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[VIDEO] Eugene Volokh: Free Speech on Campus

Eugene Volokh has a few things to say about things that aren’t supposed to be said. Volokh, a professor of free speech law at U.C.L.A., has seen books banned, professors censored, and the ordinary expression of students stifled on university campuses across the nation.

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Volokh believes free speech and open inquiry, once paramount values of higher education, are increasingly jeopardized by restrictive university speech codes. Instead of formally banning speech, speech codes discourage broad categories of human expression. “Hate speech. Harassment. Micro-aggressions,” Volokh says. “Often they’re not defined. They’re just assumed to be bad, assumed they’re something we need to ban.”

Volokh spoke at Reason Weekend, the annual event held by Reason Foundation.

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Justice Thomas: ‘Honor Scalia by Reining in Government’

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Thomas told 1,700 people at a dinner in honor of Scalia that the Supreme Court has too often granted rights to people that are not found in the Constitution.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas called on fellow conservatives Thursday to continue the work of the late Justice Antonin Scalia to keep the power of the courts and other branches of government in check.

Thomas told 1,700 people at a dinner in honor of Scalia that the Supreme Court has too often granted rights to people that are not found in the Constitution. He cited the decision in 2015 that made same-sex marriage legal across the country.

Thomas said he and his longtime friend and colleague formed an “odd couple” of a white New Yorker and a black man from Georgia.

He paraphrased Lincoln’s Gettysburg address to exhort the audience to “be dedicated to the unfinished business for which Justice Scalia gave his last full measure of devotion.”

Thomas and Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito were the bookends of the Thursday meeting of the Federalist Society, at which conservatives were reveling in Donald Trump’s unexpected victory in the presidential election because it is likely to result in the appointment of conservative judges to the Supreme Court and other federal courts.

Justice Scalia testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington

Alito issued his own rallying cry to conservatives, describing religious freedom and gun rights as among “constitutional fault lines,” important issues at stake in the federal courts.

The conference of conservatism’s leading legal lights took on a new air of importance with Trump’s victory, and included a list of judges the president-elect has named as candidates to fill the vacancy created by Scalia’s death last February.

In their remarks, Thomas and Alito didn’t mention the election or the vacancy, rather using the platform to pay tribute to Scalia, a longtime colleague and conservative ally in high-court battles on hot-button social and political issues. Read the rest of this entry »


Charles C.W. Cooke on Antonin Scalia: Originalism Was His Judicial Philosophy

Justice Scalia was referred to as a “conservative” justice, but his judicial philosophy was about ahdering to the Constitution.

Source: National Review


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 »


Keeping Score: Cruz Releases Definitive List of 76 Lawless Obama Actions

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“Of all the troubling aspects of the Obama presidency, none is more dangerous than the President’s persistent pattern of lawlessness…”

For The Daily CallerPatrick Howley reports: Republican Sen. Ted Cruz released a definitive list Wednesday of 76 “lawless” Obama administration actions and abuses of power.

Cruz’s “The Legal Limit Report No. 4,” obtained by The Daily Caller, delves into little-known and little-reported details of President Obama’s executive actions. Cruz was set to discuss his report at the Federalist Society in the Promenade Ballroom of the Mayflower Hotel in Washington at 2:15 PM Wednesday.

“Of all the troubling aspects of the Obama presidency, none is more dangerous than the President’s persistent pattern of lawlessness, his willingness to disregard the written law and instead enforce his own policies via executive fiat,” Cruz stated in the report’s introductory remarks. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] The November 14th interview with Clarence Thomas

Ann Althouse writes: Discussed previously here, linking to an Above the Law item that is now titled “Justice Clarence Thomas Speaks!” but was previously titled “Justice Clarence Thomas Speaks — And Oh What A Speech!”

