Free Speech

Why a Broad View of Academic Freedom Is Essential

Most things faculty publish don’t lead to a backlash. But that doesn’t mean that there’s not an academic freedom problem.


This is the third in a series of five guest posts we are publishing this week as the co-authors of a new book published by Oxford University Press titled "Unassailable Ideas: How Unwritten Rules and Social Media Shape Discourse in American Higher Education." The previous guest posts from this series can be found here and here.

Is there an academic freedom problem on campuses? It could be argued that the answer is no, because each year college instructors and researchers publish thousands of papers, teach thousands of classes, and issue thousands of social media posts that generate no controversy at all. But the scope of a freedom is defined by its boundaries. As we wrote:

By analogy, consider the scope of a different freedom: freedom of expression under the First Amendment … [I]t is precisely when the boundaries are tested that the protective power of [a freedom] springs into action. We wouldn't need a First Amendment to protect the right to make completely uncontroversial statements such as "I like ice cream." Rather, the power of the First Amendment is that it protects people's right to say and write things that they might otherwise be prohibited from (or punished for) expressing.

This provides a useful framing for considering the scope of academic freedom at universities. By analogy, the scope of that freedom is only truly clarified when it is tested. If we want to understand where the boundaries lie, the fact that the overwhelming majority of academic research and publications raise no academic freedom issue doesn't give us useful information…..

We need those protections for the tiny minority of cases where a college teacher or researcher says or publishes something that has potential value in academic discourse, but that also generates controversy, opposition, and pressures on the institution (and often from within the institution as well) to engage in censorship. If academic freedom can't provide protection in those cases, then it becomes a hollow concept devoid of any real meaning…..

The problem with an approach to academic freedom that gives what amounts to veto power to social media mobs is that it presumes that the social norms underlying the backlash always set the right parameters around permissibility. History teaches us what a risky assumption that is.

To see why, consider a thought experiment. Imagine that it is the 1950s, but with the modification that the same social media technology we have today is in place. Now imagine that a professor in that environment makes a highly visible public statement arguing that same-sex marriage should be permitted and be on equal footing with marriage between a man and a woman.

Today a rapidly growing majority of Americans, and an even higher fraction of people in campus communities (and the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges), agree with that position. But given the social climate that was in place in the 1950s, it's easy to see that this would have been immediately met with a storm of social media opposition. Within days, the professor's university would likely have issued a statement saying that the professor's views do not reflect the values of the university. It's likely that no mainstream academic journal would have allowed the professor to publish a paper expounding this view, and his or her future career prospects would have been imperiled.

As this and many other examples that could be constructed illustrate, historically speaking, when it comes to opinions that might generate backlash, the particular set of assumptions that were in place in any particular era don't always stand the test of time. Unless we believe that we have, against all historical precedent, arrived at a moment when the worldview that predominates on campuses is one that has all the right answers on all sociopolitical issues, we should be cautious about using that worldview as a source of authority on the limits of academic freedom.

A far better approach is to let university teachers and researchers freely voice and publish their opinions and research assertions, including those that people on social media might find offensive. Social media criticism, when it comes, should be part of the dialog, but it shouldn't be given the power to stop the dialog.

NEXT: Today in Supreme Court History: October 7, 1982

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  1. “Today a rapidly growing majority of Americans, and an even higher fraction of people in campus communities (and the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges), agree with that position. ”

    Actual polling on the subject.

    Support may have risen from 2004 to 2017, but in the last three years has been stable or dropping. This is generally true across every demographic.

    1. That page does not support your conclusion. There is only one poll after 2017, for 2019, in which BOTH favor and oppose dropped by 1%. 2017 itself was an outlier, +7% favor and -5% oppose, exceeded only by 2009-2010 (+7, -6), and similar to 2004 (+5, -7).

      1. That page certainly doesn’t support the idea that there’s a “rapidly growing” majority of Americans in favor of SSM.

        1. Why would anyone NOT support SSM?? It’s impact is somewhere on the spectrum of innocuous to very positive.

          1. Because God said to kill a man who lies with another man as with a woman. If it’s a capital crime, it must be seriously evil indeed.

            Not my argument, but you asked.

            1. A youth pastor at my church said God loves husbands to watch a younger dude f their wife…the women in the church really seemed to like that. 😉

          2. “Why would anyone NOT support SSM?? It’s impact is somewhere on the spectrum of innocuous to very positive.”

            Is it “positive” to legally harass, and sometimes even drive out of business, bakers, tour operators, bed-and-breakfasts, etc., etc., for simply operating the same way they’d been operating for years?

            1. I think gay bakers should bake a cake celebrating the relationship between a pool boy and a married Christian couple…it’s 2020 so let your freak flag fly!!!

              1. And if they refuse? What penalty?

                1. They wouldn’t because the reason you get a pool boy to f your Christian wife is because you have the medical condition known as Floppy Penis Syndrome.

                  1. It’s interesting that when I point out how gay marriage is not “innocuous,” and involves real-world harm to small businesses, your reaction is to jest about poolboys.

                    Could this mean that you cannot come up with a serious justification for your preferred policies?

                    1. So people trying to hand you money for the services and products you provide is a Holocaust level persecution of Christians?? Btw, at the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said he was showing the “new way”…and that he found vaginas icky and stinky but the new way was if you have FPS just let your wife f a 20 year old pool boy. Furthermore George Washington had FPS, so he married a woman with Flappy Vagina Syndrome (FVS) because he knew he couldn’t “satisfy” most women.

                    2. Goodness, you seem to have put your thinking cap on backwards.

                    3. People in the wedding industry owe everything to gay dudes in Manhattan and LA…I just think anyone encouraging big expensive weddings (non refundable) is a vile human being.

                    4. Cal, there is no reason we can’t have both gay marriage and religious exemptions for bakers. Let gays marry, but don’t force anyone to bake them a cake.

                      Please note that that would not be my preferred policy; I’m just pointing out that one need have nothing to do with the other. And even in the absence of gay marriage, in jurisdictions with gay civil rights laws it would still be illegal for bakers to refuse to bake cakes for gay domestic partnership celebrations.

                    5. “Let gays marry but don’t force anyone to bake them a cake.”

                      That *was* the policy in many places between 2003 and 2015 (and in practice generally even before 2003 but I’ll not insist on that if you prefer otherwise).

                      During this interval same-sex ceremonies were generally quite legal, as was gay cohabitation among adults.

                      “Please note that that would not be my preferred policy”

                      …why should it be? If you’re committed to a radical social change like fundamentally reshaping the man/woman definition of marriage, why would you suddenly stop and adopt a live and let live policy where small businesses are concerned?

                    6. Krychek_2, personally I don’t frequent businesses run by bigots…so that is why even as a hetero I wouldn’t buy a cake from the bigoted baker…because he is a vile bigot. And businesses even display a Pride flag to get business from non bigots. So Christianity is very clear in that every Christian is allowed to engage in lawful business even if it goes against their deeply held religious beliefs. So a Christian restauranteur is free to serve alcohol in a restaurant even though many Christians believe drinking alcohol is a sin. On the flip side Christians should choose to frequent businesses run by good people regardless of the proprietor’s religious beliefs which is the point of the Good Samaritan.

                    7. “…why should it be?”

                      Because believing the state should not discriminate against X is not the same thing as believing the state should prohibit private discrimination against X. Libertarians generally believe that the state should neither discriminate in the public sphere nor regulate the private sphere. Both positions are based in opposition to the government engaging in “radical social change”.

