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Update: mandatory oppression studies at American University

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!

October 30 roundup

  • Under investigation and facing the same sorts of tactics he once used against Wall Street, Giuliani may now have reason to appreciate the sorts of principled civil libertarians who stand firm against prosecutorial excess [Ira Stoll]
  • U.S. dominance in social media is the envy of the rest of the world. Politicians’ trustbusting zeal could change that [Amy-Xiaoshi DePaola, Cronkite News/Arizona PBS, thanks for quoting me]
  • Walgreen’s had a tussle with Wegman’s over the trademark use of a big script “W,” but has not gone after with another well-known organization with such a letter symbol, the Washington Nationals [Richard Patterson, American University IP Brief back in 2011]
  • British Columbia human rights tribunal rejects groin-waxing complaint, finding that complainant “engaged in improper conduct”, “filed complaints for improper purposes”, and gave testimony that was “disingenuous and self-serving,” along with having “targeted small businesses, manufactured the conditions for a human rights complaint, and then leveraged that complaint to pursue a financial settlement from parties who were unsophisticated and unlikely to mount a proper defense.” [Joseph Brean, National Post, Justice Centre, opinion in Yaniv v. Various Waxing Salons (No. 2), earlier]
  • “University of Louisville Students Can’t Sue Escort for Exposing Prostitution in the Louisville Basketball Program” [Eugene Volokh]
  • Intending no disrespect, Your Honor, you should think twice before doing this [Zachary Halaschak, Washington Examiner (“Two male judges shot after female judge gives middle finger during drunken night out”; Indiana)]

Discrimination law roundup

  • Supreme Court reconvenes for new term and tomorrow will hear cases over whether Title VII ban on sex discrimination extends to sexual orientation and gender identity [SCOTUSBlog symposium with contributors including Richard Epstein, William Eskridge; Will Baude, Volokh Conspiracy; George Will; earlier here, here, here, etc.]
  • New York City Commission on Human Rights declares it a violation of anti-discrimination law to use the term “illegal alien” in workplace, rental, or public accommodation contexts “with the intent to demean, humiliate, or offend a person or persons.” Does it complicate matters that both federal law and the U.S. Supreme Court use “illegal alien” as a neutral descriptive? [Hans Bader]
  • Minneapolis passes law restricting landlords’ taking into account of tenants’ past criminal histories, evictions, credit scores [Christian Britschgi, Reason]
  • Obama-era Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) mandated burdensome pay data reporting by employers. Will courts allow a course correction? [Federalist Society teleforum with G. Roger King and James A. Paretti Jr., earlier here and here]
  • Professor who directs social justice center at Washington, D.C.’s American University proposes new federal Department of Anti-Racism that would wield ample power to order everyone around along with preclearance authority over all “local, state and federal public policies”; also “no political appointees” [Politico via Amy Alkon; Kelefa Sanneh, The New Yorker with more on work of Prof. Ibram X. Kendi]
  • Late in its tenure, Obama administration began warning Fannie Mae that discouraging some of the riskiest mortgages (>43% debt-to-income) “could be seen as a violation of the Fair Housing Act.” Fannie and Freddie “quickly complied” and brought the punch bowl back out [Damian Paletta, Washington Post/MSN]

