Typically reasoned and thoughtful. I tend to be an absolutist on these issues, but I can still respect his position.
Typically reasoned and thoughtful. I tend to be an absolutist on these issues, but I can still respect his position.
My friend and UCLAW colleague Eugene Volokh has more on the free speech mess at University of Oregon:
People often support disciplining and even firing professors who say things that are perceived as racist on the grounds that 1) those professors can’t be trusted to evaluate minority students fairly, 2) students will be afraid that they won’t be judged fairly, or 3) students will more broadly lose confidence in the professors (or just couldn’t stand to be in the room with them) or even in the institution, and won’t learn as effectively. I’ve seen these arguments made often, most recently as to the University of Oregon controversy. ...
I appreciate the force of these arguments, and indeed, if all you care about is maximum teaching effectiveness and reliability, you might take such a view. But, if accepted, these arguments really will be the end of freedom of expression — both casual and more formally academic — on university professors’ part, because they reach far beyond black makeup in Halloween costumes.
Precisely right. There is a pertinent case, by the way, Berger v. Battaglia, 779 F.2d 992 (4th Cir. 1985), in which a police officer brought § 1983 action challenging department's order requiring him to cease public performances in blackface while off duty and challenging denial of his request for permission to perform for compensation while off duty. The court held that "Berger's conduct in performing public entertainment in blackface was constitutionally protected speech and that the defendants as public employers were not justified by any sufficiently weighty countervailing state interest in taking disciplinary action either punishing Berger for that conduct or chilling in any way his continuation of it."
The court further explained that the "threat of disruption" cited by the Police Department as grounds for punishing the officer "was caused not by the speech itself but by threatened reaction to it by offended segments of the public." Imprtantly, the court explained that:
Short of direct incitements to violence by the very content of public employee speech (in which case the speech presumably would not be within general first amendment protection), we think this sort of threatened disruption by others reacting to public employee speech simply may not be allowed to serve as justification for public employer disciplinary action directed at that speech.
Back to Volokh. He goes several examples of other types of speech that some students might find offensive:
Imagine, for instance, a professor who says — at a party, in an op-ed, at a debate, in a scholarly article, or wherever — that she thinks that Catholicism is a foolish and evil religion, because it oppresses women and gays. ...
Or say a professor says that President-elect Donald Trump is a charlatan and a bigot and that Trump voters were therefore either fools or bigots themselves. Again, this could be in a conversation at a party where students may be present, or in an op-ed, or in a scholarly article. ...
Likewise, say a professor sharply condemns certain streams of Islam (e.g., Wahhabism), or for that matter just posts the Muhammad cartoons on his office door or when writing about them on his blog. Some Wahhabi students may be offended by the former. ...
Or say a professor publicly identifies as a hard-line Marxist, who thinks that the capitalist class has blood on its hands from its oppression of the workers. The professor might have praised Marxist mass murderers, such as Stalin or Mao, and talked of the justifiability of violent revolution. Or he might have just been seen wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt.
And then he goes in for the kill:
Yet I take it that universities’ (especially public universities’) general answer to the student who complains about a professor who made anti-Trump-voter or anti-Catholicism or anti-capitalist or anti-American statements at a party or in a blog post will be, more or less, “tough.” Professors are entitled to express their views, including controversial ones; indeed, they’re supposed to express such views, however controversial, as part of their scholarship and their public commentary. And that applies to condemnation of religions, economic classes and political belief systems, as well as debate on less heated topics. “[F]reedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom.” If you disagree with the professor, express that disagreement, the universities would say; but we won’t shut the professor up in order to prevent you from feeling offended or alienated.
Volokh is generally a pretty cheerful guy in my experience, which may explain why he thinks that opening the door to punishing Shurtz would open the door to all of these other types of speech being punished.
And that's where I disagree.
As I noted in a prior post, where speech offends left-wing sensibilities, Universities (like Oregon) fall all over themselves to punish it.
Double standard? Yep. And very few people in higher education care.
Reason has details on the hit to academic freedom and free speech at the University of Oregon arising out of the incident in which law professor trying to make a point about racism (admittedly doing so in a stupid and unwise way by wearing blackface) is being hung out to dry (at the very least):
Shurtz's costume involved the use of black makeup on her face and hands, which constitutes an offensive use of blackface in the eyes of many people. Blackface is always impolite, this thinking goes, because of its racist and discriminatory history—even if the person wearing it is portraying a specific black person, rather than black people generally, and even if the portrayal isn't intended to be mocking.
