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Commentary - Issues and Discussion from Around the Country
  • Academic Freedom and Inclusion Aren't Always Compatible

  • MIT Faculty Adopts Free Expression Statement 

  • Cornell Alumni Urge Emphasis on Free Speech and Critical Thinking During New Student Orientation 

  • How I Liberated My College Classroom

  • My ‘Free Speech’ College Is Silencing Me

  • Professor Blocked For Tweeting 'All Men Are Created Equal' 

  • Freshman Orientations Emphasize DEI Over Free Speech

  • College Student Views on Free Expression and Campus Speech 2022

by Amna Khalid and Jeffrey Aaron Snyder

Editor's note: In response to ongoing discussions about academic freedom and concepts of inclusion, two Carlton College faculty members recently wrote, "In our view there will inevitably be tensions between these two values. And when those tensions arise, academic freedom must prevail — at least, if we want to ensure a college education worthy of its name." full copy of their essay is below. In a subsequent essay, Professors Khalid and Snyder have similarly questioned recent attempts in Florida to restrict other types of campus speech and activities:

“We affirm both academic freedom and our responsibility to foster an inclusive learning community. Importantly, these values neither contradict nor supersede each other.” So declared a Hamline University faculty resolution asking President Fayneese S. Miller to resign given her handling of a now-infamous controversy over the display of the Prophet Muhammad in an art-history class. While we applaud the faculty for taking a stand against administrative overreach, we think its position on the relationship between academic freedom and inclusion is mistaken. In our view there will inevitably be tensions between these two values. And when those tensions arise, academic freedom must prevail — at least, if we want to ensure a college education worthy of its name. The assertion that inclusion and academic freedom are not in tension is an article of faith for many of those dedicated to promoting campus inclusion. In 2018, the Harvard University Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging released an 82-page report stating that the “values of academic freedom and inclusion and belonging provide each other with synergistic and mutual reinforcement.” According to this report, the two should not be conceived of as “distinct values that must be accommodated to each other” or, worse still, as “antagonistic goals.” This view is central to the frameworks advanced in books such as Ulrich Baer’s What Snowflakes Get Right: Free Speech, Truth, and Equality on Campus, John Palfrey’s Safe Spaces, Brave Spaces: Diversity and Free Expression in Education and Sigal Ben-Porath’s Cancel Wars: How Universities Can Foster Free Speech, Promote Inclusion, and Renew Democracy. When campuses are facing a controversy like Hamline’s, it’s important to recognize that students, faculty, and administrators don’t have the time for careful, philosophical deliberations about the meaning and value of inclusion. Rather, they find themselves in the grip of a system we call DEI Inc. DEI Inc. is a logic, a lingo, and a set of administrative policies and practices. The logic is as follows: Education is a product, students are consumers, and campus diversity is a customer-service issue that needs to be administered from the top down. (“Chief diversity officers,” according to an article in Diversity Officer Magazine, “are best defined as ‘change-management specialists.’”) DEI Inc. purveys a safety-and-security model of learning that is highly attuned to harm and that conflates respect for minority students with unwavering affirmation and validation. Lived experience, the intent-impact gap, microaggressions, trigger warnings, inclusive excellence. You know the language of DEI Inc. when you hear it. It’s a combination of management-consultant buzzwords, social justice slogans, and “therapy speak.” The standard package of DEI Inc. administrative “initiatives” should be familiar too, from antiracism trainings to bias-response teams and mandatory diversity statements for hiring and promotion. In many ways the Hamline debacle is the ideal case study for laying bare the unavoidable tensions between academic freedom and the DEI Inc. approach to inclusion. The incident has received considerable attention, but allow us to rehearse some of the key events and the language used by the various people involved. This past fall semester, the syllabus for Erika López Prater’s global-art-history online course contained an advisory alerting students that the class would feature depictions of holy figures, including the Prophet Muhammad; if students had any concerns about the visual content they were invited to contact her. During the class session on Islamic art, Prater offered students an optional exercise: Analyze a 14th-century Islamic painting of Muhammad receiving his first Quranic revelation. Before presenting the painting, she reiterated the content warning and asked students who would prefer not to see the image to turn off their screens. Despite Prater’s precautions, a Muslim student complained that pictorial depictions of the prophet offended her Muslim sensibilities: “As a Muslim, and a Black person, I don’t feel like I belong, and I don’t think I’ll ever belong in a community where they don’t value me as a member, and they don’t show the same respect that I show them.” The student complaint set the campus DEI bureaucracy into motion. David Everett, associate vice president for inclusive excellence, made a public statement calling the classroom exercise “undeniably inconsiderate, disrespectful, and Islamophobic.” Because of the incident, Everett said, “it was decided it was best that this faculty member was no longer part of the Hamline community.” Prater was not given any opportunity to explain the rationale behind the class exercise. In December, President Miller and David Everett sent an open letter to the campus asserting that “appreciation of religious and other differences should supersede when we know that what we teach will cause harm,” and in particular “respect for the observant Muslim students in that classroom should have superseded academic freedom.” After the news made national and international headlines, Miller doubled down, explaining that her decisions were guided by “prioritizing the well-being of our students,” especially by “minimizing harm.” Miller’s comments at least had the virtue of offering an honest diagnosis of the tension between academic freedom and inclusion. This tension has only ratcheted up in recent years, as colleges make grand promises to create “environments in which any individual or group feels welcomed, respected, supported, and valued.” With institutions promoting such an expansive definition of “inclusion,” we shouldn’t be surprised when they become ensnared in their own rhetoric and policies. How will DEI administrators respond when a Chinese national complains that a political-science discussion about the persecution of Uyghurs is “harmful anti-Chinese propaganda”? Or when a Christian evangelical says her faith was insulted in a contemporary art class after seeing a Robert Mapplethorpe photograph of two men kissing? The permutations are endless and, for professors who teach sensitive or controversial material, alarming. The American Association of University Professors clearly states that students do not have the right to shield even their “most cherished beliefs” from challenge or scrutiny: Ideas that are germane to a subject under discussion in a classroom cannot be censored because a student with particular religious or political beliefs might be offended. Instruction cannot proceed in the atmosphere of fear that would be produced were a teacher to become subject to administrative sanction based upon the idiosyncratic reaction of one or more students. This would create a classroom environment inimical to the free and vigorous exchange of ideas necessary for teaching and learning in higher education. The censorship of ideas because students with particular political beliefs might take offense is precisely what’s happening across the country with anti-critical-race-theory legislation. The notion of harm is central to these “divisive concepts” laws, which have used Trump’s now-revoked 2020 Executive Order 13950 as a template. Among the things prohibited in this EO was that “any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex.” That white students could shut down discussions of “white privilege” and “structural inequality” because they make them uncomfortable is a most egregious affront to academic freedom. Laws like Florida’s “Stop WOKE Act” underscore that policies oriented around harm-avoidance in the classroom are educational dead ends. To safeguard high-quality teaching that powerfully and accurately communicates our disciplines and fields, academic freedom must be vigorously defended. Students, DEI administrators and other campus stakeholders should understand that professors have the right to decide what and how to teach based on their academic expertise and their pedagogical goals. They should also know that there is no academic freedom without academic responsibility. Academic freedom is not a license to mouth off or teach whatever material suits our fancy. Moreover, when thorny issues arise pertaining to classroom instruction, we have a responsibility to listen to students’ concerns and take them seriously. This does not mean, however, that students should be able to dictate the curriculum. The Hamline case should serve as a wake-up call for anyone who cares about classroom teaching, critical thinking, and the future of higher education. Some may see this controversy as an exception or an outlier. It’s not. It’s a bellwether of how DEI Inc. is eroding academic freedom. Let’s not forget it took an outpouring of sustained, high-publicity resistance, not to mention a lawsuit, for Hamline to soften its charge of “Islamophobia” against Prater and affirm its commitment to academic freedom. When institutions proclaim that academic freedom and inclusion coexist in a kind of synergistic harmony, they are trafficking in PR-driven wishful thinking. In the hardest cases, there is no way of upholding an “all are welcome here” brand of inclusion while simultaneously defending academic freedom. Instead, we should turn to the wise words of Hanna Holborn Gray, former president of the University of Chicago: “Education should not be intended to make people comfortable, it is meant to make them think.” A version of this piece was originally published on February 6, 2023 by The Chronicle of Higher Education

