Latest News and Commentary: National

November 19, 2022
By Savannah Tryens-Fernandes
al.com

Excerpt: The Alabama Supreme Court ruled unanimously Friday to allow a campus free speech lawsuit to proceed despite a circuit court’s dismissal of the case.

Young Americans for Liberty and University of Alabama in Huntsville student Joshua Greer filed a lawsuit in July 2021 against UAH and the UA system to challenge a campus policy that requires students to request a permit in advance for many free speech events and restricts most events to certain areas. The Madison County Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the case in February, but the YAL student group appealed the decision to the state’s highest court shortly thereafter.

November 18, 2022
By Graham Piro
Foundation for Individual Rights in Expression

Excerpt: An incident involving a crackdown on a pro-choice protest at Loyola University New Orleans, a Catholic and Jesuit institution, raised FIRE’s hackles given the university’s fairly strong promises of free expression and administrators’ changing story.

Loyola’s student newspaper, The Maroon, reported on a situation in which student Elena Voisin was handing out flyers on campus to promote a pro-choice march organized by the Louisiana Abortion Rights Action Committee. Ken Weber, Loyola’s associate director of student life, ordered Voisin to stop handing out the flyers because they conflict with the university’s Jesuit values. Voisin complied, but continued to verbally promote the march, at which point two police officers ordered Voisin to stop.

November 17, 2022
By Foundation for Individual Rights in Expression

Excerpt: Today a federal court halted enforcement of key parts of Florida’s “Stop WOKE Act” in the state’s public universities, declaring that the law violates the First Amendment rights of students and faculty.

The court ruled that the “positively dystopian” act “officially bans professors from expressing disfavored viewpoints in university classrooms while permitting unfettered expression of the opposite viewpoints.” The court invoked George Orwell to drive home that if “liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

November 17, 2022
By Hannah Rosenberger
Daily Tarheel

Excerpt: In July, the UNC Board of Trustees passed two resolutions related to free speech on campus: one affirming viewpoint neutrality when it comes to organization funding and one adopting the “Kalven Committee Report on the University’s Role in Political Social Action” — or the Kalven Report — which supports institutional neutrality.

The Daily Tar Heel breaks down these policies and some of the questions that remain about their implementation.

November 17, 2022
By Eugene Volokh
The Volokh Conspiracy, Reason Magazine

Excerpt: In Stern v. Roberts, a jury just held that Auburn University had retaliated against Prof. Michael Stern, a tenured economics professor, based on his speech; the jury awarded $145K in compensatory damages and $500K in punitive damages.

The court had allowed the case to go forward based on Stern's claim that his removal as chair and his getting unusually low or no annual raises or bonuses stemmed from his constitutionally protected speech.

November 17, 2022
By Aaron Sibarium
Washington Free Beacon

Excerpt: Yale Law School dean Heather Gerken is framing the school's decision to pull out of the U.S. News & World Report law-school rankings as an altruistic one, arguing that the "profoundly flawed" rankings "disincentivize programs that support public interest careers."

But a closer look at those rankings suggests that Yale, which has over the past year been the locus of a fierce debate about free speech and drawn unwanted attention for its response to campus controversies, may have had a selfish reason to jump ship. The elite law school was starting to slip on one of the key indicators that determine a law school's overall ranking,

November 16, 2022
By Eugene Volokh
The Volokh Conspiracy, Reason Magazine

Excerpt: I had a conversation with Prof. Anup Malani (University of Chicago Law School) about this at a conference, and asked him if he could write up his thoughts on the subject; he kindly agreed, so I'm passing them along.

November 14, 2022
By Vanessa McCray
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Excerpt: A tenured Valdosta State University biology professor is pushing back after she said she was told to change how she teaches about topics such as sex and gender or else she’ll be removed from the course.

Leslie Jones, 67, said a parent complained earlier this semester after she gave a lesson titled “Cultural Construction of Gender” in her Evolution and the Diversity of Life biology course. She teaches that sex is biological and gender is a cultural construct. Slides from the gender lesson, which she shared with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, touch on gender roles, distinctions and socialization as well as sexual identity.

November 14, 2022
By Ed Gehringer
James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal

Excerpt: The increasing use of “diversity statements” in hiring and faculty evaluation has provoked considerable concern from free-speech advocates and defenders of academic freedom. An American Enterprise Institute study last November found that these statements were required for 19 percent of academic jobs and were especially common at prestigious universities.

The danger of the trend is perhaps best illustrated by a University of California, Berkeley, search that filtered applications in the biological sciences for “contributions to diversity, equity and inclusion.” This eliminated 679 of 893 nominally qualified candidates on DEI criteria alone. Organizations like the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression and the Academic Freedom Alliance have demanded an end to the mandatory use of these statements.

November 14, 2022
By Aidan Mays
The College Fix

Excerpt: Students and speakers at the University of California Hastings College of the Law will now have better protections for free speech. The school updated its policy on events and eliminated the heckler’s veto.

As a result, protesters at the public university can no longer shout down speakers or cause a disruption with the goal of ending an event, according to the new policy. The Event Policy prohibits “forms of protest that substantially disrupt an in-person or virtual event in a way that has the effect of silencing a speaker,” but still recognizes and protects peaceful protest such as banner holding, counter events, and engaging in question and answer periods as part of the “essential right to protest.”