free speech

Last month it appeared that student leaders at Youngstown State University — after “consulting” with the college administration (which is bad enough) — had taken down posters advertising a “straight pride” week.

However, a records request has produced emails showing that the school’s administration actually was instrumental in getting the “offensive” posters removed.

Take this email from Assistant Director of Student Activities Carrie Anderson:

Thank you for the email. I am aware of the flyers and do not condone what they are promoting. Our office has been working with student leaders and our Vice President of Student Affairs to ensure that any and all flyers have been removed from campus. We are proud that several student leaders on our campus, as well as Student Government, have been outraged from them as well.

That Vice President [for] Student Affairs, Jeff Fahey, added in his own email “As most you know, an inappropriate flyer announcing Straight Pride Week was posted throughout campus yesterday. Student leaders were told to help by taking them down where they saw them.”

This is the poster to which they’re referring.

If Fix readers actually need a reminder about the First Amendment, here’s UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh on the posters:

The message itself is fully protected by the First Amendment, just as much as pro-gay-rights speech is protected. Speech is protected even when it runs “counter [to] the school’s mission to create a diverse campus.” Speech is protected even when it “miss[es] the point of minority activism.” And speech is protected even when it contains vulgarities, as the famous “Fuck the Draft” jacket case, Cohen v. California, makes clear. If the university does decide to impose “disciplinary action” based on the message expressed in the posters, that would clearly violate the First Amendment.

Volokh adds that Youngstown State administrators have not responded to his (repeated) requests for “their side of the story.”

Read Volokh’s original story on the matter and his recent follow-up.

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Former Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, the onetime hope of conservative college students as a Republican presidential candidate (he never ran), has drawn raves for his various moves as president of Purdue University.

Daniels secured another notch in his belt today: The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education awarded the school a “green light” rating for its free-expression policies, after working with the school to totally eliminate its speech codes with Daniels’ support.

Purdue also adopted an expansive academic-freedom statement similar to that of the University of Chicago, FIRE said.

It’s only the 21st institution to earn FIRE’s highest rating, and it was student-led:

FIRE began working to reform Purdue’s speech codes in September 2014, when FIRE sent a memorandum covering Purdue’s speech policies to two members of the student government. Students Andrew Zeller and Emilie Watson worked with FIRE’s [Azhar] Majeed to advocate for policy reform on campus and to introduce a resolution in student government calling for the necessary revisions.

Read the post.

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The president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Greg Lukianoff, doesn’t have a lock on prescient warnings about the growing intolerance of campus liberals.

Columnist Kirsten Powers, a former Clinton administration official and Lukianoff’s tag-team partner for a recent debate, has a new book on the broader subject of free expression, The Silencing: How the Left Is Killing Free Speech.

She tells Christianity Today that college campuses are ground zero for speech suppression by liberals:

If I had to, I’d say the absolute worst [example] is one in which a professor at the University of California Santa Barbara physically attacked pro-life demonstrators who were doing a peaceful demonstration. It’s a prototype of these cases, not in the fact that it was violent, because that’s unusual, but her argument is typical: Disagreement is treated as an attack and even violent in and of itself. The act of expressing a point of view they disagree with is an act of violence. This came up over and over in the police reports when the professor was arrested. She was the victim, even though she was the persecutor. She had been harmed, they [the protestors] made her unsafe, and she has a right to go to work and feel safe and they made her feel unsafe.

Powers wants to call back liberals to their historic defense of free speech:

We would not understand free speech the way we do today if not for—and I’m sorry to say, conservatives who don’t want to hear it—the American Civil Liberties Union, and liberal Supreme Court justices who charted the course of expanding the view of the First Amendment, and activists during the Vietnam War. So this is a core part of American liberalism. So we have people who call themselves liberals on the Left of the political spectrum, acting in complete contradiction of their values and the arguments that underlie them.

She says Christians are the biggest target now:

This is something that affects everybody, but it’s become an existential threat to Christians. I’m not just talking on campuses. Brendan Eich at Mozilla [who is believed to be Catholic], what happened for Chick-fil-a, you can’t express this view [on marriage] without being treated like you’re a KKK member. At this point Christians are countercultural, ironically. They have become the counterculture. They are what the liberals used to be, and when the liberals were them, they were fighting for the free speech rights.

Powers shares a sit-in’s worth of examples of campus speech suppression in a Daily Beast column promoting her new book as well.

Read the articles.

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The Columbia University Marching Band is yet another entity to mock that school’s “sexual respect” program, doing so via its traditional “Orgo Night.”

