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Academic Freedom Update: Student and Faculty Rights Bill Coming in Washington State

The bill is crucial to preserve academic freedom and the ability of faculty members to blow the whistle when they observe wrongdoing.

 reports: 2016 is right around the corner, and it promises to bring good news to college students and faculty members in Washington state. When the Washington State Legislature reconvenes in January, State Representative Matthew Manweller plans to introduce HB 3055, a bill that includes items on FIRE’s wish list.

“The bill’s wide-ranging scope includes a provision that would prevent campus administrators from forcing faculty members to affix “trigger warnings” on class syllabi that caution students that certain topics might be unsettling.” 

Included in the bill’s meritorious provisions is the Campus Free Expression Act (CAFE Act), similar to a new law in Missouri, which would prevent public institutions of higher education from limiting expressive activity in the open outdoor areas of campus to tiny, misleadingly labeled “free speech zones.”

“The legislation also forbids institutions from punishing students or faculty for so-called ‘microaggressions’—defined by proponents as ‘everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.’”

Another important part of Representative Manweller’s legislation is a provision aimed at ensuring faculty at the state’s public colleges have the freedom to speak out on institutional policy and matters of public concern without fear of reprisal. The bill is crucial to preserve academic freedom and the ability of faculty members to blow the whistle when they observe wrongdoing.

“Due process protections are also front and center in Representative Manweller’s comprehensive bill. Like legislation passed with overwhelming bipartisan support earlier this year in North Dakota, the bill would provide students accused of non-academic offenses that could result in lengthy suspensions or expulsions with the right to hire lawyers to represent them and fully participate in the campus process.” 

The bill’s wide-ranging scope includes a provision that would prevent campus administrators from forcing faculty members to affix “trigger warnings” on class syllabi that caution students that certain topics might be unsettling. Under the legislation, individual faculty members would decide if and when they want to include such warnings. The legislation also forbids institutions from punishing students or faculty for so-called “microaggressions”—defined by proponents as “everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Liberals’ Response to Dissent: Shut Up 

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Michael Baronebarone-sq writes: “‘Shut up,’ he explained.” Those words are from Ring Lardner‘s short story “The Young Immigrunts.” They’re an exasperated father’s response from the driver’s seat to his child’s question, “‘Are you lost, Daddy?’ I asked tenderly.”

They also can be taken as the emblematic response of today’s liberals to anyone questioning their certitudes. A response that at least sometimes represents the uneasy apprehension of the father in the story that they have no good answer.

“We are told that speech codes are necessary because some students may be offended by what others say. In recent years we have been warned that seemingly innocuous phrases may be ‘microaggressions’ that must be stamped out and that “trigger warnings” should be administered to warn students of possibly upsetting material.”

It was not always so. Today’s liberals, like those of Lardner’s day, pride themselves on their critical minds, their openness to new and unfamiliar ideas, their tolerance of diversity and differences. But often that characterization seems as defunct as Lardner, who died at an unhappily early age in 1935.

“Beyond the campus, liberals are also eager to restrict free speech. This is apparent in some responses to those who argue that global warming may not be as inevitable and harmful as most liberals believe, and that while increased carbon emissions would surely raise temperatures if they were the only factor affecting climate, some other factors just might be involved.”

[Read the full story here, at Washington Examiner]

Consider the proliferation of speech codes at our colleges and universities. The website of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education sets out the speech codes at 400 of the nation’s largest and most prestigious institutions of higher learning. The liberals who run these institutions — you won’t find many non-liberals among their faculties and administrations — have decided to limit their students’ First Amendment right of freedom of speech. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] America: Not So Great, Anymore? 

According to a new poll, most Americans think our country is not as great as it once was. Who do we blame?


University of California Considering Recognizing a ‘Right’ to Be ‘Free From…Expressions of Intolerance’ 

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Eugene Volokh: “Depicting or articulating a view of people with disabilities (both visible and invisible) as incapable”? Why, that’s “Intolerance” that “has no place at the University of California.” This is a university, not a place to discuss views we dislike!

