Latest News and Commentary: National

November 21, 2020
By Eugene Volokh

Excerpt: The University rightly responds: "At the core of this demand is a disconnect between the law and First Amendment freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution, and the desire by many in the campus community to punish those whose comments are hurtful to others." Robby Soave at Reason has the story; here's the opening, but you should read the whole thing: Iowa State University has reaffirmed the free speech rights of conservative students initially under fire for tweeting an edgy comment—thus provoking the ire of several ISU journalism professors who demanded the students be punished. A few days after the 2020 election, the Twitter account of ISU's College Republicans made this statement: "Everyone, you must arm up, expect these people to try to destroy your life, the elites want revenge on us." The tweet may have been hyperbolic, but it did not call for violence or encourage armed resistance. At most, it was a trollish right-wing talking point alongside a call to purchase guns. Nevertheless, ISU interpreted the tweet as a "suggestion of armed activity," in possible violation of university policy.

November 20, 2020
By Collin Binkley, AP
Associated Press

Excerpt: Boston — A petition circulating at Harvard University demands new accountability standards for former Trump administration officials who seek to work or speak on campus, an idea that has drawn outrage from prominent conservatives. The online open letter calls for a new “system of accountability” to review top political appointees who served under Republican President Donald Trump and could come to campus as professors, fellows or speakers after Trump leaves office. Those who failed to uphold traditional democratic principles should be disqualified, the petition says. “A complete disregard for the truth is a defining feature of many decisions made by this administration,” according to the petition. “That alone should be enough to draw a line.”

November 19, 2020
By Foundation for Equal Rights in Education
The Fire

Excerpt: Ellisville, Miss., Nov. 19, 2020 — Mississippi’s Jones College on Wednesday finalized a settlement with former student Michael Brown, who sued the college after administrators and campus police infringed on his First Amendment rights. Brown’s suit, filed with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, brings policy changes that will protect the speech rights of all Jones College students.  “I am pleased that Jones College was willing to work in good faith to align their policies with the First Amendment rights guaranteed to all of us, especially students on their campus,” said Brown. “Fighting for this reform is important to me because we all must have the ability to speak freely, otherwise how are we any better than other nations and regimes that restrict what their citizens may say?” Brown was stopped from exercising his free speech rights on campus twice in early 2019 when he tried to recruit fellow students for a campus chapter of Young Americans for Liberty.

November 19, 2020
By Jessica Bennett
New York Times

Excerpt: Nyla Conaway, 19, remembers being “called out” for changing her profile picture on Instagram in solidarity for … something. She can’t quite remember what for, only that an older student she didn’t know told her it was a scam. “It just made me feel really embarrassed, like a ton of people had seen it and now I just looked really stupid,” she said. Katie Wehrman, 18, still feels guilty for calling out a boy in her high school for something he said about a local politician and L.G.B.T.Q. rights — schooling him in an all-class Snapchat group. The women are students in a class taught by Loretta J. Ross, a visiting professor at Smith College who is challenging them to identify the characteristics, and limits, of call-out culture: the act of publicly shaming another person for behavior deemed unacceptable.

November 17, 2020
By Adam Liptak
New York Times

Excerpt: Washington--In an unusually caustic and politically tinged speech, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. told a conservative legal group that liberals posed a growing threat to religious liberty and free speech. The remarks, made at the Federalist Society’s annual convention Thursday night, mirrored statements Justice Alito has made in his judicial opinions, which have lately been marked by bitterness and grievance even as the court has been moving to the right. Coming as they did just weeks after Justice Amy Coney Barrett succeeded Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, giving conservatives a 6 to 3 majority, the remarks alarmed some on the left. On Thursday, Justice Alito focused on the effects of the coronavirus, which he said “has resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty.” Justice Alito was particularly critical of a ruling from the Supreme Court in July that rejected a Nevada church’s challenge to state restrictions on attendance at religious services.

