free speech

Tennessee’s Bryan College has drawn scrutiny from mainstream media for the Christian institution’s recent affirmation of an “historical” Adam and Eve in its revised charter. But a conservative columnist is now accusing Bryan’s president of creating an “atmosphere of lawlessness” and “totalitarian arrogance,” and not just because of the Adam and Eve controversy.

Writing at Townhall.com, columnist Mike Adams says the conduct of President Stephen Livesay “has been so far outside the realm of normal professional conduct as to nearly defy description.”

Adams is no stranger to hostile administrations or the challenge of reconciling Christianity with the academic world. He just secured a promotion to full professor at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington – plus $50,000 in back pay and $615,000 to cover his legal fees – after winning a seven-year court battle against the school, alleging discrimination against him as a conservative Christian.

But Adams knows “corruption” when he sees it, whether secular or religious, he says in ticking off the sins of the Bryan administration helmed by Livesay. When a Bryan professor resigned after his arrest “in a sting operation for allegedly soliciting sex from a minor,” Adams says,

Bryan College concocted a cover story, which falsely claimed that the professor left to pursue “other opportunities.” Being charged with a felony sex crime isn’t an “opportunity.” It’s a lie and a very bad one at that. Arguably, Dr. Livesay should have been terminated for his role in the cover up.

When a student journalist – using public records – tried to report that story, Livesay “quashed” it citing accuracy:

Obviously, Dr. Livesay’s real concern was that it was accurate and exposed the school as having concocted a cover story that was inaccurate. …

The day Dr. Livesay decided to engage in prior restraint of free and accurate speech was the day Bryan lost its claim to be a serious institution of higher learning.

In changing the statement of faith to affirm an historical Adam and Eve, Bryan explicitly violated its own charter while requiring its faculty to “sign a specific rejection of macro-evolution” – right before “their annual contracts were to be renewed”:

This did not give dissenters a reasonable amount of time to look for employment elsewhere. These are Gestapo tactics.

Following a 30-2 faculty vote of no confidence in Livesay, the president “refuses to leave” and even demanded that unsupportive board members leave their positions, Adams said, citing “numerous credible sources within the Bryan community”:

In twelve years of writing (almost always critically) of higher education, I have never seen this kind of totalitarian arrogance on behalf of a college president. And that includes my coverage of those not claiming to be Christians.

It’s pretty shocking to me as well, as someone well-versed in the kind of intimidation cloaked in Christian rhetoric.

SPU.CurtisCronn.FlickrWhen I attended a more liberal evangelical school, Seattle Pacific University, our president – a literature professor turned real-estate tycoon – was known for his own hardball tactics among faculty. One of my professors, who sounds a lot like Mike Adams in retrospect, resigned after enduring years of strong-arming by the administration.

While investigating credible claims that the school was hemorrhaging money in an ill-conceived building campaign and piling on unsustainable debt, I found it nearly impossible to get faculty to talk, let alone off the record. On a small campus where privileged information is easy to trace back to its source, everyone was terrified of being outed as bad-mouthing the administration. I was even threatened with a lawsuit if I published certain information I had been given.

(SPU’s poorly conceived planning eventually caught up with it in 2011, when the campaign for a $72 million building complex was axed because of “the state of the economy,” as The Falcon reported. The school hadn’t even raised a quarter of the funds and was only months away from breaking ground, as The Falcon editorial board noted.)

It’s crucial that Christian colleges receive scrutiny for the right reasons. Bryan College is an easy punching bag – a literal Adam and Eve? Dismissive of “macro-evolution”? What a fundamentalist backwater is the standard response for journalists, and plenty of Christians too, without knowing anything more about the school.

But that’s a sideshow. Good governance, proper oversight and respect for the rule of law, which Adams highlights in his column, are far more important than a school’s precise doctrinal statement.

If President Lovesay and his administration show such open contempt for these building blocks of higher education, Bryan deserves the misdirected scorn it’s getting from the secular world.

Greg Piper is an assistant editor of The College Fix. (@GregPiper)

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In a victory for the First Amendment – and a demonstration of the power of a well-timed pressure campaign – a libertarian group at Boise State University that hosted an on-campus event will be refunded a “security fee” charged by the university.

