• Berkeley: A Feckless Administration Caves, in advance, to the Heckler’s Veto

    Why not free speech at colleges?

    The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has the story here.

    Since [the riots protesting a planned but cancelled speech by Milo Yiannopoulo], the Berkeley College Republicans’ property has been destroyed, the group cancelled a speech by conservative activist and Berkeley alumnus David Horowitz after the administration threw up numerous roadblocks, and now it has been told that conservative commentator Ann Coulter may not speak as planned due to the danger posed by potentially violent protesters.

    This is a chilling and dangerous precedent. –FIRE

    FIRE has it exactly right, as usual. They are a politically-neutral organization that supports free speech and does more than any organization to promote it.

    Hecklers should never receive a veto. NEVER.

    At Berkeley, the hecklers and rioters not only have a veto, they have established an effective deterrent threat. They can merely threaten to go berserk and prevent speech they oppose.

    The rights (and limitations) surrounding the First Amendment should apply fully on campuses, even at, gasp, the University of California, Berkeley.

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    The three keys:

    1. Universities need to state strong free speech principles. Those are essential, and it is essential to state them without weasel words. But even the best principles are not enough. Berkeley falsely stated its commitment to free speech in cancelling speeches.
    2. Universities need to enforce those on the ground through its deans and safety officers
    3. Students and outsiders who violate those rules need to face sure and serious punishments.

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    To see the right example, look at Purdue, Chicago, or others. I have some positive examples and a wonderful video here. And remember…

  • A WONDERFUL video on the value of free speech at universities

    The University of Chicago doesn’t hide its defense of free speech and open discourse in the footnotes. It puts free speech front and center, in a video directed at all students thinking of applying to the University. It states our university values forthrightly, explains why they matter, and shows that we have held them since the university was founded, sometimes against rich and powerful opposition.

    What’s amazing–and disheartening–is that these same values are not adopted by every college and university. What’s their principled objection to diversity of thought and free speech?

    A few may have such principled objections, based on their notions of “social justice.” They know what is socially just; they know what is not; and they know the whole topic is just too important to debate. So, they reason, agree with us or at least have the courtesy to keep quiet.

    DePaul is like that. It took away the students’ chalk last year after someone had the temerity to write “Trump 2016” on a sidewalk. This Catholic school banned a poster, “Unborn Lives Matter,” for fear it would upset black students. There’s more robust debate on the back of a cereal box.

    But most university administrators have no principled objections to free speech. They just go with the flow, unwilling to face the opposition from students and faculty that would greet them if they urged a hearing for unpopular viewpoints.

    The poster boy for this invertebrate position is Peter Salovey, president of Yale. It’s bad enough he fails to defend free speech. He goes further, patting himself on the back for supporting the First Amendment. “Lux et Veritas” may be the university motto, but only if the lux is environmentally-friendly and the veritas is approved by local truth squad. Otherwise, not so much.

    Salovey’s stance is similar to most college administrators. They simply do what successful career bureaucrats always do: protect their positions and that of their institutions from any controversy. That may keep the campus quiet, but is that really the highest goal of education?

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    I’m reluctant to post too much about my own university, despite my great admiration for its intellectual traditions and commitment to free speech.

    It seems too much like preening.

    (CAVEAT: Even at Chicago, there are some departments and centers that fall well short of the aspiration of diverse viewpoints. They are the same ones that rot and stink in the sun on all campuses.

    There are also student groups that are happy to stomp out speech with which they disagree. The misnamed “Students for Justice in Palestine” leads this vile pack, as they do on many campuses. They show no signs of accepting John Locke’s 1689 “Letter Concerning on Toleration,” or the Enlightenment ideals that build upon it and serve as this country’s foundation.

    Even with these gaps and missteps, Chicago’s values in principle and in practice are far better than at places like Swarthmore, Yale, or Berkeley, where free speech and discordant views go to die. They are buried in unmarked graves, unmourned by students who fritter away hard-won constitutional freedoms so they can signal their higher virtue.)

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    This University of Chicago video is exactly what all schools should be saying to their prospective students. The punchline comes in the first 3 minutes, but the whole 10 minutes are worth watching.

    Kudos to the university’s faculty and administrators who put free speech and diversity of ideas front and center. Kudos to the Dean of the College and the admissions department for underscoring these principled commitments.

    Kudos, too, for adopting the informal motto: 

    Audiatur et Altera Pars: Listen Even to the Other Side.

