free speech

As reported by The College Fix a few days ago, the chair of the communications department at the University of Michigan wrote an article about why “it’s okay to hate Republicans.”

Now the school has stepped up to defend Susan Douglas, saying her column “was protected under the university’s ‘faculty freedom of expression’ core value, but added that UM is “working ‘vigilantly’ to ensure Michigan students can express differing views ‘without fear of reprisal.’”

Truth Revolt reports:

On Thursday, Michigan university spokesman Rick Fitzgerald responded to Douglas’ article, saying that the anti-Republican views expressed in the hostile piece “are those of the individual faculty member and not those of the University of Michigan,” but that it was absolutely protected under the university’s freedom of expression guidelines:

The views expressed are those of the individual faculty member and not those of the University of Michigan.

Faculty freedom of expression, including in the public sphere, is one of the core values of our institution.

At the same time, the university must and will work vigilantly to ensure students can express diverse ideas and perspectives in a respectful environment and without fear of reprisal.

The university values viewpoint diversity and encourages a wide range of opinions.

Douglas has subsequently claimed that the article’s title “wasn’t her idea,” and that her intention was actually to criticize “the rise of political animus in our country.”

Uh huh. Right. Except that that increase in said animus is mostly the GOP’s fault, she can’t even imagine marrying a Republican, and “history and psychological research” somehow “bear[s her] out.”

But even more laughable is Michigan’s response. It’s a laudable one, to be sure, but does anyone — anyone — actually believe the university would issue such a reaction had Douglas been a conservative Republican … and some of the labels and terms in the article were switched around?

Indeed, you can bet we’d be lectured about “inclusiveness,” “sensitivity,” “hostile environment,” etc. ad nauseam, and students would be protesting to university officials about the campus atmosphere of “hate.” (Hey, the word was actually used in Douglas’s article, after all.)

The students’ demands would be the usual: mandatory diversity and “sensitivity” training, “tolerance” workshops, more “grief” counselors, and given recent events, requests for exam delays.

Read the full article.

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EAST LANSING – Conservative columnist George Will faced major opposition Saturday as a commencement speaker at Michigan State University, where he was met with a large protest outside campus – and some grads and family members who turned their backs to him during the ceremony inside Breslin Center.

The public university also held an “alternative ceremony” for those too upset to hear the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist speak, a Saturday event in which a total of five grads took part.

Will, who once taught in the James Madison Program at Michigan State, is under fire by some college students and feminists for a June column that BacksTurnedsuggested universities have made “victimhood a coveted status that confers privilege,” questioned stats that one in five college women have been sexually assaulted or raped, and voiced concern that due process rights for the accused have been eroded.

As a result, Will’s speech at the all-women’s Scripps College was cancelled earlier this year, and he faced another raucous protest when he gave an address in October at Miami University in Ohio.

Will did not bring up the controversy surrounding him during his commencement address, which was met with wide applause. Instead, he spoke on the role of government and the current divisive political climate between liberals and conservatives.

But during his speech, multiple students and even some family members stood with their backs toward Will. Many students also donned “Title IX” and “It’s On You MSU” stickers on graduation caps in protest. Meanwhile, protesters outside the event held signs stating “rape is not a pawn to be politicized” and “rape is not a privilege,” among other phrases.

MSUWillTruckWhat’s more, a large billboard on a flatbed truck seen driving around East Lansing on Saturday read: “Michigan State University: Under investigation for rape on campus. Honors rape denier George Will. MSU is failing its students.” The billboard included a photo of Will.

At Michigan State’s “alternative ceremony,” one speaker was professor Ruben Parra-Cardona, associate director of MSU’s Research Consortium on Gender-Based Violence. Ruben, in a speech, criticized Will for seeing sexual violence ideologically. The scholar also checked his own privilege.

“As a person holding many layers of privilege—because I’m an academic, I’m a male, I’m heterosexual—to name a few of those privileges. As a holder of those privileges, today, I want to apologize to you,” Parra-Cardona said in his speech as he held back tears. “I want to apologize for people not apologizing to you.”

“Overpowering another human being should not—cannot—be approached exclusively from a position of ‘ideological debate.’”

The protest against Will’s appearance referred to him as a “rape apologist” and called his invitation to speak “insensitive” on the event’s Facebook page. The protest’s goal, according to the page, was to “remind victims of campus sexual assault that MSU’s student body doesn’t hold the backwards and hurtful values that George Will does.”AlternateGrad

“He’s a rape apologist in that his article, the way that it’s written, the language used is not acceptable or understanding of the rape experience that students have gone through on this campus,” Trish Abalo, a junior interdisciplinary studies major, told The College Fix at the protest. “The goal of this protest from my understanding that we are here to support survivors and show what Michigan State really thinks.”

