Posts Tagged ‘colleges and universities’

University of Minnesota’s pronoun prescription

Not using someone’s preferred pronoun — “whether it’s he, she, ‘ze’ or something else” — could become a disciplinary offense, escalating up to firing and expulsion, at the University of Minnesota under a proposed policy [Maura Lerner, Minneapolis Star-Tribune] I’m quoted as saying that although protecting transgender members of its community from purposeful insult or breach of privacy is a legitimate purpose, the university is likely to fare poorly in court if it presumes to punish community members for not using new-coined gender pronouns on demand [Sarah George, The College Fix]:

“As a public institution with an educational mission to uphold, Minnesota can appropriately make some demands of its members, such as respecting norms of collegiality, refraining from insult, observing consistent standards in filling out paperwork, and so forth,” Olson told The Fix via email.

“But this does not constitute a blank check to police and punish language use generally, especially not in politically charged areas of speech, and most especially when the policy departs from viewpoint neutrality to side with some controversial views over others.”…

“Before presuming to force university members to mouth or endorse politically controversial language as a condition of keeping their jobs or remaining enrolled, the university must show that such coerced expression is essential to its functioning as an educational institution. It has not, and I suspect cannot, made such a showing,” he said.

Earlier on pronoun prescription: Canada, New York City, Oregon, more.

Higher education roundup

  • New York Times tackles a story of lopsided Title IX process [Michael Powell, NYT on Keith Mumphery Michigan State case] Federal court spanks Johnson & Wales in Rhode Island over kangaroo court [KC Johnson, Minding the Campus] U.S. Department of Justice “has filed a statement of interest in a lawsuit challenging the University of Michigan’s controversial speech code policies” [Nikita Vladimirov, Campus Reform]
  • “Judges,” he told the crowd, “cannot be intimidated,” and “Lawsuits are won and lost in the courtrooms, not in the streets.” Gail Heriot gives Stanley Mosk his due;
  • Suing for faculty positions: “While I find it regrettable that university faculties are so politicized that good candidates like Teresa Manning get rejected, I think it would be even worse to have some law or regulation against discrimination based on politics.” [George Leef]
  • “As many as one in four students at some elite U.S. colleges are now classified as disabled, largely because of mental-health issues such as depression or anxiety, entitling them to a widening array of special accommodations like longer time to take exams” [Douglas Belkin, WSJ]
  • Diversity follies in STEM [Heather Mac Donald, City Journal] University of Michigan employs 93 full-time diversity staffers [Mark Perry]
  • “Six Ideas to De-Politicize the American Campus” [Martin Center]

Frequent flyer education complainants

“According to the Education Department, 41 percent of the 16,720 complaints filed in the 2016 fiscal year came from three people,” one of whom has filed thousands of similar complaints over the web accessibility of schools’ websites. Now the department intends to wrest back some control of its civil rights docket, which sounds like a long overdue move. [Erica L. Green, New York Times]

An elevator joke and an academic career

Recycling a joke that was already old when I was a teenager, academic conference-goer on elevator calls out “Ladies’ lingerie” in reference to a floor stop. Then begins the acrimonious process in which he must defend his career against the complaint filed by a women’s and gender studies professor who was present and took offense. [Ruth Marcus, syndicated/Houston Chronicle] More: Katherine Mangan, Chronicle of Higher Education.

Penn State cracks down on student outdoors clubs

“Penn State recently decreed that three student-led outdoor adventure groups—the hiking club, the cave exploration club, and the scuba club—would have to disband due to safety liability concerns, even though none of the long-running clubs had ever reported a problem.” In the case of hiking, a “key issue for administrators was that the Outing Club frequently visit locations with poor cell phone coverage.” [Lenore Skenazy and Robby Soave, Reason]

Campus climate roundup

  • Applicants for faculty positions at UC San Diego must file written statement detailing “past efforts, as well as future plans to advance diversity, equity and inclusion,” and are warned that lip service isn’t enough [Stephen Bainbridge]
  • CUNY law dean: disruptors shouted down Josh Blackman for only eight minutes or so, nothing contrary to university rules in that [Robby Soave, earlier] “Hecklers of Campus Speakers: Easy Answers and Hard Questions” [Erica Goldberg] “Is Free Speech Becoming the Next Scare-Quote Domain?” [Paul Horwitz]
  • On a happier note, a Festschrift and tribute essay collection for the inimitable and unstoppable Richard Epstein [University of Chicago Law School]
  • “Readers may find it remarkable that these students expected the other people in the room to applaud and validate them for derailing the event.” [Robby Soave on Duke protest of alumni event] How to end a building occupation: “The phone calls [from NYU] advised parents that students who interfered with campus functions could [lose] financial aid or housing.” [Kyle Smith, NRO] “Some Pundits Say There’s No Campus Free Speech ‘Crisis.’ Here’s Why They’re Wrong” [Soave]
  • “The people in that room all agreed that I had committed sexual harassment by showing my class this film” [Soave; Massachusetts College of Art & Design]
  • A sociologist’s view: if my field is typical, postmodernism and intersectionalism haven’t taken over the academy [Nicholas Wolfinger]

Playing politics with pensions

A mini-roundup: “How State Pension Funds — and 401k Managers — Prioritize Politics over Returns” [Ike Brannon, Cato/Forbes.com, more; related, Eric V. Schlecht, Economics 21] “The California state teacher retirement system open letter to Apple about ‘smartphone addiction’ provides another point in favor of giving these workers individual accounts with a private provider.” [Caleb Brown on Twitter] “Those shares belong to the college savers, not him”: Illinois treasurer uses 529 funds to push Facebook, other firms on political issues [Cole Lauterbach, Illinois News Network]

And as to scale and solvency: “A $76,000 Monthly Pension: Why States and Cities Are Short on Cash” [Mary Williams Walsh, New York Times on strains in Oregon]; Eric Boehm, Reason.

Campus puritanism, cont’d

If the WSJ paywall kept you from reading my piece last month on Yale admissions and social justice, an unpaywalled version is now up courtesy of the Cato Institute.

Related: “Then, he asked me what my ‘exit plan’ was. He explained that there were certain safe ways to exit the building.” Later: “‘A student shouted out “F–k the law.” This comment stunned me. I replied, “F–k the law? That’s a very odd thing. You are all in law school.”‘” Josh Blackman speaks at CUNY Law School, the city-sponsored law school dedicated to one particular and controversial ideology, that of “public interest law.” [Blackman’s blog post; Robby Soave, Reason; William Jacobson, Legal Insurrection; Eugene Volokh (“seems like an organized attempt to keep Blackman from speaking…The protesters’ standing on the same stage as the speaker, I think, would also not be tolerated for other events”); Eric Turkewitz (“Is their training so shoddy that they don’t grasp there are differences of opinion on how a law or the constitution is read?…Why are they afraid of words?”)]

Also related: Keith Whittington of Princeton speaks at Cato on his new book, “Speak Freely: Why Universities Must Defend Free Speech” [Ilya Somin, Jonathan Adler]