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, April 15

    Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

     North Korea displays new missiles but holds off another nuclear test (Washington Post)

    Comment: The situation is incredibly dangerous. North Korea’s leader is not only bellicose. He may well be mentally unstable. No one is sure.

    South Korea’s capital and largest city, Seoul, is very close to the DMZ, and very vulnerable to attack–including a nuclear attack by Pyongyang.

    China could put the squeeze on North Korea, but that does not mean it has control over the Kim regime’s actions. Beijing knows that China’s population is also threatened by North Korean weapons and that the two countries have a complicated, sometimes fraught history.

    My hunch is that Beijing would prefer to engineer a change of leadership that is friendly to China, less bellicose, and willing to pursue a Chinese-style market opening. But trying to achieve that is very risky.

     Good news on free speech at one college, Wichita State They tried hard to do the wrong thing, but they eventually got it right.

    An embattled student group at Wichita State University is finally free to engage in on-campus activism as a registered student organization. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of the Wichita State University Student Government overturned the Student Government Association’s unconstitutional decision to deny recognition to Young Americans for Liberty, a libertarian student group, because of the group’s belief in First Amendment principles. –FIRE, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

    Comment: If you support free speech and don’t already know about FIRE, you’ll be happy to learn about it. It is truly even-handed, defending right and left alike.

     Related Story: Meanwhile, at Wellesley, a very selective liberal arts college, the student newspaper writes:

    Wellesley is certainly not a place for racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia or any other type of discriminatory speech. Shutting down rhetoric that undermines the existence and rights of others is not a violation of free speech; it is hate speech. (The Wellesley News via HotAir)

    These students actually say that the “Founding Fathers” (a phrase that must stick in their craw) “put free speech in the Constitution as a way to protect the disenfranchised . . . [and] suppressed, not to protect a free-for-all where anything is acceptable, no matter how hateful and damaging.”

    Comment: The First Amendment does not mean “anything is acceptable.” As everyone knows, you cannot yell fire falsely in a crowded theater. Nor can you take a bullhorn and wake up the whole neighborhood at 3 am with your rendition of “I did it my way.” There are, in other words, some legal restrictions on the time, place, and conditions for speech. There are legal remedies for “damaging” speech, if it is false and defamatory (and perhaps known to be false when uttered).

    But for Wellesley students to actually defend their speech suppression as being true to the First Amendment is either disingenuous or historically clueless. Either way, it is wrong. 

     Two data-driven opinion pieces on wealth disparities between blacks and whites with college degrees

    Comment: The disparity is troubling and thoughtful, open-minded discussion is valuable.

    Going back to the previous two stories: this kind of discussion is much harder to have on campuses where everyone walks on eggshells, fearing a wrong word might offend.

     How deep is the Clinton camp’s denial?

    Well, Hillary’s communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, told a Yale audience “Ukraine and the horrible ISIS beheadings” were “sort of manufactured press stories” (Daily Caller)

    There were the obvious crazy things happening like the website melting down, Ukraine, and the horrible ISIS beheadings; these sort of manufactured press stories that hopefully you all have forgotten about. –Daily Caller

    Comment: Those manufactured stories were nothing compared to that fake moon landing.

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    Many thanks to Christopher Buckley for the Wellesley story

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Saturday, March 11

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Comment: The Trump presidency will be in deep trouble if it cannot pass a repeal-and-replace bill.

    Right now, the White House and Congressional leadership face real problems from the right in House (which doesn’t want to keep Obamacare’s big subsidies to the poor, locking in an entitlement) and centrist Republicans in the Senate (who fear they cannot be reelected in moderate states if they repeal these subsidies). Think: small fairway with a water hazard on the right and thick bushes on the left.

    The House Freedom Caucus expresses principled opposition to entitlement expansion. Basically, they want repeal without replace. The members are all in safe districts that Trump won, so the members may be reluctant to oppose a president popular among their voters. It’s hard to know if these members can be pressured by Speaker Ryan and the White House to sell out their principles.

    The moderate Senators are harder to pressure because they fear a wrong vote could cost them their seats. In the past, they could be coaxed by side-payments. That’s what Pres. Obama did with the “Cornhusker Kickback” and “Louisiana Purchase.” Those backfired and they won’t work this time.

    This is sausage-making at its bloodiest. It’s not even clear the pig is dead yet.

