Brian Carroll, campus president at Vatterott College in Kansas City had a human decision to make. A student of the school was homeless and had no where to sleep on a night with freezing temperature. Carroll decided to let the young man who is also schizophrenic sleep the night at the library. For that, Vatterott (one of our growing number of for-profit schools) fired him, according to Carroll. The young man did not steal anything or damage anything. Vatterott reportedly fired the president for allowing him to come in from the cold.
We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in France (here and here and here and here and here and here) and England ( here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). Much of this trend is tied to the expansion of hate speech and non-discrimination laws. We have even seen comedians targeted with such court orders under this expanding and worrisome trend. (here and here). Now a recent complaint filed by a professor against Home Secretary Amber Rudd illustrates vividly how hate speech has become for some people an extension of political disagreements. The complaint by Prof Joshua Silver, an astrophysicist, will not result in any serious investigation but it was recorded as a hate crime allegation under the existing standards. We recently discussed the criminal charges brought against a conservative Dutch politician. Continue reading
We have been discussing the largely successful efforts by students and faculty to prevent certain conservative speakers like Milo Yiannopoulos from being able to speak on campuses. The latest such example is University of California at Davis where protesters succeeded in preventing fellow students and faculty from hearing Yiannopoulos. There is one promising element to the story however. Unlike school administrators who have either supported or yielded to the “heckler’s veto,” Interim Chancellor Ralph Hexter denounced the effort to not only silence an opposing voice but to deny the right of others to hear that voice on campus. While the school professes “let there be light” on its seal, the school is now cloaked in a forced silence after the ignoble victory of protesters in curtailing the exercise of free speech.
I have long been a critic of politician interfering with curricular issues in our schools. Most of us do not look to politicians as paragons of knowledge. Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez personifies the perils of politicians dictating course choices. Gomez is pushing for a course on to teach students who to avoid fake news. It is part of a new trend around the world to rally people against the scourge of “fake news” — a trend that is already been used as a rationale for censorship and the criminalization of speech. Fake news is now the rallying cry for people who disagree with coverage and is used as a way to avoid answering questions. What one person consider fake news and other considers real news can be highly subjective. The most recent controversy reveals the difficult lines to draw. President-elect Donald Trump made headlines yesterday by denounced CNN as “fake news” and refusing to take a question from its reporter. Yet, the report was “news” that was reported by most major outlets. I agree with the Trump staff about the need for BuzzFeed to have looked more closely at specific allegations and I do find the contractions raised by the Trump staff to be very problematic. Indeed, James Clapper appears to have supported Trump in his outrage over the leaks and further distanced the U.S. intelligence community from the merits of the allegations. [Here is Clapper’s statement] Yet, the legitimacy of these stories comes down to the details published in the stories. A former MI6 agent made the allegation and those allegations were forwarded to the FBI by a U.S. Senator. That is news. The specific “dirt” alleged to be in the possession of the Russians is a far more difficult question for editors and most declined to run those details while reporting the lack of independent confirmation.
The Chinese communist regime reminded the world of its unwavering fear of independent thought and analysis for any kind. The latest victim is Deng Xiaochao, 62, an art professor at Shandong Jianzhu University in central China who was fired for a commentary that criticizing Chairman Mao Zedong. Of course, Mao has been dead for 40 years and he was a brutal, moronic dictator. However, this is this 123rd birthday and various people in China still revere a man who killed millions directly in the cultural revolution or indirectly through idiotic policies of centralized planning and controls. One of the best things that ever happened to China was the passing of Mao on September 9, 1976 but many still believe the decades of propaganda on the founder of Communist China,
There is a highly disturbing measure under consideration in Parliament this month. The government has proposed a new ratings system where students would give popularity (or unpopularity) rankings of schools. The Higher Education and Research Bill advocated by Universities Minister Jo Johnson has made it to a legislative committee. The proposed Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) imposes the system on universities which will be awarded gold, silver or bronze medals on the basis of a range of factors including student satisfaction, teaching excellence and preparation for the world of work. It is an effort to move beyond just ranking universities by their research excellence. Many academics have denounced the TEF as an obvious effort to coerce universities into yielding to demands from students on curriculum and other issues. The system would add new pressures on schools to yield to demands of students on curriculum and policies. It is turning over higher education to a type of academic social media where quality is based on your number of “likes.” If students “like” Laurette University more than Oxford, does that make Laurette the better school?