Subscribe: Academia
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade B rated
Language: English
academic  education  free speech  free  higher education  professor  public  rouse  school  sexual  speech  students  university  woytowicz 
Rate this Feed
Rate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feedRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: Academia


All articles with the "Academia" tag.

Published: Tue, 20 Feb 2018 00:00:00 -0500

Last Build Date: Tue, 20 Feb 2018 13:39:49 -0500


Utah Elementary School Fires Art Teacher for Showing Students Classical Nudes

Tue, 09 Jan 2018 14:15:00 -0500

School district administrators for Lincoln Elementary School in Hyrum, Utah fired art teacher Mateo Rueda on December 8 for showing his fifth and sixth grade students classical art postcards, a few of which displayed nude figures. On December 4, Rueda circulated in his class about 100 of the 800 postcards featuring classical paintings from an educational set called "The Art Box" from the school library for a color study exercise. The cards include works by Van Gogh, Claude Monet, and Leonardo Da Vinci. According to the Herald Journal, Rueda said he was unaware that three or four featured nude figures, among them "Iris Tree" by Italian painter Amedeo Modigliani and "Odalisque" by 18th-century artist Francois Boucher. "There were some pictures that were a little weird, and most kids were laughing," fifth grader Bella Jensen told Fox13. Some students were okay with the classical nude paintings, but a few others expressed discomfort and approached Rueda about the cards. He promptly removed them and discussed the issue with his students. A few days later Rueda learned that some parents had complained to the school and someone even called the police, alleging the art teacher had shown his students pornography. Police called aff the investigation after prosecutors determined the images were not pornographic. School administrators initially suspended Rueda for a few days, but then sent him a termination letter. "In a Friday meeting, they gave me two choices: to resign, accepting their terms of my alleged wrongdoing (eliminating any possibility to voice my opinion in the future), or to be terminated with a scathing and defamatory letter," Rueda wrote to a supportive parent, Kamee Jensen, which she posted to her Facebook page. Rueda is appealing the decision and has requested a hearing to clear his name, the Washington Post is reporting. The issue wasn't exclusively with the nude postcards themselves, but that Rueda, according to one parent whose son was in the class, belittled his students for some of their reactions. "He said Mr. Mateo even told the class, 'There's nothing wrong with female nipples. You guys need to grow up and be mature about this,'" Venessa Rose Pixton told the Herald Journal. Rueda denied making that statement, and said he told his students that art sometimes portrays images that are uncomfortable to the viewer and that context is important. "I did say that when you grow up, you're going to find yourselves going to museums or to places where unavoidably there's going to be nudity," Rueda said, according to The Herald Journal. Jensen told Fox13 the whole situation was blown out of proportion and that her daughter is upset that her art teacher is in trouble. Blown out of proportion is right. Even had Rueda said what Pixton alleges, it hardly seems reasonable to fire him. It is possible school administrators fired Rueda in an attempt to avoid the controversy of employing a teacher accused of showing his students "pornography." If that was the plan, it clearly backfired. It is little comfort to know there were no criminal charges filed against Rueda. The police should never have been called in the first place. What kind of world do we live in when classical paintings featuring stylized nude figures are interpreted as pornography?[...]

Exchanging Dirty Jokes Is Now a 'Sexual Relationship' at George Washington University

