Latest News and Commentary: National

May 2, 2021
By John Ellis
Wall Street Journal

Excerpt: Higher education had a cluster of related purposes in society. Everyone benefited from the new knowledge it developed and the well-informed, thoughtful citizenry it produced. Individual students benefited from the preparation they received for careers in a developed economy. Yet these days, academia has decided that its primary purpose is the promotion of a radical political ideology, to which it gives the sunny label “social justice.”

When academia’s astonishing message to society is, “We’ll take your money, but we’ll do with it what we want, not what you want,” the response ought to be simple: “No you won’t.” The question is, can the millions of people who make up that wonderful abstraction called “society” act in a way that is sufficiently concerted and organized to deliver the message effectively?

May 1, 2021
By James Dawson
NPR-All Things Considered

Excerpt: The governor in Idaho has signed a law to ban the teaching of critical race theory in public schools. Some educators in the state are calling it unnecessary and a potential violation of free speech.

During his last months in office, former President Trump ordered federal agencies to stop racial sensitivity trainings, including those based on so-called critical race theory. That theory holds, in part, that racism is a social construct ingrained in American life and laws. President Biden has since rescinded that order by his predecessor, but the push to ban the teaching of racial justice theories has now moved to the states. This week, Idaho Governor Brad Little signed a bill pushed by Republican state lawmakers that aims to outlaw teaching critical race theory and other social justice concepts in the public schools. James Dawson of Boise State Public Radio has this report

 

April 30, 2021
By Jonathan Turley
jonathanturley.org

Excerpt: We have been discussing professors who have been investigated or sanctioned for the use of the “n-word” in classes or tests at Duquesne, John Marshall, Augsberg, Chicago, DePaul, Princeton, Kansas, and other schools. According to The Hoya, we can now add Georgetown as after Professor Michele Swers read the words of a Ku Klux Klan leader in her “U.S. Political Systems” class, and “did not censor the racial epithet.”

In a letter to Swers, the students insist that “we uphold the First Amendment” but then demand to control the speech of professors in class, including reading from material on racism.

However, this was a class on the “U.S. Political Systems” where the slur was part of the underlying historical material and the students were warned in advance that the class would cover sensitive material.

 

April 30, 2021
By The Staff
The College Fix

Excerpt: The Supreme Court recently heard arguments in Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. (Brandi Levy)

The case united many liberal and conservative groups in support of a cheerleader, Brandi Levy, punished by her school with a one-year suspension from the team for swearing on her Snapchat account.

“Obviously, the stakes are huge — especially in the era of social media, when conversations in school are inextricably intertwined with what happens online outside of school hours,” Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman wrote about Brandi Levy’s case.

April 29, 2021
By Elizabeth Hernandez
Denver Post

Excerpt: Visiting scholar John Eastman laid the groundwork to sue the University of Colorado Boulder on Thursday, filing a legal claim alleging defamation and violation of his First Amendment rights over school leaders’ response to his role in efforts to overturn the results of the presidential election.

Eastman, the visiting scholar of conservative thought and policy at CU’s Bruce D. Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization, spoke at President Donald Trump’s rally in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 that preceded the U.S. Capitol insurrection.

“I am taking this step,” Eastman said at a news conference, “because my role in this whole controversy puts me in a position to make a stand for other professors who may, as a result of what has been done to me, be cowed from their own exercise of First Amendment rights, choosing self-censorship instead of the gauntlet of hate and vitriol to which I have been subject.”

April 29, 2021
By Jonathan Turley
jonathanturley.org

Excerpt: This week Women’s Studies Professor Donna Hughes was publicly condemned by the University of Rhode Island for writing an op-ed that criticized what she called the LGBTQ ideology.  The op-ed actually criticized the far right as well for what Professor Hughes calls extreme “ideological fantasies” but the university only objects to her criticism of LGBTQ views from a feminist perspective. The university also warned that, while “faculty have the same rights, obligations, and responsibilities as other American citizens” under the First Amendment those rights are not “boundless.”

Hughes actually begins and spends much of her op-ed criticizing the far right and its violent history and ideology.  However, she then criticizes what she calls similar fantasies on the far left. In doing so, Professor Hughes was espousing a view shared by other feminists that aspects of LGBTQ writings undermine feminist values and goals.

 

April 29, 2021
By Tyler Coward
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

Excerpt: Since state legislatures convened nationwide this winter, FIRE has noticed a distinct trend: Many states have introduced and considered legislation to limit or prohibit the teaching or training of certain viewpoints on campus, generally patterned on former President Donald Trump’s “Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping,” which President Joe Biden rescinded on his first day in office. The bills introduced in recent months in states across the country generally aim to ban the training or teaching of so-called “divisive concepts” at public colleges and universities, along with a variety of other provisions.

Unfortunately, as introduced, many of the bills threaten free speech and academic freedom — some quite severely, some less so.

April 29, 2021
By FIRE
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

Excerpt: After more than a year in limbo, the University of Pennsylvania’s Hunting, Archery, and Shooting Club is officially a recognized student group.

Under pressure from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and with help from FIRE Legal Network attorney Patricia Hamill, the university relented this week and processed the group’s registration.

On March 17, FIRE called on Penn to stop engaging in viewpoint discrimination and promptly recognize the club.

“We are pleased that Penn finally hit the mark,” said FIRE Senior Program Officer Zach Greenberg. “However, the approval is long overdue. It should not take a year for a university to make good on its promises to uphold students’ rights.”

April 28, 2021
By Jonathan Turley
jonathanturley.org

Excerpt: A book by a Barnard College English instructor named Ben Philippe has caused a firestorm due to his depiction of a fantasy of gassing white people.  The book passage has led some to demand review from the college for possible discipline or termination.

It is doubtful that even a fictional account discussing the gassing of minorities would have resulted in anything other than a rapid suspension and ultimate termination in many universities. That conflicting standard should also be a concern for free speech and academic freedom.

When controversies arise on the left, they tend to quickly (and correctly) cite free speech and academic values. The sharp contrast in how controversial speech is handled in these cases raises serious concerns over free speech and academic freedom.

April 28, 2021
By Howard L. Simon
Palm Beach Post

Excerpt: Gov. Ron DeSantis is poised to sign HB 233. The bill requires the State Board of Education and each of Florida’s colleges and universities to conduct an annual assessment “related to intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity.”
The Board of Education must “select or create an objective, non-partisan and statistically valid survey” to measure the extent to which “competing ideas and perspectives are presented” and whether students, faculty and staff “feel free to express their beliefs and viewpoints on campus and in the classroom.”
The first survey shall be published on Sept. 1, 2022.

This all sounds benign. But is it a predicate to an assault on higher education?

Does the legislation address a genuine problem? Or does it vent a judgment by some far-right conservatives that college liberal arts courses are all “woke political correctness”?