- Will the University of Chicago’s new policy on free expression chill professors’ freedom to run their classes in their own way, as some claim? [Alex Morey/FIRE, Howard Wasserman/Prawfs] Jonathan Chait on how the safe spaces debate really isn’t about things like church groups or gay bars; and a judicious Ken White at Popehat on how safe space idea can make sense in private/chosen settings, but not as academic mandate.
- As federal Title IX enforcement percolates downward: e-mail from administrator at University of Alaska, Fairbanks, discusses expelling “perp” before investigation has begun [K.C. Johnson on Twitter] USC administrator: do they know who I am? [same] Wasn’t Columbia U. just serving up what its customers want? [Scott Greenfield] “OCR to Frostburg State University: Common Sense, ‘Reasonable Person’ Standard Violate Title IX” [Robby Soave]
- UW-Milwaukee poster campaign warns students against using terms like “lame,” “crazy,” and — inevitably? — “politically correct” [Jillian Kay Melchior/Heat Street, Robby Soave/Reason]
- The future of American higher education: fewer historians, more chief diversity officers [David Frum]
- “More on the sex panic at Yale” [KC Johnson, Minding the Campus]
- Capitol Hill Republicans keep shoveling cash at power-mad campus regulators, while tying hands of dissenters at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights [John Fund, NR]
After students at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville used Facebook to post pictures of themselves in Hallowe’en “Three Blind Mice” costumes, a member of the school’s “Bias Incident Team” turned them in herself to the team, which decided that there was a risk the costume idea “makes fun of a disability.” The pictures have been taken down. “The University of Washington produced a six-minute video last year decrying ‘cultural appropriation’ around Halloween. Off-limits costumes included hula skirts, [straitjackets], sombreros, fake mustaches and martial-arts attire.” [Jillian Kay Melchior, Heat Street] No mention of possible offense to the tail-amputee community. More on bias response teams here.
- Universities across the country steer mandatory student fee proceeds and other privileges to intensely ideological Public Interest Research Groups [David Seidemann, City Journal; PIRG’s crucial role in backing the truly ghastly CPSIA law on children’s products] When a university shuts off this money spigot, does the First Amendment cut more in favor of the group’s right to go on collecting money, or the rights of “students compelled to fund advocacy with which they may not agree”? [Short Circuit, scroll to 14th item on Ninth Circuit decision in Arizona Students’ Association v. Arizona Board of Regents]
- Appeal to “personal experience, performance, and radical politics” changing college debate for the worse [John Hinderaker, PowerLine, 2014 (thanks commenter for spotting date)]
- “The Perils of Writing a Provocative Email at Yale” [Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, on Nicholas and Erika Christakis case at Yale; Paul Caron/TaxProf with more links] More: Identity, activism. and sensitivity on campus: Nathan Heller report from Oberlin [New Yorker]
- Government is our provider: new push to extend school feeding program into community colleges [George Leef, Pope Center]
- University of Northern Colorado: “‘Bias Response Team’ Threatened Prof To Change His Lessons” [Jillian Kay Melchior, Heat Street] Candidates for tenure at Pomona College will need to explain what they are doing to promote diversity in classroom [Inside Higher Ed]
- “When Social Justice Education Is Mandatory, But Math Is Not” [Robby Soave; University of Massachusetts, Amherst]
“More than 100 colleges and universities have Bias Response Teams, which aim to foster ‘a safe and inclusive environment’ by providing ‘advocacy and support to anyone on campus who has experienced, or been a witness of, an incident of bias or discrimination.’ These teams have multiple missions, including educational ‘prevention,’ investigating alleged bias incidents, disciplining offenders, and organizing ‘coping events’ after such incidents…. BRTs are rapidly becoming part of the institutional machinery of higher education, but have yet to face any real scrutiny.” The teams intervene in a vast and ill-defined assortment of acts of expression, social and classroom interactions, and even intellectual activity that are said to constitute “bias incidents,” yet they are far from transparent or accountable, they encourage an atmosphere of informants and suspicion, and they tend toward the policing of thought and of so-called unconscious sources of offense. At bottom they are “inherently anti-intellectual enterprises, fundamentally at odds with the mission of higher education.” [Jeffrey Aaron Snyder and Amna Khalid, The New Republic]
- Madness at Harvard Law School: “This is an occupation,” so activist group Reclaim HLS gets to take down posters it disagrees with [The Crimson; Harvard Law Record (“Barlow said that one protestor told him that if he wanted to post a sign, he could attend Reclaim’s plenary meetings and vote with them about whether or not certain speech should be approved. But he could not, he was told, post a sign without prior approval from Reclaim.”); Avrahm Berkowitz/The Observer]
- “Refraining from hand gestures which denote disagreement” is part of Edinburgh University safe space policy, and now a student leader is in trouble for allegedly raising her arms to indicate disagreement as well as shaking her head in a seeming “no”; while disputing its application to her own action she continues to defend the rule itself [Huffington Post UK]
- “Or in which candidates were dismissed because of their association with conservative or libertarian institutions.” [John Hasnas, Wall Street Journal on faculty ideological diversity] Plus: conversation between Tyler Cowen and Jonathan Haidt;