                      There are plenty of states in 2020 that follow Hodges and, prior to Bostock, also don’t prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

                    8. So, Cal, the bakers are a side issue. Your real concern is fundamentally reshaping the definition of marriage. Well, the fact that you can no longer sell your 12 year old daughter for two cows, or marry twin sisters, or stone your daughter to death for marrying outside her tribe, means that our concept of marriage has already changed several times, and this is merely the latest chapter. Society has frequently changed its understanding of marriage as times change. Welcome to progress.

                      On the subject of the bakers, I really wish gays had done a better job of picking their battles, but if push comes to shove, I fail to see how requiring the baker to bake them the cake that they want is any different than violating the religious sensibilities of employers who don’t want to put women in leadership positions, or hire blacks, because that’s what they understand the Bible to teach. We either have anti-discrimination laws or we do not. And as a policy matter, I think we should have them. And you don’t get a free pass from obeying the law because you disagree with it, regardless of why you disagree with it.

                    9. “believing the state should not discriminate against X is not the same thing as believing the state should prohibit private discrimination against X.”

                      Sure, but I was responding to this comment:

                      “even in the absence of gay marriage, in jurisdictions with gay civil rights laws it would still be illegal for bakers to refuse to bake cakes for gay domestic partnership celebrations.”

                      This sounds like the government allowing *itself* to discriminate against “gay marriage” while prohibiting private parties from doing so. This strikes me as the opposite of the left-libertarian position.

                    10. “sell your 12 year old daughter for two cows”

                      I thought you’d pull out the interracial-marriage card, so…well-played, I didn’t expect that angle.

                      “We either have anti-discrimination laws or we do not.”

                      How many protected categories should there be? If you don’t include a particular category are you automatically opposing all “anti-discrimination laws”?

                      What protected categories do you wish to add to existing laws, or are the existing laws now sufficient?

                    11. Cal, you do realize nothing in Christianity makes gay marriage a sin?? Gay marriage is a civil contract between two people and if anything it reduces the overall amount of homosexual behavior in the world. Regardless, gay marriage has nothing to do with gay sex because gays (or any other American for that matter) needs to get married to have sex.

                    12. “nothing in Christianity makes gay marriage a sin”

                      Ah, so the government should define what Christianity really means, and impose that definition on heretics who disagree?

                    13. Cal, I’m not the government. I’m telling you nothing in Christianity makes the act of two dudes signing a civil contract a sin. Maybe you have something against civil contracts but Christianity allows it.

                    14. I’m not sure how it’s relevant to discuss the true meaning of Christianity unless you think it’s relevant to public policy.

                    15. I’m just trying to grasp why support a small business owner turning away a lawful customer?!?

                    16. Cal, if I were a policy maker, I would do away with protected classes altogether and simply have a law that forbids discrimination based on anything not business related. That’s the method they use in England and it seems to work well for them. That way, there’s no bother about which classes should be protected, and everybody gets to participate in the economy on an equal footing. Sure, there would initially be some litigation over what is, and is not, business related, but I doubt there’s a really good argument that turning down business from a couple looking to buy a cake is business related.

                    17. Would you agree that at the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life?

                    18. “Sure, there would initially be some litigation over what is, and is not, business related”

                      With the courts second-guessing just about every decision the business owners makes about how to run his or her own business?

                    19. Cal, we’re discussing a small business owner that has to get a business license from the state and then gets to hopefully be profitable while paying taxes to the state and be a productive member of society—keep it simple stupid! So if the bigoted baker wants to threaten his family’s financial health by making life difficult that is his decision, but other people that hold themselves out as Christians shouldn’t be supporting him. Christianity is very clear—Christians are free to engage in lawful business as their society deems lawful. We have this awful “keeping up with the Jones’s” wedding culture that gay men in Manhattan and LA have exacerbated…and Christians can make money off of people that have screwed up priorities and spend a lot and make many demands on their friends and family for their dumb wedding. I am just glad my wedding attending days are over with the last one I attended a wedding for two men that wasn’t nearly as gay as all of the other ones between a man and a woman. 😉

                    20. You mention the sacredness of the law…what about the anti-sodomy laws before 2003?

                      Is disobeying the law OK when it comes to sodomy but not OK when it comes to refusing to cater a wedding?

                      What would Jesus say?

                    21. Cal, If a Christian believes a law is wrong then they are free to protest. So in the 1950s and 60s many Christians believed segregation was consistent with their Christian values…but a some Christians believed it was inconsistent with Christian values. So MLK peacefully protested and accepted the legal repercussions of his protest. So the bigoted baker is free to protest, but he must also accept the legal repercussions of his protest just like MLK. I really think the people that hold themselves out as Christians with nothing to lose that cheer on the bigoted baker are the ones behaving inconsistent with Christian values…because nothing in Christianity says it is a sin for two dudes to sign a civil contract. Furthermore Christianity teaches that the state (Rome/Caesar) and religion are separate and one is to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. And the parable of the Good Samaritan shows how people with very different strongly held beliefs can help each other…so the Samaritan wasn’t just a stranger but a person that was of a different ethnicity and religion than the stranger he helped.

                    22. So…people who are into sodomy in some pre-2003 state where it was illegal should have reported themselves for prosecution?

                    23. Cal, the courageous Christian Congressman John Lewis called it “good trouble”. You seem to think the bigoted baker is getting in to “good trouble”…history will be the judge.

                    24. You don’t seem to have answered my question – perhaps that’s because *your principles* would have required everyone before 2003 either to abstain from sodomy or report themselves to the authorities!

                    25. Cal, how can you post on this site and not be aware of “test cases”??? Looks like you know as much about the Supreme Court/Constitution as you know about Christianity! 😉

                    26. OK, then, call them test cases. You said “So the bigoted baker is free to protest, but he must also accept the legal repercussions of his protest just like MLK.”

                      Does the same reasoning apply to a violator of the sodomy laws back before sodomy was a constitutional right? Or in Saudi Arabia?

                    27. And I thought I was willing to stipulate that these bakers, etc. were heretics who didn’t apply Christianity properly – what difference does that make from the standpoint of the First Amendment, which protects people in their religious errors?

                    28. Cal, the bigoted baker could have made up an excuse like he was too busy to get out of making the cake—he chose to get into “good trouble”. A Christian isn’t required to get into “good trouble” but like MLK and John Lewis they are free to choose that option if they truly believe in what they are fighting for.

                    29. Cal, all rights have limits. I personally would choose not to buy a cake from a bigoted baker, but the reality is bakers probably have to get several licenses from the state and they pay taxes and they have to follow many state regulations while conducting their business. So what about the case in which a state only offers a limited amount of licenses like liquor stores or in olden times taxis—obviously a taxi driver or a liquor store owner wouldn’t be able to exercise their religion in such a way that turned away paying customers. I think both parties are being dicks but this pandemic has laid bare how difficult it is to run businesses like bakeries and restaurants so to me you should just take the money from anyone that wants to pay you for your products and services…that’s the American AND Judeo-Christian way.

                    30. “So what about the case in which a state only offers a limited amount of licenses”

                      Bakers? Florists? Don’t sound like natural monopolies to me.

                    31. Krychek : I would do away with protected classes altogether and simply have a law that forbids discrimination based on anything not business related.

