Latest News and Commentary: National

May 19, 2022
By PEN America Press Release

Excerpt: PEN America Chief Executive Officer Suzanne Nossel today testified before a U.S. House of Representatives panel to sound the alarm about book bans and educational gag orders that are proliferating nationwide, describing how these censorious trends pose a grave threat to students’ First Amendment rights, to democracy overall, and damage the freedom to write and read.

May 18, 2022
By Colleen Flaherty
Inside Higher Ed

Excerpt: The loss of tenure lines is accelerating. So is the erosion of tenure, by extension, according to a new institutional survey of tenure policies by the American Association of University Professors.

The last such survey of college and university tenure practices, in the U.S. Education Department’s National Study of Postsecondary Faculty, was in 2004. At that time, 17 percent of institutions said they’d replaced tenure lines with contingent appointments in the previous five years. Today, that figure is 54 percent, according to the AAUP survey, which paints a picture of what’s happened since 2004, when the federal government stopped funding the national survey.

May 17, 2022
By Jonathan Turley
jonathanturley.org

Excerpt: In Kiel, Wisconsin, three eighth graders are facing a Title IX complaint due to their failure to use plural pronouns “they/them” to refer to a single student. According to reports, the students allege that they were subject to verbal attacks for refusing to use the approved pronouns.

Wisconsin Institute of Law and Liberty demanded that the district stop the Title IX investigation. They assert that “[t]he mere use of biologically correct pronouns not only does not constitute sexual harassment under Title IX or the District’s own policy, it is also speech protected by the First Amendment.”

May 17, 2022
By Sabrina Conza
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

Excerpt: Creighton University has placed its Turning Point USA chapter on probation based on an investigation after the group changed the details and name of a planned event. The university wrongly claims the changes endangered Creighton’s tax-exempt status.

On May 11 the university lifted TPUSA’s interim suspension but placed the group on “behavioral probation” until the end of the upcoming fall semester. Creighton found TPUSA not responsible for engaging in “Conduct Unbecoming of a Creighton Student,” intentionally providing the university false information, or knowingly allowing policy violations to occur. Although this punishment is milder than what TPUSA could have faced from the investigation — possible sanctions included suspension and expulsion — Creighton has violated its strong commitment to protect the expressive rights of students.

May 17, 2022
By U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform Press Release

Excerpt: On Thursday, May 19, 2022, at 10:00 a.m. ET, Rep. Jamie Raskin, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, will hold a hearing to examine the ongoing efforts to prohibit discussion in K-12 classrooms about American history, race, and LGBTQ+ issues, and to punish teachers who violate vague and discriminatory state laws by discussing these topics.

These laws are designed to have a chilling effect on how schools educate children and have resulted in the targeting of teachers.  One teacher in Missouri was fired for using a single worksheet addressing racial issues in an elective literature class. 

Click here for link to full hearing

https://oversight.house.gov/legislation/hearings/free-speech-under-attack-part-ii-curriculum-sabotage-and-classroom-censorship

May 16, 2022
By Josh Moody
Inside Higher Ed

Excerpt: The Texas A&M University system is working on a plan that would make sweeping changes across its 10 libraries. Those changes, still being discussed, would include asking librarians to relinquish tenure or transfer to another academic department to keep it.

The plan grew out of recommendations from MGT Consulting, which Texas A&M hired in June 2021 “to conduct a high-level, comprehensive review of major functional areas,” according to a company report. But as administrators have suggested additional changes, including to employee classification, faculty members have pushed back, arguing that proposed structural changes to the library system will do more harm than good.

May 16, 2022
By Colleen Flaherty
Inside Higher Ed

Excerpt: Soka University of America is accusing its only queer professor of color, Aneil Rallin, of exposing students to “deviant pornography” and “vaguely pedophilic” materials in a class called Writing the Body.

A faculty committee at the California campus will consider the case later this week. It will then make recommendations about disciplinary action—up to dismissal—to the same interim dean who charged Rallin using those terms.

 

May 15, 2022
By Mike Sabo
National Review

Excerpt: The opportunity to speak freely and openly -- especially on controversial topics -- is a cornerstone of civic education. But events that unfolded after the “Politics, Policy, and Panic: Governing in Times of Crisis” conference at Saint Vincent College demonstrate that freedom of speech at America’s institutions of higher education continues to stand on shaky footing.

May 14, 2022
By Jack Shafer
Politico

Excerpt: Like El Niño and solar flares, the impulse to ban books seems to be a cyclical force of nature. In ordinary times, book bannings surge and then, like clockwork, recede away like floodwaters. But these are not normal times. Over the past nine months, we’ve entered a book banning era like none other in our country’s history. Between July 2021 and the end of March 2022, an astounding 1,586 book bannings took place in 86 school districts in 26 states, according to a comprehensive PEN America study.

But behind the noise and the headlines, both the banners and the defenders are delighted by the war over books. The face-offs always leave both constituencies feeling smugly self-satisfied.

May 13, 2022
By Luca Gazianis
Harvard Political Review

Excerpt: You may have never heard of the “persuasion principle” — the idea that the government may not restrict speech out of fear that it will persuade people to engage in harmful, hateful, or even illegal conduct.

What does this bear for our social culture of free speech? Of course, almost nobody would argue that our culture should be as tolerant of speech as our laws must be. Nonetheless, can we glean insights from First Amendment doctrine, through the persuasion principle, that are useful for contemporary conversations on free speech?