Free Speech

Academic Freedom Alliance Statement on the University of San Diego Law School / China Controversy


This is the matter I blogged about here, here, and here; the Academic Freedom Alliance has just released its own statement on the subject:

Academic freedom includes the right of professors to publish blog posts on matters of general public concern without the threat of investigations and sanctions by their university employer. Unfortunately, the University of San Diego Law School is not respecting that basic principle.

On March 10, 2021, University of San Diego Law Professor Tom Smith published a blog post on a group law blog, The Right Coast, of which he is the editor. Smith's post reacted to an opinion piece published in The Wall Street Journal criticizing the World Health Organization's ability to remain independent from the government of China in its investigation of the origins of COVID-19. After quoting two paragraphs from the WSJ piece, Professor Smith added a paragraph of commentary asserting that anyone who does not believe that the virus escaped "from the lab in Wuhan" was "swallowing whole a set of Chinese cock swaddle." He later added an update emphasizing that "Chinese" in that phrase referred to "the Chinese government." The reference seems quite clear within the context of the post.

The Asian Pacific American Law Student Association at USD filed a formal complaint to the school calling, among other things, for Professor Smith's "termination." The dean of the law school released a letter to the school characterizing the blog post as a form of "bias" that had "an adverse impact on our community" and noting that "university policies specifically prohibit harassment, including the use of epithets, derogatory comments, or slurs based on race or national origin, among other categories." The dean promised that "there will be a process to review whether university or law school policies have been violated." A separate letter was sent to the faculty objecting to the use of "offensive language" and declaring that "there is no place for language that demeans a particular national group." These letters make clear that the dean has already prejudged the proper outcome for any disciplinary process on charges of alleged harassment.

This investigation is a clear threat to Professor Smith's academic freedom. Blog posts are a form of what the American Association of University Professors calls "extramural speech." Extramural speech is a protected form of academic freedom. When professors "speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship of discipline." As the AAUP has emphasized, "The controlling principle is that a faculty member's expression of opinion as a citizen cannot constitute grounds for dismissal unless it clearly demonstrates the faculty member's unfitness for the position." The University of San Diego embraces those principles, declaring that the university would "uphold the highest standards of intellectual inquiry and academic freedom."

Not only is the interpretation of Professor Smith's phrasing as a slur based on race or national origin a tendentious misreading of the blog post in question, but the suggestion that a single phrase in a single blog post commenting on the behavior of the Chinese government and international health agencies can trigger the procedures of the university's harassment policy sends a chilling message to all faculty. The Academic Freedom Alliance calls upon USD leadership to adhere to its academic freedom principles by rescinding its denunciation of Professor Smith and terminating all disciplinary proceedings against him based on his March 10, 2021 blog post.

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  1. The only real issue is whether the CCP has been criminal in suppressing the new of SARS-CoV-2 in Hubei as early as September while still allowing travel from Hubei to the rest of the world.
    To compound the fault the CCP has actively impeded any unrestricted investigation of the origins (where, when and how) of SARS-CoV-2 in the human population.

    For students to file a complaint about bringing such issues to light is an example of either deliberate or unwitting abetting the intent of the Beijing government to obscure the origins of this coronavirus. Russian intelligence has a phrase for such people. “useful idiots.”

    1. That is not so much an issue as a fact.
      They knew there were infected people traveling to other countries carrying the Communist Chinese Virus.
      They knew the virus was a menace because they locked down internal travel.
      It doesn’t matter if the virus escaped, came in from the wild, or was engineered, once they knew it was loose, and allowed (encouraged?) it to go to other countries, that was germ warfare, without doubt.

      1. From all I have seen your statement is correct and has been printed in the most respected EU press. If we are correct, the the USD Dean is actually complicit in covering up an attack on the global economy. He is the one who should be relieved of duty

  2. “by rescinding its denunciation of Professor Smith”

    Professor Smith can denounce, but can not be denounced?

    Would it be reasonable to ask Professor Smith to explain what he meant (or claims to have meant) with his strange words before reaching conclusions in this context?

    1. The Asian Pacific American Law Student Association filed a formal complaint demanding, among other things, the professor’s termination.

      I don’t think that Prof. Smith’s op-ed could be considered a demand that the CCP be terminated (although that doesn’t sound too bad).