“One of the Ivy League’s quirkier traditions,” Orgo Night is where the band, “playing raucously, marches into a reading room in the university’s Butler Library a minute before midnight on the night before the first final exams are held.” A couple of band members then tell a bunch of jokes to those gathered around.

The college’s controversial “respect” program has been a target of derision and amusement for months now — and the band took advantage of it.

But, natch, not everybody was amused.

The New York Times reports:

The band also made light of a recent protest by a Columbia anti-sexual assault group, No Red Tape, during which the words “Columbia Protects Rapists” was projected onto the university’s Low Library when prospective students were visiting the school.

“An army of high school creepers is now thinking, ‘Yes, I will go to Columbia after all,’” the band’s “poet laureate,” Mikhail Klimentov, a junior, said.

Ms. [Orli] Matlow noted that No Red Tape itself had mocked artwork as an inadequate option for fulfilling the sexual respect requirement.

“Unless it involves a mattress,” she added, a reference to Emma Sulkowicz, a Columbia senior who, as part of her visual arts thesis, has carried a mattress with her everywhere she has gone on campus to protest the university’s handling of her claim that a fellow student raped her in her dorm room. The line drew a few boos, and then some cheers.

Ms. Sulkowicz, who figured in several other jokes about her status as a poster child for sexual assault on campus, did not attend Orgo Night. But she said in an interview that she was hurt and disappointed in the band.

“I guess they don’t really know anything about how a survivor would feel, to get totally made fun of in front of the entire school,” she said.

Amber Officer-Narvasa, a freshman and one of No Red Tape’s organizers, said she considered the jokes about Ms. Sulkowicz inexcusable.

“I was disappointed to see that once again, Orgo Night engaged in reductive and offensive ‘humor’ at the expense of those already marginalized on this campus and in society at large,” Ms. Officer-Narvasa said in an email.

Orgo Night has periodically drawn criticism from those who described the band’s humor as insensitive to women and minorities. Last semester, two students published an op-ed in the Columbia Spectator, the college newspaper, that labeled the event “an unsafe space” for students of color.

To be sure, there is plenty about which to mock Ms. Sulkowicz and the whole “sexual respect” requirement.

Band head manager Karl Wagner said, “It’s been a semester with a lot of pent-up frustration … so I think students appreciate just being able to vent and laugh about stuff.”

Very true, Mr. Wagner; however, I’m sure you know there’s a certain cadre on every college campus — including, of course, Columbia — that feels it should decide what is funny … and what’s not. Orgo Night faced a “controversy” much like yesterday’s back in December.

The tradition’s days (well, nights) may be numbered.

Read the full article.

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Back on May 1, two students at Bangor Area High School in Pennsylvania wore shirts with a “Chick-fil-A” logo on them during the school’s (televised) morning announcements.

However, this was on a day that the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance had designated for students to wear rainbow-colored shirts to show support for “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender issues.”

Outraged students took to Twitter — during school hours — to lambaste the Chick-fil-A-wearing duo. This led to quite a few suspensions … of those using the popular social media platform.

The Morning Call reports:

The tweets continued over the weekend, and on Monday students who tweeted at the boys wearing the shirts were called to the high school principal’s office.

Students were told they were being punished for tweeting during school hours, and because some of their tweets contained obscenities, [senior Erin] Snyder said.

She said about 15 students were suspended and others were given detention.

Snyder was one of the suspended students.

Superintendent Frank DeFelice and Tamara Gary, the high school principal, did not respond to phone calls for comment Thursday.

Snyder responded to a tweet in support of the students in the Chick-fil-A shirt that said, “You’re expressing your feelings … Why can’t he?” Her response was, “Being an offensive [expletive] is not expressing your feelings.”

Jeff Vanderpool, 16, also was among the suspended students.

“I wouldn’t be upset if they did it on a different day, but it was a day to not discriminate against LGBT students, and that’s what they were trying to do,” he said.

Vanderpool tweeted, “Shout-out to the [expletive] in the Chik-fil-A shirts,” after seeing the two students on his homeroom’s television last Friday morning.

He was called to the high school principal’s office Monday and told his tweet was threatening and therefore he was being suspended.

The local ACLU called the suspensions “pretty harsh punishment” and is investigating whether the district reacted to actual profanity or pornographic lingo … or the (political) content of the tweets in question:

If officials objected to the content of the tweets sent during school because they contained explicitly profane or sexually graphic language, that’s within the school’s power, [ACLU Deputy Legal Director Mary Catherine] Roper said. If officials objected to the tweets because they were touching on sexual topics, that’s not OK because students were discussing a political issue.

Bangor Area HS’s actions in this whole affair appear to be a complete 180 from those of California’s Live Oak High School. There, school officials refused to allow students to wear shirts with an American flag on them because it was Cinco de Mayo … and Latino students might have been offended.

