ACLU Staffer Attacks University For Admitting Nick Sandmann While Professor Denounces His “Anti-Intellectual” Views [Updated]

I have previously written, as a long supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), about my concern over how the venerable group has changed under its current leadership, including a departure from its long robust defense of free speech. Recently, the ACLU has abandoned its famed neutrality and has not supported some on the right while supporting those on the left. Now, the ACLU’s Samuel Crankshaw in Kentucky has targeted Transylvania University for admitting Nick Sandmann, who was falsely accused of abusing a Native American activist in front of Lincoln Memorial. (Crankshaw identifies as an ACLU staffer on social media) Despite various media organizations correcting the story and some settling with Sandmann, some in the media have continued to attack him.  Yet, it is far more alarming to see an ACLU official rallying people against a young man whose chief offense appears to be that he is publicly (and unapologetically) conservative and pro-life.

Crankshaw went to Facebook to alert people that Sandmann would be attending the college and expressing veiled outrage that the school would admit someone with his opposing views. He warns that this kid is “more dangerous” than figures like Milo Yiannopolous.  The “danger” is that a young freshman holds conservative views that are shared by roughly half of this country:

Does anyone else think it’s a bit of a stain on Transylvania University for accepting Nick Sandman? I’m sure it’s a “both sides” defense, but it’s pretty counter to their mission and another instance of there not actually being equal sides to an issue. I think TU should accept anyone willing to have an open mind and engage in debate, regardless of their views. That’s how we all learn. That’s Transy’s mission…

Having experienced the incredibly high standards Transy requires for admission and then holds its students to, this seems like a slap in the face. I hope some time in a real classroom changes him, but his twitter and public persona suggest otherwise.

The “both sides” defense used to be the position of the ACLU in fighting for all sides to be given equal opportunities and protections. Moreover Crankshaw labels Sandmann a “provocateur in training with no intention of learning.” Putting aside the provocateur label how would Crankshaw know that Sandmann has “no intention of learning”?

While the statement is from someone who expressly identifies as an ACLU staffer on social media, it is not a statement from the ACLU itself. Yet, the sentiment reflects the growing concern over the new direction of the ACLU and the shift away from neutrality in the support of free speech rights.

Later Crankshaw responded to the National Review and said “The views I expressed on my Facebook page are my personal views that I shared on my personal time. I have a First Amendment right to express them just as Nick Sandmann has a First Amendment right to express his.” Of course, none of us doubted that Sandmann has first amendment rights. The suggestion of his posting was that the university should have barred the admission of Sandmann due to his views.  Indeed, he was expressing outrage that Sandmann was allowed to attend such an institution of higher education. While we have been discussing the intolerance for opposing views expressed at colleges, Crankshaw apparently does not even want to see people like Sandmann allowed into college.

One person responding positively was Dr. Avery Tompkins, an Assistant Professor and Diversity Scholar at Transylvania University, acknowledged that the university supported diverse viewpoints but promised to closely monitor Sandmann while he is on campus: “If he were to cause problems by being disruptive, trolling, or engaging in unethical behavior of any kind, I would immediately document it (just like I would for any student doing the same thing)…and he would just be putting himself in a position for me to file a conduct report.” 

Doing the same thing? What thing? Free speech?

Rather than say that there is no reason why this conservative student should be singled out in this way, Tompkins declares publicly “I get where you are coming from.” Where would that be?  Cranksaw was coming from a place where a wrongly accused conservative teenager will be harassed or targeted for daring to take his views to a college.

I appreciate Tompkins noting that students cannot be denied admission based on their political views, though that was once assumed. Yet, Tompkins labels this incoming freshman as part of an anti-intellectual movement and publicly assumes that Sandmann will reject core principles of learning. This is a freshman being publicly shredded by a professor at his school. Tompkins then expresses the same uncertainty why this student would pick a university dedicated to higher education and “the antithesis of what he belies and promotes.”  

Despite Tompkins later apology, Cranksaw responded that her stated hostility and bias toward this student is precisely what wants to see in higher education and “why [Transylvania University] is a great place to learn.”

Cranksaw was describing the exercise of free speech by someone with opposing views as unacceptable. Tompkins responds that she will be closely watching him. Both single out this one students for such added scrutiny and Cranksaw thanks Tompkins for the assurance of close monitoring. I have repeatedly defended the views of liberal academics attacking police, Trump, and a wide array of conservative causes. These are statements made outside of the school. Here, however, Tompkins is speaking as an academic, acting a specific students, and promising to monitor his conduct.  That is deeply problematic.

