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free speech

OPINION: Stanford funds atheist speaker, denies support for conservative ones with policy that allows bias, stifles free speech

The Stanford University Graduate Student Council helped fund a guest lecture by atheist Richard Dawkins last fall, but this quarter denied a request for $600 to help a conservative student group shoulder the cost of a spring conference on traditional marriage.

In denying the latter request for the Stanford Anscombe Society’s “Communicating Values” conference, the student council cited its funding guidelines, which prohibit financial support to any event that makes students feel “unwelcome.”

The policy states that the student council “will not fund events or activities that … have any appearance or tone of exclusivity,” nor can it dole out money to “create an environment where a given segment of the graduate student population are made to feel unwelcome at the event due to religious, political, or other conviction.”

However, the council broke its own rules when it helped pay for the Dawkins lecture last fall. If the student council were truly committed to its official guidelines, it would have rejected the Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics (AHA!) request to help fund his speech.StanfordInside

Dawkins is famous for saying that those who do not believe in evolution are “ignorant, stupid, insane, or wicked.” While I agree with Dawkins and personally find the views of the traditional marriage conference speakers detestable, the double standard applied by the council is unacceptable.

How can the Stanford Anscombe Society be ineligible for funds due to hosting speakers who are discriminatory toward the homosexual community while AHA! receives support to host a speaker who calls those who support the theories of creation and intelligent design stupid idiots?

As an educational institution, Stanford has an obligation to foster and protect intellectual discussion. It is inexcusable that certain more popular opinions that are derogatory toward a group may be freely voiced, while individuals with less favored views are silenced.

The aim of the conservative conference was to “help university students and young adults promote the values of marriage, family, and sexual integrity to the broader popular culture.” The event’s speaker list, which included several prominent opponents of same-sex marriage, was condemned on the grounds that it was discriminatory and “unwelcoming” by several members of GradQ, Stanford’s umbrella group for LGBT and allied students in the graduate and professional schools.

“The … conference is to train participants how to make secular arguments on why not to have gay marriage in the U.S. This event will hurt LGBT members at Stanford and provide an unsafe space for them,” said GradQ member Brianne Huntsman at a March graduate student council meeting.

In light of GradQ’s concerns, the council rejected the Anscombe society’s request for $600 in a 10-2 vote. GSC member Eduardo González-Maldonado stated that the student council’s funding guidelines explicitly prohibit a provision of funds to “any event that makes anyone feel unwelcome and uncomfortable.”

The student government must remove this guideline entirely. Even if the council were devoted to consistently upholding its policy of not funding any events where students are “made to feel unwelcome,” it would have an extremely stifling effect on intellectual discussion at Stanford.

It is nearly impossible to express and develop an innovative idea without offending someone along the way. Challengers to the status quo, including those who hold ridiculous or even offensive ideas, push us to consider issues from different perspectives and reflect upon our ideas more deeply. Their inclusion is crucial to maintaining a vigorous intellectual environment.

I hope that our student council takes that into account to build a better campus for the Stanford community.

College Fix contributor Devon Zuegel is a student at Stanford University.

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On the heels of UNC-Wilmington Professor Mike Adams earning a victory in court after he was discriminated against because of his conservative beliefs comes another court win for free speech, this time for a paramedics instructor at Antelope Valley College who was charged with being insensitive to Wiccan beliefs.

Veteran paramedic and tenured instructor Lance Hodge settled his lawsuit against the college after a recent ruling in the educator’s favor prompted administrators to think twice about a jury trial, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education announced Monday.

Here’s the backstory, according to FIRE:

Hodge has taught courses in Emergency Medical Technology at AVC for over two decades. In an attempt to prepare students for the challenges that await beyond the classroom, Hodge’s lectures include discussions of his experiences from the more than 15,000 emergency calls he has responded to in his 30-year career.

In an April 2010 class attended by Dean of Health Sciences Karen Cowell, Hodge advised students they might encounter “witch stuff” in the field. Hodge described “weird” cultural practices that he had responded to as an EMT, including the placing of heated coins on an individual’s body and the ingestion of a woman’s placenta after childbirth.