The US Supreme Court recently refused to hear an appeal by the flag-wearing students, allowing to stand Live Oak HS’s administrators’ decision.

Read the full Morning Call article.

h/t to Truth Revolt.

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Students and others claimed caricature of prophet is ‘very offensive,’ should not be allowed 

University of Minnesota faculty members were asked earlier this year to take down posters advertising an academic panel because they included an “offensive” recreated cartoon picture of Mohammed – the one made famous by Charlie Hebdo earlier this year.

The posters had advertised a panel discussion by various professors as well as a Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper cartoonist. Co-sponsored by a dozen academic departments in the College of Liberal Arts following the attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in January, it was titled “Can One Laugh at Everything? Satire and Free Speech After Charlie” and intended to generate an academic discussion of the tragedy and its consequences.

Flyers promoting the event featured the now-infamous image of the prophet as it was printed in Charlie Hebdo. The word “censored” was stamped in red diagonally across the cartoon image.

The organizers discussed whether or not to put the cartoon image of Mohammad on the flyer, but eventually decided it would be appropriate given the subject of the event—free speech and satire, Inside Higher Ed reported this week. But after the flyers were distributed online and hung around campus, some members of the Muslim student community wanted them taken down.

In phone calls and a petition, nearly 275 people complained to the campus Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, calling the flyer “blasphemous” and insulting to Muslims, the Minnesota Daily campus newspaper reports. The complainants included students, faculty, a retired professor and random individuals unaffiliated with the university, who called the flyer “very offensive.”

The petition read in part that the flyer “violated our religious identity and hurt our deeply held religious affiliations for our beloved prophet (peace be upon him). Knowing that these caricatures hurt and are condemned by 1.75 billion Muslims in the world, the university should not have recirculated/reproduced them.”

These complaints prompted an investigation by the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, which ultimately found that while the Mohammad cartoon did not violate university anti-harassment policies, the use of the image illustrated poor judgment and the college’s dean, John Coleman, should voice disapproval of the flyer, the Daily reported.

Moreover, a few weeks after the event, College of Liberal Arts human resources officials contacted faculty members and college leaders to notify them of the complaints and request any remaining flyers – physical and online – be removed.

The request stated: “Due to complaints about the image contained in the link, [the equal opportunity office] has requested that the image be removed from any [college] communication in all forms. If your unit still has active links to this page, or image, please remove the image. Please remove any posters on your unit bulletin boards or any other hard copies of flyers that may be still around,” according to emails obtained by Inside Higher Ed.

Though the office determined the flyers did not violate university policy, constitutional law professor Eugene Volokh, in The Washington Post, notes the email sounded “like an instruction, not a request.”

“So public university administrators were instructing staff members — ‘please’ in an e-mail from administrators to staff members sounds like an instruction, not a request — to take down images related to academic events, because those images are seen by some as blasphemous,” Volokh wrote. “This was not just some general rule that all promotional flyers be removed from physical bulletin boards after the event was done, so people can better focus on upcoming events. This was an order to remove material precisely because of the images that it contains, images that members of one religion find offensive.”

Several faculty members had similar opinions and asked for clarification. Dean Coleman wrote a letter describing the “paramount values” of free speech and told faculty, “whether you decide to remove the advertisement is your call.” But even after this reassurance from the dean, free speech concerns at the University of Minnesota remain.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education released a statement May 5 noting that while the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action “correctly concluded that the flyer does not constitute harassment, it shouldn’t have taken a public university so long to make that determination.”

“FIRE hopes that … professors and the rest of the UMN community aren’t dissuaded from continuing conversations about Charlie Hebdo or any other topic they wish to discuss. As always, those who object to the CLA’s programming or advertising should respond with their own expression, rather than enlisting the university to employ censorship.”

But faculty members are worried this incident will dissuade future controversial expression.

The panel’s co-organizer and French and Italian Professor Bruno Chaouat told Inside Higher Ed  “…there’s been a lot of self-censorship in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks and I’m afraid we’re on the path here as well.”

Added Volokh: “This incident shows just how broad the movements to suppress alleged blasphemy are, even in the U.S. This wasn’t a fringe group of anti-Islam political activists putting out the flyers; these were people squarely in the middle of the academic Establishment.”

“This wasn’t a bunch of cartoonists putting out material that, viewed narrowly, might be seen by some as juvenile, nonsubstantive, or gratuitously offensive; these were academics putting on a substantive academic event with a flyer that is clearly and directly tied to the content of the event, and that depicts an image that has undoubted historical significance.”

College Fix reporter Alexandra Zimmern is recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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