It’s not clear whether the activist groups that warned Boise State will follow up with legal action or further demands on the school, which said it’s not changing its policies on the fees. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, one of those groups, told The College Fix it expects future “unconstitutional fees” to be charged to student groups by the university.

In May, Boise State’s Young Americans for Liberty chapter hosted Dick Heller, the plaintiff in the Supreme Court’s landmark Heller decision that overturned Washington, D.C.’s gun ban, as a speaker on the Second Amendment.

The university originally charged the chapter a security fee because it said a community member had implied he would bring a gun to campus, despite the event organizers’ explicit no-gun policy, as The College Fix previously reported.

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The university has now backtracked and returned the fee, the Associated Press reported.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education applauded the university’s decision in an emailed statement to The College Fix.

But Boise State still has in place policies which can lead to imposition of a security fee and has given no indication it plans to change them, said Peter Bonilla, the director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program.

Despite the rescinded fee, “the issue is far from moot” because Boise State’s continued policies “make it all but certain that other student organizations will be charged such unconstitutional fees in the future,” Bonilla said.

Though Bonilla declined to say what legal action may follow from FIRE – which launched a nationwide litigation campaign against speech codes this summer – he said the group remains “ready and willing to help Boise State revise its policies to bring them fully in line with the Constitution.”

Other groups pressuring the school to drop the fee include the ACLU of Idaho and Idaho Freedom Foundation.

In a letter to the university prior to the fee being rescinded, the ACLU of Idaho called on the university to not only return the fee, but also change its policies for on-campus events. The letter references several portions of the policy that the ACLU says appear to be unconstitutional.

For example, last year a federal judge in Idaho ruled in Watters v. Otter that charging entities for services like security are unconstitutional if applied arbitrarily, the ACLU said. Additionally, the ACLU argued that Boise State’s policies discriminate against different viewpoints.

Boise State’s Conference Services page states that groups that want to have on-campus events must follow certain rules, including: “University Conference Services may require uniformed security officers to be present for events at the sponsoring organization’s expense.”

The page continues: “University Conference Services’ staff will make arrangements to hire security officers through the University’s contracted law enforcement service. The cost will be passed on to the sponsoring organization as part of the event cost.”

Neither the ACLU nor the Young Americans for Liberty chapter at Boise State responded to requests for comment.

Student speech on campus got a boost from a recent Supreme Court decision in Driehaus v. SBA concerning a “false statements” law in Ohio, which also made it easier for groups to challenge free-speech restrictions before they are punished for violations, as The College Fix previously reported.

FIRE’s Bonilla told The College Fix it was hard to say how the Driehaus ruling “might play out” regarding the imposition of security fees.

But the Driehaus decision was encouraging for anyone whose speech was threatened before being punished, Bonilla added: “People whose First Amendment rights stand to suffer under unconstitutional policies should not have to wait until their rights have been violated for the right to challenge such policies to kick in.”

College Fix contributor Matt Lamb is a student at Loyola University-Chicago.

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OPINION

Boise State University was sued recently for requiring prolife students to use warning signs when they protest abortion on campus with graphic images of aborted babies.

You know the ones – they are not easy to look at. They are real photos of murdered children, and they look like just that: blood, dismembered parts, lifeless faces.

Why would we use such images? We do so because those horrific photos so many prolifers use, including myself, are effective.

Women going into clinics have stopped in their tracks upon seeing the images and changed their minds. Many have later told pro-life workers that the disturbing pictures portraying the truth about abortion were the sole thing that convinced them to turn around and have their babies.

I have heard the argument (from people on both sides) that the graphic pictures are counterproductive because they make people angry at us and harden them even more.

Certainly, they make many people furious. One time a young college student even came up to my group and started crying and yelling at us, claiming that she had been raped and had had an abortion.

Many have heard of the feminist studies professor at UC Santa Barbara who stormed off with a teenage prolifer’s sign last semester. I was among that group of prolife protesters on campus that day, and we dared to hold graphic signs showing what abortion is, causing the professor to throw herself into, literally, a rage.