Tue, 09 Jan 2018 13:18:00 -0500

Longtime professor Catherine Woytowicz is suing George Washington University (GWU) for how it handled a sexual harassment complaint against her. The complaint against Woytowicz was found to be without merit, but the school nonetheless dropped Woytowicz as an adjunct assistant professor—another casualty of the convoluted, secretive, and often unfair harassment proceedings that have overtaken U.S. schools. For 17 years, Woytowicz taught part-time at the university, presiding over more than 65 courses in its chemistry and international relations departments while working full-time elsewhere. By myriad accounts, "Dr. Cat" was a compelling and effective instructor, winning accolades from her students and awards from the school. But Woytowicz's good standing with the university started crumbling in January 2016, when one of her former students accused her of sexual harassment. The student, labeled John Doe in court proceedings, had taken chemistry courses with Woytowicz in 2015. During this time, he claimed, Woytowicz "overtly pursued a sexual relationship with him and threatened academic and professional consequences if he did not comply," according to GWU's motion to dismiss her lawsuit. Ultimately, "there was insufficient evidence to support a charge of sexual harassment against her," the motion states. But the school's Title IX coordinator—the administrator charged with enforcing the federal rule that prohibits sex-based discrimination in education—"determined that Doe had consented to a relationship with Woytowicz," the motion claims. Woytowicz maintains that she "has never had, or tried to have, a sexual relationship" with any of her students. She is seeking damages from GWU for violating her constitutional rights to free speech, free association, and due process; violating her right to a employment environment free of sex discrimination; conspiracy to deprive her of constitutionally guaranteed rights; breach of contract; and intentional infliction of emotional distress. A 'Nebulous Fog' of Allegations Rory Muhammad, Title IX coordinator at GWU, was tasked with investigating Doe's complaint against Woytowicz. In March 2016, Muhammad emailed Woytowicz to say she was under investigation for alleged violations of the school's "Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence Policy and Procedures." As is typical of Title IX proceedings, the email provided Woytowicz little information about the allegations against her, according to her suit. It offered nothing on the specific nature of the allegations, or when and where they supposedly occurred. Little more insight could be gleaned from a subsequent meeting with Muhammad: Though it lasted more than two and a half hours, Woytowicz says the explanations offered were a "nebulous fog." When Woytowicz asked whether she should retain a lawyer, Muhammad allegedly welcomed to do so but told her that if she did, it would bar any possibility of informal resolution of the student's complaint and compel GWU to get its own lawyers involved. While providing little detail about the accusations, Muhammad allegedly peppered Woytowicz with "invasive questions about her personal life and sexual relationships," her lawsuit states. Throughout the meeting "Muhammad seemed to be gloating," and at the end he became loud, hostile, and accusatory. While Prof. Woytowicz was headed out the door, Defendant Muhammad continued shouting questions at her about sex with an adult, who was not a student [at GWU] and had never been a student of the University. Defendant Muhammad asked if Prof. Woytowicz had had sex with this person, and she responded that she had not. Defendant Muhammad asked if Prof. Woytowicz had wanted a "three-way" with this person, and she responded that she did not....Defendant Muhammad never explained his fascination with trying to get Prof. Woytowicz to say she had had sex, or even an unusual desire about sex, concerning an adult nonstudent. The school claimed to have "hundreds" of texts between Woytowicz and Doe, but she wasn't allowed to see or be read these t[...]

The Massive Higher-Ed Scam You've Never Heard About: Podcast

Tue, 26 Dec 2017 16:10:00 -0500

Historian and entrepreneur Thaddeus Russell has a bone to pick with American higher education. It's not simply that maverick opinions that stray from a liberal-progressive orthodoxy get squashed in classroom discussions and tenure decisions. Russell says the federal Department of Education effectively manages an accreditation system that controls the number and character of elite institutions by insisting that "serious" colleges and universities have dorms, dining halls, and a whole host of things completely unrelated to higher learning. As the founder and proprietor of the online Renegade University, the fight is both personal and practical for Russell, whose 2010 book, A Renegade History of the United States, offers up one of the most original and provocative readings of the American experience. "People who operate on the fringes of society," says Russell, "who have operated against social norms...have opened spaces that were later occupied by the mainstream and established things that we now take for granted." In his telling, it's not august statesmen and high-minded citizens but the pushers, prostitutes, and outliers who have enabled the radical lifestyle, cultural, and political freedoms we take for granted. In a wide-ranging conversation with Reason's Nick Gillespie, Russell, who holds a Ph.D. in history from Columbia, talks about discovering the Austrian School of economics only long after he left the academy, why actual Marxists hate postmodernism and why libertarians should love it, the insidious nature of America's Protestant work ethic, and how the Democrats are reviving the Cold War. Audio production by Ian Keyser. Subscribe, rate, and review the Reason Podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below: src="" width="100%" height="300" frameborder="0"> Don't miss a single Reason podcast! (Archive here.) Subscribe at iTunes. Follow us at SoundCloud. Subscribe at YouTube. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. This is a rush transcript. Check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Nick Gillespie: This is the Reason podcast. I'm your host, Nick Gillespie. Please subscribe to us at iTunes and rate and review us while you're there. Today, we're talking with Thaddeus Russell. He's an academic, really kind of a post-academic, who runs an outfit called the Renegade University. We're going to talk about academia. We're going to talk about post-modernism, and we're going to talk about Donald Trump and the larger canvas of American politics. Thad, thanks for talking. Thaddeus Russell: Always a pleasure, Nick. Gillespie: Yeah, you know we have known each other for a few years here. When I first encountered you, it was shortly after the publication of your Renegade History of the United States, which is a kind of brilliant counter to Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States. Just, as a tee off, one of the funny things is when I got the book from the publisher, I was like, 'Oh, this sounds like a shitty knockoff of Howard Zinn', and I was about to throw it out. And instead, I started reading the first chapter, and a couple hours later, I was part-way through, and I was like, 'We've got to talk to this guy. We've got to interview him. We've got to work with him.' Why don't you talk a bit about the Renegade History of the United States and how it's reaction kind of encapsulates one of the issues that you have with higher education, which seems to be an unwillingness to actually engage with heterodox ideas? Russell: Yeah, so, Reason magazine and were the only mainstream media outlets that paid any attention to Renegade History, and academia has completely ignored it. It has not been reviewed in the academic journals, The American Historical Association's journals have not reviewed it. I've seen no mention of i[...]