     Michael Flynn, former NSC adviser, was paid to represent Turkish interests during the Trump campaign  (New York Times)

    Comment: Although Turkey is a NATO member and the lobbying work was not illegal, it is stunning that he did not register as a “foreign agent” contemporaneously (he is only doing so now) and that the Trump vetting team didn’t catch this advance. He can’t say he forgot. The check was for $500k. It is a very good thing he’s already gone. 

     Top Democrats’ tech aide, now under criminal investigation, had access to their private emails, including DNC emails  The details are here. (Daily Caller)

    Imran Awan — the lead suspect in a criminal probe into breaches of House of Representatives information security systems — possessed the password to an iPad used by then-Democratic National Committee Chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz when DNC emails were given to WikiLeaks. . . .

    The FBI requested access to the DNC’s server to find out who was responsible, but the DNC refused, FBI Director James Comey said, according to The Hill.

    Politico reported that New York Rep. Gregory “Meeks and, to a larger extent, Wasserman Schultz, are said to have a friendly personal relationship with Awan and his wife, according to multiple sources.”

    House authorities set their sights on the Awans while investigating the existence of a secret server that was funneling congressional data off-site.

    They also suspect Imran of stealing money and equipment. –Daily Caller

     Good News on Free Speech: Univ. of Chicago proposes ‘free speech deans’ to prevent disruptive conduct (Campus Reform)

    The University of Chicago could soon implement new policies that would severely limit “those engaged in disruptive conduct” from preventing “others from speaking or being heard.”

    A recently-released faculty committee report also suggests establishing “free speech deans-on-call” trained to “deal with disruptive conduct” in order to ensure students are not prevented from expressing themselves on campus. –Anthony Gockowski at Campus Reform

     

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  • A Ray of Hope for Free Speech at Middlebury, after the Mob

    Linked articles are in bold purple

    But opposition to Middlebury’s free-speech movement shows where the opposition lies at most universities

     There is good news for open discourse at Middlebury College after the despicable violence that prevented Charles Murray from speaking and injured Prof. Allison Stanger.

     Prominent faculty there have circulated a petition for free speech and garnered lots of signatures. 

    Parini and Callanan, the distinguished scholars who have headed up this effort, deserve high praise for it.

    At the bottom of this blog post, I quote the exemplary principles they lay out.

     Let’s go beyond praising the free-speech petition and use the signatures to show where support free speech comes from and where the opposition lies.

     So far, 63 faculty members have signed on. More might join in the next few days.

     They come from a broad variety of departments–but not all

    In fact, it is worthwhile to examine the departmental affiliations of who signed up for free speech and, on the other side, those who signed the counter-petition (prior to the speech), demanding Murray stay away and then sliming him with false allegations about his views and scholarly findings.

    Most (but not all) of Allison Stanger’s colleagues in political science signed the pro-free speech petition, as did she. That’s not surprising. She was, of course, injured in the riots, and some of her friends and colleagues undoubtedly wanted to show solidarity with her.

    Parini’s colleagues in English and American Literature signed in larger numbers than most departments. Support from literature departments would not happen at most universities. That it did at Middlebury may reflect the kind of department Parini helped build or simply his colleagues’ friendship.

    Who signed the petition beyond faculty in Political Science and Literature? The bulk were in the “hard social sciences” (Economics, Psychology), History, Russian, Math, Chemistry, Geology, and, surprisingly, Religion.

    (By “hard social sciences,” I mean those, like economics and psychology, that aspire to be sciences, emphasize large data bases, mathematical models, and empirical testing of causal models. Fields like anthropology and history certainly use data, but they are generally more interested in the actors’ mentalities, intentions, and meanings. Thus, “hard” does not mean difficult, and “soft” does not mean squishy.)

    Who refused to sign? There were zero signatures from the following departments and minors:

    African American Studies, African Studies, American Studies, Arabic, Comparative Literature, Dance, Education Studies, French, Gender, Sexuality, & Feminist Studies, Global Health , Greek, Hebrew-Classical, Hebrew-Modern, International and Global Studies, International Politics and Economics, Latin, Linguistics , Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Physical Education, Physics, South Asian Studies , Spanish and Portuguese, Studio Art, and Theatre

    That is based on the stated affiliations of the signatories, compared to Middlebury’s official list of its departments and majors. It is possible, of course, that some signatories have “affiliate appointments” in these departments or that the departments have no exclusive faculty of their own.

