National Free Speech News & Commentary

Universities Should Promote Rigorous Discourse, Not Stifle It

July 07, 2024 1 min read

Jay Bhattacharya & Wesley J. Smith


The New England Journal of Medicine recently published an advocacy article that attacks academic freedom and urges stifling contentious campus debates. Specifically, Evan Mullen, Eric J. Topol, and Abraham Verghese urge universities to “speak out publicly” and issue official institutional opinions about public controversies involving its professors “when it concludes that a faculty member’s opinion could cause public harm.”

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To restore Harvard’s reputation, faculty should speak up

July 04, 2024 1 min read

John Evangelakos, Jason H.P. Kravitt, and William Schmalzl
Boston Globe

Excerpt: The recent Harvard Crimson op-ed by professor and dean of social science Lawrence D. Bobo calling for sanctions against faculty members who criticize Harvard University leadership with the intent to arouse the intervention of “external actors” into university business was stunning.
The piece sparked another controversy, and backlash, that Harvard may deserve but doesn’t need, given the parade of headlines that have left its formerly stellar reputation in shreds. It was also an insult to alumni, like us, who care about the school, don’t see ourselves as “external actors,” and have a legitimate stake in the debate about how to get Harvard back on track.
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Farewell to Academe

July 03, 2024 1 min read

Eliot A. Cohen
The Atlantic

Excerpt: After 42 years of academic life—not counting five years spent getting a Ph.D.—I am hanging it up. A while back, I concluded that the conversation that I would most dread overhearing would be an alumna saying to a current student, “I know, I know, but you should have seen the old man in his prime.” I believe I dodged that one.
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DEI Ban Prompts Utah Colleges to Close Cultural Centers, Too

July 01, 2024 1 min read

Johanna Alonso
Inside Higher Ed

Excerpt: Starting today, Utah joins the growing list of states that have implemented a ban on diversity, equity and inclusion programs and practices at colleges and universities.

According to guidance on implementing the new law released by the Utah System of Higher Education, public colleges and universities are required to eliminate any offices, programs or practices that are “discriminatory,” a term that is extensively defined and includes anything that excludes individuals due to their identities. The guidance does not advise colleges to close their cultural centers—spaces on campus dedicated to supporting minority students with specialized resources and opportunities to socialize. But many institutions are shuttering their cultural centers anyway.
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Commentary: How Congress Could Protect Free Speech on Campus

June 30, 2024 1 min read

Conor Friedersdorf
The Atlantic

Excerpt: What do colleges owe their Jewish students? Administrators, faculty, and members of Congress have debated that polarizing question in recent months. Soon, judges and juries may impose some answers. At least 19 lawsuits pending against institutions of higher education allege anti-Semitism that violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which mandates that no person shall, on grounds of race or national origin, “be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under” a program that receives federal funds.

The way forward is to reaffirm equal treatment for Jewish students without undermining free speech or academic freedom. But we cannot rely on the justice system to achieve that balance. Congress should intervene, amending Title VI to add robust free-speech protections for all.
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Florida Argues It Could Stop Professors From Criticizing Governor

June 26, 2024 1 min read

Ryan Quinn
Inside Higher Ed

Excerpt: In 2022, Florida’s Republican state legislators passed the Stop WOKE Act, championed and signed by GOP governor Ron DeSantis. The law would limit the way faculty members at public universities can teach about race and gender.

Attention-grabbing oral arguments a week ago before the U.S. Court of Appeals’ 11th Circuit conveyed what could happen if they lose. A heavy-hitting Washington lawyer, known for representing big-name Republicans and now defending the Florida law, made a series of arguments that academic freedom advocates have called “extreme.” If judges adopt these conclusions, they say, states could demolish the tradition of academic freedom in American higher education.
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