I'm not sure whether this logic makes any sense, but even if it does—even if blackface is patently and objectively offensive to a number of people—what right does a public university have to discipline a law professor for dressing provocatively? ...
The report notes that Shurtz enjoys certain free speech protections as a tenured law professor, but in this case, the university's interest in preventing racial discrimination outweighs Shurtz's claim to academic freedom.
It's impossible to overstate how radical and dangerous (and wrong) this finding is. As The Washington Post's Eugene Volokh points out, Oregon's policy forbids discrimination that arises not just from racial considerations, but a host of other status as well: age, veteran status, sexual orientation, perceived gender, and religion. If a problematic Halloween costume—donned with innocent or even positive intentions—is enough to constitute racial harassment, how easy would it be for the university to make a determination of religious harassment? ...
The report does not specify what Shurtz's punishment will be—she has already been suspended for weeks. That's disturbing enough, but the greater concern is the overall climate at Oregon. Unintentional, one-off slip-ups constitute discriminatory harassment, in the university's view—as long as enough students are offended. It doesn't matter if they are wrong to feel slighted. It doesn't matter if the expression in question is a matter of legitimate public interest. It doesn't matter if the faculty believe that education should, in some cases, provoke discomfort. It doesn't matter if it happens outside the classroom, and only indirectly concerns the university.
If Shurz had dressed up as a Catholic priest, with the deliberate intention of mocking Catholicism and making her Catholic students uncomfortable, would we not defend her right to challenge religious dogma? I think I know Oregon's answer: no way. If accidental exercises in controversial expression are prohibited, then the university simply put, does not recognize free speech rights—full stop.
Meanwhile, remember the case of the Drexel University professor who posted a tweet wishing for white genocide? Unlike Shurtz, he's getting a slight and muted slap on the wrist as Drexel walks back its initial condemnation of the tweet:
Drexel University responded, “The University vigorously supports the right of its faculty members and students to freely express their opinions in the course of academic debate and discussion. In this vein, we recognize Professor Ciccariello-Maher’s tweets as protected speech.
“However, his words, taken at face value and shared in the constricted Twitter format, do not represent the values of inclusion and understanding espoused by Drexel University. As we engage with one another in conversation, it is important to remember that these principles -- academic freedom, freedom of speech and the need for inclusivity and respect -- are not mutually exclusive.”
Thomas Lifson does a very good job of critiquing Drexel's retreat, using Drexel's own speech code to show its hypocrisy.
My point is not that the Drexel professor should be punished. As one of the very rare conservatives in academia whose own Twitter account is, shall se say, sometimes robust, I obviously have a strong self interest in strong free speech and academic freedom rights on campus. My point is only that the disparity once again illustrates that on US campuses free speech protects only language and conduct that does not offend the far left.
A “red light” institution has at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech. A “clear” restriction is one that unambiguously infringes on what is or should be protected expression. In other words, the threat to free speech at a red light institution is obvious on the face of the policy and does not depend on how the policy is applied.
Excellent op-ed in today's WSJ by Foundation for Individual Rights in Education executive director Robert Shibley on the glaring need for due process on campus Title IX courts:
In September, following allegations that Minnesota football players had sexually assaulted another student, Minneapolis law enforcement investigated and declined to charge any player with a crime. Yet the university’s Title IX investigation into the same incident—which lacked full access to some video evidence used by police—resulted in 10 players’ suspensions from the team, angering members and inspiring the walkout.
Such wildly divergent outcomes between campus and police investigations erode confidence in both systems. Yet they have become more common than ever since the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) began to do end-runs around the law five years ago. ...
My organization, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which has sponsored lawsuits challenging the OCR’s decisions, has identified more than 130 lawsuits filed by students who claim they were wrongly punished for sexual misconduct since the Dear Colleague letter was issued. Victims and accusers also routinely complain of bad investigations by college administrators who are poorly equipped to handle felony crimes.
The OCR’s debased definition of harassment, meanwhile, has led to absurdities such as a feminist professor being investigated for criticizing Northwestern University’s Title IX efforts in a newspaper column. Confidence in the system is low for very good reason.