I’m going to guess that the “And Oh What A Speech!” part got dropped not because ATL wanted to back away from expressing enthusiasm but because it’s not a speech. It’s an interview. And part of what’s good about it is that the interviewer 7th Circuit Judge Diane S. Sykes is excellent. Read the rest of this entry »


ALICEA: The Academy’s War on Free Thinking

“One cannot truly understand a legal argument on behalf of one client or side without thoroughly understanding and addressing competing arguments and objections,” said Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow at a recent Federalist Society conference on intellectual diversity in law schools. Unfortunately, this foundational tenet of legal education is not realized in the nation’s leading law schools, including Ms. Minow’s, where students learn a narrowly progressive view of the law from a predominantly leftist faculty. Our nation’s top law schools are failing their students, and in a country whose future will be shaped by those students, it is an urgent problem that we should demand law schools address.

It is beyond dispute that the nation’s top law schools are bastions of liberalism. A 2005 study by professor John O. McGinnis and lawyers Matthew Schwartz and Benjamin Tisdell found that 94 percent of Stanford Law faculty who made political contributions gave exclusively or predominantly to Democratic candidates, and although partisan affiliation is hardly the best proxy for jurisprudential and political views, the degree of the disparity is staggering. Professor Nicholas Rosenkranz of Georgetown reported at an intellectual-diversity conference that the ratio of liberal to conservative faculty at his institution is 116 to 3.

My own experience as a student at Harvard Law School is that liberal premises are assumed in most classroom discussions. Sometimes the ostracizing is explicit, as when a professor calmly explained to my class that conservative views are the result of irrational biases in favor of the status quo. Other times, it is more subtle, employing terms like “marriage equality” or “reproductive justice.” The message is the same: Conservative beliefs need not be taken seriously. This marginalization of students who dissent from campus orthodoxy on vital questions of law and policy is shameful.

But the intellectual homogeneity of the legal academy poses a deeper problem than the marginalization of conservative students. It is the predominantly liberal student body at elite law schools that is most harmed by the dearth of conservative voices. Many of these students graduate from law school without having encountered a cogent articulation of conservative views in the classroom, without having had their own ideas subjected to rigorous examination and debate.

As a result, these liberal students do not truly know why they hold the beliefs that they do, and they have little understanding of what a great proportion of their fellow citizens believe. For a group of students aspiring to be our nation’s leaders, that is serious indeed, and for a country likely to be led by such students, it presents an important problem. It is tempting to think that the ideological insularity of the legal academy need not concern those outside the Ivory Tower, but an out-of-touch academy produces out-of-touch graduates who go on to serve as judges, senators and, perhaps, presidents. The liberal academic monolith not only harms the intellectual development of students; it does grave damage to the nation’s capacity for future leadership.

Of course, there are many liberal professors who value intellectual diversity and confront their students with contrary arguments. But as John Stuart Mill once argued, a student interested in testing ideas “must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them.” No scholar, no matter how learned, can represent an opponent’s arguments as well as the opponent. A professor of mine once attempted, sincerely, to articulate the argument in favor of traditional marriage. What the class heard instead was a caricature that no rational person would find persuasive.

If our elite law schools are to serve their students and the country well, they must actively seek out the best minds representing all points of view. That does not imply giving conservative candidates preferential treatment when making hiring decisions; all candidates must be held to the same academic standards. It does mean, though, that law schools should be eager to hire scholars who represent perspectives that are absent from their faculties. Law school campuses would have a richer and more vibrant intellectual life as a result, and the country would be the primary beneficiary.

In “Gorgias,” Socrates condemns the rhetoricians who care only to persuade and calls us to engage in a serious, self-critical pursuit of truth. As Plato’s dialogues demonstrate, however, the pursuit of truth requires interlocutors who challenge and test our beliefs. The legal academy aims to produce students of truth. It risks producing mere rhetoricians. The time has come for the legal academy to rediscover its mission. Our nation’s future depends on it.

Joel Alicea, 25, is a student at Harvard Law School, president emeritus of the Harvard Federalist Society, and the organizer of the Federalist Society’s conference on intellectual diversity.

Illustration by Greg Groesch – Enlarge Photo

via Washington Times