Cowell characterized these remarks as “inappropriate and disrespectful to the cultural beliefs of patients” and determined that his “sensitivity to diversity” required “improvement.” AVC required Hodge to write a paper on “discrimination” and to prepare a lesson plan for “a one-hour class on cultural diversity.”

Hodge’s 27-page paper was accepted, but his lesson plan, titled “Political correctness vs. the real world: The EMT and professionalism in the face of offensive language or behavior and our understanding of stereotyping and prejudice,” was rejected. Shane Turner, AVC’s Vice President of Human Resources, informed Hodge that he would face “disciplinary action” if he delivered the lesson plan.

Fast forward to today, and the college settled the lawsuit, agreeing to pay half his legal fees and allowing him to remain a tenured faculty member, FIRE reports.

The decision came after a February court ruling in which U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez declared that Hodge’s “interest in training future EMTs to perform safely and effectively when responding to emergency calls in the community … override[s] [the college’s) interest in regulating his speech.”

“It should be very clear by now that administrators who attempt to muzzle the speech of instructors will not be tolerated by the courts,” Hodge said in a statement. “Cases like this will make it more costly in the future for institutions who are slow learners when it comes to the First Amendment.”

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A group of students at Brown University recently rallied against a guest lecture by an Israel Defense Forces veteran, an outcry that was encouraged and endorsed by the Ivy League institution’s president.

The protest marked the second time this school year Brown students have challenged the very presence of a visiting speaker with whom they disagree.

In November, a talk by former New York City Police Department Commissioner Raymond Kelly was scrapped after protesters continually shouted out and interrupted him, and earlier this month a large group of students rallied against the visit by Sgt. Benjamin Anthony, a veteran and reservist in the Israel Defense Forces.

Anthony was on hand to share his experience as an Israeli soldier, but a cadre of about 70 students protested not only his April 2 talk, but his invitation to speak on campus, the Brown Daily Herald reported. What’s more, Brown President Christina Paxson – addressing grumbling around campus prior to the sergeant’s visit – encouraged students to mount the protest.

Paxson’s letter expressed concern about calls for Brown University to exercise censorship and limit free speech regarding Anthony’s visit, and she reiterated her strong support for a policy that allows faculty members and student groups to invite anyone of their choosing.

Yet she added those who didn’t like Anthony’s visit could boycott it, or do more.

“Protest has a long and proud history at Brown,” she wrote. “Time and time again students have used it to express deeply felt beliefs about important social and political issues. … I am proud of our students who exercise their right to peaceful protest and, as president of Brown, I will support this right with as much energy and zeal as I support the right of faculty members and students to invite anyone they want to speak at Brown.”

Anthony had been invited to speak by Hillel House, an independent organization that serves as a center of Jewish life for Brown University. But his invitation drew controversy from a number of students, who accused the IDF of oppressing the Palestinian people.AnthonyInside

For example, students Josette Souza and Mika Zacks suggested the IDF perpetrated international violence in a guest column in The Brown Daily Herald, writing: “Participation in IDF activities means the systematic destruction of Palestinian homes, the bombing of schools and mosques and the continued siege on Gaza. It means participation in the micromanagement of Palestinian access to food, housing, education and social services, which is in direct contravention of human rights and international law.”

Ma’an Odeh, an undergraduate student and a Palestinian refugee, also condemned the IDF and the presence of Sgt. Anthony in a letter to the editor of The Brown Daily Herald. He referred to the Israeli military as the “Israeli Occupation Forces” and accused its soldiers of killing his cousin and soccer teammate, and of depriving him of seeing his father.

“I find it extremely disrespectful and hurtful that a member of the Israel Occupation Forces is coming to give a talk at my university,” Odeh’s letter stated.

According to his online biography, Sgt. Anthony in 2007 founded Our Soldiers Speak, a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization that brings the “proud truth of Israel’s soldiers from the front lines of military service to the campuses and communities of the English speaking world.”

He has also spoken at Harvard, Yale and Columbia.

