Campus Free Speech

Some Academic Freedom Victories

A bit of good news for professorial free speech.

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As I noted a couple of months ago, I have the pleasure of leading the Academic Freedom Alliance. The AFA is an ideologically diverse group of over 200 academics dedicated to the defense of professorial free speech and academic freedom at American universities. We provide solidarity and legal resources in cases in which an academic has been threatened with sanctions for their speech that is protected by constitutional, statutory, or contractual rights.

In the past few days, we have achieved victories in two early cases. At the University of Rhode Island, campus administrators have finally admitted that AFA founding member Professor Donna Hughes's personal political writings are protected speech and cannot be the basis for sanctions by her public university employer. At the University of San Diego, the provost has issued a public statement ending the unnecessary investigation of Professor Tom Smith's personal blog post. Neither case should have proceeded as far as it did. We are grateful for the hard work that Samantha Harris, an attorney with years of experience at FIRE, did in both cases to help them reach the appropriate resolution.

Rather than subjecting members of the faculty to drawn-out and costly investigations and threats to their jobs, university leaders should learn to tell campus activists that some speech is protected and that the university will be taking no action against those who engage in such protected speech.

NEXT: Foreign Dictators in U.S. Court, Part III

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  1. “university leaders should learn to tell campus activists that some speech is protected”
    As Shakespeare wrote “to sleep perhaps to dream..”

    1. The AFA should learn to mandamus the IRS Non-Profit Office to rescind the tax exemption of any agency that engages in the slightest viewpoint discrimination. So much as say, boo, lose the exemption.

      The purpose of the exemption is education. In education, one covers all sides of a subject. If one side is covered, that is called indoctrination, and should not be supported by the taxpayer. Should physics class cover the flat earth theory or the Ptolemaic formulas of planetary orbits around the earth, trying to explain how some planets are going back and forth in the sky? You bet, that would be a great discussion about not believing one’s eyes, and getting a different perspective from space to see what is really going on.

      Feel free to impose your fake Commie ideology, as crazy as the Ptolemaic formulas, just without tax payer subsidy.

  2. “Rather than subjecting members of the faculty to drawn-out and costly investigations and threats to their jobs, university leaders should learn to tell campus activists that some speech is protected and that the university will be taking no action against those who engage in such protected speech.”

    Draw out the investigation as long as possible, then when the university’s counsel really starts freaking out over the legal exposure, announce that the professor was cleared. Sounds like the best of both worlds: Censorship “loses,” but dissident faculty get the message that it will be a hassle to express wrongthink.

    1. Investigations are intentional infliction of emotional distress. The schools should be forced big time any time they send a letter or call a faculty to get his side of the story. Send a letter pay $million.

      If an administrator starts an investigation of an allegation by a crybaby minority, investigate him and fire him.

    2. You are a fan of the approach that “the process is the punishment”?

      The only good reason to drag out a decision process is because it is hard to find information that is critical to making the decision. In these cases, the important information is almost always ready at hand, and disposes of the complaint as failing to state a violation.

      1. Do I need to put a “/sarc” tag on every sarcastic remark?

  3. They need to go a bit beyond that.

    Remind the students that free speech actually IS a civil right, and that conspiracy against civil rights is a crime. So knock it off before you become a legal liability for the university.

  4. “. . . university leaders should learn to tell campus activists that some speech is protected. . . .”

    Sheesh, you’d think university professors would know how universities interact with students.

    No, they shouldn’t “tell” them anything.

    Universities SHOULD instead use these moments as teaching opportunities about freedom of speech, reiterate university policies, and work with aggrieved students to create paths for their voices and positive ways/means they can be activists.

    Yeah, let’s just “tell” them the rules.

    Sheesh….

    1. I think someone does have to tell them what the First Amendment and academic freedom mean. They obviously don’t know. I also don’t think they are “aggrieved” students. I think they are intolerant students who want to censor anyone who doesn’t agree with them. I wouldn’t want the school to work with them in any manner that indicated to them that their attempts to suppress the speech of others was in any way acceptable, or worthy of any sort of reward (such as providing them with extra attention).

      1. Make the experiment of alienating the woke students and see if this brings in more normal students. If so, it’s a win/win, and I’m not even being sarcastic.

        1. Those students are arrogant, entitled, affirmative action babies.

          1. You are right on the first two — the problem is that a lot of them are White. White kids with trust funds…

  5. “At the University of Rhode Island, campus administrators have finally admitted that AFA founding member Professor Donna Hughes’s personal political writings are protected speech and cannot be the basis for sanctions by her public university employer.”

    Weird. They had no problem admitting the Erik Loomis’s claim that it is morally acceptable to murder people he disagrees with was protected speech.

      1. Loomis is one of the dumbest human beings alive. He comes up with insights that you’d expect from a college freshman first encountering politics.

  6. What I fear is that they will wait 6 months and get them for something else…

    1. Hard to say, but my guess is they’ve already got them because from now on the victims of this campaign will self-censor. That’s a disgrace. It’s also the obvious consequence of the school administrations’ pusillanimous handling of these matters from start to finish.

  7. Anyone have a stopwatch on when this group tackles dissent on a conservative-controlled campus? Someone who denies fairy tales are true, for example, or refrains from suppressing science to flatter superstition? Someone who wants to conduct research that might offend childish dogma? Someone who acknowledges being gay on a bigoted campus?

    This organization is fooling no one . . . other than the gullible consumers of right-wing lather.

    1. Choosing a religious school is not fraudulent. They are open about their faith before you apply. Schools are supposed to provide an education where all side of a subject are covered. Should religious school cover atheism? Yes, if they want the tax exemptions, grants, and subsidies.

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