Campus climate roundup

  • Prof. Laura Kipnis, previously investigated by Northwestern over an essay she wrote saying there are too many Title IX investigations, wrote a book about the experience and that touched off yet another Title IX investigation of her [Jeannie Suk Gersen, The New Yorker]
  • Groups demand that outspoken social conservative Prof. Amy Wax not be allowed to teach first-year civil procedure at University of Pennsylvania Law School [Caron/TaxProf] How to evaluate claims that professors who say controversial things must step away from the classroom because they can’t be trusted to treat/grade students fairly? [Eugene Volokh]
  • Meanwhile, co-author of “bourgeois culture” op-ed, Larry Alexander of the University of San Diego, finds his dean distinctly unsupportive [Tom Smith, Caron/TaxProf roundup and more]
  • “Stay Woke” and allyship: insider view of American University’s new required first-year diversity courses [Minding the Campus] So revealing that an AAUW chapter would celebrate cancellation of this American U event [Elizabeth Nolan Brown]
  • Anonymous denunciation makes things better: president of Wright State University in Ohio “is encouraging students to anonymously report any violence and hate speech that might occur on campus.” [AP/WOUB] Student protesters called on Evergreen State “to target STEM faculty in particular for ‘antibias’ training” [Heather Heying, WSJ]
  • From this excerpt, upcoming Shep Melnick book on Title IX, OCR and federal control of colleges sounds top-notch [Law and Liberty] What to expect as Education Department reconsiders its former Dear Colleague policies [KC Johnson and Stuart Taylor, Jr., Weekly Standard]

Higher education roundup

  • Colleagues demand Oregon law prof resign over Hallowe’en costume [Paul Caron/TaxProf; Eugene Volokh (“We have reached a bad and dangerous place in American life, and in American university life in particular.”)] Title IX and expression: “What the feds have done to colleges and schools” [Hans Bader, Minding the Campus]
  • Institutional review boards (IRBs) “as a rule are incredibly difficult to study…. There is no public record of their decision or deliberations, they don’t, as a rule, invite scrutiny or allow themselves to be observed.” [Dr. Steven Joffe quoted by Tyler Cowen]
  • “An emphasis on intersectionality”: mandatory diversity course for first-years at AU now has course description [earlier] “U-M’s New ‘Chief Diversity Officer’ Will Collect $385,000 per Year” [Derek Draplin, Michigan Capitol Confidential]
  • “Plaintiffs’ Bar Steps Up Profitable False Claims Act Assault on Higher Education” [U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform]
  • Notwithstanding initial wave of critical coverage, Will Creeley says PEN report on campus speech is actually pretty good [FIRE] “Student group at Cal State Northridge boasts of ‘shutting down’ speech by award-winning scholar” [Volokh; Armenian students vs. Ataturk lecture]
  • On question whether universities must treat student athletes as employees, NLRB “may be battling for field position” with future ruling in mind [Brennan Bolt, McGuire Woods]

Higher education and Title IX roundup

  • “Free Speech on Campus: A Challenge of Our Times,” recent speech by University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone;
  • University of Virginia puts professor on leave of absence after comments critical of Black Lives Matter [Hans Bader] “Yes, Brooklyn College really has a Director of Diversity Investigations.” One prof’s experience [David Seidemann/Minding the Campus]
  • “Lawyer: Why the lower standard of evidence in college sexual-assault cases is dangerous” [Robert Shibley] It’s rare for the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights to stick up in favor of due process rights for accused students, but that just happened in Wesley College case [Jake New/Inside Higher Ed, Tyler Kingkade/BuzzFeed, ED press release]
  • “Northern Michigan University had — and perhaps still has — a policy subjecting students to discipline if they share suicidal thoughts with their peers.” So how bad an idea is that? [Ken White, Popehat]
  • “Historically Black Colleges and Universities struggle with Title IX compliance” [American Sports Council on reporting by David Squires/The Undefeated]
  • “University Of Michigan Gets Lost In The Tall SJW Weeds” [Amy Alkon] Georgetown offers legacy status to applicants descended from university-owned slaves; showy gesture, but anything more? [Scott Greenfield] “American University Student Government Launches Campaign for Mandatory Trigger Warnings” [Robby Soave]

