We have followed the rapid decline of civil liberties under the authoritarian rule of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the past few years as well as his empowering of Islamic parties in the once secular state. When Erdogan first ran, he assured Turks that he was committed to the secular traditions and constitution of the country. He then did precisely the opposite in power by chipping away at secular laws, introducing Islamic governing principles, and assuming authoritarian power. After the attempted recent coup, Erdogan has arrested thousands of his opponents. He has suspended civil liberties and shutdown the free media. He has also replaced academics and other professionals with Islamic party stalwarts. Now, we have a chilling story of just how Erdogan’s government has wiped out secular values. Dr. Abuzer Meral, an employee of a private hospital in the Turkish city of Yalova, was fired after merely objecting to mandatory religious studies for children.
We have previously discussed the banning of masterpieces due to contemporary objections to language or content. It is an assault on classic works that threaten the foundation for education in our country. A recent decision from a Virginia school to temporarily remove “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain and “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee is a tragic case in point. The school reportedly pulled the books after a parent said her high school-age son was negatively affected by the inclusion of racial slurs in the books, which deal with racism in those periods.
Hampshire College in Massachusetts caused a national outrage when the Administration ordered the placing of the American flag at half staff after Election Day. It then ordered the the removal of all flags after the flag was found burned on the ground. The flag has now been returned and College President Jonathan Lash is insisting that it was all a positive exercise of free speech. I disagree.
We recently discussed the courageous stand of the University of Chicago in favor of free speech (a position followed by schools like Purdue). We can now add the Cardiff University in Wales as a school standing with free speech principles over demands for censorship and “safe zones”. Conversely, student leaders at Tufts University unanimously voted against a measure protecting free speech by addressing the vague and fluid terms used to curtail free speech.
George Washington (where I teach at the law school) has become the focus of national attention due to a letter sent out by a collection of student groups that declared the security supplied by campus police to be an “act of violence” because police are viewed as supporting President-elect Donald Trump. It is an absurd and insulting position — part of a tirade by the groups calling for everything from providing sanctuary to undocumented immigrants to breaking down patriarchy, Islamophobia, and a myriad of other social ills. The deep sense of community and societal concerns reflected in the letter is a good thing and something that this university has always fostered. However, the gratuitous slap at our campus police is neither productive nor warranted.
University of Arkansas’ Dean, Michael Schwartz, has resigned after a backlash to his reaction over the election of Donald Trump. Schwartz, who has served four years as Dean, free counseling services to students who “feel upset” following the “most upsetting, most painful, most disturbing election season of my lifetime.”
School officials at Loyola University Maryland pressured student government leaders to drop the “America” theme for their senior class party as “very alienating, divisive and harmful” and against the university’s “core values.” The party was to be one of four celebrations for graduating seniors and the theme was selected by the students themselves but then declared as inappropriate and offensive by university officials.