National Free Speech News & Commentary

Did the Top Campus for Student Free Speech Punish Faculty Speech?

December 11, 2023 1 min read

Ryan Quinn
Inside Higher Ed

Excerpt: A free expression group is criticizing the university it ranked No. 1 nationally for student free speech after that same university allegedly punished a professor for using his own speech to criticize a student demonstration.

Carl Blair, a teaching professor in Michigan Technological University’s social sciences department, says Michigan Tech removed him from teaching one of his classes and barred him from contacting students enrolled in it. The public university allegedly did this last month after a national conservative group with campus chapters posted online an audio clip of him during a class, purportedly calling members of that group homophobic, dumb and racist.
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Commentary: Right Deed, Wrong Reason

December 11, 2023 1 min read

Heather Mac Donald
City Journal

Excerpt: Liz Magill was forced to resign Saturday as president of the University of Pennsylvania—by all indications because, at a congressional hearing, she could not bring herself to declare that calls for the genocide of Jews are punishable speech. She would more justly have lost her job for being a bald-faced hypocrite when it comes to campus free expression. The future of higher education depends on which of these motives governs such decisions in the future.

The presidents’ refusal to declare hypothetical calls for the genocide of Jews punishable conduct has been portrayed as the greatest scandal of the hearing. It was not. The real scandal was the presidents’ duplicity in citing a “commitment to free expression” as the reason why they needed to give “wide berth to . . . views that are objectionable,” as Gay put it.
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Commentary: A five-point plan to save Harvard from itself

December 11, 2023 1 min read

Steven Pinker
Boston Globe

Excerpt: For almost four centuries, Harvard University, my employer, has amassed a reputation as one of the country’s most eminent universities. But it has spent the past year divesting itself of tranches of this endowment.

In the wake of this debacle, the natural defense mechanism of a modern university is to expand the category of forbidden speech to include antisemitism (and as night follows day, Islamophobia). Bad idea. For universities to have a leg to stand on when they try to stand on principle, they must embark on a long-term plan to undo the damage they have inflicted on themselves. This requires five commitments.
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Commentary: Statements of the AAUP-Penn Executive Committee on the Resignation of President Magill and the December 5 Congressional Hearing

December 10, 2023 1 min read

Academe Blog

Excerpt: In recent months, trustees, donors, lobbying organizations, and members of Congress have repeatedly misrepresented the words and deeds of Penn faculty and students who have expressed concern for Palestinian civilians and criticized the war in Gaza, going so far as to suggest that faculty who have publicly condemned Hamas were Hamas supporters and that groups protesting genocide were calling for genocide.

These distortions and attacks on our colleagues have not addressed the scourge of antisemitism—a real and grave problem. Instead, they have threatened the ability of faculty and students to research, teach, study, and publicly discuss the history, politics, and cultures of Israel and Palestine. These attacks strike at the heart of the mission of an educational institution: to foster open, critical, and rigorous research and teaching that can produce knowledge for the public good in a democratic society.
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Penn president’s resignation stirs debate about limits of free speech

December 10, 2023 1 min read

Hannah Natanson and Susan Svrluga
Washington Post

Excerpt: The resignation of the University of Pennsylvania’s president following her testimony over how to handle calls for the genocide of Jews has highlighted the tightrope school leaders are walking as students protest the war in Gaza — and fueled instant debate over how far colleges can go to restrict speech.
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Commentary: We’ve lost our way on campus. Here’s how we can find our way back.

December 10, 2023 1 min read

Danielle Allen
Washington Post

Excerpt: Last week Congress put squarely on the table the question of whether the health of our democracy requires renovation of our colleges and universities. I believe the answer to that question is “Yes.”

Important and clarifying as that moment was, the opening statement of Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) gave the hearing a broader frame. Foxx questioned the health of universities generally and called attention to “a grave danger inherent in assenting to the race-based ideology of the radical left,” arguing that we are at “an inflection point” requiring a reshaping of “the future for all of academia.” The chairwoman’s theme was not antisemitism alone but whether the diversity, equity and inclusion efforts of college campuses have been a wrong turn for America’s intellectual culture.
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