MIT Faculty Adopts Free Expression Statement

By Jennifer Kabbany, The College Fix, December 29, 2022

Massachusetts Institute of Technology faculty have adopted a resolution that defends freedom of speech and expression — even speech some find “offensive or injurious.” The “Free Expression Statement,” approved by the faculty senate Dec. 21, states that “Learning from a diversity of viewpoints, and from the deliberation, debate, and dissent that accompany them, are essential ingredients of academic excellence.” The statement was approved by a vote of 98 to 52, a source close to MIT told The College Fix. “We cannot prohibit speech that some experience as offensive or injurious,” the statement reads. It had been presented earlier this year by MIT’s Ad Hoc Working Group on Free Expression, developed after the venerable university was engulfed in controversy for canceling a guest lecture to be given by University of Chicago geophysicist Dorian Abbot in 2021. Activists had led a campaign against Abbot for his comments critical of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs, but he had been slated to speak on climate change, not DEI policies. If MIT leadership is proud of the statement’s passage, they have not said so it publicly. A roundup touting the institution’s 2022 accomplishments, published a couple days after the statement was approved, does not mention it. Others have celebrated the development. “The MIT Free Speech Alliance has from the beginning advocated the free expression statement’s adoption, and we’re very pleased to see the faculty take this step,” MIT Free Speech Alliance President Charles Davis said in a news release. “We especially commend the faculty who tirelessly fought for the statement’s adoption as it was debated this fall.” Peter Bonilla, MIT Free Speech Alliance’s executive director, called on incoming MIT President Sally Kornbluth to continue to work to defend free speech and academic freedom. “President Kornbluth can set a strong example by endorsing the free expression statement herself, as well as by considering and implementing the thoughtful recommendations of the free expression working group,” Bonilla said in a news release. The statement did garner a bit of criticism from its supporters. Writing on his popular Why Evolution Is True blog, University of Chicago emeritus biology Professor Jerry Coyne took issue with the statement’s “slightly hedged” final version. “The only objection I have is to … calling for ‘civility and mutual respect’, as well as ‘considering the possibility of offense and injury’. You simply cannot have free speech without offense and injury. Abbot’s invitation provoked precisely such offense and injury, with many people supporting his deplatforming,” Coyne wrote. “… You can’t have free speech without harm, much though the word is much overused by the faux offended.”