November 17, 2020
By Tim Pearce
The Daily Wire

Excerpt: Independent journalist Megyn Kelly is pulling her children out of school and leaving New York City after her boys’ school promoted a call to “reform white children” and accused white people of “reveling in their state-sanctioned depravity” and slaughtering black people. Kelly, who founded Devil May Care Media, revealed a letter that her boys’ school administrators circulated among parents and faculty during an episode of her podcast, “The Megyn Kelly Show,” on Monday. Kelly said that she and her husband were pulling their children out of school and leaving New York City over the “out of control” racial social justice agenda in the city’s schools. “The schools have always been far-left, which doesn’t align with my own ideology, but I didn’t really care. Most of my friends are liberals. This summer in the wake of George Floyd, they circulated amongst the diversity group – which includes white parents like us – an article, and wanted every member of the faculty to read it.” Kelly said the host reads excerpts from the letter that asserts that white children in the United States are indoctrinated racists.

November 12, 2020
By Lecture by Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber at University of Pennsylvania Law School

Excerpt: It has become an important part of my job to articulate the value, meaning, and limits of my university’s commitment to free speech.  My first and principal claim is that public debate and, to a lesser but real extent, scholarly commentary have unnecessarily pitted free speech and inclusivity against one another.  If rightly understood, free speech and inclusivity are both essential aspects of the University’s mission, and they are also often, though not always, complementary and mutually reinforcing ideals.  For universities to carry out their truth-seeking mission effectively, people have to be free to challenge orthodoxies. Second, critics are right to warn that excessive sensitivity or political correctness will stifle the vitality of collegiate life.  All of us should try to be tactful when we speak about sensitive subjects, such as race or affirmative action, but we should also do our best to forgive those who give offense unintentionally.  If we are quick to take umbrage at other people’s remarks, we can never have the candid, unsettling conversations that college life requires. I worry in particular that conservative students nowadays are sometimes shunned or disparaged for expressing views unpopular with their peers.  Colleges need strong, thoughtful conservative voices on our faculties and in our student bodies if we are to address the issues that matter to our nation and the world.

November 2, 2020
By Nick Gillespie

In 1993, Jonathan Rauch wrote Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought, an influential defense of free speech and open inquiry that was excerpted in Reason. The book took aim at would-be censors on campus and off and made a staunch case for the virtues of radical speech. Reviewing Rauch's book in The New York Times, critic Michiko Kakutani wrote that "what sets his study apart is his attempt to situate recent developments in a long-range historical perspective and to defend the system of free intellectual inquiry as a socially productive method of channeling prejudice." Nearly 30 years later, attacks on free thought have persisted and in some ways become even more pervasive as cancel culture has become part of the American lexicon.

November 2, 2020
By John M. Ellis
Wall Street Journal

People nationwide have been physically assaulted and even threatened with loss of their livelihoods for no other reason than that they plan to vote as one half of the country does, and political goals are now commonly pursued by violent means. With this our civilization seems to be regressing to a time when disputes were settled by force instead of rules, and before the First Amendment guaranteed the right to speak freely on the social and political issues of the day. Worse yet is that this social regression began on college campuses. On one-party campuses, radical-left faculty have established a political orthodoxy that student mobs enforce, and the political culture of the nation is poisoned as those students take home with them their professors’ habit of seeing opinions that differ from theirs as an evil not to be tolerated. Universities now attack the most basic principles of American society, and do so with lavish taxpayer support. We should decide how best to cut them off.

November 1, 2020
By Peter Wood, President, National Association of Scholars
Philanthropy Roundtable

Anti-racism, or as it is often now put with deific capitals, Anti-Racism, is the captivating idea now on college campuses across the county. Of course, anti-racist edicts pour forth not just from college presidents, but also corporate boardrooms, owners of NFL teams, Hollywood studios, high-tech Xanadus, publishing houses, and just about anywhere that voices can be raised in tones of cultural authority. But college campuses are the deep well from which that authority flows. If nearly every other sector of society now speaks in hushed deference to the need for anti-racism, it is because the leaders of these sectors have all been to college. Several generations of not-quite-indoctrination have left their mark. I say not-quite-indoctrination because immersion in American higher education is different from a sojourn in a North Korean re-education camp. The food is a lot better, for one thing. Not-quite-indoctrination is a subtler form of persuasion. It involves pleasant surroundings, much moral congratulation, and lots of self-approval. Not-quite-indoctrination begins in persuading students that they are chosen, because they see things more deeply than others, including their parents.