                      1. How is this going to apply to, say, the Little Sisters of the Poor ? They don’t run a business, they do charitable work. Their whole operation is based on their view that they have a religious obligation to help the poor. They employ people to help with their charitable work, not with any business. If they were simply running a business they’d have no problem with Obamacare. They would just close down operations. Their problem is that Obamacare creates a legal barrier to doing their religious duty of helping the poor, by requiring them to do something contrary to their religious teaching if they carry on helping the poor.

                      2. How is this going to apply to, say, a web service company that doesn’t want to give a platform to views that it finds offensive ? Is that to do with the business or to do with the business owners opinion about offensiveness ?

                      3. And if the business owner’s argument is that he needs to discriminate against, say, White Supremacists, because otherwise he will lose custome from decent folk, and lose decent employees – is that gonna be OK ?

                      4. And is it still gonna be OK if there’s a business that doesn’t want to sell coffee to [insert racial group] not because he himself is prejudiced, but because his customers are ?

                      Not only is your proposal very illiberal – let’s solve some tricky issues with discrimination law, by making a whole pile of stuff that is currently legal, illegal. It’s also completely unworkable. What is to do with the business is in the eye of the beholder.

                      Plenty of small businesses do not exist to maximise profit, they exist to provide the owner with a living, while enabling him or her to have a working life that balances profit with leisure, enjoyment, independence, family, moral or religious values and all the other things that people seek in their lives.

                      Plenty of large businesses have ethical constraints on how they do business, and sometimes those constraints are not solely to do with their public image.

                      The whole idea is based on a weird conception that “business” is some separate, independent, enclosed compartment of existence that can be clearly demarkated from the rest of life. This is a fantasy.

                      The answer to the problems of discrimination law is to go in precisely the opposite direction to Krychek’s proposal – ie to get rid of them so far as private association is concerned, and apply them only to government.

                    32. Lee, the question is which set of problems do you find more important: That before anti-discrimination laws, women and racial minorities were almost entirely shut out of large segments of the economy (which was good for neither them nor for the economy as a whole), or that since discrimination laws, some businesses have occasionally been subjected to unjust results?

                      I’m not a libertarian; I don’t find “but what about my freedom” to be dispositive. It may be an important point to consider all else being equal, but it doesn’t decide the case. If someone’s freedom results in significant social harm, such as women and blacks being shut out almost completely from certain sectors of the economy, then I’m more interested in not shutting people out of the economy.

                      In answer to your specific questions:

                      1. The law is currently in flux, but what the law has been up until this point is that there is a distinction between jobs and activities that are “ministry” versus those that are not. The Catholic church can refuse to ordain women as priests because the priesthood is a core ministry function; it cannot refuse to hire women as office managers, janitors, or other non-ministry related positions. The same principle would apply to the provision of services. However, the real solution to the Little Sisters problem is single payer health care, in which case employer religious objections go away.

                      2. Most discrimination is founded in someone finding something offensive, whether its race mixing, gender equality, or gay marriage. If you accept the premise that people shouldn’t be shut out of the economy, then allowing someone to circumvent the law by saying “I’m offended” basically guts the law. We either have anti-discrimination laws or we do not.

                      3. and 4. Same as No. 2. If your bigoted customers don’t want to do business with you because you hire blacks, they’ll have no better luck anywhere else because every other business is forbidden to discriminate too.

                    33. Krychek_2, remember that you’re eloquently defending a law which does not exist (yet) in this country: “I would do away with protected classes altogether and simply have a law that forbids discrimination based on anything not business related.”

                      You would have the courts second-guess any distinction a business makes among employees/potential employees and customers/potential customers. The judiciary, not the business, will decide on the “business necessity” of basically all these decision. The business could get sued at any time.

                      In contrast, the *actual* antidiscrimination laws represent the legislature’s judgment that *some* forms of discrimination by private businesses should be illegal, and others should be legal. This actually protects businesses better than your arrangement, where the court not the legislature would draw up categories of prohibited discrimination, leaving businesses to guess what could or could not get them sued and subject to hefty legal expenses.

                      If you have examples of a law like yours working in some other country, show it. In other words, you’re the one criticizing the status quo of our civil rights laws, and proposing a big change on the basis the businesses aren’t regulated *enough.*

                    34. Cal, most of the time, it’s fairly obvious what is, and is not, business related. That a fourth-grade dropout is applying for a job as a nuclear physicist? Business related. That he’s sleeping with a woman he’s not married to? Probably not business related, unless the job is promoting abstinence.

                      There will be cases close to the line on both sides of it, but that’s true of most laws. As I understand it, the experience in England, where that is the law, has largely been positive, or at least no worse than our system here. Again, though, which set of problems is more important to you: Preventing an occasional frivolous lawsuit, or allowing people to participate in the economy.

                      And the benefit to doing away with protected classes is that why should some classes be protected and others not? It’s fairly obvious that race and sex have a long history of discrimination, as does sexual orientation, but what if it’s something like marital status? There aren’t that many actual cases of marital status discrimination — I don’t remember ever being asked during a job interview if I’m married — but they do happen, particularly among religious employers. For those handful of people who are discriminated against based on that, some of whom really needed the job, isn’t is just as much an injustice to them?

                      Or how about people who smoke pot on the weekends but show up sober Monday morning? I can see drug testing people if it’s a genuine safety concern, but to bag groceries at Wal Mart? Give me a break. Again, for those who lose jobs because their employers don’t like what they do on their own time, isn’t that just as much of an injustice?

                      I once had a job interview in which the employer asked me when my birthday was, and I told him. He said he couldn’t hire me because I’m a Virgo and he doesn’t get along with Virgos. I thought he was joking so I laughed out loud. He was not joking and I did not get the job. Part of me says I’m just as happy not to be working for an obvious nutcase, but another part of me says I had been unemployed for six months and really needed the job, and why should I suffer for his irrationality? No legislature is likely to make Virgos a protected class, but wasn’t the injustice to me just as palpable?

            2. There’s nothing about SSM that entitles anybody to “legally harass, and sometimes even drive out of business, bakers, tour operators, bed-and-breakfasts, etc. etc., for simply operating the same way they’d been operating for years[.]” Your complaint is not with gays getting married. It’s with anti-discrimination laws. Hodges does not mandate anti-discrimination laws.

              1. Let’s see…if an “anti-discrimination law” requires a business to assist at a “same sex marriage,” then the law is to that extent promoting “same sex marriage.”

                1. We agree, that’s why I said “Your complaint is . . . . with anti-discrimination laws.” Do you agree that we can have the government recognize SSM without also requiring the government to mandate that private parties “assist at a ‘same sex marriage'”?

                  1. In Libertopia it’s perfectly possible.

                    It doesn’t seem to be happening in the world we’re actually living in.

          3. Some think it’s important to hetero-norm the gays. They desperately need to be in age-appropriate, long-term monogamous relationships. Look at the cost gay culture has put upon society. $30B in AIDS spending alone each year. That’s practically more than Cancer and NASA combined.

            1. And how much does society pay because of irresponsible heterosexual sex — teen pregnancies that end up on welfare, affairs that end marriages with increased costs to all, drunken frat parties. I would not argue that gay men are paradigms of responsibility, but God knows neither are straights.

              1. When you throw in blinding syphilis, super gonorrhea, and MRSA USA 300, and the 1:6 boys being sexually abused ratio, and did a per capita calculation I doubt us breeders are on par with the homosexual community.