The change of administrations in Washington offers a valuable opportunity to erase these failed policies.
He offers a number of important changes that would improve processes for both alleged victims and alleged perpetrators.
There's an open letter to the Daily Bruin being circulated among UCLA faculty about how the faculty is united to defend our students of color, LGTBQ, etc.... And how UCLA is a safe space for them.
There is no mention of the increasingly violent riots--yes, riots. There is no mention of numerous trumped up (pun intended) false claims being made. There is no acknowledgement that not everybody at UCLA voted for Hillary. There is no acknowledgement that such a letter might alienate conservative faculty and students, making the former wonder about whether UCLA is a safe place for them to work and the latter whether it is a safe place to go to school.
Do you think a similar letter would have circulated to reassure our conservative students if Hillary had won? Do you think faculty would be united to offer those students a safe space?
No? Me neither.
Glenn Reynold addresses these issues in his latest USA Today column, observing that:
Trump’s substantial victory, when most progressives expected a Hillary landslide, came as a shock to many. That shock seems to have been multiplied in academe, where few people seem to know any Trump supporters — or, at least, any Trump supporters who’ll admit to it.
The response to the shock has been to turn campuses into kindergarten.
He then gives the reader a quick run through of the way schools like Michigan, Penn, Stanford, Cornell, and so on have held counseling sessions, play sessions, puppy sessions, crying sessions, and so on. Then he gets to the meat of the problem:
It’s easy to mock this as juvenile silliness — because, well, it is juvenile silliness of the sort documented in Frank Furedi’s What Happened To The University? But that’s not all it is. It’s also exactly what these schools purport to abhor: An effort to marginalize and silence part of the university community.
... when you treat an election in which the “wrong” candidate wins as a traumatic event on a par with the 9/11 attacks, calling for counseling and safe spaces, you’re implicitly saying that everyone who supported that “wrong” candidate is, well, unsafe. Despite the talk about diversity and inclusion, this is really sending the signal that people who supported Trump — and Trump carried the state of Michigan, so there are probably quite a few on campus — aren’t really included in acceptable campus culture. It’s not promoting diversity, it’s enforcing uniformity. It’s not promoting inclusion, it’s practicing exclusion. And, though it pretends to be about nurturing, it’s actually about being mean to those who don’t fall in the nurtured class. Schlissel says he wants the University of Michigan to be “a welcoming place for all members of society,” but how welcome can students who backed Trump feel in the wake of this performance?
Precisely. I'm nearing retirement (7 years), have an established reputation as a conservative curmudgeon so none of this should come as a surprise to anybody, and have a achieved a certain degree of success in my field (if I may say so) that (I think) insulates me from the worst risks of speaking out (fingers crossed). And who knows, I may end up as the next SEC Chairman yet. But what about the junior faculty? Or the students? Who protects them?
And what about the country?
A viral (and profane) YouTube rant by Jonathan Pie points out that this sort of fear and “othering” of political opponents is why Trump won, and why Democrats were shocked by his victory. Pie’s right to tell people that they should engage in discussion rather than dismissal of people they disagree with, and colleges and universities should listen to him.
If, that is, it’s not too triggering.
Tomorrow, UCLA is a holding a "Processing the Election" event. The event's posted description states:
This event will offer us, as a community, a chance to gather, discuss, and digest yesterday’s Presidential election. Many of us were shocked by last night’s results. For some, this shock was accompanied by earnest excitement about our new President-elect. For others, the results have generated deep anxiety and distress – an understandable response given the rhetoric targeting certain communities throughout the campaign.
As Bruins, as members of a great university, it is our obligation to model how a community comes together in a moment like this to listen, to assess, to move forward. Together. Tomorrow’s CrossCheck Live, which attempts to bring together a range of perspectives and voices from across our campus, has been crafted in that spirit.
I know three of the folks on the panel and the moderator. They are all people of good will whom I like and respect. But they are also very much people of the left (indeed, I think it would be fair to say, very left in most cases). I don't know the rest of the panel members, except by reputation, but as far as I can tell none of them of them are right of center. In fact, as far as I can tell, none of them even fall into the center-left.
This qualifies as a "range of perspectives"?
Who on this panel will speak to--let alone for--students who have "earnest excitement about our new President-elect"? Nobody is the answer.