Protest organizer and MSU alumni Zoe Jackson called Will’s invitation and granting of an honorary degree “pretty disturbing.”

“We feel that putting him in this privileged position continues to promote his beliefs that sexual assault survivors are somehow privileged or insignificant or making things up,” Jackson told The Fix. “We’re here today to support survivors.”

And Danielle Schwartz, a graduate student in MSU’s English department, said in an interview that Will should not have been selected because “there are guidelines for hiring a speaker [that] specifically state that they should share our values and that they shouldn’t deflect from the graduates.”

Liberal filmmaker Michael Moore also gave a graduation speech on Saturday. There was no protest against him.

GeorgeWillMSUBiology Professor Gerald Urquhart, in an interview, criticized Will’s graduation speech.

“To come to campus to give a speech that is a one-sided presentation that students do not have a choice whether or not to attend I think is the wrong way to bring somebody who says things such as he did about rape,” Urquhart said.

But administrators defended their decision, citing Will’s “long and distinguished journalistic career.”

The university is one of dozens under a Title IX investigation by the feds on its handling of sexual assault on campus. Will could not be reached by The College Fix for comment despite numerous attempts.

College Fix reporter Derek Draplin is a student at the University of Michigan. 

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IMAGES: Derek Draplin/The College Fix

Serhat Tanyolacar, an artist and visiting assistant professor at the University of Iowa, erected a display at the school’s “Pentacrest” depicting coverage of over a century’s worth of “racial tensions, riots, and killings.”

The display was a large Ku Klux Klan effigy with headlines and newspaper articles all over it.

Professor Tanyolacar says that the display “was meant to highlight how America’s history of race-based violence isn’t really history and ‘facilitate a dialogue.'”

However, university officials removed the display because it was “deeply offensive” to “members of the community.”

Iowa issued a statement to all students and staff which said “The University of Iowa considers all forms of racism abhorrent and is deeply committed to the principles of inclusion and acceptance.” College President Sally Mason shared the following:

The goal of the University of Iowa, as a higher-education institution, has always been to provide an environment where all members of our campus community feel safe and Friday, we failed. On the morning of December 5, 2014, a 7-foot tall Ku Klux Klan effigy with a camera affixed to the display was installed without permission on our campus. The effects of the display were felt throughout the Iowa City community. That display immediately caused Black students and community members to feel terrorized and to fear for their safety.

The university’s response was not adequate, nor did that response occur soon enough. Our students tell us that this portrayal made them feel unwelcomed [sic] and that they lost trust in the University of Iowa. For failing to meet our goal of providing a respectful, all-inclusive, educational environment, the university apologizes. All of us need to work together to take preventive action and do everything we can to be sure that everyone feels welcome, respected, and protected on our campus and in our community.

I urge any student who was negatively affected by this incident who feels a need for support to consider contacting the University Counseling Service …

Seriously? How exactly does a piece of art whose message is anti- racism cause people to feel terrorized?

hate-speech.Ashley.Marinaccio.flickrAre we truly raising the Aggrieved Generation, where everyone born since the dawn of the Internet is trained to be perpetually on the lookout for something — anything — to piss them off?

The Pentacrest is a known university public forum, and a debate about free expression arose.

On one side of that debate is Lyombe Eko, an associate professor of journalism who said that “The fundamental principle is that the Pentacrest is a designated public forum. In such areas, the university may not practice viewpoint discrimination.”

On the other is David Ryfe, the director Iowa’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Ryfe stated “If it was up to me, and me alone, I would follow the lead of every European nation and ban this type of speech.”

The Daily Iowan reports:

The display, portraying newspaper articles depicting coverage of racial tensions, riots, and killings dating from 1908 to 2010, was removed after UI officials deemed it “deeply offensive” to members of the community.

In a statement issued to the students, staff, and faculty, the university wrote, “The University of Iowa considers all forms of racism abhorrent and is deeply committed to the principles of inclusion and acceptance.”

As a result, the fear of squelched freedom of speech and academic freedom has emerged among UI faculty members and students.

Viewpoint discrimination occurs when officials discriminate against speakers based on their views.

“No matter how abhorrent it might be to segments of the university community, the work of art is protected by the First Amendment,” Eko said. “The University of Iowa can only impose time, place, and manner restrictions on Professor Tanyolacar [the artist], not ban his art on the basis of its content.”

“The university likely made a viewpoint-based distinction, and according to R.A.V. v. the city of St. Paul, the court generally cannot make such distinctions,” said David Ryfe, the director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. “But there are exceptions; this happened on a university campus for one thing.”

