January 06, 2012 2:48:57 PM by
I started the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education because of a trend I began to detect in the 1980’s; initially often well-meaning attempts to make campuses more welcoming were leading to a watering-down of free speech and academic freedom at our universities. “Political correctness”—the convention that makes equivocation and dishonesty de rigeur for a “polite” and “comfortable” environment—became the norm.
Today, Greg Lukianoff, the President of FIRE, published an op-ed in the Washington Post. In his piece, he describes the history of university infringements on freedom of speech, and points to the growing use of spurious and at times outlandish claims of “harassment” to censor students. Lukianoff calls for far clearer, and more just, campus harassment rules, in order to provide an environment of real academic discourse and inquiry.
January 05, 2012 12:06:44 PM by
I have great respect (and concern) for college students. As I told one Boston Herald reporter not too long ago, “Never declare war on the young, They’ll outlast you, they’ll outthink you, they’ll outdo you.” To the Herald I was commenting about the government’s attempt to get the identity of anonymous “Occupy tweeters,” but I could just as easily have been castigating college administrators. Too often the administration and faculty attempt to foist an orthodoxy or ideology onto their youthful charges; sometimes they are successful, but often, the students are able to stand up and educate their elders on the importance of freedom of speech and individual conscience.
In my piece on Mindingthecampus.com, I compliment a recent Harvard Crimson editorial that stands up to administrators and faculty all too eager to proclaim Harvard’s solidarity with a political movement. The Crimson staff was able to see the slippery slope inherent in a university’s proposed institutional support for a political cause; the students had a clarity of vision their elders, including their teachers, so often lack. But in the piece I also describe ways in which the Crimson editorial board has been far from perfect in its recent defense of free speech. Harvard’s constant assault on student freedom of speech and conscience—please see my research assistant Daniel Schwartz’s latest article here, published by FIRE in their academic journal “The Lantern,” for a longer explication—has taken a toll. Even the Crimson, a formerly uniformly reliable bulwark against administrative overreach, has during recent times acquiesced to the politically correct pressures exerted by faculty and administration. One hopes that freedom of speech and thought can be restored to our campuses before administrators and professors complete the task of brainwashing their young charges.
December 21, 2011 1:50:51 PM by
I was saddened, though not terribly surprised, when I heard yesterday that after only ten hours of deliberations, a federal jury found Tarek Mehanna guilty of all seven counts for which he stood accused. Jurors felt the government had proven that Mehanna provided "material assistance to terrorists" for such actions as making translations of jihadi videos. Mehanna now awaits sentencing and may face up to life in prison for acts that, until now, seemed clearly protected under the First Amendment.
I was asked by PBS affiliate WGBH-TV, and NPR affiliate WBUR, to speak about the Mehanna case yesterday on their respective stations.
Click here for my interview on WBUR's Radio Boston (Dec. 20), or listen to the audio clip below.
Click here for my interview on WBUR's Morning Edition (Dec. 21), or listen to the audio clip below.
After the jump is video of my interview on WGBH-TV's Greater Boston (Dec. 20).
December 09, 2011 3:04:47 PM by
Rod Blagojevich was sentenced on December 7th (Pearl Harbor Day!) to 14 years in prison. I argue in my latest “Injustice Department” piece at Forbes.com that Blagojevich was a victim of an ever-expanding federal prosecutorial apparatus. He violated no state laws, and yet found himself under the thumb of a prosecutor citing vague federal statutes. The result was Blagojevich’s having been found culpable for behavior that was not criminal, and that he had no reason to think would be construed as such. In the run-up to his sentencing where the trial judge played his assigned part in a morality play enabling unjust federal prosecutorial power, and in a last desperate attempt to lessen his punishment, Rod Blagojevich admitted responsibility. But he admitted to having committed what I deem to be non-crimes. And if a new congressional bill—the “Clean Up Government Act”—gets enacted into law, we will see a great many more unsuspecting local politicians finding themselves in the crosshairs of an overzealous and unjust federal criminal justice system. Today it is the pols in the DOJ’s crosshairs; tomorrow it can readily be all of us (indeed, it pretty much is already).
December 02, 2011 5:33:13 PM by
On Veterans Day this year, Suffolk University Law professor Michael Avery generated controversy with an e-mail to fellow faculty members criticizing a care-packages-for-the-troops drive at the law school. Avery’s words upset many in the community, including an adjunct faculty member currently serving in Afghanistan, Major Robert Roughsedge. Maj. Roughsedge was so incensed by the comments—and especially by Suffolk’s refusal to fire and/or censure Avery for them—that he resigned. Maj. Roughsedge won considerable editorial support for his position.
In our column, an excerpt of which is after the jump, Daniel Schwartz and I argue that Major Roughsedge’s critique and resignation—far from a reasonable response to professor Avery’s e-mail—represented something we see far too often in academia, albeit more often on the speech-intolerant Left: the attempt to punish while failing to engage uncomfortable speech. Instead of debating with Professor Avery, Major Roughsedge accused Avery of spewing “hate speech,” and then Roughsedge quit the academy when Avery wasn’t fired.