What to Do With Tenure

Mon, 18 Dec 2017 08:53:00 -0500

Last Friday, I had the honor of being awarded tenure by my academic home, the University of Chicago. It's not as if I had been holding back my opinions until now (witness this blog!), but tenure provides an additional measure of security that is supposed to promote academic freedom. So here are two things I have been reading about what one is supposed to do with that freedom.

1. Scholarship, teaching, service?

Professorial duties are generally divided into scholarship, teaching, and service, and various people will tell you which of these is the real duty of the professor and which ones are merely ancillary. But I have been much moved by this short essay by James Grimmelman, which argues that "These missions have something to do with each other [and] all three benefit when they are done together. They were united for a reason, and we should not lightly put them asunder."

In particular, James argues, the core of the academic mission is research -- "close, careful, and systematic study in search of truth." Publications, classes, and public works are simply three different ways of sharing the results of that research: "Scholarship is for other researchers, teaching is for students, service is for society ... The academic's commitment is to do research and convey the knowledge thereby gained to whomever needs it."

Tenure, James adds, helps to promote these things, but it is not essential: "time and freedom are more important than tenure as such."

2. Tenure traps

And what about "tenure traps"? This iconic post from Tyler Cowen explores how to ensure that the freedom of tenure is used to take appropriate intellectual risks, rather than to "either stop working altogether or continue barreling down the groove they wore themselves into to get tenure" Tyler offers eleven suggestions, which range from insightful to ridiculous, but my favorite are the last three:

9. Hang at least one piece of non-cheery art on your wall that will remind yourself of an ever-pending death. Change its angle every now and then, or better yet change the picture, so you don't get too used to it and stop noticing it altogether. If need be, supplement this with Brahms's German Requiem.

10. Write a periodic blog post, if only a secret and non-published one. If you don't find this process is going well, ask yourself what is wrong.