    2. “Would it be reasonable to ask Professor Smith to explain what he meant”

      He should go into a self-criticism session and then be forced to wear a placard around his neck describing his crimes. The Chinese Communists sure have great ideas about academic freedom!

      1. The real problem here is that the administrators fear that the Chinese government will stop sending full-pay foreign students to San Diego State. Pay raises and job security are potentially at stake here – freedom of speech doesn’t really enter into it, at least not compared to administrators’ self interest.

        1. It may go higher than just San Diego State — and it’s more than just pay raises and job security. China suddenly stopping all of its students going to public universities and colleges in California would likely put both systems into bankruptcy without an immediate and massive state bailout, which I doubt the legislature could at this point.

          1. You always make good points, Doctor. It goes beyond this matter. The tech billionaires need the China market as much as ours. China can exclude them. We cannot. They own the media and the Democrat party. These have become mere agents of the CCP. High Biden officials are agents of the billionaires. That is why they had to get rid of Trump.

      2. Whatever he wrote, it was not standard English. Requests for clarification seem reasonable, except perhaps to bigoted clingers who reflexively support nonsense if it is perceives as conservative nonsense.

        Looking at you, Cal.

        1. What do you mean by “if it is perceives”? Is that your idea of “standard English”?

          1. That was a typing error. You likely knew that.

            Please continue to nip at those ankles, Cal.

            1. RAK had a “get a brain, morans” moment but wants us to laugh it off because he’s so obviously intelligent.

              1. Open wider, Cal.

                (Unless you and Prof. Volokh have reversed the tide of the culture war, of course.)

        2. “Whatever he wrote, it was not standard English. Requests for clarification seem reasonable,”

          What a load of cock-swaddle.

    3. Nah, man. CCP criticism should be encouraged more among our educators. While I think his certainty of the origin in a lab is premature, he deserves the right to have an opinion, and his opinion is not racist and would not be found to be offensive to reasonable people.

      Besides which, student visas for Chinese students should all be revoked. They are spies or sleepers by Chinese law. No Chinese citizen can execute an NDA without being compromised by their obligations to their own “constitution” back home. They steal university research and industrial secrets as a matter of routine.

      They are 21st century Nazis who deserve scorn and shunning.

      1. “Besides which, student visas for Chinese students should all be revoked.”

        I doubt there are any Chinese Student Visa holders attending the SDL law school. What possible utility would a legal system have in a country run by the CCP?

        1. “At UC-San Diego, international students make up almost one fifth of the university’s student population.”

          Now I’m not familiar with the California state system, but if this is the same entity as the law school, then it’s not just the ones attending the law school that they are worried about. And I saw elsewhere that PRC is the most common source.

      2. Hey remember when I said that people mix up a people and their government when nationalism gets involved, and *that* was why calling COVID-19 various anti-Chinese stuff was bad?

        Do not do the group guilt like some collectivist. Plenty of Chinese students become loyal American citizens.

        1. “Hey remember when I said that people mix up a people and their government when nationalism gets involved,”

          He’s referring to Chinese citizens, who owe allegiance to the Chinese government.

          1. No, they don’t. They are individuals, regardless of some piece of paper their government has them sign.

            One way to tell is, as I said, many of them become citizens of the US after coming here. Some later get security clearences. I know a couple of those.

            It is, as I said, collective guilt. Pre-judging people based on their citizenship. Prejudice, if you will.

            IOW, it’s bigoted.

            1. “It is, as I said, collective guilt. Pre-judging people based on their citizenship. Prejudice, if you will.

              IOW, it’s bigoted.”

              Is it bigoted that foreign nationals can’t get security clearances? You’re stooping to a new level of ridiculousness here, Sarcastro.

              1. Really disingenuous new goalposts.

                This discussion was not about security clearances, it was about letting them come into this country on student visas.

                1. And you made it about prejudice against foreign nationals, which you deemed bigoted.

                  I simply pointed out a common area where we exhibit such prejudice against foreign nationals as a matter of course.

                  The notion that it’s bigoted to question the loyalty of foreign nationals, who owe us none, and who owe it to a foreign power, is absurd.

                  1. Security clearances are an tendentious changing of the subject.

                    Guilt by association, lots of foreign travel, pot, homosexuality, affairs, gambling are also factors.