    The data show

    • Supporters of free speech come disproportionately from the physical sciences, “hard” social sciences, and, to a lesser extent, the biosciences.
    • Opposition comes from the Humanities, Arts, and softer social sciences. Because social justice.

    That distribution reflects my own experience across multiple universities (but is not based on systematic data).

    On nearly every campus, the staunchest opponents are professors of gender, sexuality, women’s studies, race, Native American studies, education, and social work, all highly-politicized bastions of the left. American Studies is now essentially the same and so are most literature departments. (Middlebury is an outlier.)

    They always lead the opposition to free speech. Because social justice.

    If students don’t agree with the dominant political ideology of these departments, they leave or never enter in the first place. (It is snarky but true to add that students don’t enter them if they are thinking about building skills for future employers. My point is that they are not building skills for open-minded, critical thinking, either.)

    These departments never hire professors who vary from the party line. Never.

    Here, for example, are the three full-time faculty in Middlebury’s gender studies program. All three signed the “Keep Murray Away” petition. NONE signed the free speech petition. That is anecdotal, of course, but it is repeated on campus after campus. You would be hard fixed to find professors of Gender Studies, Sexuality, Race Studies, Education, or Social Work who take a strong position in favor of free speech. And they are pretty thin on the ground in theater or comparative literature. All think it would permit “oppressive” speech that hurts the weak, poor, and vulnerable. 

    At Brandeis, for instance, the same department–to a person–opposed having Hirsi Ali come to campus even though she had already been invited and even though Ms. Ali is the single most important voice for women’s rights in the Muslim world. They and like-minded faculty got the spineless administration to cave in and rescind the invitation. (FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, has a summary of the episode here.)

    The dominant ideology of departments like these is:

    • America is an exploitative country and a malevolent force in the world;
    • Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on the right track but too willing to compromise, too willing to work within “the system”
    • America and our college campuses are composed of two main groups: the oppressed and the privileged. Our departments stand with the oppressed. They are simultaneously powerful and vulnerable, needing “safe spaces” to express their views unchallenged. A space is unsafe not because of any physical threat but because certain views (or even the presence of certain people) can produce psychic injury.
    • As professors are activists, inside the classroom and outside. Our teaching is explicitly designed to improve the situation of the oppressed and to assign blame to the oppressors.
    • Designated oppressors should feel guilty and can partially absolve themselves by following our movement, not by leading or questioning it.

    Put differently: February is “Black History Month” only because it is the shortest month.

    Their viewpoint is summarized in Bernie Sanders’ angry rejection of the idea that America is a compassionate country. His fury is brief and telling.

     Turning to the brighter side:

    ⇒ The Middlebury Principles are excellent.

    It is hard to see why all faculty and students don’t endorse them enthusiastically.

    That they do not is the tragedy of our time on campus.

    Here are the principles, quoted directly:

    • Genuine higher learning is possible only where free, reasoned, and civil speech and discussion are respected.
    • Only through the contest of clashing viewpoints do we have any hope of replacing mere opinion with knowledge.
    • The incivility and coarseness that characterize so much of American politics and culture cannot justify a response of incivility and coarseness on the college campus.
    • The impossibility of attaining a perfectly egalitarian sphere of free discourse can never justify efforts to silence speech and debate.
    • Exposure to controversial points of view does not constitute violence.
    • Students have the right to challenge and to protest non-disruptively the views of their professors and guest speakers.
    • A protest that prevents campus speakers from communicating with their audience is a coercive act.
    • No group of professors or students has the right to act as final arbiter of the opinions that students may entertain.
    • No group of professors or students has the right to determine for the entire community that a question is closed for discussion.
    • The purpose of college is not to make faculty or students comfortable in their opinions and prejudices.
    • The purpose of education is not the promotion of any particular political or social agenda.
    • The primary purpose of higher education is the cultivation of the mind, thus allowing for intelligence to do the hard work of assimilating and sorting information and drawing rational conclusions.
    • A good education produces modesty with respect to our own intellectual powers and opinions as well as openness to considering contrary views.
    • All our students possess the strength, in head and in heart, to consider and evaluate challenging opinions from every quarter. –Middlebury Principles

    Comment: It is hard to improve on that as a principled defense of free speech on campus.

