Latest News and Commentary: National

August 25, 2022
By Colleen Flaherty
Inside Higher Ed

Excerpt: Claremont McKenna College stands accused of censoring faculty members who were discussing texts including Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. But the college, which is known for promoting freedom of expression, is pushing back on these allegations, saying that its actions have been misrepresented.

Like numerous academic freedom disputes within the last decade, the one playing out at Claremont McKenna turns on the N-word—namely, whether it’s acceptable for a professor to say the full word (not the euphemism) in class when quoting a text or a case study.

 

August 25, 2022
By Jonathan Edwards
The Washington Post

Excerpt: Summer Boismier got through only one day of the school year before a parent complained and administrators descended on her high school classroom to investigate. Days later, she quit in protest of a new Oklahoma law that restricts teaching about race and gender.

Even before the first day of the school year at Norman High School, Boismier suspected her personal classroom library would get her in trouble by running afoul of that law, so she covered her books with butcher paper. But she added a touch of defiance, scrawling a message in permanent marker across the paper. “Books the state doesn’t want you to read,” it said.

August 24, 2022
By Jessica Votipka, Grand Island Independent
Lincoln Journal Star

Excerpt: Grand Island Northwest Public Schools administrators eliminated its journalism program and student newspaper in June in what some former students and press freedom advocates call an act of censorship.

The school year-ending issue of the Saga newspaper included student editorials on LGBTQ topics, along with a news article titled “Pride and prejudice: LGBTQIA+” on the origins of Pride month and the history of homophobia. The Grand Island Independent, which had printed the school paper on its press, was informed via email in late May “the (journalism and newspaper) program was cut because the school board and superintendent are unhappy with the last issue's editorial content.”

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August 24, 2022
By Vanderbilt University

Excerpt: Academic experts and university leaders came together with the VUcept peer mentor group for a candid conversation about freedom of expression at Vanderbilt University on Aug. 22. The discussion, held on The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons, centered on the importance of open discourse in providing the necessary conditions for transformative education and pathbreaking research.

The conversation featured Chancellor Daniel Diermeier, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Tiffiny Tung and free speech expert Jacob Mchangama. Jad Abumrad, founder of Radiolab and Distinguished Research Professor of Cinema and Media Arts and Communication of Science and Technology, moderated the hourlong discussion.

 

August 24, 2022
By Danielle Paquette
The Washington Post

Excerpt: Two librarians had quit since the trouble began, and Kaitlin McLaughlin didn’t want to be the third. But the same term kept coming up in board meetings and on yard signs, making her feel awkward and wrongly accused: grooming.

People in this western Michigan farming town said the Patmos Library was “grooming” children and, according to fliers that one group printed, promoting an “LGBTQ ideology.” They said bookshelves meant for young readers featured same-sex pornography. They called the staff pedophiles, McLaughlin said. Then one August morning, they voted to defund Jamestown’s only public library, jeopardizing the institution’s future as neighbors clashed over who gets to decide free speech in this deep-red corner of America.

August 23, 2022
By PEN America Press Release

Excerpt: PEN America sent a letter to the Oklahoma State Board of Education (SBE) calling on the board to immediately reverse its decision to punish two school districts for alleged violations of HB 1775, an educational gag order law signed last year that unconstitutionally restricts the teaching of race and gender. The board’s decision represents the first time that school districts in Oklahoma have been punished for violating HB 1775.

Following complaints that certain school activities had run afoul of the law, the board recently voted to downgrade the accreditation statuses of Tulsa Public Schools (TPS) and Mustang Public Schools (MPS) to “accredited with warning” – a more serious punishment than either the law or the Oklahoma Department of Education called for. The demotions could incentivize teachers to avoid any topics that are considered even remotely controversial.

August 23, 2022
By Amanda Nordstrom
Foundation for Individual Rights in Expression

Excerpt: Three professors at Claremont McKenna College in California say administrators violated their academic freedom rights by forbidding them from quoting renowned literary texts that contain a racial slur.

These actions stand clearly at odds with Claremont McKenna’s repeated emphasis of its support for academic freedom and free speech rights on campus. The college has adopted the Chicago Statement, which FIRE considers the gold-standard commitment to free expression on campus for both students and faculty. FIRE has also lauded the college in the past for its policies governing student speech, both with our highest, “green light” rating for speech-protective policies and the number one spot in our 2021 College Free Speech Rankings, which polled students on their views about how well their college embraces free expression.

August 23, 2022
By Hannah Rosenberger
The Daily Tar Heel

Excerpt: Campuses across the UNC System do not always establish an atmosphere that promotes free expression, according to a recent report produced by UNC-Chapel Hill and UNC-Greensboro professors.

Eighteen percent of UNC-CH students reported that, among classes where politics came up more than "never," they had self-censored their material-related views more than once. Nearly double reported concerns that fellow students would have a lower opinion of them if they were to express those views.

August 22, 2022
By Josh Moody
Inside Higher Ed

Excerpt: Ousted last fall as CEO of Manchester Community College, Nicole Esposito subsequently sued the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system, alleging gender discrimination and a number of other issues, including violations of her First Amendment and equal protection rights.

Today she’s returning to her role—with a payout and other concessions from the CSCU system. “I am eager to get back and continue providing the best possible experience for the students of Manchester Community College, as well as everyone else who is a part of the MCC community,” Esposito said in a statement provided through her legal counsel.

 

August 22, 2022
By Scott Jaschik
Inside Higher Ed

Excerpt: A group of professors on Thursday sued the state of Florida over its Stop the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act, widely called the Stop WOKE Act. The law prohibits teaching things (including in higher education) that may make students feel uncomfortable. Also on Thursday, a federal judge blocked a portion of the law that affects private businesses.

The new suit, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Florida ACLU, challenges the part of the law that covers higher education.