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Three sociology professors have offered a spirited defense of Arizona State University’s controversial new “The Problem of Whiteness” course in interviews with The State Press campus newspaper.

Noel Cazenave, a sociology professor at the University of Connecticut, told the paper he has taught similar classes and that “I want people to realize in Arizona that it is OK to talk about whiteness as a problem.”

“Don’t play language games that keep people from using straightforward and honest language to talk about our very serious problems in this country, and white racism is a serious problem,” he added.

Joe Feagin, a sociology professor at Texas A&M, told the paper: “Our history is rooted in white supremacy. Eighty-three percent (of history) was ruled by slavery and Jim Crow. We’ve only theoretically been a free country since 1969, when the Civil Rights Act went into effect.”

And Charles Gallagher, a sociology professor at La Salle University, said that “we may have a black president, but this is a white nation. Look at Congress. Look at the halls of justice. Look at corporate America. It’s white people running the show.”

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Arizona State University’s Lee Bebout is teaching eighteen students in a class titled “U.S. Race Theory and the Problem of Whiteness.”

The course, according to ASU, “… is designed to empower students to confront the difficult and often thorny issues that surround us today and reach thoughtful conclusions rather than display gut reactions. A university is an academic environment where we discuss and debate a wide array of viewpoints.”

“Wide array,” eh? As long as the viewpoints maintain that “Whiteness” is a problem, I bet. reports:

Five books are listed as required for the upper-division class, called “U.S. Race Theory and the Problem of Whiteness.” The texts include “Playing in the Dark” by Toni Morrison, an acclaimed novelist who has won a Pulitzer Prize, a Nobel Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The other required books are “Critical Race Theory: An Introduction” by Richard Delgado, “Everyday Language of White Racism” by Jane Hill, “Alchemy of Race & Rights” by Patricia Williams, and “The Possessive Investment in Whiteness” by George Lipsitz.

The idea of “Whiteness” as a concept, rather than just skin color, has been a popular topic for research and academic classes since the late ’90s.

Lauren Clark, a student at ASU and a contributor to Campus Reform, appeared on “Fox and Friends” last Friday to discuss the matter:

Does anyone — anyone — think a course titled “U.S. Race Theory and the Problem of Blackness” would be permitted to be taught on a campus? To heck with microaggressions — such would be dubbed an irreconcilable macroaggression complete with sit-ins, die-ins, teach-ins, and the usual demands for mandated sensitivity training, “cultural competence” courses, increased number of minority faculty and students, and on and on and on …

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Progressive activists who criticize Florida State University for taking $1.5 million from a libertarian billionaire might want to look at other FSU programs bound by ideological strings – from the left.

The 2008 donation from the Charles Koch Foundation that set up and funded FSU’s program for the Study of Free Enterprise and Political Economy has sparked an entire industry of anti-Koch activities, targeting schools as varied as Boston’s Suffolk University and the University of Kansas. (The latter has become a referendum on academic freedom in the context of “scholarly communications.”)

Arizona State University is the next target of the UnKoch My Campus campaign: Founding member Kalin Jordan told The College Fix it’s trying to uncover documents that show ideological strings attached to a $3.5 million Koch donation from November that created the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty in ASU’s business school.

Selectively targeting ‘undue influence’

Critics have seized on the controls imposed on the FSU money – giving the foundation a say in whom to hire and what to teach – saying they constitute improper meddling in internal decisions and violate academic freedom.

According to FSU’s written agreement with the Charles Koch Foundation, the purpose of the program is to “advance the understanding and practice of those free voluntary processes and principles that promote social progress, human well-being, individual freedom, opportunity and prosperity based on the rule of law, constitutional government, private property and the laws, regulations, organizations, institutions and social norms upon which they rely.”

For faculty members, journalists, bloggers, and students who have criticized those conditions, hiring teachers to study free-market institutions is unacceptable bias.

Jordan of UnKoch My Campus said her organization aims to fight “undue influence on academic freedom” on college campuses nationwide. Speaking of the Koch brothers, Jordan said they “use their political capital and finances to push research through that benefits their bottom line.”