                1. And when you throw in all the women who are raped, and sexually harassed, and are the victims of incest, and are pregnant at 15, I very much doubt that you are either. I think the cumulative effect of heterosexual misconduct and irresponsibility far and away outstrips the cumulative effect of homosexual misconduct and irresponsibility. Though part of that is that there are more heteros than homos so you start off with a disadvantage. And I think it’s your confirmation bias that’s doing the talking.

                  My next door neighbors are a gay couple. They’ve adopted six children (three boys and three girls), every one of which came into the world as a result of heterosexual irresponsibility, and most of which suffered enormously at the hand of their biological parents. Not only are my neighbors not contributing to the social problems you mention, they’re doing their part to fix them. The biological parents of their children aren’t worthy to take out their trash.

                  1. You keep shifting to cumulative because you’re talking about 1% of the population.

                    That’s why I’m talking about per capita.

                    Do you understand why these are different and much more appropriate comparisons?

                    Children deserve a mommy and a daddy, it’s always sad when they do not have them.

                    1. Throughout most of human history having only one biological parent was relatively common because early death was very common.

                    2. Sam, I don’t think I would actually like to live in your two dimensional world in which everything fits neatly into categories, but I would like to visit it for a weekend sometime just to see what it’s like.

                      Nobody knows what percentage of the population is gay. In the first place, gay is not well defined. (If a man only has sex with women, but fantasizes about men while he’s doing it, what’s his sexual orientation?) In the second place, any attempt to get a number depends on self reporting, which is notoriously unreliable, and which also has to take into account that some people, like my hypothetical guy who fantasizes about men while he’s having sex with women, might define themselves differently than an objective definition would suggest. So your 1% number is pish posh.

                      That being the case, there is no way to know if gays are, per capita, more irresponsible than straights. My nonscientific observation is that neither side wins any prizes.

                      And yes, it would be nice if every child had not just a mommy and a daddy, but a mommy and a daddy who don’t have substance abuse issues, at least one of them has a steady job, and don’t have new boyfriends that beat the kids whenever they get on his nerves. But not every child does. And if every gay couple or person that’s raising kids disappeared tomorrow, every child still wouldn’t have stable heterosexuals parents in pairs.

            2. 75% of HIV cases are among gay men, who are 1% of the population. It truly is a gay disease

              1. That may be true in the United States. Worldwide, it’s primarily a disease for heterosexual women, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

          4. I support government civil unions for everyone and marriage being left to the people to personally define for themselves rather than the government mandating the definition. SSM was a fight for a government imposed cultural shift (one side wanting to shift it one way and the other another way) masquerading as a fight for liberty.

            1. I think marriage (really divorce laws) are broken in America so I too would have preferred the LGBTQ movement to try to build on the superior civil union laws. So an example I bring up is the movie Freeheld which involves a lesbian couple fighting to get access to the bankrupt NJ pension system…they should have been fighting to move everyone to 401k. And now gay couples that get divorced in some states might have to pay alimony for their lifetime!!!! Who would fight to subject themselves to that?!?

          5. Because it validates their deviant lifestyle. There’s no rational reason to give a government stamp of approval onto the “relationship” between men whose idea of a good time is erupting in each other’s rear ends.

            1. Hetero marriage in America is much gayer than SSM. Btw, every gay man in America wants to thank you for supporting a health care system that picks up their $1800/month PrEP pill that allows gay men to go at it like it’s the 1970s again…all the while conservative nitwits like you fight to make women pay out of pocket for IUDs!?! Btw, remember to pick up tampons and monistat on your home tonight, because it’s gonna be a heavy and itchy! Walk tall gay boy!

        2. Brett, from your own citation: “Support for same-sex marriage has steadily grown over the past 15 years.”

          1. And from their own graph, not true.

            1. This is really pedantic, no? The authors meant ‘in recent reliable polling Support for same-sex marriage has steadily grown over the past 15 years.’ I guess if you want to say ‘it grew steadily dramatically for the past 15 years, but recently it’s kind of frozen’ then I guess you ‘win’ …something?

              1. Yes, that is my point: If you want to say something “is” growing, present tense, don’t display a graph that turns down at the end.

                1. “Our share price has increased this quarter.”

                  “Lies! It lost ground yesterday.”

                  1. “Our price share is rising.”

                    “Then why is the graph headed down?”

                    “It’s rising since a few years ago!”

              2. There is no such animal as “reliable polling”.

  2. Opinions yes, but there is “no constitutional value
    In a false statement of fact”. That.precedent remains. Institutions because of their superior resources and megaphones should be held to even higher standards of responsibility than individuals. Otherwise any tribalism may snowball unchecked. Public policy should take into account the results, not just the ideology. Witness the current devolution into mob rule.

    1. That’s a bit misleading. Yes, there is no constitutional value to false statements of fact, but SCOTUS also says that such statements get “breathing space” when made regarding public officials, public figures, or matters of public concern.

      And academia is a perfect place for such “breathing space”, because there’s a real truth seeking function there, peer review, etc.

      1. Not quite sure what “no constitutional value to false statements of fact” means, but if it is intended to stand for the proposition that there is no “societal” value to false statements of fact – ie value to persons other than the false statement maker – then I beg to differ.

        There is considerable societal value to making a false statement of fact in some circumstances – eg

        “No, Anne Frank is not in our attic”

        “You want to kill your schoolteacher and you need to buy a gun ? OK see that gentleman over there wearing a blue uniform with a badge on it, standing beside the car with the colored lights on top. He will be able to help you.”

  3. Are these authors restricting their attention to institutions operated in, by, and for the liberal-libertarian American mainstream?

    They appear to ignore the many conservative-controlled campuses of censorship-shackled, dogma-enforcing, speech-code-imposing, loyalty-oath-collecting, nonsense-teaching, science-suppressing institutions that routinely engage in viewpoint-based discrimination in everything from admissions and research to hiring (from professors to janitors, administrators to basketball coaches) and firing.

    1. You do a good comedy routine, Arthur.

      It isn’t ‘conservative’ colleges and universities that encourage ‘heckler’s vetoes’, and uninvite speakers. It is the left-leaning campuses that do this. Case in point: Rutgers University, located in the People’s Republic of NJ.

      You’re just a washed up loser, Arthur. A former elected official, turned out of office by your own constituents. It must hurt to be rejected by so many….who you thought were your supporters.

      1. I retired after winning every election in which I sought office.

        You stick with the right-wing schools, Commenter_XY, and the social conservatives, and the Republicans.

        Me? I’ll be with the side that is shoving progress down your throat in a culture war that has been settled. That’s what makes you a disaffected, inconsequential clinger nipping at the ankles of your betters.

        1. Sure Arthur…you retired. LOL, LOL, LOL. I am not buying that one. No politician just ‘retires’. Nah, your constituents saw that you were a sorry-assed loser. People are pretty good that way.

          The only question I have is what did it feel like when you realized that you were just going to lose. I want you to remember that feeling. You know exactly what I am talking about….when you felt the utter rejection of your ideas, and of you in particular.

          I’ll be checking up on you November 4th. 🙂

          1. “I’ll be checking up on you November 4th.”

            Great. So either you lose, or the country loses.

            Other than your baseless attacks on someone (LOL LOL LOL) that expose you for what you are, your notable wish for the country’s continued decline is obvious.

            Maybe we’ll see you wheezing somewhere.

            1. Poor loki….still butt-hurt about the thrashing I gave you a week ago? If you like, I can smack you around some more. I know what the chink in your armor is…happy to exploit for you.