Sadly, but not surprisingly, this is happening at universities all over the country. What the people putting these programs together don't seem to get is that it is not every student or faculty member shares their world view. As such, while they worry a lot about people being alienated, they are blind to the sense of alienation felt by students or faculty who don't share their PC orthodoxy. Of course, they also don't seem to get that the election result is, in some small--but not, I think insignificant--part, a reaction to the pervasive left-liberal hegemony on college campuses.
Update: I am very pleased to report that they are adding my friend and colleague Eugene Volokh to the panel. Eugene, of course, is the popular head of the libertarian-leaning Volokh Conspiracy blog. He'll be badly outnumbered, but Eugene can more than hold his own.
The UCLA Faculty blog reports:
The University of California is the biggest source of cash for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.Individuals affiliated with the University of California system gave nearly $1.2 million to Clinton’s campaign committee, the largest bloc of contributions she received for her presidential run.
A few months ago, Inside Higher Ed ran a story that noted "that grades continue to rise and that A is the most common grade earned at all kinds of colleges." (emphasis added). This finding surprised me. I knew grade inflation was becoming more and more common, but I did not expect A to be the most common grade earned, especially in the undergraduate setting. ...
Is grade inflation simply an extension of the participation trophy phenomenon? "Entitled" might be the most common adjective I hear used to describe students today. "65% of Americans Say Millennials Are “Entitled,” 58% of Millennials Agree." And if these students grew up being rewarded for just showing up, why wouldn't they be entitled? For the most part, I agree with Pittsburg Steeler, James Harrison, who famously returned his children's participation trophies. To be clear, I think there is a place for team (and individual) achievement trophies and for most improved trophies, but trophies for just showing up seems to encourage mediocrity.
Go read the whole thing.
Last week, Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust wrote a public letter on “Single-Gender Social Organizations,” which heralds a brave new social order at Harvard and perhaps elsewhere. The targets of her letter are Harvard’s so-called final clubs—those organizations that are the last, or final, clubs that undergraduates would join before leaving Harvard. These final clubs are not located on Harvard property and they receive no funding of any sort from the University, having been officially dissociated from Harvard in 1984. There are at present 13 of them—six accept only male members; five, only female members. ...
The sad episode indicates just how far Harvard has departed from the norms of civility and sensible social discourse, and precisely because it lacks intellectual diversity. One point of immediate irony is that same-sex athletics are very much the norm at Harvard. Perhaps it takes a President or Dean at Harvard to understand the irrelevance of arbitrary sex differences in sports. But both Faust and Khurara never hint at ending all single-sex sports teams, without saying what makes them different from final clubs. It is doubtful that even they think that membership in a single-sex club offers ill preparation for being the captain of a single-sex sports team. They simply imposed these sanction to bludgeon the clubs into submission. ...
Harvard has no desire to encourage a portfolio of diverse activities. Instead, its chosen form of diversity is really a new form of totalitarian excess that limits student choice, insisting that everyone at Harvard dance to the administration’s martial music.
We see this sort of discrimination on the part of higher ed administrations everywhere. Student religious organizations have had a particularly tough go of it lately, if the tenets of their beliefs are inconsistent with approved PC multiculturalism. Many have been defunded and/or kicked off campuses. It's all part of the narrowing of the academic mind.
We progressives believe in diversity, and we want women, blacks, Latinos, gays and Muslims at the table — er, so long as they aren’t conservatives.
Universities are the bedrock of progressive values, but the one kind of diversity that universities disregard is ideological and religious. We’re fine with people who don’t look like us, as long as they think like us. ...
The stakes involve not just fairness to conservatives or evangelical Christians, not just whether progressives will be true to their own values, not just the benefits that come from diversity (and diversity of thought is arguably among the most important kinds), but also the quality of education itself. When perspectives are unrepresented in discussions, when some kinds of thinkers aren’t at the table, classrooms become echo chambers rather than sounding boards — and we all lose. ...
It’s also liberal poppycock that there aren’t smart conservatives or evangelicals. Richard Posner is a more-or-less conservative who is the most cited legal scholar of all time. With her experience and intellect, Condoleezza Rice would enhance any political science department. Francis Collins is an evangelical Christian and famed geneticist who has led the Human Genome Project and the National Institutes of Health. And if you’re saying that conservatives may be tolerable, but evangelical Christians aren’t — well, are you really saying you would have discriminated against the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.?