     My own op-ed on these issues, focusing on the 3 steps needed to restore free speech at universities, is here at Real Clear Politics

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    Update and Correction: “Social Sciences” removed from list of Middlebury Departments without a signatory. It is a division, not a department, and many social scientists did sign.

    zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Thanks for suggesting this article:
    ◆ Tom Elia
    for sending me The American Interest piece

    ◆ Greg Piper of The College Fix for the correction.

  • Three Steps to Restore Free Speech at Universities: My op-ed at Real Clear Politics

    The op-ed is entitled, “Stop the Soft Despotism Stifling Campus Free Speech.” It is available here at Real Clear Politics.

    Your comments are most welcome. So is sharing.

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    My goal is to move beyond a condemnation of the violent mob that shouted down Charles Murray and physically attacked Prof. Allison Stanger at Middlebury College.

    We need to understand why open debate is so endangered on college campuses and what concrete steps can remedy the problems.

    Three steps are essential:

    1. ARTICULATE CLEAR FREE-SPEECH PRINCIPLES.

    • Universities must publish clear statements backing the principle of free speech and open, unfettered debate.
    • Specifically, they must say free-speech rights cannot be weakened by considerations of social justice or civility, valuable as those are in their own right.

    2. IMPLEMENT THEM EFFECTIVELY.

    • Good principles must be put into action. Violators must be punished to deter still more violations.
    • Student affairs offices don’t want to do that; they prefer comity and often lead the social justice crusade.
    • Student affairs offices will support free speech right only if senior administrators, faculty, and boards of trustees hold them accountable.

    3. TEACH STUDENTS WHY FREE SPEECH MATTERS, beginning immediately.

    • Students should understand free speech is essential for their education, just as it is essential for democratic governance.
    • The First Amendment exists for good reasons. So do Free Speech rules on campus.

    The op-ed explaining these problems and the solutions is here.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, February 19

    Hand-picked and farm-fresh–
    Linked articles in bold purple

     Trump’s HUGE rallies: He is clearly buoyed by the crowds, using the campaign-style rally to push his agenda

    Comment: I watched the enthusiastic, campaign-style rally in central Florida. Here is what struck me.

    • Pres. Trump’s effective showmanship–and his love of being in the public arena. His calling a fan out of the audience and asking him to speak was brilliant. To the cheering crowd, it was not only fun and unexpected, it said “we are all in this movement together.”
    • His ability to move easily between the teleprompter and improvisation; it was difficult to tell when he was reading, and when he was ad-libbing.  That is a skill he has mastered in several months and will serve him well since it allows him to have a more-disciplined agenda in the written text, without constraining his ability to go off-script occasionally.
    • His straightforward appeal to old-fashioned American values: love of country, desire for a strong military and safe communities, respect for law enforcement, and a thirst for economic growth that helps ordinary working people.

    There was not a trace of condescension. These voters can smell the contempt of Beltway insiders and economic elites. They have known that stench for decades. They would grudgingly tolerate it if those elites were delivering the goods. They aren’t.

    What Trump conveyed at the rally was a sense that he is working for people with jobs at a grocery story or auto plant, kids in public school, no retirement savings, lousy healthcare, and clothes from the sales bin at Wal-Mart. They are working hard and want better jobs, not handouts. They want safer neighborhoods, not apologies for the criminals who endanger them. And they damned sure don’t want to be told they are “privileged” by people living off their tax dollars.

    Trump was particularly effective in his attack on the federal courts’ adverse ruling on his temporary immigration ban. Instead of the reckless, personal attacks he used last week, he was substantive. He actually read the law to the cheering crowd. Its plain language, he said, gives the President the power to do what he did in the Executive Order. Then he landed the knockout punch. Because the law is so clearly on his side, he said, the judges didn’t cite any of its language in ruling against him. That is a substantive argument. It says these courts have arrogated to themselves authority over national-security policy that the law doesnot grant them. That is a far better argument than personal attacks, which he continued on the media.

    At these rallies, Trump renewed his campaign promises to his voters, and they renewed their support of his presidency.

    What they have seen in the first weeks has been rocky–did they really buy his lines that his administration is a “smooth-running machine?–but they have been reassured by one crucial thing the media considers a flaw. Trump is showing his base that he has not been sucked into the Washington world. He remains the guy they voted for.

    Now, he has to deliver on those promises.