Cornell Alumni Urge Emphasis on Free Speech and Critical Thinking During New Student Orientation

An alumni group at Cornell similar to ours has written two letters (one last May, one this week) to Cornell’s president, urging that a free speech instruction unit be included in new student orientation. The more recent letter states in part, “This is not a partisan issue and should not be treated as such. Every side of a debate must be open to intellectual challenge if we, as a society, and the university, as an engine of open inquiry, are to have any chance of surviving. . . . We propose training to assist students in recognizing the difference between speech and violence . . . [and that] through listening to reasoned challenge they may become wiser and more thoughtful adults.”  See the most recent letter to Cornell's president below:

By John Rose | From the Wall Street Journal, June 24, 2021,

Editor's note: John Rose is a faculty member at Duke who teaches courses in ethics, religion and political science. He also is the associate director of Duke's Civil Discourse Project.

The conservative critique of American higher education is well known to Journal readers: The universities are run by intolerant progressives. The left counters with an insult: The lack of intellectually respectable conservative arguments is responsible for campus political uniformity. Perhaps a better starting point in this debate is the students, most of whom actually want freer discourse on campus. They want to be challenged by views they don’t hold. This, at least, has been my recurring experience with undergraduates at Duke University, where I teach classes called “Political Polarization” and “Conservatism” that require my students to engage with all sides of today’s hottest political issues. True engagement, though, requires honesty. In an anonymous survey of my 110 students this spring, 68% told me they self-censor on certain political topics even around good friends. That includes self-described conservative students, but also half of the liberals. “As a Duke student, it is difficult to be both a liberal and a Zionist,” one wrote. Another remarked, “Although I support most BLM ideas, I do not feel that I can have any conversation that even slightly criticizes the movement.” To get students to stop self-censoring, a few agreed-on classroom principles are necessary. On the first day, I tell students that no one will be canceled, meaning no social or professional penalties for students resulting from things they say inside the class. If you believe in policing your fellow students, I say, you’re in the wrong room. I insist that goodwill should always be assumed, and that all opinions can be voiced, provided they are offered in the spirit of humility and charity. I give students a chance to talk about the fact that they can no longer talk. I let them share their anxieties about being socially or professionally penalized for dissenting. What students discover is that they are not alone in their misgivings. Having now run the experiment with 300 undergraduates, I no longer wonder what would happen if students felt safe enough to come out of their shells. They flourish. In one class, my students had a serious but respectful discussion of critical race theory. Some thought it harmfully implied that blacks can’t get ahead on their own. Others pushed back. My students had an honest conversation about race, but only because they had earned each other’s trust by making themselves vulnerable. On a different day, they spoke up for all positions on abortion. When a liberal student mentioned this to a friend outside class, she was met with disbelief: “Let me get this straight, real Duke students in an actual class were discussing abortion and some of them actually admitted to being pro-life?” For my student’s part, she was no longer shocked the conversation had taken place, nor scandalized at the views of her classmates. Not long after Jan. 6, I asked my students how many of them had a family member or friend who voted for Donald Trump. In a class of 56, 50 hands went up. I then asked them to keep their hands up if they thought this person’s vote was motivated by anything unsavory—say, sexism or racism. Every hand but two went down. Despite our masks, I could see that students were surprised. Turns out, their Trump-supporting cousin wasn’t the exception. When you actually know others, they aren’t an abstraction onto which you can project your own political narratives. The same is true in the classroom. On the last day of class this term, several of my students thanked their counterparts for the gift of civil disagreement. Students told me of unlikely new friendships made. Some existing friendships, previously strained by political differences, were mended. All of this should give hope to those worried that polarization has made dialogue impossible in the classroom. Not only is it possible, it’s what students pine for. Progressives, the power to make this a widespread reality on campus is in your hands; in so doing, you’ll remain true to your own tradition of liberalism. Conservatives, don’t write off the modern university; in continuing to support it, you’ll uphold your own tradition’s commitment to passing down wisdom. Both sides should support efforts within universities that promote civil discourse. We’ll all be happier about the state of the country if we do. After all, as they say, what starts on campus doesn’t stay on campus. Mr. Rose is associate director of the Arete Initiative at Duke University’s Kenan Institute for Ethics.