Prior to his talk at Brown University, “student protesters marched in a circle outside Hillel, chanting with signs, reading a solidarity statement and waving Palestinian flags,” the Daily Herald reports.

In a letter to the campus community, Hillel defended its decision to bring Anthony to campus, saying “we believe engagement with tough issues is an academic imperative as well as a Jewish one. … Though we are disappointed that those groups have decided to protest rather than accept our invitation to participate, we honor their right to disagree publicly with Hillel’s choices and are working with the university to ensure they have a safe place to voice their concerns.”

The controversy comes on the heels of former New York City Police Department Commissioner Raymond Kelly’s visit, when students protested his stop-and-frisk policing program during his lecture to the university in November 2013. Protesters called stop-and-frisk racist.

Paxson, in her April 2 letter, wrote that censoring speakers would have a harmful effect on the university, and that she does not desire to return to the old days, where approval from the Brown president was needed to invite a controversial speaker to campus.

“It would have a chilling effect on the intellectual environment on campus and erode an important right that faculty members and students currently enjoy,” Paxson said.

“It could even come back to harm the very individuals who have objected to inviting Commissioner Kelly and Sergeant Anthony — by limiting their ability to bring speakers with opposing points of view to campus in the future.”

College Fix contributor Michael Cipriano is a student at American University.

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Yesterday, we reported here on The College Fix about how officials at Thomas Nelson Community College attempted to enforce a virtual “Jesus-free zone” on campus, asking a student not to talk about Jesus on campus property because he “might offend someone.”

Today, we discovered that the creation of the “Jesus-free zone” in schools is becoming a national trend, not limited to college students, but extending all the way to grade school.

Free speech is under attack everywhere you look.

CBS News reports that a North Carolina 2nd grader was asked to re-write an essay because her teacher didn’t like the topic she chose:

A parent is upset after she said her daughter’s teacher did not accept her rough draft of her paper.

The students had to write about their hero and Heather Watts’ daughter said Jesus was her hero.

Watts’ daughter, Ryleigh, is a second-grader at Cerro Gordo Elementary School.

According to WECT-TV, Watts said her daughter’s teacher asked Ryleigh, “Can’t you write about something different?”

Read the full story here.

Now the Cerro Gordo school is backtracking, insisting that students are, in fact, allowed to write on any topic of their choosing. Hopefully that’s a reflection of officials’ true dedication to the 1st Amendment, not merely a reflection of their desire to avoid negative publicity.

It’s remarkable how quickly the right to free speech is cast aside these days in the name of tolerance, and with the supposed aim of not offending anyone. So many school officials fail to realize that making sure no one is ever offended is incompatible with the right to free speech.

(Image: PhotoDean.Flickr1)

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A top UC Santa Barbara administrator’s email that alludes to the actions of a feminist studies professor charged with battery against a teenage prolife protestor on campus has prompted controversy, as many have accused the educator’s words of slandering pro-lifers and Christians.

Vice-Chancellor of Student Affairs Michael Young’s March 19 memo focused on how the campus community should address visiting protestors and defended free speech. It represents the only detailed comment administrators have put out on the incident, which has gained national attention.

On March 4, department of feminist studies professor Mireille Miller-Young, whose research emphasis is black studies, pornography, and sex work, was caught on camera assaulting a 16-year-old prolife demonstrator.

In addressing the matter, Vice-Chancellor Young describes anti-abortion demonstrators, who used graphic images of aborted fetuses to make their point, as “outsiders” and “evangelical types” that can ultimately be “disruptive and has the potential to draw us into the kind of conflict that puts at risk the quality of exchange of ideas that is fundamental to the mission of our university.”

“The price of freedom for all to speak is that, at times, everyone will be subjected to speech and expression that we, ourselves, find offensive, hateful, vile, hurtful, provocative, and perhaps even evil,” Young wrote. “So be it! Law and policy ban only an extremely narrow band of speech and expression-“yelling ‘fire!’ in a crowded theatre,” for example, and child pornography.”

