National Free Speech News & Commentary

College Leaders Crack Down on Student Protests

February 19, 2024 1 min read

Jessica Blake
Inside Higher Ed

Excerpt: As college and university presidents face growing backlash from state and federal lawmakers for their responses to student protests against the war between Israel and Hamas, higher education leaders are cracking down on student demonstrations—particularly those that support Palestinian people.

In the last week, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology became one of several institutions that have suspended student groups for violations of campus protest rules, and Stanford University threatened to take disciplinary action against students who occupied a campus plaza for nearly four months.
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Faculty group calls on Yale to make teaching ‘distinct from activism’

February 19, 2024 1 min read

Ben Raab and Benjamin Hernandez
Yale Daily News

Excerpt: Over 100 faculty members now have their signatures displayed on a website for a new faculty group, Faculty for Yale, which “insist[s] on the primacy of teaching, learning and research as distinct from advocacy and activism.”

Among other measures, the group calls for “a thorough reassessment of administrative encroachment” and the promotion of diverse viewpoints. The group also calls for a more thorough description of free expression guidelines in the Faculty Handbook; Yale’s current guidelines are based on its 1974 Woodward Report. The group also wants Yale to implement a set of guidelines regarding donor influence, which were first put forth by the Gift Policy Review Committee in 2022.
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House Republicans Hit Harvard With Subpoena in Antisemitism Investigation

February 16, 2024 1 min read 1 Comment

Amanda Yen
Daily Beast

Excerpt: The House committee investigating alleged antisemitism at elite universities will subpoena Harvard University for documents relating to its handling of campus speech.

The Republican-led House Committee on Education and the Workforce announced its decision—which marks the first time a university has been served with a subpoena in the panel’s history—Friday morning in statement. It said subpoenas were necessary because Harvard failed to hand over “priority documents” to the committee, instead providing many that were already public.
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The Fight Over Academic Freedom

February 16, 2024 1 min read

Jennifer Schuessler
New York Times

Excerpt: Academic freedom is a bedrock of the modern American university. And lately, it seems to be coming under fire from all directions.

For many scholars, the biggest danger is at public universities in Republican-controlled states like Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis has led the passage of laws that restrict what can be taught and spearheaded efforts to reshape whole institutions. But at some elite private campuses, faculty have increasingly begun organizing against a very different threat. Over the past year, faculty groups dedicated to academic freedom have sprung up at Harvard, Yale and Columbia, where even some liberal scholars argue that a prevailing progressive orthodoxy has created a climate of self-censorship and fear that stifles open inquiry.
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Commentary: Free Speech Aids Racial Justice. Activists Must Defend It.

February 15, 2024 1 min read 1 Comment

Randall L. Kennedy, Princeton ‘77
Harvard Crimson

Excerpt: Many legal protections are grouped under two related but distinct categories: civil liberties and civil rights. The former, which includes the right to freedom of speech, protects individuals from oppression. The latter prevents wrongful discrimination against groups based on race, religion, national origin, or other attributes.

I have watched with dismay as leading civil liberties organizations — such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, and the National Coalition Against Censorship — have struggled to attract the support of young African Americans, at least in part because those organizations are seen as defending the rights of racists. This alienation between supporters of civil rights and civil liberties is harmful and avoidable. Reconciliation is essential and urgently needed.
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Defense of Campus Free Speech Doesn't Require Crying McCarthyism

February 15, 2024 1 min read

Jonathan Marks
The UnPopulist

Excerpt: No organization defends free speech on American college campuses more effectively than the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE). It fights not only in the court of public opinion but also in real courts.

Challenging serious free speech abrogations on campuses is a worthy goal. But overstating the extent of repression on campus, as FIRE’s CEO and president Greg Lukianoff does in a recent article in the Atlantic, undermines that cause.
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