Gladys Nobriga, a member of the FSU Progress Coalition, told The Fix her group supports “academic freedom” as defined by the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, from the American Association of University Professors.

Its statement that “freedom in research is fundamental to the advancement of truth,” Nobriga said, conflicts with the ideological intent of the research undertaken by the Koch-funded FSU program.

Yet right under her nose exist a research center and an entire academic department that impose a liberal litmus test on their FSU faculty.

Circumscribed by climate-change dogma

The mission statement for FSU’s Energy and Sustainability Center contains a number of assumptions any would-be researcher or student would have to accept before undertaking work there. The statement says “the need for energy systems that have much lower emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse materials to the atmosphere is of paramount importance” to its research.

Does acceptance of that statement as fact imply ideological commitment? Absolutely—belief that human CO2 emissions are driving climate change is implicitly required. A professor or student who believes otherwise would have his or her “academic freedom” restricted by working for the center.

The FSU’s Women’s Studies department operates under similarly restrictive ideological boundaries. The description of its major says the department “seeks to delineate the richness and diversity of women’s experiences and viewpoints.” It also says the department aims to “use gender as a category of analysis.”

These statements imply a belief in women as a distinct human category that ought to be studied for its own sake. An academic working for the Women’s Studies department would conduct his or her work under the confines of that belief.

These ideological restrictions are no less binding than the ones established by the Charles Koch Foundation for its program at FSU, yet Koch antagonists aren’t setting up picket lines outside the Women’s Studies department and the Center for Energy and Sustainability.

Limitations are fine if ‘clearly stated’

What does “academic freedom” mean to them? That once an academic is equipped with a doctorate and hired by a university, she is free to direct her scholarly energies wherever she pleases? That agreeing to conduct research within ideological confines make her a sellout?

In truth, however, academic research always takes place within practical or ideological confines.

The 1940 Statement of Principles itself says that “[l]imitations of academic freedom because of religious or other aims of the institution should be clearly stated in writing at the time of the appointment.

“The precise terms and conditions of every appointment [i.e., professor hire] should be stated in writing and be in possession of both institution and teacher before the appointment is consummated.”

By indicating that conditions may be placed on a professor’s employment, these statements show that academic freedom is not absolute. Colleges may impose limitations on academic freedom in the interest of “religious or other aims of the institution.”

Why is it unacceptable for the advancement of the principles outlined in the Koch Foundation’s agreement – “the understanding and practice of those free voluntary processes that promote social progress, human well-being, individual freedom” – to fall under “other aims” of FSU?

To prove they aren’t hypocrites, those who oppose ideologically motivated donations to universities on grounds of “academic freedom” ought to open their eyes to the myriad academic projects that violate their absolute definition of this concept.

College Fix contributor Stephen Edwards is a student at Furman University.

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The police officer who arrested a black, female Arizona State professor for jaywalking last May – and is on the verge of being fired for it – is publicly defending himself for the first time since the controversy erupted.

The arrest of Arizona State English professor Ersula Ore, which included a bit of a tussle between the officer and the scholar, was recorded and drew national attention, as well as claims of racial profiling. Ore pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor violation of resisting arrest.

Now suspended ASU police officer Stewart Ferrin is telling his side of the story about the arrest that might cost him his job. AZCentral reports Ferrin said he had no idea Ore was African-American until after he stopped her. He also said Ore wasn’t just jaywalking but walking down the middle of the street.

“I can tell you flat out there’s no racism involved in this whatsoever,” Ferrin said. “… I stand by the decisions that I made that night.”

Meanwhile, Ore has filed a $2 million claim alleging civil rights violations, even though the U.S. Attorney’s Office decided not to pursue the case.

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Update on this summer story: The police officer who arrested a black female Arizona State professor for jaywalking, sparking a civil rights debate about aggressive and racially charged policing, is on the verge of being fired.

