Current issues

Controversies specific to universities

RU professor fought for free speech 30 years ago — Edward D. Jervey, a former history professor, won a lawsuit against then-president of RU, Charles Martin, following a controversy over a 1968 article Jervey wrote entitle: “Why I Believe in Sex Before Marriage.”

UC Berkeley — Home of the Free Speech Movement from the 1960s, the University of California at Berkeley was a hotbed of domestic surveillance activities.  The Harvard Nieman Reports examines the release of 300,000 pages of documents related to spying on Berkeley free speech advocates.

Washington State University has had a number of free speech controversies.

Georgia Tech — Student expulsion boomerangs —  A federal jury awarded $50,000 in damages to the former student in a long-running court battle with the university’s former president. Thomas Hayden Barnes was expelled from the university without a hearing in 2007 after clashing with the president, Ronald M. Zaccari, over an effort the president supported to build a parking deck. Chronicle Higher Education Feb. 1, 2013.  FIRE op-ed also published in the Wall Street Journal, Feb. 15, 2013.   

Students campaign against Adolphus College president.

RU and FIRE — “Yellow light” rating on free speech at RU.


General information on First Amendment and Higher Edudcation controversies

Freedom of Association bill passes Va legislature — Both houses of the General Assembly have passed bills that allow religious and political groups at state colleges to restrict membership to individuals who are “committed” to the organization’s mission. Opponents of the legislation said the bills are thinly veiled attempts to let subsidized campus groups discriminate against gay students.

Academic Freedom — The Council for Higher Education Accreditation has joined the American Association of University Professors in urging accreditation to take steps to ensure that the protection of academic freedom is a central concern in their evaluation of higher-education institutions.  In an advisory statementissued on Tuesday, the council, which represents some 3,000 colleges and confers recognition on accrediting organizations, and the AAUP jointly argue that accreditors need to review their standards, policies, and procedures to ensure they give protections of academic freedom adequate consideration in judging the quality of institutions and programs.   Chronicle of Higher Education, Nov. 20, 2012.

The “War” over Higher Education — The intellectual fuel for ideas of reform (in Texas, at least) comes from the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), a conservative Austin think tank that devotes a substantial portion of its efforts proposing solutions to what it believes are inefficiencies and waste in state government. TPPF and its allies have been advocating a menu of changes to the way higher education is managed. It believes those changes would bring down the costs for students and, nearer to its heart, taxpayers. TPPF’s proposals attempt to create some accountability for higher education’s productivity. But there is where the rub begins. To measure productivity, we must not only know the input costs, but what it is that we are trying to produce. So what is it exactly that we expect our universities to produce? Well, that depends on who you ask. TPPF and its allies think higher education should mostly be about producing young Texans with college degrees, something that academics see as only part of their mission.  Houston Chronicle, Jan 23, 2013.

Transparency and university foundations — AAUP and American Tradition Institute debate over FOIA and access to faculty emails and documents. The question involves oversight of individual faculty research but not, surprisingly, oversight of university foundations or contracts.  ATI’s right-wing political agenda contrasts nicely with AAUP’s fortress mentality.    Also see the SPLC’s Access to University Foundation Records briefing.

Feigning Free Speech on Campus –    Colleges and universities are supposed to be bastions of unbridled inquiry and expression, but they probably do as much to repress free speech as any other institution in young people’s lives. In doing so, they discourage civic engagement at a time when debates over deficits and taxes should make young people pay more attention, not less. By Greg Lukianoff, New York Times, Oct. 24, 2012.

Universities as closed shops — The most authoritarian institution in America (is) the modern university — “a bizarre, parallel dimension” — says Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education,  in a Nov. 16, 2012 article in the Wall Street Journal. Unfortunately, he undermines  his argument by using the understandable reluctance of one university to pay Ann Coulter to speak at the school, since her politics and sense of reason are subordinate to her self-appointed position as America’s loudest shrieking harpy.   In contrast, a conservative like Ron Paul is welcome on university speaking engagements. The week of the Lukianoff interview with the Journal, Paul noted the atmosphere of respect and interest in his ideas even traditionally left-wing places like the University of California at Berkeley.

Bill of Student Rights Online — A group of educators and MOOC providers have assembled “A Bill of Rights and Principles for Learning in the Digital Age.” The document proposes a set of “inalienable rights” that the authors say students and their advocates should demand from institutions and companies that offer online courses and technology tools. Those rights should include access and privacy, along with access to information about the financial models of institutions and companies offering online courses, write the authors. Mr. Thrun, the founder of the MOOC provider Udacity, said his involvement in drafting the document does not amount to a pledge or endorsement by his company. And despite the legislative reference in the document’s title, the “bill of rights” does not have regulatory teeth. Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan. 23, 2013

 Requiring Facebook passwords of employees is wrong  — and creepy. Houston Chronicle, Jan. 25, 2013. What about student athletes?

New Facebook controversy breaks out in Midwest —   University of Iowa Confessions allows students to anonymously post their deepest secrets, the vast majority of which involve sexual conquests. In the two-plus months that the page has been active, it has garnered more than 6,000 “likes” and about 200 posts. A similar page for Iowa State University has generated more than 7,800 “likes.”   Such confession pages have cropped up elsewhere during the first months of 2013, prompting college and university administrators to sort out their options for having them taken down.  Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 25, 2013

Webcast BOV meetings says the Dallas Morning News.

Sign protest not legal, court says.

University of Kansas – David Guth – tweet controversy over Navy Yard shooting