“Our Founding Fathers-all white men of privilege, some even slave owners-got it right when designing the First Amendment of the Constitution.”

Although UCSB is a public institution that prides itself on a free speech zone, Young said he views the anti-abortion protesters as a negative reflection to the campus community. 

“And now we are tested once again, outsiders coming into our midst to provoke us, to taunt us and attempt to turn us against one another as they promote personal causes and agendas,” he wrote. 

Young said he believes, however, that freedom of speech must be cherished and students must accept it, saying: “The price we pay to speak our own minds is allowing others to speak theirs, regardless of how oppositional their views are to our own.”

“While it has not always been easy, time and again UCSB students have demonstrated that they can disagree about the critical issues of our time—fundamentally and passionately but within a framework of humanity and civility, respecting the dignity of those whose views they oppose,” he wrote.

Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust, which represents the anti-abortion protestors, denounced Young’s statement.

“Using terms like ‘evangelical types’ he denigrates a group of people for their religious views,” the group stated in a news release. “Had he said ‘gay types,’ ‘black types,’ or ‘Muslim types,’ clearly there would be outrage, as there should be,” the statement read. “Intolerance must be intolerant of all hate speech.”

“Young repeatedly encourages ‘civility,’ but never mentions the professor’s and students’ vile conduct.”

Several other conservative news outlets voiced similar outrage at Young’s response.

“BLAME THE VICTIM: Bureaucrat smears 16-year-old abortion protester battered by UCSB prof,” declared a recent headline in The Daily Caller.

And National Review Online, which first reported on Young’s memo, noted that “the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), has responded to a professor’s violent attack on a 16-year-old pro-life demonstrator — by condemning the demonstration.”

Meanwhile, UCSB campus spokesman George Foulsham told The College Fix in an email this week that administrators are reviewing the incident and it is university policy to not comment on personnel matters.

The fate of Professor Miller-Young on both the criminal charges she faces, as well as whether any administrative employment repercussions, remains unclear. She has been charged with misdemeanor theft, vandalism, and battery.

College Fix contributor Austin Yack is a student at UC Santa Barbara.

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The University of California-Santa Barbara professor who allegedly assaulted a pro-life student on campus has been charged with criminal battery.

The College Fix reported on March 12 that department of feminist studies professor Mireille Miller-Young, whose research emphasis is black studies, pornography, and sex work, had been caught on camera assaulting a 16-year-old student, Thrin Short.

Miller-Young led a small mob that approached a group of pro-life demonstrators who were holding signs. The mob chanted “tear down the sign.” Miller-Young then grabbed one of the signs and stormed off with it, eventually engaging in a physical altercation with 16-year-old Short, one of the pro-life demonstrators, when Short tried to retrieve the stolen sign.

The confrontation took place in the university’s designated “free speech area.” UCSBcourtesyphoto

The 3 by 5 foot sign contained graphic images of aborted fetuses as well as statistics and facts about abortion. The scuffle left the 16-year-old Short with visible scars and scratches on her arms.

Even though she injured the teenager, Miller-Young defended her actions and told police she felt morally justified. She told police that images of aborted fetuses “triggered” her to act the way she did, and that she felt she had set a good example for her students by physically confronting the teenage demonstrator.

Nevertheless, authorities warned that her actions constituted vandalism, battery, and robbery.

Late last week, Santa Barbara officials announced that Miller-Young is being prosecuted for misdemeanor theft, battery, and vandalism in connection with her assault on Ms. Short.

Short says Miller-Young pushed her at least three times, stole her sign, then grabbed and attempted to restrain her while others made off with the sign.

Short’s father told Fox News that he hopes the prosecution of Miller-Young will serve as a lesson for those who seek to halt free speech on campus. “She was free to engage in a rational dialogue with them,” Mr. Short said. “Instead, she chose to bully them, steal and destroy their property, and hit and scratch my daughter.”

“I think the goal of this prosecution should be to set a good example for her students, one that will not only deter her from repeating this conduct, but will also deter those who approve of her actions from imitating her appalling behavior,” Mr. Short added.

Watch a video of the alleged assault:

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