11. Worry if no one thinks you are crazy. Supplement this with actually being crazy.

How Open-Access Journals Are Transforming Science

Thu, 30 Nov 2017 17:46:00 -0500

Michael Eisen's goal is to change the way scientific findings are disseminated. Most research papers today are locked behind paywalls, and access can cost hundreds of dollars per article. The general public, and most scientists, don't have comprehensive access to the most up-to-date research, even though much of it is funded by U.S. taxpayers. "It's a completely ridiculous system," says Eisen, an acclaimed biologist at UC Berkeley, an independent candidate for Senate in California running against Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D), and a co-founder of the Public Library of Science, or PLOS, which publishes some of the largest and most prestigious academic journals in the world. These publications stand out for another reason: They're open access, meaning that anyone with an internet connection can read them for free. PLOS seeks to break up the academic publishing cartel, and it's a leading force in the so-called open science movement, which aims to give the public access to cutting-edge research and democratize scientific progress. This movement became widely publicized after famed hacker and Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz sought to upend the publishing system by uploading millions of articles for free; he was prosecuted relentlessly, and ultimately committed suicide in 2013. Eisen first thought he could simply convince his fellow scientists to start uploading their work, but that didn't work because universities and funding agencies use journals as a proxy for quality. They base tenure and award decisions in large part on how many articles a researcher publishes, and on the reputations of the publishers. To encourage a switch in researchers' thinking, PLOS's first journal, PLOS Biology, attempted to emulate what Eisen describes as the "snooty" journals such as Science and Nature, which generate prestige in part by rejecting most submitted papers. PLOS Biology became well regarded and provided a proof of concept for PLOS's model, in which funding agencies or universities pay a flat fee up front (typically $1,500, but adjusted based on ability to pay) that's then made accessible for free. The multidisciplinary journal PLOS ONE, created in 2006, used this same model to become the largest academic publication in the world, though it's been surpassed by other open access sources. PLOS ONE puts papers through a fairly typical peer review process, but it doesn't ask editors to determine a paper's importance; the journal will publish any study that follows sound science and reports its data. According to Eisen, this model encourages more thorough experiments, rather than flashy results that aren't reproducible, and allows readers to determine whether a particular study is important and valid. Reason spoke with Eisen at the BioHack the Planet Conference in Oakland, a gathering for DIY scientists known as biohackers who eschew traditional research institutions. They often carry out experiments in garage labs and share their raw findings on the internet in real time, a publishing model to which Eisen believes all scientists should aspire. Eisen also discussed why scientists and universities continue to prop up the academic publishing monopoly, how scientific progress suffers from the current regime, why he's running for senate as an independent, why he beleives political parties are obsolete, and the way forward for the open science movement. Produced by Justin Monticello. Cameras by Alexis Garcia and Monticello. Music by Silent Partner, Vibe Tracks, and MK2. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. This is a rush transcript. Check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Michael Eisen: Labs get hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars that come in from the public. After they write up what they've discovered, if you're a member of the public and you want to get access to it, you quite often have to pay again to get access to it. So, it's a completely ridi[...]

American Professor Charged With Crime for Giving Speech to Danish Parliament

Thu, 30 Nov 2017 13:20:00 -0500

(image) Given the ugly turn U.S. immigration policies have taken recently, it's almost refreshing to be reminded that other governments can be bad on the issue as well. Take Denmark, whose immigration authorities are charging an American professor, Brooke Harrington, with a crime for giving academic lectures.

Inside Higher Education reports that Harrington, a professor of economic sociology at Copenhagen Business School, was charged with taking on illegal side jobs for giving speeches before Danish parliamentarians, tax officials, and law students at the University of Copenhagen.

This, officials say, violates her work permit, which only allows her to work at Copenhagen Business School.

"If I'd known what I was getting into, I really would have had second thoughts about coming here. Anyone in higher education considering moving here should be aware they'll have to confront this," Harrington told Inside Higher Education.

The charges came the same day the Danish Society for Education and Business gave Harrington an award for disseminating her research.

Harrington has had a long academic career studying international finance and tax havens, with teaching stints at Brown and Princeton. Her work has taken her to over 18 different countries, and she's been tenured at Copenhagen Business School since 2010.

If convicted of these charges, all this could be put at risk. Under Danish immigration law, those convicted of working illegally in the country are barred from seeking permanent residency for a period of 15 years. A criminal conviction would also make it difficult for her to continue traveling and working abroad.

"For someone who does international research...this would literally be the end of my career," Harrington told Inside Higher Ed.

Harrington is not the only person caught up in Denmark's crackdown on foreign educators working off-site. Police have contacted three other Copenhagen Business School employees for working outside the university, according to the Danish newspaper Politiken, although it is not clear whether charges were filed in these cases. The newspaper also notes that University of Copenhagen, Technical University of Denmark, and Aalborg University employees have all sanctioned for similar violations.

The charges have sparked controversy within the Danish academic community. The Rector of Copenhagen Business School, Per Holten-Andersen, issued a statement calling it "the worst form of bureaucracy. We stand 100 percent behind our employees who are experiencing problems and offer advice and support."

If convicted, Harrington will be expected to pay a 13,500 kroner ($2,100) fine.

The whole incident is a reminder that even in our connected, globalized world, there are a huge array of barriers to people living and working where they wish.