Sandmann like all college students should feel greater freedom in expressing their views at colleges, not being closely monitored as someone with dangerous thoughts and ideas. That fact that figures in the ACLU and academia would publicly espouse such views of intolerance is a chilling example of how our faith in free speech has eroded in the recent years.

Transylvania University has responded to my inquiry with the following statement:

A college campus is a place where the wide variety of backgrounds, experiences and opinions of the community — students, staff, faculty and alumni — meet. Transylvania, like nearly every campus, is composed of those holding the full range of viewpoints.These differences often form the backbone of a vibrant and challenging educational experience. In this place of divergence, we strive to foster dialogue and listen to each other with generosity and a presumption of goodwill in the pursuit of understanding.

The goal of a liberal arts education is to give students the skills and ability to engage in encounters that may cause them to reflect and think differently or to understand and validate their original belief or viewpoint. In either case, the exposure to the ideas, individuals and diverse viewpoints and the subsequent reflection is the critical aspect. 

There are two things that, as a university, we are not able to discuss: our students (without their permission) and personnel matters. In response to posts on social media and other websites over the Labor Day weekend, we reiterate that point. A review of the situation will be conducted expeditiously by the appropriate university officials. 

Second Update:

Professor Tompkins has now issued an apology:

I want to apologize for my mistake in singling out a student and any misunderstandings that arose from that. One of my favorite things about working at a liberal arts institution is that the University community has diverse perspectives. All students, faculty, and staff are able to engage in civil discourse with those whose views may be different from their own, and to learn about those views in an academic setting. I value and support these conversations with students, and I know that students value these conversations with their peers as well.


353 thoughts on “ACLU Staffer Attacks University For Admitting Nick Sandmann While Professor Denounces His “Anti-Intellectual” Views [Updated]”

    1. Repetitive click-bait…

      “Nick Sandmann, at 18, may be twice the man Turley will ever be.”

      Nick Sandmann should have walked away. What we had was another D.C. sideshow.

      1. No. Sandman did the right thing by not walking away. The rats in his face & leftist, group think, fake news caused sideshow.

  1. I just read this article to see if “DR.” Avery Thompkins had a PhD in Physical Chemistry, Mathematics, or maybe Molecular Genetics. Nope. “DR” Thompkins is a Grievance Artist. In other words, her qualifications are equivalent to a high school diploma. She’s a hire. As CNN’s highest paid employee, Nick should park his Porsche in front of her office window.

    1. Dr. Tompkins, like other people in academic circles who use that prefix, holds HIS Ph.D. in Sociology. What’s yours in?

      1. Sociology has become a bogus field. One look at [Tompkin’s pronouns are…] Tompkins tells you what the products of the program are…defective.

        1. Sociology, cultural anthropology, and American history are so ruined it would probably be better if schools stopped teaching them.

            1. The victimology programs are patronage for privileged political interests. Almost no one majors in them. The most popular is women’s studies; fewer than 2,000 degrees in it are awarded in a typical year, out of 1.9 million baccalaureate degrees awarded. People actually do major in sociology, though it’s a niche taste (about 30,000 degrees awarded per year). It’s not an inherently foolish discipline, but it was damaged in some seminal period and there’s been a feedback loop operating since wherein each successive generation of sociologists is worse than the previous one. The ruin of American history is much more recently, I’m guessing beginning with those entering graduate school ca. 1977. Cultural anthropology has been running out of material, as there are few cultures you can encompass with a single participant-observer. So, they have people talk to hospital inmates and call it anthropology. And they’re just as horribly politicized.

              On the vocational side, you’ve got two fat targets and one small chubby target: teacher-training, social work, and library administration.

              1. here’s what i have noticed about a few sociology majors I knew

                they got jobs in halfway houses and such like as that. jobs with very poor pay and benefits helping “Troubled youths” and so forth

                then they got masters degrees.,

                from there some diverged into better jobs, one the one hand, parole officers or school counselors. on the other hand, some end up in business HR ops.
                that’s not really surprising, as HR is often teamed up in academic with Organizational behavior, a business discipline of sociology applied to business operations.

                once they are in the “real world” they often are just really cynical doubletalkers. of course that is a necessary skill to make it though such programs.