It is not the photos that upset them, though (after all, it is not a baby, remember?).

The hard truth of abortion thrust in front of them is what sets people off. The photos do not harden people against the pro-life cause; they only give them a run for their money…and deeply unsettle them.

That said, I do think that whenever possible children and post-abortive women should be spared seeing the images.

I am part of an independent group that operates similarly to Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust, and often we just reach out and talk to women, give them a pamphlet, and tell them about nearby pregnancy centers.

This is a gentler way to approach these women and dispenses with a lot of the stress that inevitably accompanies seeing the pictures. If it works, great. If not, maybe they need to see a bit more.

As far as trigger warnings, if all they accomplish is helping to steel people before they see the photos, the warnings are acceptable. However, they may do more harm than good if they truly ward people off. The ones I have seen have not been particularly effective at deterring people. Do people really have that kind of self-control over their curiosity?

It really comes down to the bottom line that you usually just cannot predict who will happen to see the photos. The bad consequences of NOT shaking people awake in this way are so much scarier than any bad effects that showing the reality of abortion will have on those who are not ready to see it.

That is why the lawsuit against Boise State is important: it is about free speech. It is about our right to tell the truth, hard as that may be.

The suit was filed by the conservative law firm Alliance Defending Freedom, which stated in announcing its litigation that “university policies that suppress free speech are completely at odds with what a university is: a marketplace of ideas.”

“Free speech should not be limited to a tiny area on campus, nor should students be told their speech needs a warning sign simply because university officials think their views are ‘controversial.’”

Meanwhile, the law firm points out that “Boise State University has allowed other groups to host events without warning signs, including Planned Parenthood, which distributed condoms on campus, and the Secular Student Alliance, which distributed ‘Does God Exist?’ fliers in open spaces on campus.”

If ruled in favor of Boise State, the suit sets a looming precedent that could lead to more and more restrictions on free speech, especially that which aims to speak an extremely hard truth, as prolifers do.

It’s a dangerous and slippery slope when we allow campus administrators to decide what’s “controversial ” and what’s not, or what is protected free speech and what deserves qualifications.

My peers and I are fighting for the freedom to speak the truth, whether people like it or not. Freedom to be lied to and remain ignorant is not freedom. We are fighting for the heart and soul of this nation.

Mairead McArdle is a student at Thomas Aquinas College.

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IMAGE:  Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust screenshot/Facebook

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Some depressing results today from the Newseum Institute’s 2014 State of the First Amendment survey, which finds disturbing numbers of Americans think the First Amendment is too generous. That is, when they know what it protects at all.

The Poynter Institute ticks off the results:

Just 1 percent of U.S. adults know that the First Amendment guarantees the right to petition the government …

… about 38 percent of adults surveyed think the First Amendment goes too far in protecting freedom of expression. …

The survey also revealed that 14 percent of Americans don’t know that the First Amendment provides for freedom of the press, and 29 percent couldn’t name any of the rights it guarantees, down from 36 percent last year. [emphasis added]

That’s right – last year, even more people didn’t know what the First Amendment does. America is also at a record high for how many people know the First Amendment “guarantees the right to freedom of speech,” at 68 percent.

Too bad the other 32 percent appear to be college administrators.

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Raunchy gay sex columnist and sometimes political activist Dan Savage has been caught up in a perfect storm of liberal identity politics. While speaking at the University of Chicago last week, Savage used the word “tranny”–a slang term for transgender people–in the context of “reclaiming” words that might otherwise have a negative connotation.

In a perfectly ironic turn of events that followed, a self-identified transgendered student in the audience is now saying that he/she was deeply hurt by Savage’s use of the “reclaimed” slur.

The Illinois Review reports the details:

The incident occurred when, according to several sources, Savage and [the event hostess Ana Marie] Cox began discussing [Savage's] personal history as a gay man. According to a first-year student and member of the LGBTQ community who asked to be identified as Hex, Savage used the slur t—– as an example in an anecdote about reclaiming words. Cox then added, “I used to make jokes about t—-ies,” audience members recounted.