Graduate Instructor Who Showed Gendered-Pronoun Debate to Class Is Basically Hitler, Says School

Wed, 22 Nov 2017 14:30:00 -0500

As Lindsey Shepherd was pleading her case before Wilfrid Laurier University faculty and staff, the 22-year-old Canadian grad student and teaching assistant seemed caught off guard by their demands. Her superiors weren't saying she couldn't show a televised debate over gender-neutral pronouns in the context of a classroom discussion on language—they just needed her to condemn one side of the debate first. To do otherwise, they said, was "like neutrally playing a speech by Hitler, or Milo Yiannopoulos." Shepherd neither endorsed nor decried either side of the TV Ontario showdown between controversial University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan B. Peterson and Nicholas Matte, a professor in the Waterloo University women's studies department. In the clip that Shepherd played for first-year communications students, Matte and Peterson argue over whether it's appropriate for professors to address students by pronouns other than "he" and "she"—something Peterson refuses to do. The clip was shown in the context of a class discussion on how language shapes culture and how gender-specific pronouns have caused controversy. "I was not taking sides," Shepherd—who does not agree with Peterson's position—would later tell school authorities. "I was presenting both arguments." After an anonymous student complaint was filed, Shepherd was called into a meeting with her supervising professor Nathan Rambukkana, another communications school professor, and the university's manager of gendered violence prevention and support. They claimed that Shepherd was "transphobic" and that she needed to keep her "problematic" views out of the classroom. Shepherd pushed back, insisting that she didn't share in Peterson's pronoun point-of-view but thought it was important not to bring her own views into the discussion. "This is basically like playing—not to do the thing where everything is compared to Hitler—but this is like neutrally playing a speech by Hitler, or Milo Yiannopoulos from Gamergate," Rambukkana said in the meeting. "This is the kind of thing that, departmentally, in terms of critical communications studies, and in terms of the course, of what we're trying to do, is diametrically opposed to everything we've been talking about in the lectures." In a Monday interview with CTV News, Shepherd said she was told "that you can't debate something like this because it causes an unsafe or toxic learning environment. I ended up being called transphobic and someone who causes harm and violence." Going forward, she would have to file all lesson plans in advance and expect random drop-in reviews, the tribunal told her. Shepherd said she was speaking out because situations and attitudes like these hurt the core mission of college education. "I think it's dangerous to say that a topic is off the table just because it might be a little bit controversial," she told CTV. When Shepherd first went public with her story in early November, the Ontario-based university was both dismissive and defensive. In an initial statement, Wilfrid Laurier President Deborah MacLatchy said that "as a responsible employer," the university is "obligated to abide by government regulations, human rights legislation and our own university policies"; "to this end," it had hired a third party "to gather the facts of the situation and assess them in a deliberate, fair and respectful manner." The bizarre statement went on to suggest there are some ideas that may be worth discussing, but can't because of bureaucracy. "I believe that as a university community we need to have more conversations about how academic expression happens throughout our institution," wrote MacLatchy. But "to be focused and constructive, these conversations should take place outside of the specific contexts that, for good reason, are often constrained by privacy legislation, employer regulations, and other legal requirements." Shepherd w[...]

The Spurious Move to Stifle Speech on Campus Because it is 'Dehumanizing'

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 12:35:00 -0500

Robert Spencer — the controversial author and founder of the blog Jihad Watch — spoke Tuesday at Stanford University at the invitation of the university's College Republicans. The event proceeded relatively peacefully, with minimal disruption. But there were many who believed Stanford should never have allowed Spencer to speak in the first place, including a group of Stanford faculty and students who published an open letter urging the university to block Spencer's talk. The argument of the letter's authors is that while they "fully support the principle of academic freedom that allows us to disagree about issues," Spencer's views on Islam are "not debatable" because they are "fundamentally dehumanizing." Whenever the claim is made that an identity group is inherently less worthy of full personhood — whether that claim is made about people who are Muslim, Rohingya, Jewish, Black, trans or gender non-conforming, Bosnian, queer, immigrants, Mexican, etc. — it is always unacceptable. This has quickly become one of the most common, insidious, and dangerously slippery-slope arguments against free speech on college campuses and beyond. Let's set aside for a moment that even most truly "dehumanizing" speech is protected by the First Amendment. (Although Stanford is not a public university, California's Leonard Law applies the protections of the First Amendment to non-sectarian private schools.) The reality on campus is that any debate over any controversial issue will, for proponents of this viewpoint, unjustly demean the value of someone's identity. Consider students at the University of Florida who earlier this week vandalized promotional materials for an upcoming pro-life event on campus put on by the university's Young Americans for Freedom. In a Facebook message bragging about the vandalism, one student wrote: "just poured water on your lovely creations that are an insult to my entire major and life experiences!" To others, an opposing view on immigration policy is an attack on the humanity of undocumented immigrants. As NYU professor and provost Ulrich Baer wrote last spring in The New York Times, "[s]ome topics, such as claims that some human beings are by definition inferior to others, or illegal or unworthy of legal standing, are not open to debate because such people cannot debate them on the same terms." Meanwhile, after Laura Kipnis — the feminist Northwestern professor who was twice investigated by Northwestern for Title IX violations over her criticism of campus sexual politics — spoke at Wellesley College, the faculty on the school's Commission for Ethnicity, Race, and Equity issued a statement calling for changes to the outside speaker policy. Speakers like Kipnis, the statement said, require students to "invest time and energy in rebutting the speakers' arguments… in order to affirm their humanity." When Heather Mac Donald, a vocal critic of the Black Lives Matter movement, spoke last spring at Claremont McKenna College, violent protesters attempted to shut down the event, forcing the Manhattan Institute fellow to give her talk via livestream. Three students from nearby Pomona College issued a statement saying "[t]he idea that the search for this truth involves entertaining Heather Mac Donald's hate speech is illogical. If engaged, Heather Mac Donald would not be debating on mere difference of opinion, but the right of Black people to exist." And who can forget the reaction of Yale students to Erika Christakis's thoughtfully worded email, in October of 2015, questioning whether an institution of higher education should police the Halloween costumes of adult college students? Students blasted Christakis and her husband, Nicholas, for failing to create a "safe space" for them, despite their reputations as nurturing residence mentors. In one article describing how her world was "shaken" by Christakis's "offens[...]