     CNN is not happy being called “fake news.” They show it with their headline on the rally: “Trump gets what he wants in Florida: Campaign-level adulation”  

     Two important deaths:

    • “Roe” of the 1973 Supreme Court decision, “Roe v. Wade,”
    • “The blind sheik” who waged terror inside the US

     Roe’s real name was Norma McCorvey. She died of heart failure, aged 69. (New York Times)  In 1970, she a young, unmarried mother, pregnant with a third child she did not want. 

    Plucked from obscurity in 1970 by Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, two young Dallas lawyers who wanted to challenge Texas laws that prohibited abortions except to save a mother’s life, Ms. McCorvey, five months pregnant with her third child, signed an affidavit she claimed she did not read. She just wanted a quick abortion and had no inkling that the case would become a cause célèbre.

    She had little contact with her lawyers, never went to court or was asked to testify, and was uninvolved in proceedings that took three years to reach the Supreme Court.

    On Jan. 22, 1973, the court ruled 7-2 in Roe v. Wade (Henry Wade, the Dallas County district attorney, was the defendant in the class-action suit) that privacy rights under the due process and equal rights clauses of the 14th Amendment extended to a woman’s decision to have an abortion in a pregnancy’s first trimester “free of interference by the state,” in the words of Justice Harry A. Blackmun, who wrote the opinion. –New York Times

    Her daughter, born in 1970, was given up for adoption, as her second child had been.

    Later in life, Ms. McCorvey became an Evangelical Christian and then a Roman Catholic and a strong foe of abortion.

     The blind sheikh, Omar Abdel-Rahman, plotted the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, which killed 6, injured over 1,000, and inspired the 9/11 attacks. Abdel-Rahman died of natural causes, aged 78 (CNN) Before being sentenced, he told the judge (in Arabic), “This case is nothing but an extension of the American war against Islam.”

    Comment: It was, of course, exactly the opposite.

     NATO: VP Pence confirms what Sec. of Defense Mattis said the day before: the US remains committed to NATO  (Boston Globe)

    Comment: Meanwhile, at Trump’s campaign rally in Florida, the President demanded that freeloading nations pay their fair share.  Some would call these mixed messages; others would say they are precisely the mix the US needs to convince European allies to pay up while still deterring Russia.

     With so more controversy surrounding Milo Yiannopoulos on college campuses, it is wonderful to have a thoughtful essay on “Why Milo Scares Students and Faculty Even More” by Prof. Rachel Fulton Brown.  (Personal note: I know and respect Prof. Brown, who teaches medieval Christian history at the University of Chicago Divinity School. She has a special focus on medieval ideas about the Virgin Mary.)

    The issues that Milo talks about are usually considered political, but in fact have to do with people’s deepest convictions: the proper relations between women and men, the definition of community, the role of beauty, access to truth. Milo professes himself a Catholic and wears a pair of gold crosses around his neck. He speaks about the importance of Christianity for the values of Western civilization. As he put it in one interview: “[Western civilization] has created a religion in which love and self-sacrifice and giving are the highest possible virtues… That’s a good thing… But when you remove discipline and sacrifice from religion you get a cult.”

    None of these issues, most especially the civilizational roots of culture and virtue in religious faith, are typically addressed in modern college education in America. Rather, they are, for the most part, purposefully avoided. Judging from my own experience of over 30 years in the academy, it is considered a terrible breach of etiquette, horribly rude even, to mention your religious faith if you are a Christian, never mind suggest that it in any way affects your work as a scholar. This relic of the self-censoring of the late 19th century is now so deeply embedded in American academic culture that most people are not even conscious of it. The real problem, however, is that while discussion of Christian theology may no longer be at the center of university education, religion still is—we just don’t call it that anymore. –Prof. Rachel Fulton Brown 

     

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  • Good News: Rising Momentum FOR Free Speech at Universities

    The pushback in favor of free discourse is gaining steam

     This week had lots of news about free speech, including the bad news about rioting at Cal-Berkeley that prevented a speech. It wasn’t hard to see the irony: the home of the 1960s Free Speech Movement has become the Home of the Anti-Speech Movement. 

    Despite Berkeley’s long arc of descent, the opposing movement–the movement in favor of free speech–is starting to win advocates and adoption elsewhere.