Calling Posner a conservative---even with the more or less qualifier--is, of course, a gross error. But still go read the whole thing.
On the basis of positive reviews by Tyler Cowen:
I found this book subtle and thought-provoking throughout. Here is one good bit:
In fact, many conservative academics feel more at home in the progressive academy than in the Republican Party. This alienation is not because most conservative academics we interviewed are Rockefeller Republicans. In some respects, they are more conservative than self-identified Republicans in the general population. Instead, the Republican Party tends to trouble even the most conservative professors because they share with the American founders a small-c conservatism that is sensitized to the dangers of democratic movements. This political orientation inclines conservative professors to look askance at the populism that has shaken up the Republican Party in recent years…
What also comes through in this book is the remarkable diversity of thought among the so-called “intellectual right.” ... I feared I would be bored by this book, but I found it a work of quality scholarship, yet highly readable too.
And by Jonathan Marks in today's WSJ:
Jon A. Shields and Joshua M. Dunn Sr. are not complaining—conservatives both, they are tenured political scientists at Claremont McKenna College and the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. They aim to understand those conservatives who, despite being “widely stigmatized in academia,” have nonetheless made a home in higher education: What are they like, and how do they think they are doing? ...
Messrs. Shields and Dunn hope that their account, which suggests that “conservatives can survive and even thrive” in academia, will persuade their counterparts outside academia not to dissuade young conservatives from pursuing careers at universities where they are sorely needed. However hard conscientious progressive academics may struggle to understand arguments with which they disagree, that struggle will be much harder if they cannot, as the philosopher John Stuart Mill suggests they must, hear those arguments “from persons who actually believe them; who defend them in earnest and do their very utmost for them.” The integrity of our colleges and universities will be hard to preserve in some fields if more young conservatives cannot be attracted to them.
As a conservative who has made a good life as a college professor, I could hardly sympathize more with Messrs. Shields and Dunn when they argue that colleges and universities are not the dens of far-left iniquity that our fellow conservatives sometimes make them out to be. Yet the academic job market is such that even students free of any stigma take a big risk in embarking on academic careers, and the authors acknowledge that conservative academics really are a “stigmatized minority.” It is therefore hard to imagine very many young conservatives following me and Messrs. Shields and Dunn into academia—and it’s hard to justify encouraging any but the most hardy to do so.
I am reminded of the scene in Men in Black, where J asks K if "it's worth it." It sounds like Marks and I would give an aspiring conservative academic the same answer K gave.
Former Homeland Security boss and current University of California President Janet Napolitano's authoritarian streak is acting up again (HT: UCLA faculty blog):
Napolitano ... ordered new action against Berkeley law school dean Sujit Choudhry, who resigned this week after his former administrative assistant filed a civil lawsuit against him and the UC regents. In the lawsuit, Tyann Sorrell alleged that UC officials mishandled her complaints that Choudhry subjected her to continuous unwanted kissing and touching over several months until March 2015.
Napolitano directed Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks to bar Choudhry from campus for the rest of the term and institute disciplinary proceedings against him through the Academic Senate, which could result in suspension or dismissal. Napolitano also told Dirks that UC does not intend to defend Choudhry against Sorrell’s claims in court...
Of course, it's not just Big Sis, but practically every other university administrator in the country. Under the Obama administration's aggressive interpretation of Title IX and with the willing assistance of a slew of university diversity administrators, most schools have thrown out inconvenient things like due process and the presumption of innocence. One allegation--no matter how transparently bogus--is enough for the campus Robespierres to call for someone's head ... and to get it.
From the UCLA Faculty Association:
I'm not really surprised that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have got over 75% of total campaign contributions from UCLA employees, although I'm a tad surprised there aren't more of my colleagues feeling the Bern. After all, we are the official state university of the People Republic of Westwood, where ideological conformity is our motto and intellectual diversity the words that may not be spoken in polite company.
Speaking of Democrat dominance of the campus, notice that the pitiful and pathetic Martin O'Malley campaign pulled in more money than all but one GOP candidate.
But I am surprised by how well Ted Cruz is doing. This place and almost two-thirds of Bernie's haul. Fascinating. Yet puzzling.