I previously praised the position of my alma mater, The University of Chicago, in refusing to limit free speech with the creation of safe spaces and speech codes. Indeed, the courageous position of UChicago stood in sharp contrast to the troubling position of my other alma mater, Northwestern University (which has only grown more hostile to both free speech and academic freedom). Now the university faces another test of academic principles after a coalition of student groups called “UChicago United” has given the Administration of list of 50 demands. Most troubling are demands that seek decisions impacting the academic integrity of the curriculum and school as a whole.
There has been a roaring debate over the decision of the New Orleans city council to tear down all Confederate era statues, which many have argued is wiping out history rather than dealing with it. The most controversial decision is the removal of the iconic statue of Robert E. Lee in the downtown. One casualty of that debate is Nicholas Dean, principal of Crescent Leadership Academy, who was forced out of his post merely because he went to see the historic change and was pictured with a Confederate flag in the background. Not his flag, mind you. Just a Confederate flag held by a protester.
It appears that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has found relief from the pesky protesters of Western democracies. He gave an almost breathless account of how he didn’t spot nary one protester in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, just tranquil silence of the Saudis. It could be that the Trump Administration found a country unanimously and enthusiastically supportive of its policies. It could also be that protests are generally unlawful in the Kingdom. The Saudis however are famous for public demonstrations of a different kind from beheadings to the image above of festive hangings.
Last weekend we featured two articles (HERE and HERE) describing a controversy involving the forced use of chemical herbicides on an organic farm that according to County officials was out of compliance in controlling noxious weeds that were threatening neighboring farms and crops.
The 2,000 acre organic farm in North Central Oregon is facing what could be an existential threat to its operations after county weed control authorities sent notice mandating that the farm use chemical herbicides to eradicate weed growth.
I attended the public hearing held at the Sherman County seat located in Moro, Oregon. Due to a very high volume of interest expressed by residents and those outside the community, the venue was changed from the County Courthouse to a gymnasium at the Sherman County High School. There was a great deal of uncertainty manifest in this hearing with strongly held opinions on many sides and one can say with near certainty that the publicity generated caused turmoil in this small community. In fact, the concern was so great, that a number of law enforcement officials were dispatched to the area to provide security to address a worry that things might get out of hand. But in the end the two sides reached an agreement that precludes the forced use of herbicides–and offered both a carrot and stick for both parties to strongly consider.
Pierson College Dean June Chu has been a successful academic and administrator at Yale University. However, that stellar record came to a halt — and Chu was put on leave — after it was discovered that she had written reviews on Yelp deemed offensive. The controversy again raises the question of whether teachers should be subject to discipline for their comments outside of schools. Chu is not accused of saying anything offensive to students or even on campus. Yet her Yelp comments were enough to force her into a leave of absence.
We have been writing about the enculturation of anti-free speech values in college students across the country. The most recent incident occurred at the California State University where assistant professor of public health professor Greg Thatcher is shown on a videotape wiping out the pro-life statements written in chalk by members of Fresno State Students for Life. Thatcher supports his students who destroyed the messages before his arrival (those students said that their teacher gave them permission to destroy the free speech of other students). Thatcher’s attitude and open contempt for free speech is chilling. It is also now the subject of a free speech lawsuit filed against him in his personal capacity.