              1. XY:

                Rev. Kirkland is right about conservative universities. There’s basically almost no academic freedom at the most conservative places, like Liberty and Bob Jones. And elements of the right have made big pushes to try and curtail academic freedom (certainly in such things as the selection of speakers) at places like Notre Dame.

                That, of course, is no excuse for the rest of academia to try to constrict academic freedom. But it’s definitely the case that universities run by the right (or at least the religious right) have been very bad on these issues.

                1. Liberty has a really great class called Cougars 101 taught by Becki Fallwell…apparently you can audit it if you are a hot 20 year old male. 😉

                2. No Dilan, Arthur is not right about conservative universities and frankly neither are you. Odd that I do not read of students shouting down speakers at either Liberty or Bob Jones. Or uninviting speakers after the invitation was extended because ‘wokesters’ were triggered. Or professors getting fired for their beliefs.

                  1. You are defining “academic freedom” very narrowly.

                    Here’s a personal experience I had with Liberty. I was a college debater. Liberty had a debate team. One of the debate topics one semester touched on abortion rights. They had to get special dispensation from Rev. Falwell, Sr., to compete because Liberty had a rule that nobody, faculty or student, could advocate in favor of abortion rights on campus or in a school sponsored activity.

                    That sort of thing is just breathtakingly broad compared to anything most universities are doing now.

                    1. Did you get to meet Becki???

                    2. “That sort of thing is just breathtakingly broad compared to anything most universities are doing now.”

                      It’s broad compared to disciplining professors for quoting court decisions? It seems about the same to me.

                  2. You can’t shout down or disinvite people who can’t get invited in the first place. And if you are good at hiring the right kind of faculty, you never have to worry about firing them. Liberty and Bob Jones and other such places are pretty efficient that way

                    1. That just sounds like they have much more intelligent hiring practices.

                    2. “You can’t shout down or disinvite people who can’t get invited in the first place.”

                      Here is the video of Bernie Sanders speaking at Liberty University. It’s very different than the video of Josh Blackman speaking at CUNY.

                      Of course Liberty is terrible when it comes to free expression. But it’s getting harder and harder to deny that today’s “strong mainstream liberal universities” are worse.

                      I guess you just have to have faith and believe, regardless of the evidence.

          2. Neither politics nor elected office has ever been my livelihood, never more than adjuncts to full-time (until I began to reduce my workload in semi-retirement) employment elsewhere. My activities in politics and elected office have been a very satisfying sideline, though.

            I chose my successor in elected office, who won election handily.

            1. Sure Arthur…you chose your successor. Just like you ‘retired’. Uh huh. 🙂

              1. I do not expect to persuade an ostensible adult who claims to believe that fairy tales are true, doesn’t recognize that his side has lost the culture war, and apparently expects Trump to win the next election.

                1. And yet, you keep trying. Like a total chump. 🙂

                  1. I am not trying to persuade you.

                    I am trying to defeat you (by persuading others), and occasionally to mock you (for sport).

                    1. “I am trying to defeat you (by persuading others)”

                      Lol. That’s a bigger whopper than the retired politician thing. You’ve never tried to persuade anyone of anything in your life, Arthur.

                    2. I know, Twelve. Arthur has the persuasion skills of a three year old.

        2. “I retired after winning every election in which I sought office.”

          Citations needed. I doubt you’ve ever won anything more prestigious than “least likely to contribute anything to society” back in high school.

          1. I have won the culture war.

            I am content.

            1. It is more likely you won Flynt’s A-Hole of the Month award, Arthur. It would be your crowning achievement in an otherwise meritless life.

        3. On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.

      2. Except that conservative schools and universities have no need to disinvite or heckle liberal speakers, because liberals tend not to be invited to such schools in the first place. There are occasional exceptions; Falwell Pere did invite Ted Kennedy to speak at Liberty University. But in general, nobody who is pro abortion or pro gay rights or pro single payer health care is going to be asked to speak at conservative schools in the first place.

        1. Or they get disinvited as sometimes happens at Catholic universities when it is discovered that the speaker favors abortion rights or same-sex marriage.

      3. …colleges and universities that encourage ‘heckler’s vetoes’…

        Here’s how that works:
        You are a college/university. You’ve made strenuous efforts to weed out conservatives at the admission process, but some made it through. They’ve now formed a club, and have invited a conservative speaker to campus. You really don’t want him to speak. What do you do? You can’t just ban/bar him from the campus. (You’ll look narrow-minded, intolerant, petty, authoritarian. Plus, if you’re a public school, you’ll be breaking the law.) What then? Why, get your students to “ban/bar” him for you! As soon as you find out about the planned “un-PC” event, you go all out, issuing daily furious denunciations of the invited speaker. You make it as clear as possible to the students that you consider this speaker persona non grata. And then, when students dutifully disrupt the “un-PC” event, you make a statement to the effect that you “regret the unfortunate incident.” (But, of course, you don’t punish the disrupting students!)

    2. Kirkland, you are neither liberal nor libertarian, as your views demonstrate. The practices you list are endemic on campuses, which are largely not conservative-controlled. I would point out that you embarrass yourself again, but suspect you have no shame as long as you can rationalize being correct.

      1. “Endemic?” The authors themselves concede it’s the rare exception (“It could be argued that the answer is no, because each year college instructors and researchers publish thousands of papers, teach thousands of classes, and issue thousands of social media posts that generate no controversy at all.”) Whereas on the many conservative religious campuses the lack of academic freedom is systemic.

        1. You apparently are not Queen of the clingerverse.

        2. More gaslighting.

          1. What you are doing is fart hotboxing.

    3. Are these authors restricting their attention to institutions operated in, by, and for the liberal-libertarian American mainstream?

      They’re restricting their attentions to institutions with the power of government, where silencing opinions hasn’t worked so well historically.

      These conservative institutions moved to private largely because they could no longer use the power of government to force their ideas onto others.

      One half of hunanity’s poison stripped from government.

      One half to go.

      1. Krayt, what? You think public universities exercise, “the power of government?” Their administrators enjoy the power to run the university, nothing more.

        1. Censoring on behalf of Congress or Congress will pull their money is close enough, and is wielding one of the worst traditional powers of government, which is why it’s not supposed to haplen here.

    4. If you look carefully, you’ll find that attacks on top schools come from within those schools themselves.

      I mean, the Princeton administration recently called their own institution racist.

      Instead of worrying about being attacked from the outside by a bunch of disaffected clingers, maybe these institutions should worry about attacks from the inside.

  4. Education requires presenting all sides of a subject. Limiting teaching to one side is called indoctrination. All governmental privileges, exemptions, subsidies and funding to these schools should immediately stop if indoctrination is in any way detected.

    The Non-Profit Office of the IRS should revoke these privileges upon receiving evidence of any viewpoint discrimination. I have answered Eugene’s question about churches, advocacy, and sectarian non-profits. The answer is, yes, they must present all sides of a subject, or lose their governmental privileges, because of the definition of the word, education.

    Indoctrination also represent educational malpractice, and should be subject to professional liability litigation. In charging tuition, and providing indoctrination, the schools have misrepresented their promised service, education.

    1. Public schools should teach (as a matter of fact) that the Earth is flat?

      Or public schools should teach (as a topic of discussion) that there is a small, but growing, number of people who (mistakenly/ignorantly) believe the Earth is flat?

  5. Wake me up when we get to some hard, factual information.

    1. Pot, kettle, black.

      1. Huh? I’m not flogging a book with two posts bereft of useful factual information about its nominal subject.

  6. The example in the 1950s misses an important question – wouldn’t a university professor making a controversial statement also experience backlash even in the absence of social media?