                    That doesn’t quite mean we’re against those things in the world at large.

                    1. We treat foreign nationals differently in all sorts of ways. You still haven’t provided any support for your ridiculous claim that making assumptions about people based on citizenship is bigoted.

                    2. Again, you change the thesis. Quit it.
                      It’s not about foreign nationals generally, it’s about the ones from China being especially perfidious, as a group. Collective negative stereotyping like that is the definition of prejudice and bigotry.

                      I have provided counterexamples to that collective guilt. Unless you want to claim no Chinese nationals become loyal and productive American citizens.

              2. They are spies or sleepers by Chinese law. No Chinese citizen can execute an NDA without being compromised by their obligations to their own “constitution” back home. They steal university research and industrial secrets as a matter of routine.

                That’s bigoted nonsense.

            2. Sadly, security clearances have become a joke…

    4. “Would it be reasonable to ask Professor Smith to explain what he meant (or claims to have meant) with his strange words before reaching conclusions in this context?”

      Certainly, although literate people can readily understand what he meant, despite the curious metaphor. But if big words and illustrious literary devices are confusing to you, feel free to ask him.

    5. We know that you have been excited by a topic about which you have first hand knowledge. But your question is doesn’t matter

    6. No it would not be reasonable.

  3. Sounds like there are more than a few chinks in the Constitutional armor protecting free speech on campus.

    1. I see what you did there.

      1. What he did there is steal from Daniel Tosh.

    2. Little bit of overt racism there, just to remind what the lid of respectability offered by the post above is trying to cover.

  4. Abstractly, this new group seems to have a wonderful set of principles.

    It’ll be interesting to see if they stick to them when a professor who promotes really harmful and hateful beliefs such as CRT tries to claim the group’s protection.

    1. I suppose such a case might occur, at one of RAK’s clinger institutions. Progressive and modern universities realize that CRT is totally awesome and not-racist.

      1. You seem disaffected, even desperate, Cal Cetin, in modern America.


        1. Perhaps you can explain what you meant by “if it is perceives.”

          Because that phrase is apparently too modern for me.

          1. I typed perceives rather than perceived. I am pleased to identify my mistake, hoping it might promote comprehension.

            1. It was I who identified your mistake. It was your “get a brain, morans” moment.

              1. You are part of what makes shoving progress down conservatives’ throats so enjoyable for your betters.

  5. Looking at that statement by the Asian Students association, it seems to me that the SF school board member could possibly be right that ‘Asians are adopting “white supremacist ideology”‘.

  6. AKW“Smith’s post reacted to an opinion piece published in The Wall Street Journal criticizing the World Health Organization’s ability to remain independent from the government of China in its investigation of the origins of COVID-19.

    As hesitant as I am to argue grammar with an attorney, I can at least say “Awkward” (AWK) on that sentence — I think there is either one too many or one two few negatives, (or possibly a misplaced modifier) but the issue (as I understand it) is that the WHO is unable to remain independent of the CCP.

    As I explain to undergrads, if *I* (who know what you are trying to say) can’t quite figure out what you actually are saying, no one else is going to either — and unlike me, they’re not going to bother trying….

    1. This makes more sense:

      “Smith’s post criticized an opinion piece published in The Wall Street Journal regarding the World Health Organization’s perceived ability to remain independent from the government of China in its investigation of the origins of COVID-19.”

      Of course “perceived” could be replaced with either “purported” or “stated” depending on how much opinion one did or didn’t want to put into the sentence.

  7. It’s hard to find a restaurant that serves authentic Chinese cock swaddle anymore. Especially a whole set.

    1. Try cream of sum young guy. (Credit to Mike Myers.)

  8. I am deeply offended and support the immediate cancellation of all lawyers who criticize our country. Zero tolerance for PC which is a dog whistle for anti-Americanism. This Dean must be fired on the spot for his support of the CCP, or the law school must be shut down on the spot. No treason indoctrination camp lawyer anti-Americanists.

  9. Let’s do this instead of just following the same old outrage script.

    1. The students who made this ham handed call to fire a professor ought to instead be expelled from the university. It is obvious that they cannot be educated and their seats ought to be opened up to students who will enjoy the educational experience.

    2. Any administrator who did not follow the only proper course of action – which would be to dismiss this complaint – should be promptly fired.