Ryfe said the Supreme Court allows all sorts of content-based distinctions made in the law, and the potential restriction of speech at hand depends on whether one believes hate speech is a legitimate part of the freedom of speech.

Professor Tanyolacar maintains that his display “was meant to highlight the truth of racial disparity that existed during the era of the Ku Klux Klan and still exists today.”

Knowing how the Left — in particular the academic Left — behaves, it is worrisome that a director of an American university journalism school (Ryfe) desires “freedom” of expression laws akin to that of Europe.

European nations do not have an analogue to the United States’ First Amendment, and as such many different types of “hate speech” are criminalized.

For example, in Poland people can be prosecuted “who intentionally offend religious feelings.” France bans “hate speech and insult, which are deemed to be both ‘public and private,’” and in ten European Union member states it is against the law to engage in Holocaust denial “or the denial of crimes committed by the Nazi and/or Communist regimes.”

Professor Ryfe did not respond to a request from The College Fix to elaborate on his remarks about free speech.

Read the full Daily Iowan article.

Also check out this Iowa State Daily column.

Dave Huber is an assistant editor of  The College Fix. (@ColossusRhodey)

(College Fix Assistant Editor Greg Piper contributed to this article.)

IMAGE: Sam Graham/Flickr

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Citrus College in California settled a lawsuit with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education filed on behalf of a student who was stopped from collecting petition signatures on Constitution Day.

FIRE said the school would pay the student $110,000 in damages and attorney’s fees, and that it has revised speech-squelching policies, “agreed not to impede free expression in all open areas of campus” and adopted a First Amendment-compliant definition of “harassment.”

The federal court overseeing the settlement will also retain jurisdiction for a year, so the student can “enforce the agreement without filing a new lawsuit,” FIRE said.

The backstory:

The incident leading to the lawsuit took place on September 17, 2013—Constitution Day. Sinapi-Riddle had gone to Citrus’s designated free speech area to collect signatures for a petition urging the college’s student government to condemn the NSA’s surveillance program. Then, as Sinapi-Riddle took a break to go to the student center, he began a discussion about the petition with another student. An administrator put a stop to the conversation, claiming that a political discussion could not take place outside of the free speech area and threatening to eject Sinapi-Riddle from campus for violating the policy.

Citrus suspended some policies following FIRE’s lawsuit. It’s part of the group’s Stand Up For Speech litigation campaign.

Read the FIRE announcement.

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IMAGE: Simon Shek/Flickr

Via Peter Bonilla of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), who tweets “please let that be a joke flyer”:

The University of Oregon is apparently soliciting law students to serve as “neutral observers” at “protests, rallies, and demonstrations” on campus, according to the blog UO Matters, which is frequently critical of the administration.


The point of neutral observers is to provide a “calming effect” at events where safety is at risk, the school says: “The presence of trained observers at these events allows for the availability of unbiased witnesses should there be any form of escalation.”

They help “create a campus environment in which all voices can be heard” and “protect individual’s freedom of speech,” the school says.

While the program has been around since 1990 and it’s modeled after similar programs at the University of California-Berkeley and University of Colorado, UO Matters – run by controversial UO economics professor Bill Harbaugh – says the timing of the announcement is curious.

The administration has dealt with a lot of escalation-prone situations, including graduate teaching fellows who are considering a strike that could wreck finals week and campus anger about the school’s handling of rape allegations against three basketball players.

UO Matters says the flyer matches the administration’s “increasing bunker paranoia.”

The comments on the blog are interesting, with two accusing Harbaugh of unfairly tarnishing the program. One even says he should “edit/delete this post because I don’t want the program to get a bad rap.”

What draws my interest more is what the school will tell the “observers” during their six-hour training. As FIRE has noted recently on the subject of sexual-assault investigation training, schools don’t always teach neutral practices to designated fact-finders.

If any readers happen to go through this program at UO, let us know.

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

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IMAGE: UO Matters

Editor’s note: Below is a satirical column penned by University of Michigan student Omar Mahmood, who writes for both the mainstream campus newspaper The Michigan Daily and the conservative independent publication the Michigan Review. Or at least he did.