    First, this was the era of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), when the national committee and individual state committees could compel people to testify on whether they held communist beliefs or knew others who were communist at their institutions. In 1948, six faculty members at the University of Washington refused to testify to the committee. One was fired, as were two others who confessed to being communists. Around a hundred other faculty would be pushed out nationally by their administrators for refusing to testify during the 1950s, not to mention more who confessed their political beliefs. Given the fragility of Fifth Amendment protections for these professors, it is hard to imagine that First Amendment right to speak about inconvenient political beliefs in a university setting would have been respected.

    Second, this was also the era of other university policies that cracked down on free speech, belief, and expression. The UC system attempted to instate a loyalty oath to the California Constitution in 1950. 31 UC faculty and over 100 employees refused to take the oath and were fired until the California Supreme Court ordered they be reinstated in 1952 (Tolman v Underhill). We forget that this was a time when university administrations, as well as state governments, were far more willing to dismiss faculty or not renew contracts for many reasons unrelated to classroom or research performance.

    So what would have happened, in this hypothetical, in the 1950s? There would still be backlash – letters and phone calls to an administration quite likely to not renew that faculty member’s contract. Social media may change, in some way, the visibility of professors’ speech, but it’s not clear from your hypothetical how social media has made school administrators more compliant to the pressures around them. That compliance existed quite clearly in eras before social media.

    1. Let’s not spoil anyone’s fun with facts.

    2. Exactly. Conservatives often find themselves in a mess, they pine for the ‘good old days’ while complaining about things today that were *far* worse back then….Academic freedom on campus is at it’s apex right now.

    3. I’d say the primary difference between then and now, is the difference between being sanctioned for outlier views, (Then) and being sanctioned for common or even majority views. (Now)

      Both are cases of being sanctioned for your views, but the latter is much more troubling because a much larger fraction of the population have to be worried about it.

      1. Well, the sanctions are not equal at all. Gay people were literally locked up and castrated then, now anti-gay people are…forced to serve SSM cakes!

        1. We have made such progress! I agree, we should let gays continue to rape alter boys and Boy Scouts.

      2. That’s absolutely bass-ackward, Brett. Everyone should have the protection of the First Amendment, but minority view-holders are especially vulnerable.

        And it’s also weird of you to argue it. Many of the views you express here- especially views about cultural issues- are, in fact minority viewpoints and sometimes dwindling minority viewpoints. Maybe you should have a bit more empathy for people who were accused of being too friendly with Communism.

        1. Yes, a lot of my views are minority views. I’ve always tried to avoid fooling myself about that.

          But from a practical standpoint, if censorship is directed against common viewpoints, that IS worse than if it’s directed against extreme outlier viewpoints, because more people get censored. That was my point.

          In the 50’s, advocates of a particular totalitarian ideology were silenced and sanctioned. They should have been free to speak and to be mocked and shamed. They should have been opposed and exposed as fools and worse, not silenced. It was a serious mistake how we approached communism.

          Today, advocates of perfectly common viewpoints are being silenced and sanctioned BY advocates of totalitarian ideology. The powers of censorship aren’t being used to reinforce the social order, but in an effort to forcibly change it.

          That’s worse.

        2. “Everyone should have the protection of the First Amendment, but minority view-holders are especially vulnerable.”


          The views of those unable to do the censoring are what’s vulnerable. If that’s the majority, that seems worse.

          By your logic, punishing people who criticize the government isn’t as bad as punishing the people who complement the government, if so few people want to compliment the government that those views are “vulnerable”.

    4. The thing is, most people look at the 1950’s and think that the various efforts to get people censured, fired, and ostracized for suspected association with Communists went way too far. Indeed, even many people who virulently oppose Communism feel that way.

      And yet there’s an echo of such tactics on social media today.

    5. Then there was that ass professor in Florida after 911 who said America deserved it.

      It takes a lot to stand up for freedom of speech when there’s power to be had silencing people to the cheers of crowds.

      Maybe government should not be able to construct the power of censorship by taking massive amounts of money than refusing to give it back unless local entity censors as a proxy.

      These are content restrictions masquerading as neutral ones. But a neutral one is students may not interrupt and disrupt class independent of content.

      1. The name you are looking for is Steven Salaita. He is still an ass. That has not changed. On the bright side, the dumb son of a bitch has found gainful employment….as a school bus driver.

    6. I’m not going to give the 1950s universities a clean bill of health, because I don’t think the 1950s were an Edenic “good old days” (for one thing, the seeds of later problems were in part sown then).

      But if there’s any topic of govt investigation which seems legitimate, it’s the influence of the Communist Party, USA at a time when that party’s official sponsor was pointing nukes in America’s general direction. There was even a “hot war” in some place called Korea.

      It would be like looking into hypothetical professors who, during Bid Laden’s terror campaign, professed their allegiance to Al Quaeda.

      Now, on the practical level, you could say that the CPUSA was moribund, filled with useful idiots who innocently thought they were in a reform organization, and with government informants who kept careful eye on everything.

      So I suppose an argument could be made that Americans simply weren’t in danger from the domestic CPUSA, since the threat had been neutralized since the Depression and the war.

      That’s hardly the same as suggesting a parallel between harassment of CPUSA members and harassment of people who say only women can have babies.

  7. You simply aren’t going to fix the problems in higher education without defunding the entire thing and increasing the risk universities run like this.

    There is no longer any public policy advantage to giving student loans the protections they current enjoy. Also considering these universities are sitting on piles of cash. No need to keep funneling hard earned taxpayer money to them.

    Time to sink or swim higher education. If you offer such a great product shouldn’t have a worry in the world, right?

    1. Get rid of student loans and encourage private colleges to use endowment funds for tuition for students from middle class families…the Ivy League already does this. Tuition is essentially a tax wealthy people love to pay. This will also lead to contraction as some private college will have to pool their resources together.

      1. As an aside, Congress could stop rapid tuition increases by refusing to guarantee loans at any university that increased tuition by the lesser of, say, 2% or the rate of inflation, then hold that for 20 years.

        But that interferes with the tripartite pull for massive increases: loan industry, colleges, and government officials prrening about college participation rates. So America continues hurtling towards defaults, when those three parties don’t care because they know Congress will pick up the pieces.

        1. A BA is a commodity and you never overpay for a commodity. Private colleges outside of Ivy League and their equivalents offer no value added over a BA earned with 2 years of community college followed by 2 years at a public university…so anything paid over that is flushing money down a toilet.

          1. For individuals, it is a commodity, but for society is serves mostly as a signaling mechanism (see various musings on the sheepskin effect), so it costing anything more than the bare minimum possible is a dead-weight loss for the country as a whole.

        2. Need a roll back first.

          Colleges were raising tuition 2 or 3 times the inflation rate every year.

          Tax endowments and use that to pay down existing loans.

  8. The problem with an approach to academic freedom that gives what amounts to veto power to social media mobs is that it presumes that the social norms underlying the backlash always set the right parameters around permissibility.

    Veto power on academic research? From “social media mobs?” All under some malign presumption (by whom?) that the mobs are always right?

    That sounds unhinged, even paranoid. But almost paradoxically, not unhinged in any distinctive way. It breaks no ground. It is an all-too-familiar style of complaint.