My ‘Free Speech’ College Is Silencing Me

By  Christopher Nadon

Students are being turned into informants

In 1993, I began my first teaching job at the University of Kyiv-Mohyla in newly independent Ukraine. I had been hired to teach Hobbes, Locke, and the Federalist to the sons and daughters of communist apparatchiks who had come to recognise the corrupt character of the Soviet regime and university system, and to introduce institutional reforms that would support the kind of liberal arts approach to education then typical on American campuses. Thirty years later, the tables have turned. I am now a tenured professor at Claremont McKenna College, an elite institution that aggressively markets itself as the number-one ranked college for promoting freedom of speech by the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression. I don’t blame FIRE. But the administration here has built a Potemkin village. My real job today is to re-introduce something of the spirit of Ukraine into American education. How did this come to happen on my own and other campuses in the United States? The responsibility of a Dean of Students office used to be to handle student discipline. Today it seems to maintain student comfort by disciplining faculty who threaten their repose. Gadflies, out; massage chairs and comfort puppies, in. There are also institutional structures for climate control. On my campus there is a programme called CMCListens, the tip of an enormous bureaucracy to eliminate any student unease. It encourages them to submit anonymous reports “to senior staff” about anything “they find troubling at CMC in just a few easy steps”. The programme sets a tone that conditions students to think of themselves as minders and informants, not students. The effect in the classroom is to destroy the possibility of education. On October, 4, 2021, discussion in my “Introduction to Political Philosophy” class was devoted to Book III of Plato’s Republic and his views about the necessity for censorship in political communities. A very intelligent student objected that Plato was mistaken, a point proven by the fact that in the United States there is no censorship. Someone brought up the example of Huckleberry Finn. She replied, quite correctly, that removing a book from curriculums doesn’t constitute censorship. I suggested that the case of Huckleberry Finn was perhaps more complicated. The book had also been removed from libraries and published in expurgated editions. At this point, an international student who had never even heard of Huckleberry Finn asked me why the book had been banned. I told her, in plain English, using the precise term written by the author. This caused the first student, somewhat grudgingly but honestly, to acknowledge that censorship did exist in America. Far from being harmed by the discussion, she was benefitted. It shocked her into seeing something about her own society that she had missed. She also understood that Plato’s views were not simply outdated or wrong, but perhaps merited more serious consideration. This liberation from her initial prejudice bore fruit. Later in the semester she raised a very thoughtful question about Socrates’ criticisms of the poets and the strange role they play in the Allegory of the Cave: “But isn’t Plato himself a poet?” Her world was no longer flat. This is what good books can do. A rare success. Another student, well-trained as an informant, reported me to the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion. An associate dean then requested a meeting to discuss “serious concerns raised about one of your courses”. I requested to be informed of the concerns in writing. The associate dean refused. I insisted. This went on for a couple of weeks. Finally, the dean of faculty emailed a summary of the informant’s (inaccurate) account and demanded to know “why it was important to use the n* expressly as contrasted with simply saying the ‘n-word?’” What could possibly be the “pedagogic rationale” that justified my approach? This was my reply: “I do think that when a student asks me a direct question that I am able to answer, good “pedagogy” requires that I tell him the truth. Do you disagree? Similarly, when a student makes a false statement, I think my job requires me to confront that student with facts that contradict him. Do you think I am wrong to do so? I also hold the view that before criticizing or praising an author, one should first attempt to understand that author as he understood himself, something that requires reading and discussing exactly what he wrote. Do you think I am mistaken in this approach?” The dean never responded, at least not with an argument. Sometime after I failed to toe the line by later reading aloud in a different class from Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass — its most powerful passage contains the n-word — she undertook to ban me from teaching future introductory classes. She did this without any investigation into the accuracy of student complaints, without following formal procedures, and even without the courtesy of informing me what she had done. By chance, I discovered my case was not unique. This spring, an untenured adjunct, Eva Revesz, read aloud and asked students to discuss a passage from Alice Walker’s The Color Purple that contained the n-word. They complained. The dean’s office summoned the adjunct. She apologised and agreed to undergo the recommended counseling. She met the dean. She submitted to re-education and on-line training in critical race theory. Despite all this — and a glowing recommendation by the faculty member who observed and evaluated her teaching — Ms Revesz’s contract was not renewed. The college knows the stigma attached to these kinds of complaints and the near impossibility of an academic finding a job with a scarlet “N” branded on their forehead. But if they counted on this to ensure Ms Revesz’s quiet departure, they misjudged her character. She went public, turning the tables on Claremont McKenna’s puritans. Perhaps some other college will enrich their institution and its students by hiring her. But I’m not holding my breath. Ms Revesz’s courage makes her my hero. She deserves to be yours. A third case exists. Professor Robert Faggen, friendly with the CMC’s president and well-connected to its Board of Trustees, assigned Robert Lowell’s “For the Union Dead”, a poem that contains the n-word. When he played a recording in class of Lowell himself reading the poem, a student exploded, excoriating both author and teacher as “old white dudes”. Now there’s a good “argument” for you. The Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion informed the professor by telephone, not in writing, that he was in the clear because he had not himself read the forbidden word aloud in class. A narrow escape based on an arbitrary distinction that the administration could and likely will deny ever having made. Ms Revesz was not so lucky. I discussed my situation with several colleagues. This was disheartening. Almost all counseled submission. I’m just a guy sitting in a stuffy backroom of his house with a few sheets of paper and a pen, up against an institution with an endowment of $1.2 billion dollars (market value in June of 2020), lawyers by the bushel, and the ability to comb through all my emails for the past 15 years. One colleague warned me, “If you go public with this, the administration will smear you head to foot.” Another, who thought my actions just but likely imprudent, asked, “Is this really the hill you want to die on?” They had a point. They were correct. After I published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal detailing the College’s attempts to suppress speech in my and other classrooms, the president, Hiram Chodosh, replied by circulating a statement to the media and publishing a lengthy reply in the same newspaper. Rather than take the opportunity of a national audience to discuss an important issue on his and many other campuses, he leveled an ad hominem attack on me for being the bearer of bad news. President Chodosh claimed that my op-ed contained damning and relevant omissions that explained my plight. “Low enrollment in his electives had a detrimental effect on his department. His upper-level elective fall course resulted in no students enrolled, and there is only one student enrolled