be expected to know they were violating the law when they acted.

But campus administrators are not generally in situations like our hypothetical officer. Most are, in fact, in positions not unlike a judge, with ample time, staff expertise and opportunity to reflect on the constitutional implications of their decisions. And yet, qualified immunity is consistently invoked to protect those decisions, no matter how transparently unconstitutional.

August 20, 2021
By Ella Lubell
Reason

Excerpt: "The University of Connecticut is permitted to, and will, limit expression in order to protect public safety and the rights of others," states the university's official policy regarding campus speech, adopted in 2017. "This includes expression that is defamatory, threatening, or invades individual privacy. Protected speech may also be reasonably regulated as to the time, place, and manner of the expression."

To Isadore Johnson, a rising senior at the University of Connecticut (UConn), this didn't sound like a very free speech–friendly policy at all. Johnson—a founder of UConn's Students for Liberty (SFL) chapter—delights in debating and befriending people he disagrees with across the political spectrum. He was determined to improve free speech rights on his campus, no matter the social cost. That commitment was put to the test after a statement he proposed to the student government to protect freedom of speech on campus created a storm of outrage from his peers.

August 19, 2021
By Robert Pondiscio & Tracey Schirra, American Enterprise Institute
Real Clear Policy

Excerpt: The firing of Matthew Hawn, a high school teacher in Sullivan County, Tennessee, recently made national news and seemed to confirm fears that newly-enacted state bans on critical race theory (CRT) would have a chilling effect on teacher speech. Hawn, a 16-year veteran teacher and baseball coach, had assigned students in his contemporary issues class Ta-Nehisi Coates’s essay in the Atlantic, “The First White President,” and a spoken word poem from Kyla Jenée Lacey called “White Privilege.” One headline declared that Hawn was fired for assigning these readings.

But Hawn wasn’t fired for violating the state’s newly passed CRT ban. Really, he was dismissed for failing to adhere to the Tennessee “Teacher Code of Ethics,” a seldom-invoked but sensible state requirement for teachers to provide students access to varying points of view. Such an approach could offer a richer education for students by leaning into controversial issues in the classroom, not avoiding or banning them.

August 18, 2021
By Marjorie Cortez
Deseret News

Excerpt: A widely shared cellphone video of a Lehi High School science teacher expressing her political opinions to students in her classroom may well become a teaching moment for people training to become educators. In the video, the teacher had expressed her exhaustion with the pandemic; said she hates Donald Trump; said students don’t need to believe what their parents believe because most “are dumber than you”; and said students who don’t believe in climate change should “get the hell out.” The Alpine School District announced Wednesday that she no longer works for the school district.

Kristin Hadley, dean of Weber State University’s College of Education stated that teachers and education students are told that “you need to comport yourself as though everything were on a video, because it could be and it might be, so they have to be utmost professionals in all of those situations.”

August 17, 2021
By William A. Jacobson
Legal Insurrection

Excerpt: The Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has issued an advisory Opinion that certain aspects of Critical Race teaching violate anti-discrimination law. It’s not clear that this opinion has the force of law, but it does reflect an increasing focus on how CRT is implemented through “antiracism” and similar practices that create racially hostile environments.

The Arkansas Opinion was issued in response to the following request from a state legislator: “Does the introduction of practices based on ‘antiracism’ and critical race theory in Arkansas public schools and universities violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, Article II of the Arkansas Constitution, or other applicable nondiscrimination laws?

The AG answered the question as follows: “The answer to your question is yes. With certain qualifications set forth below, instituting practices based on critical race theory, professed ‘antiracism,’ or associated ideas can violate Title VI, the Equal Protection Clause, and Article II of the Arkansas Constitution.”

What follows is an extensive discussion, including the history of CRT.

August 17, 2021
By Jeff Robbins
Boston Herald

Excerpt: “When I was a kid, I was shy,” Ira Glasser, the longtime head of the American Civil Liberties Union told a Canton audience last week. It seemed hard to believe. A non-lawyer and proud of it, Glasser led the ACLU from 1978 until 2001. “The first time I had to speak in public,” Glasser said, “was teaching kids calculus. It taught me how to explain complicated subjects to people who were really not interested. All of that ended up being good training for talking to people about the Bill of Rights.”

The right to speak freely occupied much of Glasser’s career. On university campuses, where once administrators wielded their power to block speech about civil rights or ending the war in Vietnam, now self-styled “progressive” students wield theirs to attempt to block speech that they believe deviates from what they have decreed is politically acceptable. First Amendment legend Floyd Abrams has said that the greatest threat to American free speech comes presently not from government but from within academia, principally from “a minority of students.”

August 17, 2021
By Emma Green
The Atlantic

Excerpt: Matt Hawn, a teacher at Sullivan Central High School, in Blountville, Tennessee, assigned an Atlantic article by Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The First White President,” which argues that Donald Trump was elected on the strength of white grievances. A parent complained about the slurs used in the piece and accused Hawn of not presenting multiple points of view. The central office issued an official reprimand.

In April, to address the trial of the Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, Hawn showed his students a performance by the poet Kyla Jenée Lacey, titled “White Privilege.” A couple of weeks later, Hawn received notice that the director of schools wanted him fired. Hawn is now contesting his dismissal. He claimed that he never told school officials, “There is no credible source for a differing point of view” than Coates’s assessment of Trump, but he would not elaborate on why the district’s letter of reprimand states that he did.