“That was one of the most hurtful parts,” Hex said, explaining the perceived insult was that Cox used the slur to refer to the group of people she joked about. “In that context, it was like being applied to all transgender people,” it said. (“It” is Hex’s chosen pronoun.)

The offended students have even started up a petition on Change.org, demanding that U of Chicago’s Institute of Politics forever ban the use of offensive language at its events.

You see, those poor sensitive students just can’t handle it.

They just can’t.

Personally, I love the irony of this situation. Dan Savage, a hero of the radical left, general in the fight to mainstream radical sexual identities in this country, is now being eaten alive by his own kind.

In a related story, RuPaul, probably the nation’s most famous transvestite pop star for the last twenty years, has been accused of transphobia because his television show uses the term “She-Mail” to describe messages from the host. Critics say they are offended because it’s a play on the term “shemale,” which, they say, is derogatory. RuPaul also has used the word “tranny” publicly.

According to Salon.com, RuPaul said “those offended by the use of the word “tranny” “are fringe people who are looking for story lines to strengthen their identity as victims.”

The tyranny of liberal identity politics has reached a tipping point, and it has now become very dangerous for public figures to say anything controversial in public. And that’s bad news for all of us who care about freedom of speech and expression–even if it might be fun to watch liberals devouring themselves over such issues. In the long run, all of us are being negatively impacted by a climate of speech control, fueled by the manufactured outrage of various groups and individuals who will not tolerate an opposing view, and will not permit others to express themselves in a way they dislike.

If you are a musician, and you dare to wear an Indian head dress as part of an artistic photo shoot, you will be blasted for cultural “appropriation.” You will be forced to apologize or risk damaging your career.

If you have a TV show, but happen to hold a conservative biblical view about homosexuality, your TV show will be cancelled. Or suspended. You will be silenced. You will be labeled a bigot. Your beliefs will be categorized as “hate.” There is an army of liberal speech-code enforcers out there monitoring the airwaves, searching the YouTube archives, looking to shut down every voice they disapprove of.

You will be forced to do things that violate your religious beliefs, if you want to keep your business. In this Brave New World of liberal fascism, you can be forced to bake a cake for a gay wedding, whether you wish to do so or not. You can be forced to undergo sensitivity training to keep your job.

Any belief that is so threatened by dissenting voices that it must stamp them all out is a belief that fears close examination. The desperate attempts of the radical sexual progressives to silence all who disagree with them is a sure sign of their own insecurity–of their own moral self doubt. They fight the voices of others in an effort to silence the lingering voices of their own seared consciences.

We are at the dawn of a new age of illiberality in the West. It is not enough, any longer, to simply tolerate the beliefs and lifestyles of others. You must agree to actively participate and even celebrate the lifestyles of others. Or else they’re coming for blood.

Our culture has become a minefield of linguistic taboos. At all times, someone, somewhere is waiting to be offended. And these taboos are enforced by increasingly frightened media companies who fear boycotts and lawsuits. Liberal activists, emboldened by their success at silencing opposing viewpoints, are growing ever more tyrannical, ever more intolerant, and ever more powerful.

Tolerance is dead in this country, or almost dead. Freedom of conscience? It’s a relic of the past. We have allowed a small minority of oppressive victim hustlers to effectively neuter the First Amendment. As a result, freedom of speech is something we Americans, in truth, no longer effectively posses.

Nathan Harden is editor of The College Fix and author of the book SEX & GOD AT YALE: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad.

Follow Nathan on Twitter @NathanHarden

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Students at several universities across the nation have requested policies that mandate professors use “trigger warnings” before presenting material students may deem upsetting, a new and growing trend that has prompted praise, ridicule, and concern over academic freedom.

“Trigger warnings” aim to alert students that the academic content they are about to be exposed to might upset them in some way, or in some cases may cause students to relive traumatic experiences, especially regarding topics such as rape and domestic violence.

No schools require trigger warnings yet, but at least six universities across the nation have fielded such requests from students, The Associated Press reports.