in his major-required course this fall.” In fact, the cancelled course was listed by the administration without consulting me at 8:10 am. No other elective course in political philosophy has ever been assigned this hour, and with good reason. It’s not good for enrollment. As for the required course with just one student, President Chodosh omitted the fact that it had been listed only at the end of this July, three months after registration had closed and before students were back on campus. Once students were actually in a position to sign up, enrollment was just fine. And discussion lively. A fish rots from the head. In November of 2015, Mary Spellman, then Dean of Students at Claremont McKenna, was forced to resign over protests by minority students over her alleged lack of sensitivity for having emailed a Hispanic student that she would work hard to help those “who don’t fit the CMC mold”. Ms Spellman’s sincere and decent offer to help a struggling student was met with this response, “How dare you say we don’t fit the mold?” That was her crime. She resigned. While this immediately affected the way Faculty dealt with the president, I failed to realise the effect this incident would have on students. I received a text this week from an intelligent, self-possessed and assertive woman, a CMC student here at the time of the Spellman fiasco. She feared I might now be next for the undercarriage and confessed, “I remember feeling quite scared to come out then as someone who even questioned what happened there.” Afraid to come out. Afraid. Even to question. I had no idea. The situation of students today is bad. As many others have noted, they live in a world without much depth, dominated by digital communication and social media consumed on a flat screen that makes sustained reading difficult. They fear, and not without good cause, that any misstep will be engraved on the internet forever. They live under conditions of mob-rule. No one should blame them for being cautious. Yet it is less the internet than the over-valuing of the genuine democratic virtues of kindness and sensitivity that poses the greater threat to education today. The lively exchange of view-points is discouraged in elementary and high schools as likely to injure someone’s feelings. The habit of arguing falls into disuse. Students are miserable at it, not for want of intelligence, but from lack of practice. This inability to argue makes them distrustful of reason. This distrust turns into a belief that reason gives no guidance at all on any important question. The principle of equality assures them that everyone else is in the same boat. Contentious issues can therefore be determined only by authority. Upset by something spoken in a classroom? Don’t make an argument. Run to the dean to make it stop. Someone, not themselves, needs to make and enforce the rules. The dean listens. It is stopped. This confirms in their minds that this is the way to get results, but without them even noticing the full extent and deepening of their dependence and the growth in the dean’s power. This is a school for politics, not, however, of a healthy democratic kind. Fear and timidity, especially by those with university positions, are also a large part of the problem. Conformity is in all times and places a special danger to intellectuals. What is the point of assigning Frederick Douglass when those with tenure lack the courage even to read in class what is on the page? The liberating power of books, particularly those written in times and places distant from our own, is destroyed when they are bowdlerised and filtered through the sieve of contemporary sensibilities. Foot soldiers rarely get to choose the hill on which they are stationed. They must deal with the concrete circumstances in which they find themselves. Frederick Douglass defended free speech over the course of his long career as a freeman. He had no choice. He understood that the cause of liberty for millions of blacks required unfettered discussion and criticism of slave power, the US Constitution, and even his fellow abolitionists. “Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist. That, of all rights, is the dread of tyrants.” He risked his life and liberty to write his Narrative. I stand for the original genius of his book, exactly as he published it. Frederick Douglass deserves that, and much, much more.   Huck Finn wavered between winning praise as an informant or suffering social opprobrium and eternal damnation for helping to liberate a fellow man from slavery. Lacking the benefit of Claremont McKenna College training, he chose to tear up his letter to Miss Watson informing her of Jim’s whereabouts. “All right, then,” he concluded, “I’ll go to hell.” No wonder the reading and discussion of Mark Twain’s book is discouraged by authorities. I owe a debt to Frederick Douglass and to Mark Twain for taking the trouble to educate me, or, at least, for having tried. So I lodged a formal grievance against the dean and went public. The grievance has yet to run its course. I can, however, report that two weeks after filing it, when it also became apparent to the administration that my, and other similar cases at Claremont McKenna, would be made public, the dean decided to allow me to teach Introduction to Political Philosophy this fall, a course I have offered 19 times in the past 15 years, and one that had originally been on my department’s master schedule. To date, my success has been partial. The editor of a campus paper recently interviewed students from my courses. He found critics, but many more who profited from and appreciated my approach. Yet not one of the latter would go on the record. I’d like to think they are mistaken. But I’m not sure. When I left Ukraine in 1994, I was pessimistic about the future of political liberty there. The people as a whole were so atomised and enervated by the Soviet system that it was hard to imagine them engaging in any collective action to defend their rights and liberties. But the young people I taught at Kyiv-Mohyla had not yet had their spirits crushed. Somehow, despite the horrific economic and political corruption of the Nineties, Ukraine avoided the descent into one-party, one-man rule. In the moment of greatest peril, my former students’ university became an important point of resistance to the puppet regime in 2014. Their generation went to the streets and overthrew a corrupt government during the Maidan Revolution. Their courage then and now leaves me shamefaced both for myself and my fellow academics who can no longer even stand up for reading historical texts as written.  I am much more pessimistic about the fate of liberal education in America than I ever was about political liberty in Ukraine. Many, perhaps most, professors and students oppose free speech and free inquiry as an obstacle to the creation of a more equitable world. Ukrainians know how that ends. Others favour free speech and free inquiry, but give increased devotion to conformity, too cowed and cowardly to secure their blessings. I hope I am as much mistaken about America as I was about Ukraine. A classroom is not a public space, it does not have the same purposes and responsibilities as a political community. It therefore requires different rules to govern and preserve it, among the most important is civility. I am not a free speech absolutist. In the course that first got me in trouble, I tried to help a student see the power of Plato’s case for censorship. How then could I have come to utter the forbidden “n-word” in a class knowing full well the distress it might cause in some, or even most, of my students? Civility in the classroom is not the end but a means that makes the discovery of truth more likely. Liberation from falsehoods and the discovery of truth is the most important purpose of any classroom, indeed, the highest end of liberal education — not comfort and safety. College is not a resort hotel. When the means obstruct the end, reason allows their modification. If liberal education, that is, an education that makes us worthy of being free, is to have a future, it can only be secured by a movement from below, not by corrupt administrators who profit from and manipulate the current situation. As teachers, we need to take back our classrooms. We need to fight on whatever hill we find ourselves.