Brickbat: Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Tue, 03 Oct 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) The ethics committee at Bath Spa University, a public university in England, barred a graduate student in psychotherapy from studying transgender people who regret having reassignment surgery. James Caspian says he was told that allowing him to pursue such research could offend people and expose the university to criticism on social media.

To Commemorate Constitution Day, Princeton Professor Says 'F%*# Free Speech'

Mon, 25 Sep 2017 12:25:00 -0400

Every year, Princeton University holds a Constitution Day to honor one of the most important documents in human history. This year's was was a little different, with lectures on search and seizure policies in the Snowden era, and another on slavery and the Constitution. And then there was a lecture called "F%*# Free Speech: An Anthropologist's Take on Campus Speech Debate." Professor Carolyn Rouse, the chair of the Department of Anthropology and director of the program in African Studies asserted, "the way which free speech is being celebrated in the media makes little to no sense anthropologically," according to Campus Reform. Free speech absolutism doesn't exist because people self-censor themselves in ways society deems appropriate, Rouse told her audience. Culture is the prime determiner of what speech is permissible and what speech is rejected, she said. "Language is partial," Rouse argued. "It relies on context for comprehensibility, and can have implications that go far beyond simply hurting somebody's feelings. Put simply, speech is costly. So, contrary to the ACLU's statement on their website regarding the role of free speech on college campuses, the academy has never promoted free speech as its central value." Absolute free speech means every idea is granted equal consideration no matter how crazy it sounds, and for this reason free speech absolutism should not be valued in academia, according to Rouse. "Free speech is also asymptotic with respect to the goal of allowing people to say whatever they want, in any context, with no social, economic, legal, or political repercussions," Rouse said. Free speech absolutism fails in an academic setting, Rouse argued, when it allows equal footing to the belief of a climate-change skeptic that "all the science discovered over the last X-number of centuries were irrelevant" and the arguments supporting climate change from a scientist. Rouse seems to see in this scenario a failure of free speech, rather than an opportunity to challenge ideas and see how they hold up in the marketplace of ideas. Preventing the climate change skeptic from talking about his views won't make them disappear. And it isn't just academia, Rouse contended. No other social institution values free speech absolutism. Every institution has some sort of speech constraint, she said. A defendant can't walk into a courtroom and just start preaching his innocence. The rules and procedures of court prohibit this and, appropriately, Rouse said. To some degree Rouse is correct. Institutions ranging from the courts to the media have some restraints on speech. People self-censor for a variety of reasons. Rouse misses the mark when she suggests the goal of free speech is to allow people to say whatever they want, consequences be damned. The goal of free speech is to allow engagement in open dialogue with others in the marketplace of ideas without the government imposing censorship or punishment. It is with intention that freedom of speech is included in the first of the Bill of Rights. The Founding Fathers valued the ability to speak freely for myriad reasons, particularly because it guaranteed citizens the right to to openly criticize their government. Freely criticizing the government is something Rouse should support. After all, she started a project called Trumplandia, documenting with essays, articles, poems, video clips, or other media the impact of Trump's presidency. Rouse calls Trump's campaign slogan "Make America Great Again" racist and authoritarian. Without free speech in academia, Rouse's project would not exist. Absolute free speech does not mean unchallenged speech, as Rouse seems to believe. Rather, it secures the opportunity for even unpopular ideas to be explored. Restraining speech won't make "bad" ideas go away and it won't suddenly changes the minds o[...]