     Peter Berkowitz does a superb job of explaining the central issues and pointing the way forward in this op-ed:

    How State Lawmakers Can Restore Freedom on Campus (link here) (Wall Street Journal)

    Colleges and universities promulgate speech codes. Administrators, professors and students encourage “trigger warnings” and demand punishment for “microaggressions”—a pretentious word for inadvertent slights—and insist on “safe spaces” from which troubling opinions and ideas are banished. Campus authorities disinvite controversial speakers and look the other way when students shout down dissenters who somehow slipped through. The transparent goal is to prevent any deviation from the reigning orthodoxy. ….

    The yawning gap between universities’ role as citadels of free inquiry and the ugly reality of campus censorship is often the fault of administrators who share the progressive belief that universities must restrict speech to protect the sensitivities of minorities and women. Even those who aren’t ideologically committed can be wary of bad publicity. They often capitulate to the loudest and angriest demonstrators to get controversies off the front page. –Peter Berkowitz, op-ed in the Wall Street Journal

     What Berkowitz recommends–and I do, too–is well-considered state laws to ensure free speech at public universities.

     Fortunately, model legislation has been developed, building on programs some universities already have in place. The principles of this model legislation, and the language itself, are in a new report by the Goldwater Institute. Here are the key points:

    The model legislation presented and explained in this brief does several things:

    • It creates an official university policy that strongly affirms the importance of free expression, nullifying any existing restrictive speech codes in the process.
    • It prevents administrators from disinviting speakers, no matter how controversial, whom members of the campus community wish to hear from.
    • It establishes a system of disciplinary sanctions for students and anyone else who interferes with the free-speech rights of others.
    • It allows persons whose free-speech rights have been improperly infringed by the university to recover court costs and attorney’s fees.
    • It reaffirms the principle that universities, at the official institutional level, ought to remain neutral on issues of public controversy to encourage the widest possible range of opinion and dialogue within the university itself.
    • It ensures that students will be informed of the official policy on free expression.
    • It authorizes a special subcommittee of the university board of trustees to issue a yearly report to the public, the trustees, the governor, and the legislature on the administrative handling of free-speech issues.

    Taken together, these provisions create a system of interlocking incentives designed to encourage students and administrators to respect and protect the free expression of others. –Goldwater Institute’s “Campus Free Speech: A Legislative Proposal”

    The full report is here.

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    ◆ Comment: These are wise protections for unpopular speech. I like the idea of state legislatures taking the lead so we can see if any practical problems emerge and need to be solved.

    Once the kinks, if any, are worked out, then we ought to consider clear-cut national protections for campus speech. Why shouldn’t the First Amendment apply on the quadrangles, just as it does on the sidewalks surround them?

    The clout behind this legislation would obviously be federal funding. After all, the threat of withholding federal funds is the clout behind almost every federal rule and law affecting universities.

    Let’s hope several states try this model legislation, see how it works, and fix any glitches. Once that is done, let’s consider laws that cover all universities in the country.

    National laws are the only way you’ll get free speech in California, Maryland, or Rhode Island universities,unless courts step in to protect free speech and due process for students, faculty and staff. The courts will be in a stronger position with explicit laws protecting speech at universities.

    Politicians in deep-blue states are reluctant to pass these laws, partly because of political pressure from the left, partly because the legislators themselves believe that their vision of “social justice” should override free speech and that they alone should decide what counts as social justice.

    If you doubt that Social Justice Vigilantes really do want to suppress divergent viewpoints, just listen to the call-ins at Michael Krasny’s Forum program at KQED-San Francisco Public Radio discussing the rioting at Berkeley. Most condemned the violence, but very few said they favored robust free speech. Krasny himself is even-handed and professional, but his callers openly state that “bad” speech should be blocked, even if it is permitted by First Amendment. (Remember, the First Amendment allows restrictions on dangerous and coercive speech, as well as reasonable rules about when and where speakers can voice their views. No bullhorns at 2 am!)

    So what exactly is this “bad speech” that the Social Justice Vigilantes would prevent?

    They alone know, and they alone decide. Right now, that is what they are doing on too many college campuses. They get plenty of help from a phalanx of administrators, some determined to push their political agenda, others simply missing a backbone.

    If the universities themselves are unwilling to guarantee their students the protections afforded them in the Bill of Rights, then their elected representatives should. (Charles Lipson comment)

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    ♥ Thanks to
    ◆ Peter Berkowitz for his fine WSJ piece
     

    ◆ Stanley Kurtz, James Manley, and Jonathan Butcher for the important proposal at the Goldwater Institute