The Arizona Republic reports that the school has started “termination proceedings” against Stewart Ferrin, who has been on administrative leave since July, when video of his arrest of professor Ersula Ore went viral:

Ore was arrested on May 20 when she refused to show identification and reportedly kicked Ferrin in the shin after he stopped her for jaywalking near College Avenue and Fifth Street in Tempe, according to police records.

Dashcam video of the arrest shows Ore struggling with Ferrin and kicking him in the shin. The footage shows the officer throwing Ore to the ground and telling her he would “slam” her on the hood, records show.

Ferrin’s lawyer said he would appeal.

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Arizona law requires the names of sexual-assault victims in crime reports to be made public. But Arizona State University refuses to turn over the names of 36 victims in response to a request by the Arizona Republic – or even ask the victims if they’d like to talk to a reporter.

The rationale? It could “trigger” the victims. More likely, it could “trigger” bad PR for ASU if the victims speak.

Media blog Romenesko has the details, which involve a series that reporter Anne Ryman is writing about sexual assault at the school and the criminal-justice process for students who allege they were assaulted.

Gannett, the newspaper owner, and the school have been arguing for four months on what should be a point of settled law:

“[ASU chief media officer Sharon Keeler] stated the names would not be released on grounds that it would have a chilling effect on sexual violence reporting,” Gannett attorney Courtney French wrote a letter to ASU’s assistant police chief. “While we appreciate ASU’s efforts to ensure all incidents of sexual violence on campus are reported and investigated, withholding victims’ names is not consistent with Arizona law.”

The Arizona Criminal Code, says the newspaper’s lawyer, “requires the victim’s name to be made public [and] as a result, the ASU PD’s redaction of victims’ names in this case is unlawful.”

In a reply letter, ASU’s attorney cites a statute that appears to contradict the school’s position:

B. A victim’s identifying and locating information that is obtained, compiled or reported by a law enforcement agency or prosecution agency shall be redacted by the originating agency and prosecution agencies from records pertaining to the criminal case involving the victim including discovery disclosed to the defendant.

C. Subsection B does not apply to:

1. The victim’s name.

“Identifying and locating information” means date of birth, social security number, ID number such as driver’s license, address, phone number, email and place of employment.

It’s really hard to see how the school can ignore the plain language of the statute that victims’ names are not to be redacted.

ASU says Ryman would be reduced to “cold calling” people whose names match those in the crime reports:

Such an approach is completely contrary to the leading guidance that universities, as well as law enforcement agencies, should be training and using trauma-informed and victim-centered protocols to encourage the reporting of sexual assaults and improve the rate of prosecutions for crimes of sexual violence.

Crying “trigger” is the strongest legal argument ASU’s got – it won’t even ask victims if they want to talk, Romenesko says:

“[W]e concluded that making such a contact could be a trigger event that is inconsistent with a trauma-informed, victim-centered approach.”

The university says reminders of the attack or abuse can cause flashbacks, and “we believe cold calls or emails by a reporter to individuals who might possibly be the correct Jane or John Doe could also be a trigger event.”

Ryman has previously reported that ASU settled two lawsuits faulting its handling of sexual-assault allegations – one cost the school $850,000.

It’s not the first time the school has made flimsy redaction excuses in response to the paper’s requests: It blacked out “concerns expressed by the university’s police officers” from the minutes of an “advisory board to the chief of the campus police,” according to a September column in the Republic (the paper found out anyway):

They didn’t want you to know that the university’s main campus was sometimes staffed by only two officers on a shift. (The department’s own policy requires four.) They also didn’t want you to know that their officers are sometimes unfamiliar with the areas they police during “party patrols” and that they have difficulty communicating with Tempe police officers because they use different equipment.

Harmful information? I don’t think so; the specific understaffed shifts weren’t revealed. More likely, school officials were embarrassed by the short staffing and lack of training.

Embarrassment seems an accurate guess for why ASU won’t release the victims’ names – they might trash-talk the school for how it handled their allegations.

Read the Romenesko post.

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