Thomas Jefferson called an educated public as “the only safe depositories of their own liberty.” If so, a new poll conducted by the University of Pennsylvania suggests that we have a serious problem. The poll made a truly alarming finding that many Americans cannot name a single first amendment right. Penn’s Annenberg Public Policy Center found 37 percent could not name any of the five rights protected by First Amendment and fewer than half (48 percent) could name freedom of speech.
We have been discussing how faculty around the country are supporting the abandonment of free speech principles to bar speakers and speech with which they disagree. The most extreme form of this rejection of classical liberal values is the antifa movement. We have seen faculty physically attack speakers or destroy messages that they oppose. We have also seen faculty physically attacked and intimidated. In some of these incidents, other faculty have supported students in shutting down speakers or fellow academics (here and here). The latest example of faculty opposing free speech is a letter of over 200 University of California, Berkeley professors and faculty are calling for the shutdown of classes and activities during “free speech week.” To the dismay of these professors, free speech week will include speakers with whom they disagree. Thus, they have posted a letter that not only seeks a boycott of free speech but have proclaimed that certain speech (in this case speech they do not like) is unworthy of free speech protection. Note the faculty and Ph.D students are calling for a boycott of classes and all campus activities, not just the speeches themselves. Turning off the lights and fleeing the campus at the approach of opposing views hardly fits with the school’s motto of “Fiat Lux” (Let There Be Light).
The only thing worse than Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government appointing Chelsea Manning as fellow was the school’s withdraw of the fellowship. The school today succeeded in demonstrating to the world that its fellowships have zero intellectual content by first appointing Manning without a clear explanation of her expected academic contributions and then terminating the appointment under pressure. As academics, we are not supposed to remove academic appointments because individuals are controversial or unpopular. If Harvard was sticking by its academic reasons for the appointment, it should stick by its appointee.
Below is my column on the decision of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to rescind the highly controversial “Dear Colleague letter” of the Obama Administration. The letter, which made sweeping changes to educational policy, was never put through any notice and comment period under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). At the time, schools and faculty objected to the stripping of basic due process protections from our students. However, politicians are now denouncing those who want to restore due process as soft on sexual abuse.
One of those denouncing DeVos is Texas lawyer and adjunct law professor Rob Ranco who said that he would be fine with DeVos being sexually assaulted. Ranco has now resigned from his law firm, the Carson Law Firm, after apologizing for his public statement. Ranco is reportedly an adjunct professor of paralegal studies at Austin Community College.
I have long criticized the erosion of due process rights on our campuses, particularly the unilateral action taken by the Obama Administration.
Here is the column:
We have been discussing the rise of groups on campuses that assert the right not to simply protest but to prevent other students from hearing speakers or participating in events. The latest such incident occurred last week at the University of Virginia where members of a social justice group called UVA Students United disrupted a “cops and robbers”-themed party at a campus fraternity. The group would not allow a party that it claimed made “a joke of systems that kill and brutalize marginalized communities.” Ultimately, the party was canceled.