    Seems like the authors would be more persuasive if they acknowledged that groundbreaking research has historically faced strong headwinds from received opinion. Hasn’t a method to make truth prevail against widespread prejudice rightly been celebrated as one of the glories of the academic approach? Hasn’t that glory been burnished by the acknowledged expectation that to make truth prevail can be a long and difficult process?

    As advocates of free expression, surely these authors also believe that the speech of their opponents is constructive, and ought to be valued, if only as a foil for their own better speech. Why not take the view that the opposing speech they here deplore, is instead vitally important, serving to set the bar which breakthrough research must clear?

    After all, these authors do seem to be saying it’s a scandalously low bar. So what’s their problem? Redstone and Villasenor put themselves in the embarrassing position of athletes who first denigrate their opposition, and then complain, saying it isn’t fair when they fail to score against supposedly weak opponents.

    My sugestion to Redstone and Villasenor: do not put your focus on supposedly bad rules. Those, revealed truth ought always prove strong enough to overcome. If that has not yet been your experience, perhaps that means you have yet to announce a truth strong enough to suit your purpose.

    Much better to keep trying, and let frustrations along the way serve as a goad to keep you moving. Do that until you find a direction which delivers you to your goal.

    1. As advocates of free expression, surely these authors also believe that the speech of their opponents is constructive, and ought to be valued, if only as a foil for their own better speech.

      This sort of thing is sophistry. There’s a big difference between the following two statements:

      “Prof. Steven Pinker is dead wrong and misogynist in his opinions about gender and evolution.”

      “MIT should fire Prof. Steven Pinker because of his wrong, harmful, misogynist opinions about gender and evolution.”

      Statement number 1 is a constructive contribution to debate. Statement number 2 is a power play.

      And Stephen, you post on and on around here about history, but this is basically the crucial distinction of the McCarthy Era. There was nothing wrong with saying Soviet Communism was a terrible, harmful, vicious ideology. There was everything wrong with saying people should be fired if they were suspected of being Communists.

      This is basic. There’s a vital distinction between joining the debate and trying to strip people of their employment because you disagree with them.

      1. And there’s a really</i) vital distinction between random people saying people should be fired and people actually being fired.

        1. Sorry for the formatting mix-up.

          1. There is a distinction, CJ, but it is also highly disingenuous to talk of “random people” as if it is just one crank. These things turn into organized pile-on campaigns, an effect of social media that the OP refers to. And when you are talking about an ORGANIZED CAMPAIGN to strip someone of a job based on their expressed views, damned right that can have a chilling effect.

            1. Saying unpopular things pisses people off. Always has, always will. Pissing people off has consequences. Always has, always will. Employers decide whether keeping on an employee who pisses people off is in their interests. Always have, always will. It takes guts to say unpopular things. Always has, always will.
              What is the actual evidence that the MIT’s of the world are caving more than they used to to organized, or unorganized, demands that they fire people who piss other people off? I hear the same names all the time. Reminds me of a discussion I had about the value of height in a quarterback. My interlocutor said height doesn’t matter because there are great short QBs: Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, and Fran Tarkenton. I said: “Of course there are. And you can name almost all of them.”

              1. But you didn’t name Doug Flutie?

              2. It used to be you pissed some person off who wrote a letter to the television network.

                Now you piss someone off and they organize a Twitter pile-on to get you fired.

                I can’t specifically prove that the MIT’s of the world are caving more than they used to, but there is certainly a lot of caving going on and we don’t generally look at violations of academic freedom as something that are just fine as long as there aren’t too many. Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has a full docket.

                1. In the 1950’s, my grandfather lived down the street from, and did business with, a man who in hi spare time organized a private pile-on to get TV networks to fire people who were commies, ex-commies, or soft on commies. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes Twitter mobs work. As far as I can tell, however, they usually don’t. And, as far as I can tell, they are politically indiscriminate. Look at who has actually lost jobs.

      2. Dilan, I remember enough about the McCarthy Era to remember that saying something nice about communism was what could cost you your job. Calling communism bad was a way to get a job.

        More generally, there is no valid comparison between the blacklisting power (and worse) exercised by the U.S. Congress, and social pressure applied variously by students at campuses, on a campus-by-campus basis. Universities will not jail anyone to further their investigations. Nor will universities all do everything alike. Nor will the effects of each university action be applied nationwide. This is not McCarthyism over again.

        I would agree, however, that if university administrations were firing tenured professors wholesale, in response to student pressure, then that would be unwise, and perhaps unjust. Is it happening?

        Finally, I did already (in a previous thread) generally agree with these authors that social media are out of control to a disruptive degree, and that policy to change that is sorely needed. I also suggested a solution (repeal Section 230), toward which they do not seem to be gravitating. I suspect that like so many on the political right, these authors are not actually as troubled as I am about monopolistic media which enable world-wide, cost-free publishing, without prior editing, and without any liability for the publishers.

        I suspect that many right-wingers actually like that, and only want assurance that they can get in on it—no matter whether delivering that assurance stifles press freedom for the publishers, and brings on actual government censorship of the press. That last bit seems to be where this series of threads is tending, but I am willing to suspend judgment and see where it goes.

        1. More generally, there is no valid comparison between the blacklisting power (and worse) exercised by the U.S. Congress

          Stephen, that’s totally disingenuous. The blacklisting power was private at least as much as it was public. Yes, Congress egged it on, but it was fundamentally private. It wasn’t Congress who got all the Hollywood writers fired. It was the studios. And they did it because they were afraid of a public backlash against their pictures if they employed them.

          The public was activated by demagogic politicians and piled on anyone who was a suspected Communist. And that’s all that has to happen before unfair firings can occur.

          Universities will not jail anyone to further their investigations.

          VERY few Communists were jailed. The McCarthy era was not about jailings for the most part. It was about getting people fired and socially ostracized. You are REALLY minimizing and changing history here.

          Nor will universities all do everything alike. Nor will the effects of each university action be applied nationwide.

          Except there is extensive evidence that these threats constitute a nationwide trend.

          I would agree, however, that if university administrations were firing tenured professors wholesale, in response to student pressure, then that would be unwise, and perhaps unjust.

          Pretty dishonest to insert the word “tenured” in there. As if it is perfectly fine to stomp on the academic freedom of non-tenured professors. Plenty of whom have been censured, taken off classes, and even fired.

          Finally, I did already (in a previous thread) generally agree with these authors that social media are out of control to a disruptive degree, and that policy to change that is sorely needed. I also suggested a solution (repeal Section 230), toward which they do not seem to be gravitating. I suspect that like so many on the political right, these authors are not actually as troubled as I am about monopolistic media which enable world-wide, cost-free publishing, without prior editing, and without any liability for the publishers.

          Whatever you say about Section 230 (and I agree that its breadth is a topic that needs to be discussed), it’s not going to solve the problem of this online pile-on culture affecting academic freedom. Section 230 only affects service provider liability for tortious speech. But a lot of the speech we are talking about isn’t tortious, just like it wasn’t tortious to advocate for the firing of Communists in the 1950’s. It’s just bad.

          1. Dilan, your last paragraph makes a point which is literally correct, but nevertheless ill-founded. When everything must get prior editing, it is not only the tortious stuff that gets screened. Let prior editing once again become a task which all publishers must do, and thereafter that editing quickly becomes a principal means of competition, on the basis of the quality of the contributions.

            Once all publishers must read what is going into their publications, most publishers soon recognize that editing effort as a low-added-cost invitation to leverage better contributions, to attract a better audience, to better sell to advertisers. There is no doubt that this happens, because for many decades it did happen. Section 230 mostly put an end to it, which is what led to the current crisis in media quality across the nation.