Campus climate roundup

  • New Oxford vice chancellor speaks out against threats to free inquiry as well as overregulation of universities [Iain Martin, CapX]
  • Feds: get in line on Title IX or we’ll yank your institutional science funding [Inside Higher Ed, background on Title IX]
  • More on scheme proposing mandatory oppression studies for first-year students at American University [Robby Soave/The Daily Beast (and thanks for mention), earlier]
  • Back to the days of Plessy v. Ferguson? Oregon State University holds racially segregated retreats [Peter Hasson, Daily Caller] More: University of Connecticut building segregated housing for (some) black male students [Campus Reform]
  • Sometimes there really is a good case for taking the names of evil long-dead men off public university buildings, especially if the alternative is to throw a $700,000 subsidy at a murderer-themed café that can’t make it on food sale revenues [The College Fix; UCSD’s Che Guevara cafe]
  • “Out in the real world, we have master electricians and mechanics, chess masters, masters of the universe, taskmasters of all kinds, and other such varieties of positions and titles connoting particular skill, knowledge or authority” [Harvey Silverglate, Minding the Campus, on Harvard College “masters” flap (citing “extraordinary recent expansion of the cadre of student life administrators … on virtually every campus throughout the nation”)]
  • “Post-Protest Mizzou: Adverse Consequences of the Capitulation” [Thomas Lambert, Pope Center, earlier Lambert on Missouri]

New AU student? Report for your oppression training

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)

Campus climate roundup

  • “What student protestors should learn from bygone free speech fights” [Conor Friedersdorf]
  • You’d expect Oberlin students to have some of the very best demands and you won’t be disappointed [Blake Neff/Daily Caller, my earlier Storify on student demands around the country] “Soon enough, microaggression monitoring was on the table” at Occidental College, and secret snitches will help [Scott Greenfield] President of Washington, D.C.’s American University responds to student demands. tl;dr version: “How high?
  • Diversity means cracking down on religious colleges that discriminate based on church dogma. Right? [Scott Greenfield] Human Rights Campaign huffs and puffs about (perfectly legal) religious-college Title IX exemptions [Washington Post, HRC] Canadian judge: B.C. provincial law society wrongly barred accreditation for conservative Christian law school [Globe and Mail, earlier]
  • Just out: “Free Speech on College Campuses” issue of Cato Unbound leads with Greg Lukianoff (“Campus Free Speech Has Been in Trouble for a Long Time”), with responses to follow from Eric Posner and Catherine Ross;
  • The year in campus hysteria [Ashe Schow/Examiner]
  • Feds’ diversity bureaucracy has engaged in epic power grab in past couple of years, Congress’s omnibus spending bill rewards them with 7 percent funding hike [PowerLine, Bader and earlier, Schow/Examiner]
  • “ACLU Silence Enables Campus Anti-free Speech Movement” [Nat Hentoff; related, Emily Ekins]

Free speech roundup

  • Those who want to protect American university life from mob intimidation, speak now or forever hold your peace [Conor Friedersdorf on Yale and Missouri incidents, Greg Lukianoff on Yale, Thom Lambert on Missouri; more on Missouri; John Samples/Cato] “Sorry, kids, the First Amendment does protect ‘hate speech'” [Michael McGough, L.A. Times]
  • #ExxonKnew folks, please listen: “engaging in scientific research and public advocacy shouldn’t be crimes in a free country. Using the criminal law to shame and encumber companies that do so is a dangerous arrogation of power.” [Bloomberg View editorial, earlier here, etc.]
  • Judge orders Facebook post taken down as campaign contribution improper under Colorado law; while target of enforcement was public charter school, logic of ruling could extend to entirely private entities as well [Megan Geuss, ArsTechnica]
  • Did anyone really not see this coming? Hate speech laws give authorities powerful weapon with which to crack down on speech by critics and minorities [Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Reason, on Kenya]
  • Cato amicus brief, Kentucky Court of Appeals: printers shouldn’t be forced to print gay-pride messages they don’t agree with [Ilya Shapiro/Cato, Eugene Volokh]
  • “That’s not harassing, stalking, libeling or cyber bullying. That’s called reporting.” Florida Man offers to help with online reputation management but digs himself and client in further [Tim Cushing, TechDirt, background]
  • Feminist lawprof we’ve met before attacks Internet-protecting Section 230, confusion ensues [Mike Masnick, TechDirt]