Student government leaders at the University of California – Santa Barbara were among the first to forge a path on the subject, debating a resolution during the spring semester that urged professors to put trigger warnings on their syllabuses.

“The current suggested list of trigger warnings includes rape, sexual assault, abuse, self-injurious behavior, suicide, graphic violence, pornography, kidnapping, and graphic depictions of gore,” the resolution stated. “…The Associated Students of UC Santa Barbara urge the instructor of any course that includes triggering content to list trigger warnings on the syllabus.”

Bailey Loverin, a UC Santa Barbara student and co-author of the resolution, first proposed the idea to her classmates, and it proved to be a popular idea among her peers.

“What I have heard from a lot of people who don’t fully understand the issue is, ‘Life is life. You are going to get your feelings hurt and you should just suck it up and meet it head-on,’” Loverin, 19, told The Associated Press. “But a girl just raped a month ago and sitting in a classroom for the first time again isn’t ready to face that head-on.”

In a New York Times op-ed, Loverin argued that “without a trigger warning, a survivor might black out, become hysterical or feel force to leave the room,” adding this halts the learning process. With a trigger warning, however, “they would be prepared to face uncomfortable material and could better contribute to the discussions or opt to avoid them.”

But others – including faculty, editorial writers, and online pundits – have reacted differently, calling trigger warnings antithetical to the idea of college and a threat to free speech.

“(S)hutting words out and censorship also comes with a cost,” wrote Laurie Essig, an associate professor of sociology and women’s and gender studies at Middlebury College, in a New York Times op-ed. “We must sometimes hear painful and difficult things in order to grow. We must listen to someone with whom we vehemently disagree in order to come to some common understanding. Avoiding speech is a slippery slope.”

Reason reports that “Oberlin College attracted media attention when its Office of Equity Concerns posted, and later removed, a trigger warning guide advising professors to avoid triggering topics such as racism, colonialism, and sexism when possible.”

The Oberlin guide had also suggested warnings such as: “We are reading this work in spite of the author’s racist frameworks because his work was foundational to establishing the field of anthropology, and because I think together we can challenge, deconstruct, and learn from his mistakes.”

NYU professor Jonathan Zimmerman took a humorous viewpoint on the issue, publishing in The Chronicle of Higher Education a re-write of his Introduction to United States History syllabus with trigger warnings.

Prof. Zimmerman, for example, warns Quakers and Catholics that “the Puritans sometimes cut off your ears and bored out your tongues, so skip this week if you don’t want to hear or talk about that.”

“Ditto for practicioners of Wicca, who will surely be alarmed by the trials of their sister witches at Salem,” he continued.

When the class covers Prohibition and the “Roaring Twenties,” Zimmerman puts a trigger alert for Italian-Americans and accounting majors, who may take issue with Al Capone’s massive crime ring in which he was arrested for tax evasion. For World War II, Prof. Zimmerman says there’s no need for Germans, Italians, or Japanese folks to show up to class: “We won, they lost. Any questions?”

For the Cold War, Prof. Zimmerman says it’s “not a good week to be a Communist, or even someone who seems like a communist. You know who you are.” A final zinger for the Clinton years – “Let’s imagine that your dad had an affair with a younger – OK, a much younger – work associate. If you don’t want to go there, you don’t want to come to this class either. It’s pretty gross.”

Another argument put forth by trigger warning opponents is that they are already done on a voluntary basis, and mandating them could stifle free speech.

Aishah Shahidah Simmons, a rape survivor and professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, told The Associated Press she already alerts her students on the first day of class and in her class syllabus that “we are getting ready to delve into some really difficult, painful information here,” such as sexual violence and police brutality. In addition, Simmons said she gives her students lists of resources for emotional support, and also arranges private viewings for students who are not comfortable to watch a film during class.

Boston Globe columnist Renee Loth argues that at the crux of the issue, “reasonable concern for students who may have suffered terrible traumas has morphed into a serious threat to intellectual freedom.”

“They are especially worrisome on college campuses,” she added, “where exposure to a free exchange of ideas is paramount.”

College Fix contributor Andrew Desiderio is a student at The George Washington University.

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