Brazilian Waxing Hypothetical on Law Exam Leads to Harassment Charge

Fri, 14 Jul 2017 15:30:00 -0400

Howard University law professor Reginald Robinson is in a sticky situation after the university found him responsible for sexual harassment over an exam question involving a Brazilian wax. Robinson is just the latest professor to find himself accused of harassment on the basis of his germane classroom expression—a disturbing trend that has profound implications for academic freedom and the quality of education at our nation's institutions of higher education. Robinson's exam question centered around an individual who fell asleep during a Brazilian wax and awoke with the sense that he or she had been touched improperly during the procedure. Two students filed a sexual harassment complaint against Robinson based on the hypothetical, and the university's Deputy Title IX investigator found him responsible, for reasons including the question's use of the word genital and also, inexplicably, the fact that "the complainants felt that the hypothetical scenario was crafted in order to prompt them to reveal personal details about themselves." For his word crimes, Robinson was ordered to undergo sensitivity training, to submit to classroom monitoring, to have his academic materials reviewed by a dean "for sexually suggestive and/or offensive material," and to have an official reprimand placed in his file. FIRE, where I work, wrote to Howard in June to demand that the university reverse the sanctions against Robinson, but so far, there has been no response. To the uninitiated, Robinson's exam question may seem unusual. But wacky hypotheticals—which involve convoluted fact patterns designed to tease out students' understanding of a variety of complex, intersecting legal issues—are in fact a fixture of law school exams. One professor's sample torts exam, for example, features a car accident that takes place after "Jimmy missed his ride home, so he walked across the street to HOOTERS to get a drink." Another professor poses a hypothetical based on a scenario in which a bar patron dislocates another customer's shoulder because he is "infuriated that P has spilled a tequila sunrise (a sissy drink that stains) on his best stonewashed authentic cowboy jeans." Yet another professor's criminal law exam asks students to assess the culpability of someone who drunkenly writes "Call Zonker for good oral sex. $10 for ages 15 and up. Half price for under 15" on a mall bathroom wall, and includes his own phone number—but claims to have no memory of the event when he sobers up. And fact patterns like the one Robinson presents—where something happens while someone is asleep, or unconscious, or under anesthesia—are a useful and popular type of hypothetical because of the thorny legal issues they raise. The reality is that if you are an attorney, you are going to encounter uncomfortable, disturbing, and even sexually explicit content in the course of your work. I will never forget having to read a detailed autopsy report in my first job doing pharmaceutical litigation, and as someone who now does a lot of work on issues of campus sexual assault, I routinely read detailed descriptions of sexual encounters that would make even the most seasoned veteran blush. If a law student can't handle an exam hypothetical that includes the word genitals, that person should think seriously about whether or not law is the right profession for them—because as a young associate at a law firm, you don't get to tell a partner that you won't work on a case for a big client because the facts squick you out. If law professors have to worry that every hypothetical scenario they lay out for students could result in formal discipline, legal education will suffer greatly as a result. We already know that because of the tense climate surrounding the discussion of sexual assault on campus, some law [...]

Are American Colleges Racist? Come To a Debate at the Soho Forum

Mon, 08 May 2017 13:30:00 -0400

The next Soho Forum takes in New York City on May 16 and features what promises to be an intense, Oxford-style debate over whether higher education is biased against black Americans. Author Lawrence Ross (follow him on Twitter) thinks so and will argue with Fifth Column podcast co-host Kmele Foster on the topic.

Here are details about the event:

(image) Are American Colleges Racist?

Lawrence Ross and Kmele Foster go head-to-head on Tuesday May 16th, tackling the controversial topic of racism on college campuses. Are college campuses racist against African Americans?

They will debate the following resolution:

"America's colleges have fostered a racist environment that makes them a hostile space for African American students."