After his column was published last week, Mahmood tells The College Fix: “I received a call from the editorial editor [of the Daily] telling me that I had created a ‘hostile environment’ among the editorial staff and that someone had felt threatened because of what I had written … The issue had been taken to the editor in chief who procured a bylaw by which I was given an ultimatum to leave the Review or leave the Daily within a week. I was not allowed to know the name of the offended individuals.” He added the newspaper’s leaders are “forcing me to write a letter of apology as a condition for staying on the Daily” and suspended his regular column in the Daily.OmarPhoto2

Mahmood has written for both the Review and the Daily concurrently for this fall semester, but after this controversial column was published the Daily’s editors decided “Mr. Mahmood’s involvement with the Michigan Review presents a conflict of interest. Our bylaws say that once a determination is made that a conflict of interest exists, the person in question will have one week to resign from either the Daily or the organization causing the conflict of interest,” according to a statement from the Daily to The College Fix.

Without further ado, we present to you “Do The Left Thing” by Omar Mahmood:


It was one of the coldest days of this winter past, and I was hurrying along the Diag to class. The blistering cold did not turn my eyes from all the white privilege falling around [me]. All those white snowflakes falling thick upon the autumn leaves, burying their colors. Majoring in womyn’s studies, I’ve learned that oppression comes in many forms. Sometimes we fail to notice it because it’s just everywhere – just like that white snow.

SnowyUnivMichiganAs I walked, I slipped on a patch of wet leaves lining the steps of the Hatcher, and I fell forward headfirst onto the steps of the library. If it hadn’t been for the left hand that I thrust out right before my fall, I would have ended up just another statistic in the war on colored people. As it were, a white cis-gendered hetero upper-class man came down the steps just as I was falling. He looked at me with that white man’s burden face that I see too often on this racialized campus.

“Cold, isn’t it?”

Behind his words I sensed a patronizing sneer, as if he expected me to be a spokespersyn for my whole race. He offered his hand to help me up, and I thought to myself how this might be a manifestation of the patriarchy patronizing me. I doubt he would’ve said those violent words had I been white, but he would take any opportunity to patronize a colored m@n or womyn. People on this campus always box others in based on race. Triggered, I waved his hand aside and got up of my own accord.

He was taken aback. Suddenly I felt I was taking back some of that lost agency that colonialism had robbed my people of. I felt like Aamir Khan in Lagaan. That’s right, that white man wasn’t about to tax me. I didn’t even want to be that white. I turned on my heels and showed him my back.

He shouted after me, “I was just trying to do the right thing!”

The right thing… The right thing… I became so aware at that moment of the left hand that I had thrust out before falling, and suddenly my humanity was reduced to my handydnyss. The words rang in my eardrums, and my blood throbbed. This was the microaggression that broke the gender-neutral camel’s back. But unlike other microaggressions, this one triggered a shift in my worldview. All this while, I had been obsessed only with the color on this campus. All of a sudden, though, that became a side issue. All those race-based microaggressions now seemed trivial. I had, I realized, forgotten to think intersectionally.

The biggest obstacle to equality today is our barbaric attitude toward people of left-handydnyss. It’s a tragedy that I, a member of the left-handed community, had little to no idea of the atrocious persecution that we are dealt every day by institutions that are deeply embedded in society. So deeply embedded, and so ever-present, that we don’t even notice them.

But then I think to the word sinister. In our English, it means evil. But that’s because it used to mean left-handed in the Latin, and left-handyd people, especially those of color, were considered evil. In organic chemistry, we are taught R and S distinctions. I realize now that whenever we came across a left-handyd enantiomer in the coursepack, I could just feel the patronizing gaze of the right-handed members of the class on the back of my neck. And now I finally understand why.

And the University of Michigan does literally nothing to combat the countless instances of violence we encounter every day. Whenever I walk into a classroom, I can hardly find a left-handyd desk to sit in. In big lecture halls, I’m met with countless stares as I walk up the aisle along the left-handyd column. The University cannot claim to be my school while it continues to oppress me. We need to find allies with other minority groups and work against the establishment. This campus must be at the forefront of progress in America.

Yes, our president might be left-handyd. But that does not represent the pathetic living conditions of so many left-handyd people around the world, and even here in the United States, who are constantly threatened simply because they write or eat with a different hand. Even today, left-handyd individu@ls are paid 68 cents to the dollar that right-handed individuals are paid.

It is 2014, people. Still, change starts with awareness. Until right-handed people, especially cis-gendered hetero white males in salmon shorts, do not start checking their privilege, we will continue to live in inequality.

No longer will I persevere in patience. No longer will I suffer in silence. I am a left-handyd individu@l, and my humanity needs be respected! The next time someone tells you to Do the right thing! turn around and flick them off with your left middle finger.

Do the left thing.

Omar Mahmood can be reached at [email protected]

College Fix contributor and Michigan Review editor Derek Draplin contributed to the reporting within the Editor’s Note.

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IMAGE: Main, Sam Graham-Flickr.