FIRE Video Interview

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), ,  of which I am a co-founder and current Board of Directors chair, has produced a short (12 minutes long) video on my work in civil liberties in higher education. You may agree, or disagree, with my pessimistic assessment of the current state of the culture on our campuses, and with my optimistic assessment of our chances of restoring fairness, academic freedom, and rationality to these campuses. But in any event I think you’ll find this of interest...


You can find the video here: .


I hope you enjoy this piece and I encourage you to follow the important work FIRE is doing.
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Harvard, Where Civility Trumps Free Speech

Last year, Harvard’s Freshman Dean Thomas Dingman drew the wrath of former Dean of Harvard College Harry Lewis, as well as the mockery of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for pressuring incoming students to sign a pledge that "the exercise of kindness holds a place on par with intellectual attainment." This year, Dean Dingman abandoned the criticized pledge tactic (in what turns out to be nothing more than a tactical retreat) but not his overriding commitment to imposing on students’ freedom of conscience. Without any public pre-announcement (which doomed last year's thought-reform efforts), Dean Dingman managed to slip a stealth re-education program into Harvard's freshman orientation week. As part of this “sensitivity training” students were made to perform skits where they acted out civility, as the Harvard administration defined it. In my most recent column for Minding the Campus, co-authored with my research assistant Juliana DeVries, I explain how this turn of events fits the Harvard administration into a long history of authoritarian intrusions into freedom of thought, yet nary a word of protest has been heard from Harvard students, alumni, faculty, and governing boards.

The column after the jump... 

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Will Harvard Stop Trying to Impose Orthodoxies?

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, 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. 

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Pledging Allegiance

Two "pledging" controversies have come to the fore in the Boston area in the past couple of weeks. A Brookline group, led by my longtime friend Marty Rosenthal, has sought to move the Pledge of Allegiance out of the public school classroom. Across the river, the Harvard Freshman Dean asked incoming first year students to sign onto a pledge proclaiming such values as civility, kindness, and inclusiveness, to be on a par with academic achievement.

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WSJ: Free Association and the First Amendment

This Monday, the Supreme Court will hear argument in an important free association case, Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. The case involves an evangelical Christian student group that, while accepting all students at its functions, requires leaders and voting members to sign a Statement of Faith. In today's Wall Street Journal, I explain why this is a core area of protected First Amendment expressive association, rather than, as some claim, invidious discrimination. If the Supreme Court decides that public colleges may deny religious groups the same rights as any other group on campus, the result will be less, not more, genuine campus diversity.

This is a case not widely understood by lawyers, judges, college administrators, media commentators and reporters, and many others. I hope that you will give it a careful reading and recognize why The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), whose amicus brief I signed as FIRE's counsel-of-record, has weighed-in on the side of the Christian Legal Society rather than on the side of the public law school that has, in fact, discriminated against the CLS on account of its following its religious briefs. It is a case that turns a commonly understood (or mis-understood, as the case may be) notion of "inclusion" on its head.

Read the op-ed on the Wall Street Journal website here; after the jump, view a PDF of the print edition in your browser.
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