For the affirmative:

Lawrence C. Ross Jr. is an author of Blackballed: The Black and White Politics of Race on America's Campuses, as well as many other books that range from history, to current affairs, to fiction. He worked as a reporter for the Los Angeles Independent Newspaper and was managing editor of Rap Sheet, hip hop's first West Coast magazine. Ross has lectured at over 300 colleges and universities.

For the negative:

Kmele Foster is a telecommunications entrepreneur and TV host. He is the co-founder and vice president of TelcoIQ, a telecommunications consultancy firm. He is also the chairman of America's Future Foundation. Foster co-hosted Fox Business' The Independents, and currently co-hosts the libertarian podcast The Fifth Column.​

Tickets are almost sold out, so get in fast. This is not a debate to be missed!

Tuesday May 16, 2017

Subculture Theater
45 Bleecker St., NY, 10012
Doors open: 5:45pm
Meeting convenes: 6:30pm
Wine-and-cheese reception: 8:15pm

Tickets must be reserved in advance.

Check out the Reason Podcast, which includes versions of Soho Forum debates.

Last fall, I debated Loyola economist Walter Block about whether libertarians should vote for Donald Trump. Things got...interesting (Block denounced me as "vile" and a "nasty man" while explaining why libertarians should be pro-Trump. Take a listen. More details here.

src="" width="100%" height="450" frameborder="0">

Brickbat: Don't Rock the Boat

Tue, 21 Jun 2016 04:00:00 -0400

(image) James Cook University, a public university in Australia, has censured marine scientist Peter Ridd for "failing to act in a collegial way and in the academic spirit of the university." Ridd's offense? He questioned whether photos which the Centre of Excellence for Coral Studies and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority claim show the deteriorating health of the Great Barrier Reef may be misleading or even false.

Brickbat: Women Only

Fri, 27 May 2016 04:00:00 -0400

(image) The University of Melbourne says three openings in its School of Mathematics and Statistics must be filled with women. Women account for just one quarter of all math professors in Australia, and Aleks Owczarek, the head of the school, says it is taking applications only from women in an effort to help change that.

Academic Freedom Is On the Decline, and Here's the Data to Prove It

Wed, 11 May 2016 14:05:00 -0400

(image) An analysis of 50 years worth of academic-freedom cases finds that faculty don't fare well when fighting against public colleges and universities. In fact, professors and instructors up against these entities are likely to lose nearly three-quarters of the time. 

The study, published in the Journal of College and University Law, was conducted by University of Illinois law professor Michael LeRoy. It analyzed American disputes over the speech rights of academics that took place between 1964 and 2014 and involved a public college or university—a total of 214 (state and federal) cases.

In 73 percent of them, the school administration won. 

"If you look at the trend lines, the speech rights of public employees are narrowing—and, coincidentally, this is occurring when public speech via social media has become so much more prevalent," LeRoy said. Not coincidentally, the number of wins for schools picked up in the wake of several specific U.S. Supreme Court decisions. 

Per the 1968 Supreme Court ruling in Pickering v. Board of Education, courts were instructed to weight "the competing interests of public employees and employers on a case-by-case basis," noted LeRoy. The court held that "public employees do not relinquish their First Amendment rights on the job," but "a government employer [can] regulate the speech of its employees differently from citizens." This was the first tipping point toward broader permissability for censoring academic speech.

"As the data from my study show, courts usually weigh those interests in favor of universities and colleges," LeRoy said.

Then, in 1994, the Supreme Court ruled that school administrators could limit student or staff speech that they deem "disruptive" (Waters v. Churchill). "In the first court rulings after Waters, the faculty win-rate plummeted from 22.6 percent to 13.1 percent, and in appellate rulings, the rate dropped even more precipitously, from 14.5 percent to 3.3 percent," according to LeRoy's analysis.  

Some federal appeals courts have been better than others at protecting professors' speech rights. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit—an area that includes New York, Connecticut, and Vermont—ruled in favor of schools in just 63.6 percent of its cases. Meanwhile, the Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin-spanning 7th Circuit sided with colleges or universities 88.9 percent of the time. 

LeRoy thinks the study shows the need for higher-education faculty to push for contractual assurances of free expression and passing institution-wide academic bills of rights. "If nothing else," he said, "my research shows that the alternative to these proactive measures are court rulings that treat higher education more like a government agency" than "a laboratory of thought, experimentation and speech."