October 18, 2012 11:11:33 AM by
The Draconian restrictions on freedom of speech and thought throughout American higher education are an extraordinarily dangerous but under-appreciated development. This is what motivated me to co-author the book The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses in 1998 and to co-found the Foundation for Individual Rights (FIRE) in 1999, whose board of directors I chair. FIRE President Greg Lukianoff has now taken on the urgently important task of updating the dismal (although in some ways oddly entertaining, if not hilarious) picture in his new book Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate, now available on Amazon.
In Unlearning Liberty, Lukianoff takes readers through the life of a modern-day college student, from orientation to the end of freshman year. He describes various examples from the past 15 years of horrendous (and yet typical) violations of university students’ free speech rights: a student in Indiana punished for reading a book, a student in Georgia expelled for a pro-environment collage he posted on Facebook, students at Yale banned from putting an F. Scott Fitzgerald quote on a T shirt, and students across the country corralled into tiny “free speech zones.” Lukianoff further demonstrates how our universities’ cultures of censorship are bleeding into the larger society and stunting our ability as a nation to engage in rational discussion.
I highly recommend Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate to all those concerned with the future of liberty and open debate in America.
October 10, 2012 2:05:51 PM by
On September 27, Wendy Kaminer and I appeared together on WBZ 1030's NightSide with Dan Rea for the inaugural broadcast of our soon-to-be-recurring "On Liberty" segment--a project that has been brewing for many years. During the show we discussed the violent protests in the Muslim world supposedly incited by the "Innocence of Muslims" YouTube video, and then opened up the phone lines for callers. The calls led us to an array of First Amendment issues, from flag burning to students' free speech rights to the infamous "shouting fire in a crowded theater," which has become a kind of slogan for would-be censors in recent years.
It was a gripping conversation, and is well worth a listen. You can find it as a podcast on the CBS Boston/WBZ website.
The next installment of "On Liberty" will be on air during the rapidly-approaching holiday season, and will focus on religion in the public sphere.
October 09, 2012 11:33:52 AM by
Massachusetts voters face a question of profound importance on the ballot this November. That is, whether to approve the Death with Dignity Act, which would permit physicians to prescribe life-ending medication to patients with incurable disease and less than six months to live. In a recent column for the Boston Herald, co-authored with my research assistant Juliana DeVries, we argue that personal liberty should govern this most personal area of life: one’s own death. If terminally-ill adults want to end their lives and their suffering, the government should allow them the merciful option of doing so.
The column after the jump...
October 04, 2012 11:59:31 AM by
Many of you have heard of the ongoing cheating scandal at Harvard, in which 125 students in a class called “Introduction to Congress” were accused of cheating on a take-home final exam. Harvard’s administrators have initiated a vast inquiry into the allegations, pledging to adjudicate each student’s case separately before the notorious Administrative Board. However, doubts have been expressed here and there over whether Harvard’s cheating rules, and the professor’s and teaching assistants’ instructions to the students, were sufficiently clear to function as a fair basis for these allegations in all cases.
In our recent piece for Minding the Campus, my research assistant Zachary Bloom and I offer the case of John McCoy, a former Harvard Extension School student falsely accused of cheating on an exam, as an object lesson in why one should be skeptical of these kinds of charges emanating from Harvard, and of the reliability of the Administrative Board to actually come to a fair and rational decision on allegations of cheating. McCoy’s battles with implacable administrators show that Harvard’s disciplinary system is a far cry from the truth-finding apparatus that it claims to be.
October 03, 2012 2:23:21 PM by
John Silber, the former Boston University president who passed away last Thursday, September 27th, was known for many things. I tussled with him here and there, such as when he tried to fire some leftist members of the faculty whose academic freedom, I thought, protected them from such action. However, I also witnessed his principled attempt to fight back against the idiocy of the university thought police that remains a plague in American higher education.
In my most recent piece for ThePhoenix.com, however, I tell a less well-known Silber story that illustrates his courage and integrity. In 1986, federal prosecutors tried to get Silber to finger then Boston Mayor Kevin White in a corruption investigation of City Hall. They subpoenaed Silber to testify before a secret anti-corruption grand jury. Instead of invoking the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, Silber took the witness stand and told it like it is. The feds proved not up to the task of getting Silber (in Alan Dershowitz’ immortal phrase) not only to sing, but also to compose.
The column after the jump...