          1. and yet they are important subjects.

            they say the PRC is run by engineers where the US is run by lawyers. maybe so,. Jiang Zemin studied EE and Xi Cheg.

            here is how I talk to the youth who seek me out about their educational courses full of anti-western propaganda.

            I say, this is propaganda. They are giving indoctrinating you to despise and help destroy what remains of our ancestral culture in favor of smashing us all into atomized and powerless bits unable to resist the globalism that the plutocrats desire.

            I say, learn their propaganda, get the good grades. But always ask yourself in your head. how would YOU indoctrinate the youth if one day you have the chance.
            Learn to recite the power relationships the way THEY want you to express them– and then learn to detect and discover the REAL power relationships that put these apparats in their place above us, and why they want us to be so indoctrinated.

            In these conversations, I always try and use “We” and “Them” as much as possible because the student feels the painful isolation of individualism in so many ways especially under the oppressive weight of these nihilistic systems– and as Sartre observed in Huis Clos (No Exit) it is in each other, in our experience of love and community, that we can begin to find our way out of the hellish quandry we find ourselves in.

            I think we can take the critical analysis methods of marxism, post-modernism and deconstructionism, and turn them around on the masters who have deployed them as a new orthodoxy, to eventually take down those masters by their own methodologies. This is an endeavor.

            And why not? Who can say this is evil, if there is no evil? Call it cunning, call it sinister, call it dissembling, call it whatever you like.
            But if the core value is power, then whatever is necessary is its own justification.
            They say on the one had, there is no good nor evil, it is all relative. OK; then we will embrace whatever values we prefer, even those we are instructed to reject.,
            And there is no genuine normative basis for them to tell us not to do it, because, back to their main contention, it’s all relative anyways

            This is the idiocy that pervades all relativisms. It is why they are all fundamentally nihilistic.

            Nietzsche was trying to find a way beyond this, and Heidegger was too. Heidegger’s answer was to try and restore existence itself as a norm.
            Far as I can tell, that was a way of revaluing the mysterious shared experience of life itself as a central premise for everything.

  2. Who’s going to watch Tompkins and Crankshaw.. shouldn’t they be held to the same scrutiny?

    1. “Who’s going to watch Tompkins and Crankshaw.. shouldn’t they be held to the same scrutiny?”

      Sandmann’s lawyers will. They already are. Trust me.

  3. My question is why would someone want to attend a university for vampires, anyway? What a name: Transylvania University! I thought it was actually a joke at first reading…

    1. In Latin it means,”on the other side of the woods.” Before becoming a state
      Kentucky was an area of Virgina call Transylvania because of the vast swat of forest. Some cannot see the forest for the trees.

  4. In the first place, Crankshaw, should be relieved of any duties held at ACLU. He has no right to reveal what school Mr. Sandmann is attending. Absolutely none of his business to release that information. It’s not right that Nick begin his college career with this weight upon him. The purpose of going to a Liberal Arts school is for both sides to be taught & learned. I wish Mr. Sandmann all the best as he begins his wondrous career. So much to learn & so much to express. TU should be honored to have such a bright young man, among the many new students to attend their great school. But I would watch the faculty now that I know what these students are walking into. They sound like Nazis on day one…their ideas, their way, or the highway. God help you if you disagree.

      1. Universities actually DO uphold those ideals. Transylvania is pretty great at it, actually. Contrary to what Professor Turley would have you believe here, Sandmann has publicly stated he’s been treated well at Transy. So far administrators there are reusing to kowtow to the mob of angry internet trolls and supposed experts in Constitutional law demanding Tompkins’ firing, too. See for yourself: #dontexpectcrepes

        1. OK well maybe “Transy” is an isolated pocket of classic liberal integrity. I am only familiar with certain major universities in the Midwest. Trust me in most major universities they are NOT upholding ideals of classic liberal education. I provided merely one example and I could generate a thousand more. Here how about this instead

          In a way I am not too worried. One day we will win and redeploy formal education in proper form. It will have a lot shorter shrift for intellectual nonsense of no value. So let the pressure groups do their thing and let the purges become a matter of habit. Because the purges will one day flow in a different direction.

    1. Carole Thomas
      Excellent letter…my thoughts as well. Let Nicholas enjoy college life as a Freshman and every year thereafter. This is just the beginning of wonderful years ahead.
      As a parent. I know his parents must be very
      proud. He makes America proud too.
      Marylou Mead

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