- Which campus environment provides a fairer process for accused students: Duke in 2006, or Yale today? [KC Johnson; more, Ashe Schow/Washington Examiner (Michigan, Berkeley)] Federal judge blasts Brandeis over Title IX process in “kissing sleeping boyfriend” case [Steve Miller/Independent Gay Forum, KC Johnson/Storify]
- Student militants storm Berkeley stage intent on silencing Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich [Robby Soave: Reason, The Daily Beast]
- The Ford Foundation, which has done so much to transform academia, is profiled along with president Darren Walker [Larissa MacFarquhar, New Yorker; my critical view of Ford] Funding postmodern feminist glaciology: “Has it become the National Science and Other Ways of Knowing Foundation?” [Jerry Coyne]
- Some profs still deny: “The Glaring Evidence That Free Speech Is Threatened on Campus” [Conor Friedersdorf]
- Student demands at Western Washington University would “create an almost cartoonishly autocratic liberal thought police on campus” [Robby Soave] After University of Kansas professor tried awkwardly to discuss her own white privilege, students took offense and things haven’t gone well for her [Robby Soave: update, Althouse]
- Feds equivocate on whether notorious campus “Dear Colleague” letter has force of law [Hans Bader, CEI; George Leef, Pope Center; me on the letter in 2013]
- Yale expels the captain of its basketball team, and KC Johnson has some questions Minding the Campus, Academic Wonderland]
- I wanted to scream about insensitive canoe discourse in Canada and there was no one to hear me but the loons [CBC] And an instant classic: feminist glaciology framework for a more just and equitable science and “human-ice interactions” [Sage Journals; U. of Oregon, part of $412K NSF grant]
- Lose that worldview, citizen: attending public Oklahoma university requires “changing our worldview to accommodate others’ experiences of oppression.” [Audra Brulc via @DouglasLevene]
We noted in January that American University, in Washington, D.C., was considering a drastic overhaul of university rules in response to the demands of social-justice activists. Now it’s moving forward: although some of the more extreme details have been dropped, or at least go unmentioned, a February 29 letter from President Neil Kerwin proposes a mandatory oppression studies course for first-years, additionally “address the subject matter in at least one other required course selected from the AU curriculum.” Plus: racial hiring!
“By assailing sensible conservatives as sexists, racists, and imbeciles, they paved the way” for someone who embodies their worst fears [Tom Nichols, Daily Beast in January]
American University, in Washington, D.C., according to this document from last month, “is undertaking an ambitious plan to modernize the general education experience” with the assistance of a task force whose Nov. 30 report “outlines a dramatically different approach to liberal arts education,” one that includes “sustained attention to issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion.”
The draft of “Reimagining General Education: Toward a New AU Core Curriculum” envisages the following changes:
* All first-years would be obliged in their second semester to take a one- or three-credit course in oppression studies. Sample content: “Students will explore how historical violence, such as the early slave trade and genocidal conquests, shape the contemporary experiences of marginalized groups and struggles for human rights. Class materials will consider how entrenched systems of inequality marginalize some groups and privilege others.” (The draft text describes this as a three-credit course, but at another point says that whether it will be for one or three credits is yet to be determined.)
* “If budget allows,” “all students living on campus” will be housed with the cohort of students with whom they have taken the series of mandatory courses culminating in the oppression course. They will live under upper-class “mentors” and it is envisaged that “student support teams” will emerge from each cohort under the supervision of the mentors.
I wonder whether they will wind up calling these mentored support teams “block committees for the Defense of the Revolution.”
FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) reminds us, citing a University of Delaware episode, that dormitory mentoring in oppression studies goes back a while. Meanwhile — more or less unrelatedly, except that at a higher level it is most certainly related — per this University of Louisville law faculty anecdote, a colleague who told students on the final day of class to “think for yourselves” and that multiple political viewpoints should feel welcome at the school was promptly hauled to account [Russell L. Weaver, Courier-Journal] (& Robby Soave, Reason)
In 2014 the faculty of the Louis D. Brandeis Law School at the University of Louisville voted to commit the institution to “social justice,” and now plans are afoot to rebrand the public institution as the “nation’s first compassionate law school.” If everyone could settle on the same definitions of social justice and compassion, and maybe also agree that those values should trump others, the schools’ direction might look more neutral and scholarly, and less nakedly political. [Luke Milligan, Louisville Courier-Journal] U of L is hardly the first school to go down this path; as I note in my book Schools for Misrule, a number of law schools including some Top 30 institutions have veered off in the same direction in recent years, even before this year’s campus protests furnished considerable new momentum. But see: a second U of L lawprof dismisses the concerns as overblown, and points out that the school’s adoption of the word came in the context of a city-wide campaign in which various leading Louisville businesses and civic institutions had been prevailed on to declare themselves “compassionate.” [Caron/TaxProf]
P.S. If law schools want to jump into explicitly promoting social justice, John McGinnis has a modest proposal for how they might do that.