Professor Blocked for Tweeting 'All Men Are Created Equal' Files
First Amendment Lawsuit

A professor who was blocked on Twitter by a University of Oregon account after he tweeted “all men are created equal” at the account has filed a First Amendment lawsuit. Portland State University Professor Bruce Gilley’s lawsuit names the campus administrator who blocked him as the defendant in the federal lawsuit, filed Aug. 11. “Clearly it’s not that I need to read the University of Oregon’s Twitter account, but what is important is I need to make use of my role as a defender of academic freedom in higher education … to make sure government-funded universities comply with our Constitution,” Gilley said Friday in a telephone interview with The College Fix. On June 14, UO’s Equity and Inclusion Twitter account tweeted “You can interrupt racism” with a wording prompt on how to start such a conversation: “It sounded like you just said [blank]. Is that what you really meant?” In response, Gilley retweeted it with the statement “all men are created equal,” tagging both the University of Oregon and its Equity and Inclusion Twitter accounts. The lawsuit alleges Tova Stabin, communication manager for the university’s Division of Equity and Inclusion, blocked Gilley as a result. Stabin and University of Oregon media affairs did not respond to an emailed request for comment Friday from The College Fix. “Blocking also removed Bruce Gilley’s ‘all men are created equal’ reply from @UOEquity’s timeline and prevented other users from viewing it or interacting with it, and with Gilley, including followers of the @UOEquity account,” the lawsuit states. The suit claims the reason Stabin blocked Gilley is because “she and her employer disagree with the viewpoint … that ‘all men are created equal.'” It also alleges Stabin “believes that Prof. Gilley’s opinion is critical of her employer’s DEI ideology and she wishes to suppress his viewpoint.” “On July 5, 2022, after Bruce Gilley filed a public records request for the policy utilized by [the Office of the Vice President for Equity and Inclusion] to block Twitter users, the University of Oregon informed him that there was no written policy and that the ‘staff member that administers the VPEI Twitter account and social media has the autonomy to manage the accounts and uses professional judgment when deciding to block users,” the lawsuit states. Two other Twitter users expressing conservative viewpoints at the @UOEquity account have also been blocked, the lawsuit alleges. Gilley is represented by the Institute for Free Speech, a nonpartisan First Amendment advocacy group, and the Angus Lee Law Firm. “The First Amendment does not allow the government or its actors to ban individuals from public forums just because they disagree with the views those individuals express,” a news release from the institute states. “The lawsuit asks the judge to order @UOEquity to unblock Professor Gilley and to issue a permanent injunction preventing the account’s manager and agents from discriminating on the basis of viewpoint when blocking users in the future.” Gilley told The College Fix on Friday that the request for a temporary restraining order has already been denied, but the effort for a permanent injunction is the long game. He described his case as “emerging jurisprudence.” “I knew immediately that this was a clear-cut, made-in-heaven case, all the more so because I was blocked for quoting the Declaration of Independence,” he said. “This is the perfect case to establish a precedent that says if you are a public agency you can’t pick and choose who is a member of the public.” He said the university cannot simply unblock him to make the lawsuit moot. “The case goes forward even if they unblock me tomorrow,” he told The Fix, “because they could reblock me anytime and because … simply to unblock me would not show they had engaged in a change of their practices.” Gilley is no stranger to controversy. In 2018 he was investigated, but eventually cleared, by his employers at Portland State after authoring a controversial article in defense of colonialism. His course on conservative political thought was also canceled by Portland State. Earlier this month, Gilley’s latest book “In Defense of German Colonialism: And How Its Critics Empowered Nazis, Communists, and the Enemies of the West” was published.

Freshman Orientations Emphasize DEI Over Free Speech, Nationwide Survey Finds

Almost all — 91 percent — of university freshman orientation programs across the country emphasize diversity, equity and inclusion topics, a recently released investigative report found. By contrast, free speech and viewpoint diversity topics are only mentioned in about 30 percent of orientation programs, and are often “strikingly absent” from the conversation, the Speech First survey found. Speech First, a 4-year-old nonprofit that advances free speech on college campuses through advocacy and litigation, obtained the results by filing Freedom of Information Act requests to over 50 public universities asking for freshman orientation materials. The group found DEI topics are covered in “3.71 times more orientation slide material, 4.9 times more orientation handout material, and 7.37 times more orientation video material” than free speech topics. Speech First Executive Director Cherise Trump told The College Fix that the process of developing the report, which took nearly a year to finish, was “wrought with delays, excuses, additional fees, and redactions.” Many universities were reluctant to comply with the Freedom of Information Act requests. While 51 universities ultimately complied, 3 universities—Arizona State University, Colorado State University-Fort Collins, and University of California-Berkeley—did not respond. Examples of orientation DEI issues highlighted by Speech First include a Northern Kentucky University orientation video that labels the phrases “Where are you from?” and “I don’t see race” as microaggressions and a James Madison University PowerPoint featuring 34 slides on diversity, power and oppression. James Madison University spokesperson Mary-Hope Vass told The College Fix this presentation is “not in use” and that the president “will address free speech and viewpoint diversity during his opening remarks to all new students.” At State University of New York at New Paltz, Speech First found incoming students are required to take an “Implicit Association Test” asking them to match skin colors with various words, objects and weapons. The test is hosted on a Harvard website and facilitated at multiple universities nationwide. At the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, freshman orientation features a presentation that asserts “bias” includes “a tendency to believe that some ideas are better than others” and asks students to analyze their identities using an “identity wheel.” “Freshman orientation programs must be restructured,” Speech First’s report states. “Currently, students have very little understanding of their free speech rights and the value this adds to their education.” To combat the overemphasis on DEI, Speech First opened a tip line for university students to share what is being covered during new student orientation. “We know our findings only scratched the surface of what we are certain is out there,” Trump said via email. “We hope that students and pro-free speech faculty send us materials from their new student orientations (videos, powerpoints, images, pdfs, etc.) that will expose universities that are attempting to impose their dogmatic political agendas onto students while encouraging them to censor and report one another if they diverge.” Speech First did find commendable examples of orientation programs at George Mason University and Louisiana State University, both schools that have made robust statements in support of free speech. “It is not the proper role of the University to shield individuals from speech protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America…including without limitation ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive,” the LSU Permanent Memorandum 79 on Free Speech and Expression states. Several other universities, the report notes, have also taken steps to incorporate material on free speech. The Rochester Institute of Technology announced in February it would include “free speech programming” in its New Student Orientation, as did the Iowa Board of Regents for all students, faculty and staff at the three public Iowa universities. A lack of preparation during orientation can set the tone for greater free speech problems later on. In a study conducted last year by Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, RealClearEducation and College Pulse, 80 percent of students reported that they self-censor on campus. Another 66 percent said it was acceptable to shout down a speaker to prevent them from speaking on campus. “If students are told as soon as they step on campus that they must feel guilty, ashamed, and they must be hyper-sensitive towards their peers, then they will be afraid to express their thoughts, ultimately limiting their knowledge to whatever they are told rather than expanding their minds through discourse, debate, and inquiry,” Speech First states in the survey’s conclusion. Trump said she hopes her organization’s tip line and report will influence universities to do more than “mention free speech subtly amidst a flood of DEI/CRT propaganda.” “I look forward to hearing from universities that have changed their ways and modified their materials to reflect a strong and obvious dedication to students’ First Amendment rights, free speech, open discourse, rigorous debate, and viewpoint diversity in their freshman orientation materials,” she said.