Source: The Washington Post


Forbidden Words Update: A Statement from Washington State University President

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Washington State announces it will not allow professors to ban words they don’t like – thecollegefix.com

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University Thwarts Prof’s Attempt to Punish Students for Referring to Men and Women as ‘Male’ and ‘Female’

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PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University deeply values the tenets of freedom of expression for every member of our community, including all students, faculty and staff. Those First Amendment rights are reinforced in our policies, procedures and practices. Read the rest of this entry »


SPEECH CODE SLAYER AWARD: George Mason University Given Highest Rating

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George Mason University also becomes the third green light institution in the state of Virginia, joining the University of Virginia and The College of William & Mary

WASHINGTON, April 21, 2015—George Mason University (GMU) has eliminated all of its speech codes, earning the highest, “green light” rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). After working with FIRE to ensure its policies comply with the First Amendment, the Virginia university has joined a select group of colleges and universities nationwide to earn FIRE’s most favorable rating for free speech on campus.

“Freedom of speech and academic freedom are core values of a university’s mission. I’m delighted that George Mason has joined the ranks of universities that have committed themselves to the full protection of free speech. Thank you to our administration for their dedicated work in providing a context where students and faculty can express controversial ideas freely, and even inartfully, without fear of reprisal.”

“We commend George Mason University for improving its policies and fully upholding the First Amendment rights of its students and faculty members,” said Azhar Majeed, Director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Education Program. “GMU is now a national leader in terms of respecting free speech in higher education, and the university’s actions should serve as a positive example for other institutions to follow.”

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Foundation for Individual Rights in Education Awards Highest Free Speech Rating to George Mason University 

FIRE has been advocating for speech code reform at GMU for nearly a decade. In May 2014, Majeed and GMU Director of Special Diversity Projects Dennis Webster began working together to revise seven university policies, including a flyer posting policy, a sexual harassment policy, two provisions from the student conduct code, and a policy on leafleting. GMU Foundation Professor of Law Todd Zywicki also assisted in the effort.

“We commend George Mason University for improving its policies and fully upholding the First Amendment rights of its students and faculty members. GMU is now a national leader in terms of respecting free speech in higher education, and the university’s actions should serve as a positive example for other institutions to follow.”

— Azhar Majeed, Director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Education Program

“Freedom of speech and academic freedom are core values of a university’s mission,” said Zywicki. “I’m delighted that George Mason has joined the ranks of universities that have committed themselves to the full protection of free speech. Thank you to our administration for their dedicated work in providing a context where students and faculty can express controversial ideas freely, and even inartfully, without fear of reprisal.” Read the rest of this entry »


The Closing of the Academic Mind

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Oprea-Head-ShotFor The Federalist writes: Harvard student Sandra Y.L. Korn recently proposed in The Harvard Crimson that academics should be stopped if their research is deemed oppressive. Arguing that “academic justice” should replace “academic freedom,” she writes:

“If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of ‘academic freedom’?”

In other words, Korn would have the university cease to be a forum for open debate and free inquiry in the name of justice, as defined by mainstream liberal academia.

“This does not mean that westerners are excluded from writing about the Middle East and Islam .A westerner can do so successfully so long as their research is void of criticism. Write anything else and you will find yourself labeled an orientalist and no graduate course will touch your work with a ten-foot pole.”

Unfortunately, this is already a reality in most universities across America, where academics and university administrators alike are trying, often successfully, to discredit and prohibit certain ideas and ways of thinking. Particularly in the humanities, many ideas are no longer considered legitimate, and debate over them is de facto non-existent. In order to delegitimize researchers who are out of line, academics brand them with one of several terms that have emerged from social science theory.

Read the rest of this entry »


Harvard Writer: Free Speech Threatens Liberalism and Must Be Destroyed

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Robby Soave writes:  If this Harvard University student got her way, free speech on campus would be abolished and professors with dissenting views fired, because radical leftism is the only permissible political philosophy and the First Amendment is a barrier preventing modern colleges from fulfilling their proper role as indoctrination camps.

Sandra-Korn

Photo Credit: Harvard College

Her name is Sandra Korn. She is a senior at Harvard and columnist for the Harvard Crimson.

In a recent column, Korn unambiguously insisted that the university should stop guaranteeing professors and students the right to hold controversial views and pursue research that challenges liberalism.

“If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals?” asked Korn in her column.

The column’s subtitle was even more direct: “Let’s give up on academic freedom in favor of justice.”

Read the rest of this entry »