            If you have a business model based on publishing everything without reading it, of course nothing ever happens to increase the quality of contributors’ offerings. Instead, the publisher moves the effort to compete for advertisers over to surveillance of users’ data, and deploys algorithms to increase users’ time investment, by feeding them whatever is most likely to involve them emotionally. That means especially by feeding users whatever lies they are likely to buy into, and serving up stories calculated (literally calculated) to provoke outrage.

            The nation is paying a steep price for that change in publishing practice. Redstone and Villasenor are doing better than most observers, by noticing that disruptions they disapprove are directly linked to changed publishing practices. If they fail to take the next step, and do not call for reversal of those changes, then I think they are destined for long and fruitless struggle. Quite likely, they will end up like so many others, calling for encroachments on press freedom, tailored to fix what they disapprove, but can’t figure out how to correct otherwise.

            1. “…and thereafter that editing quickly becomes a principal means of competition, on the basis of the quality of the contributions.”

              It is already the case that publishers compete with each other on the basis of this competition. Of course it hasn’t resulted in the utopia you envision, anymore than pre-230 advertisers flocked exclusively to the NY Times.

            2. If your vision is that repealing Section 230 will return us to the day when all published expression is curated, then your opponents are basically right that you are going to kill the Internet.

              I am not sure repealing Section 230 will do that. I suspect it will just move a lot of sites overseas (which is basically what happened after FOSTA-SESTA passed). You’ll have more 8chans and fewer Volokh conspiracies.

              At any rate, I am not averse to arguments to modify Section 230. But it’s not going to solve the problem of online pile-ons.

              1. Dilan, without paper, ink, and distribution costs proportionate to circulation, the internet is a far less expensive way to publish. Nothing about editing content changes that.

                Of course you can have edited content on the internet, without killing the internet. The reduced costs probably mean you will get a good deal more publishing, with more variety, and more choice than was available with legacy publishing, and you can still have editing. But you will have to knock down the monopolistic business models enabled by Section 230, and of course repealing Section 230 will tend to do that.

        2. “This is not McCarthyism over again.”

          It is once the university submits to the mob and exercises its “blacklisting power”.

  9. Academic freedom may apply to STEM, it may apply to the humanities, but it is meaningless in the context of gender identity fantasies, and as long as universities embrace gender identify fantasies, academic freedom is meaningless.

    1. What is this supposed to mean?

      1. “Academic freedom may apply to the speech I like, but it is meaningless in the context of speech I dislike or see little value in” – hypocritically, those are the very boundary cases that the original authors mention.

      2. Will you want him fired if his answer is insufficient?

  10. I think this particular article would have benefitted from a reminder that, while it is necesssary to examine instances involving backlash, just doing this may greatly under-assess the impact of free speech suppression, which can include various kinds and degrees of self (or informal, off-record) censorship.

  11. 1950s? BYU fired a professor in 2006 and its affiliate in 2017 for doing the very thing described (advocating same sex marriage).

      1. In response to complaints like yours, this blog has tackled several private universities in court to force them to live up to their boilerplate of academic freedom.

        For public schools, that boilerplate is the First Amendment.

        1. Wheaton is a private institution which doesn’t promise academic freedom. Faculty are required to sign a statement of faith which includes a Trinitarian conception of God.

          Clingers, superstition, fairy tales, I know.

          At least they cling to the idea of giving fair warning of what might get you cancelled.

          Do faculty at the more woke campuses sign a statement of wokeness, agreeing to accept SJW orthodoxy? Do they promise to resign if they anger a Twitter mob? If not, then where’s the fair warning.

          1. I believe most strong mainstream institutions signal effectively that they prefer reason to superstition, science to the supernatural, tolerance and inclusiveness to bigotry and insularity, modernity and progress to backwardness, education to ignorance, history to divine dogma, and the like.

            That’s fair warning to stale-thinking bigots and reason-rejecting clingers who expect their preferences to be honored at a legitimate, mainstream educational institution.

            1. Here’s Harvard Divinity School preferring science to the supernatural:

              “New writing on “the divine double” that examines this tradition from antiquity, in which each individual has a divine double, counterpart, or twin, as a resource for contemporary philosophical and theological retrieval”


  12. Here in the United States every right has exceptions, i.e. boundaries.

    Freedom of speech is not unlimited and there are boundaries (libel, speech from military members is curtailed, etc.).

    2A has limits (no one has a right to a certain “military grade’ weapons ).

    Searches can be conducted without a warrant (under certain conditions).

    So the real question is where (not if) there are boundaries for academic freedom.

    I’ll agree with many of the folks here that the small amount of issues that have arisen have NOT crossed the boundary and schools have gone overboard on their responses.

    And at the same time, there still is a boundary.

    1. It’s interesting that an ostensible libertarian website would so ardently police college infringements on the First Amendment speech clause vs., say, police infringements on many other rights. Campus infringements on the former are doubtfully more common than the latter. And, they don’t involve beating/shooting people!

      1. This blog is lousy with 4th Amendment and other issues.

    2. Access to military grade weapons…2A?

      WTF does that mean? Citizens have access to every bullet the military uses, there is no such thing as a military grade rifle, just a rifle with features the Generals wanted. My Remington 700 takes down deer, bear, and domestic enemies of the Constitution. Belt-fed ammo is freedom!! The irregular militia has a right to every weapon available … that is codified in 2A for those who can read.

  13. I’m hoping we can get to a system where large numbers of people can get a quality education, and practical knowledge, without becoming debt peons, and that students who simply want to be on campus to soak up the atmosphere and be free from their parents should be directed gently into some more promising course of conduct.

    Whatever teaching institutions emerge from the current turmoil, I hope they focus on just that, teaching, which would involve in many cases right and wrong answers, or failing that such a framing of the issues as to direct the debate in a constructive direction. I’m talking about people voluntarily paying for such education, or if necessary promising a lender a certain proportion of their earnings for x years, giving lenders an incentive to attend mainly to promising students in promising subjects. I. e., no govt bailouts for lenders.

    In such a set-up, if there’s enough demand for what particular teachers have to teach, social-media mobs who complain without putting their money where their mouths are will hopefully get little attention.

  14. Don’t confuse education and institutions of higher intellectual learning with the cesspools of Marxists ideology funded and promoted by the Jews. They will even teach you that there were gas chambers at Auschwitz … and you will be forced to accept it!

    Perfect example really.

    1. Am Chai Yisrael!

      That is the most fitting response to assholes like you.

    2. Given your handle, I wonder if you’re one of those Russian bots we’re always getting warned about.

  15. “I like ice cream.”

    You SICK MF — I can’t even!!!!!!

    *faints and melts into a puddle of goo*

    *goo forms into a finger, hits WE SUE THEM on speed dial*

  16. The seminal historical example was John Calhoun, famous for proposing a ban on sending abolitionist material through the mails.

    John Calhoun’s argument hardly needed updating to press into use today. He didn’t just assure us that abolition was nothing baseless hatred and primitive superstition, utterly inconsistent with science and and reason. He also came with the important idea that abolitionist propaganda is inherently violent in nature, serving to put Southerners in fear, and hence should be outside the pale of legitimate discourse that it should not be regarded as speech at all.

      1. There’s a history of enslaving people
        and the mystery of enslaving thought
        One is an obvious terrible evil
        and the other a soul-sucking plot.

        Works both ways, on both sides, and hasn’t stopped. Are we doomed?

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