College Student Views on Free Expression and Campus Speech 2022
A Look At Key Trends in Student Speech Views since 2016

College campuses have long been places where the limits of free expression are debated and tested. In recent years, this dialogue has grown more fraught as some schools have sought to create a more protective speech environment for students. Moreover, key events shaping the past two years, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the racial justice movement and the 2020 election, have only added deeper dimensions to the dialogue around free speech playing out on campus and in society at large. The “Knight-Ipsos College Student Views on Free Expression and Campus Speech” report is the fourth in a series of Knight Foundation reports measuring college student attitudes toward speech and the First Amendment since 2016. For this report, Knight Foundation commissioned Ipsos to conduct a survey with a nationally representative sample of over 1,000 college students ages 18-24 enrolled in all types of higher education institutions, along with 4,000 American adults, offering insight into how college students’ views on free speech compare with those of the general public. In addition to the past Knight-Gallup campus speech surveys (2016, 2017, 2019), Knight has studied free speech views among high school students since 2004. Trends in college student attitudes are included throughout this report. For findings on how the adult population views free speech and expression, please see “Free Expression in America Post-2020,” published earlier in January 2022. This Knight Foundation-Ipsos report offers nuanced insight into how college students perceive campus speech and First Amendment protections today, including how views are evolving within different factions of the student body. This survey reinforces that students are not a monolithic group when it comes to speech, finding that partisanship, race, and ethnicity drive meaningful differences in how college students view speech. Understanding where different groups stand is vitally important for higher education leaders as they seek to foster free expression on college campuses and create a campus environment that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive. The findings described in this report cover many, but not all, of the rich insights possible from this complex dataset. We invite the public and researchers to explore this publicly available resource in further detail. KEY FINDINGS Students view speech rights as important, yet less secure than in years past: Students continue to believe First Amendment rights and concepts of free speech are important to democracy. However, the percentage of students saying speech rights are secure has fallen every year since this question was first asked in 2016. This includes a 12-point decrease from 2019 as an increasing number of students—particularly Republicans—say they believe speech rights are threatened. Students of color believe their speech is less protected: While a majority of college students express confidence that the First Amendment protects “people like them,” Black students in particular feel much less protected, with a sharp decline from 2019 to 2021. Students believe exposure to a wide spectrum of speech at college is important: Most students continue to say colleges should allow students to be exposed to all types of speech, including political speech that is offensive or biased, rather than prohibiting speech they may find offensive. Students favor college policies that limit racist speech, but support for other speech interventions remains low: Most students favor colleges instituting policies that restrict the use of racial slurs on campus, suggesting that, for them, this particular category of speech does not merit mandated exposure on campus. Just 1 in 4 students favor schools disinviting controversial speakers, down from more than 2 in 5 in 2019. Similarly, the number of students who support colleges providing safe spaces or speech codes has fallen over the past two years. Students say the campus climate stifles free expression, yet speech on campus is making nearly 1 in 5 feel unsafe: More students now say the climate at school prevents some from saying things others might find offensive, and fewer feel comfortable disagreeing in class. Yet slightly more now report feeling unsafe because of comments made on campus than in 2019. This is particularly true for female students and students of color. KEY POPULATIONS Experience with and attitudes toward speech vary widely among different student groups. The greatest differences exist among race and partisanship, and less so by gender or other demographic groupings. The following is a brief summary of the major findings and how opinion has changed over time, including the degree to which students have a formed opinion at all. DEMOCRATIC STUDENTS A majority of Democratic students believe that freedom of speech is secure in America today, a view that has held constant since 2019. When it comes to free expression broadly on campus, just over half of Democratic students favor schools fostering an environment in which all forms of speech are allowed, a view that’s softened since the last time Knight asked these questions two years ago. Democrats are most likely to favor colleges implementing restrictions on certain forms of speech on campus, particularly around speech that is offensive to minority groups, something that was also true in prior Knight-Gallup research. Both now and in 2019, a large majority of Democratic students believe that colleges should be able to restrict the use of racial slurs on campus. When it comes to other speech policies, 3 in 4 support the creation of safe spaces on campus, close to half support the creation of speech codes that could limit offensive or biased speech, and 2 in 5 favor schools disinviting potentially controversial speakers. These views are consistent with previous surveys. A majority of Democrats feel that their campus climate prevents people from saying what they believe for fear of offending others, although they are less likely to feel this way than Republicans and independents. Compared with two years ago, Democratic students now feel less comfortable voicing disagreements in class. INDEPENDENT STUDENTS Independent students express growing concerns about the fundamental security of free speech in America today while indicating their wariness of colleges limiting speech on campus. Just under half of all independents feel that free speech is secure