    1. This sure seems like the same outrage script to me, right down to calling for ever more draconian cancelling of the canceleers.

      1. It is called restorative justice Sarc.

        1. It is called just following the same old outrage script while saying you’re not.

      2. While expelling the students seems improper – clearly they need to be educated, and that’s part of the university’s mission – firing the administrators who can’t be bothered to adhere to university policy around academic freedom of speech seems entirely appropriate. Manifest failure to perform their duties should be a firing offense. (And letting such people keep their job just encourages future failures to perform, because there’s no consequences). At the very least, some sort of disciplinary action and official reprimand should occur.

        The administrator is objectively in the wrong here, on a matter where its his job to know better. Expecting the administrator to suffer consequences is not unreasonable.

    2. I support total cancel. The PC lawyers should be fired on the spot, the agents of China should be expelled. If not end all government privileges and shut the school. It should shut on other policy grounds, the toxic effluvia they graduate each year.

  10. Follow the money. And, it’s not just “full boat” tuition paid in cash by Chinese foreign students, it’s the millions upon millions dumped into schools all over the nation by the CCP, much if which is (illegally) not reported to the government.

    Oh, and by the way, look into the millions upon millions the CCP spends with the NY Times, Washington Post, And the “news” that the CCP writes that these outlets regurgitate.

    1. Seems like some people are excited for some warmed-over redbaiting leftovers. All things conservatives hate are now Chinese Communist plots.

      Illegally not reported to the government, eh? Payoffs to the media, eh? I presume all the negative headlines are just to throw us off the scent.

      1. You’re occasionally funny, Sarcastr0, but in this case either incredibly credulous or willfully ignorant. Don’t you read the news?,the%20U.S.%20Education%20Department%20indicated

        I can only post on link per reply, but do some research on the money the NY Times and WaPo took form CCP in recent years; it’s almost as bad as the universities.

      2. “China paid $19 million to get Washington Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal to dance to its tunes”

      3. “In what comes as a rather embarrassing development for a large section of US media, documents now in the hold of the country’s Justice Department reveal that major US media outlets have been receiving large sums of money from the Chinese Community Party, via the regime’s lapdog and official propaganda newspaper, China Daily.

        A report in the Daily Caller confirmed that the Justice Department had access to these documents, which were made available to them by no other than China Daily itself. FARA regulations in the US require China Daily to furnish its activity records and receipts semi-annually.

        In China Daily’s disclosure submitted to the Justice Department for the time period between November 2016 and April 2020, it has been revealed that CCP pushed in USD 19 million into the pockets of some major media houses of the US like the New York Times and the Washington Post.

        Whether the said payments have been received by media outlets in the US prior to November 2016 too is not clear as yet, however, prima facie, it is evident that as per the documents now available, the first payments coincided with Trump’s election victory.

        Among the major outlets which have been named in the documents are, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times and The Seattle Times. NYT is said to have received USD 50,000, while The Washington Post was paid close to USD 4.6 million. The lion’s share of the payments went to The Wall Street Journal, amounting to nearly USD 6 million.”

  11. I still think the professors are fighting this at the wrong level.

    Instead of an academic freedom issue, it should be fought as “Who is in charge?” issue. Universities have accumulated a hugely expensive and hugely abusive layer of unnecessary administrators.

    I encountered that in a very different field — an engineering consultant firm. They thought that their talented engineers needed to work on billable things 100% of the time. They then allowed a group of secretaries, janitors, and IT staff to take over the management of the company; because they did not bill their time to clients. It was a disaster.

    When intellect is the product, the best business model is the partnership, as in law firms. Decision power goes to the most productive lawyers. To do that, they must divert some of their time to management, rather than lawyering. IMO it is a huge mistake to abandon that.

    1. The skillset that makes for good productivity is not the same as what makes good policy decisions.

      I’ve seen in my line of work that engineers and scientists oftentimes do not make great managers. Nor do they want the job.

      1. But’s that’s true of any group of people, regardless of training. Often, they do not make good managers.

        1. I mean, there’s some self-selection in people that are trained to be managers, no?

          Not saying the training is useful. I’m skeptical of exec training myself. But it is an indicator of interest. And interest tends to align with talent more than productivity in other areas does.

          Really, you want a mix. Like, AAAS Fellows who were trained as scientists and self-selected to go into the policy world.

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