today, down from 3 in 4 who felt this way in 2016. At the same time, a strong majority (8 in 10) believe that they are protected under the First Amendment. This puts them on about equal footing with Democrats, but slightly behind Republicans. A majority believe that colleges should allow students to be exposed to all forms of speech. Opinion is split among the remaining minority with equal numbers (around 1 in 5 each) either believing that colleges should foster a protective environment or having no opinion on the matter. Much like two years ago, few support colleges disinviting controversial speakers or instituting speech codes. A majority feel that their campus climate limits free expression, a view that has remained the same since 2019. Independents were more likely than other groups of students to respond with the newly prompted “No opinion” option this year, indicating that many of them do not have strong views on these issues at all. REPUBLICAN STUDENTS Republican students are increasingly likely to feel that freedom of speech is under threat—just over a quarter believe it is secure today, down from two-thirds in 2016. More now also believe that their school’s climate stifles free expression. A strong majority (7 in 10, down from 90% in 2019) say it is more important for colleges to allow students to be exposed to all types of speech, even if they find it offensive or biased, than to prohibit offensive or biased speech. A majority (56%)—albeit a smaller share than either Democratic or independent students—believe that colleges should be allowed to prohibit the use of racial slurs on campus. Moreover, for Republican students, this represents a more than 20-point drop from 2019 in the percentage who feel that colleges should restrict the use of racial slurs on campus. Republicans are more divided around whether safe spaces should be allowed on campus—half favor this—but come down firmly against schools disinviting controversial speakers, something that was also true two years ago. A slim majority oppose schools instituting speech codes that could restrict offensive or biased speech. Unlike their Democratic counterparts, there has been no change over time in their already low level of comfort voicing disagreements with professors or other students; less than half remain comfortable. WHITE STUDENTS White students tend to favor allowing all types of speech on campus, over protecting students by prohibiting certain speech. They are least likely to report having felt unsafe or uncomfortable on campus because of comments about their identity, as compared with Black and Hispanic students. This has not changed substantially since 2019. Overall, half of white college students believe that freedom of speech is under threat in America today. Yet a large majority feel that the First Amendment protects them, a view that has held steady since 2019. When it comes to free expression on college campuses, white students are more likely than their Black or Hispanic counterparts to agree that schools should favor exposing students to all forms of speech, rather than protecting them from speech they may find offensive or biased. This was also true two years ago. They are slightly more likely than Black or Hispanic students to believe that the campus environment stifles free expression. BLACK STUDENTS Fewer Black students express confidence that the First Amendment protects people like them. At the same time, a growing number of Black students favor a more protective campus environment. The share of Black students who feel the First Amendment protects them a great deal has fallen by 20 percentage points over the past two years. Black students also express less confidence than the broader Black adult population about how effectively the First Amendment protects either them or the average American. When it comes to campus free speech, the number of Black students who favor a campus environment that protects students by prohibiting speech that they might find offensive or biased has grown from 28% in 2019 to 36% in 2021. Both in 2019 and 2021, a majority of Black students feel that colleges should restrict the use of offensive racial slurs on campus. Black students are more likely than white or Hispanic students to say that they have been made to feel uncomfortable due to statements that others have made in their presence about their identity or political beliefs, both in daily life and on campus. This has remained constant since 2019. HISPANIC STUDENTS Hispanic students’ views of campus speech, and personal experiences, fall somewhere between the differing views of Black and white students. A strong majority of Hispanic students believe that the First Amendment protects people like them, something that was also true two years ago. The number of Hispanic students saying this is nearly equal to the number of white students. Similarly, Hispanic students align closely with white students on perceptions that free speech is under threat; half agree. However, with regard to colleges restricting offensive racial slurs, Hispanic students fall closer to Black students, with 7 in 10 supporting such an action. Hispanic students (along with independents) are among the most likely to say they have no opinion about whether colleges should foster a more protective speech environment or allow all types of speech on campus. A plurality oppose disinviting controversial speakers, but they are split around instituting speech codes. Like white students, close to 6 in 10 favor the creation of safe spaces on campus, less than the share of Black students who do. MALE AND FEMALE STUDENTS For the most part, male and female students are aligned in their attitudes and experiences of free speech, with a few key differences. Overall, a majority of both male and female students say that free speech rights are important to American democracy, although fewer feel this way than in 2019. Now, female students are more likely than male students to say that free speech rights are extremely important, a change from 2019 when more men said free speech rights were extremely important. Nearly 1 in 5 male and female students alike report having felt unsafe due to comments on campus, whereas larger gender differences were observed in prior years. A more meaningful difference appears when male and female students are asked if they have felt uncomfortable on campus. Female students remain significantly more likely to have felt uncomfortable due to speech on campus, as they did in 2019.

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