FIRE Video Interview

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), www.thefire.org ,  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: http://thefire.org/article/16547.html .

 

I hope you enjoy this piece and I encourage you to follow the important work FIRE is doing.
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A Ruling on Terrorism That Throttles Civil Liberties

On November 13th the United States Court of Appeals in Boston affirmed the conviction of young Sudbury pharmacology student Tarek Mehanna. Mehanna was convicted on charges of rendering “material support” to terrorism – a dangerously broad and vague provision of the Patriot Act – though nothing Mehanna did came close to posing actual danger. In our op-ed for the Boston Globe, my paralegal Juliana DeVries and I argue that the tragic Mehanna verdict was made possible by the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Humanitarian Law Project v. Holder. The Humanitarian Law Project decision opened the door for federal prosecutors to criminalize a wide range of previously protected expressive activities, such as those in which Mehanna engaged.

 

You can read our op-ed at: http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2013/11/27/ruling-terrorism-that-throttles-civil-liberties/LXmml8hiFCkugBmvmYEt5J/story.html
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The Feds Mandate Abolition of Free Speech on Campus

Want to openly discuss gender discrepancies in the workplace? Want to listen to uncensored rap music? How about put on a comedy show? Not on our campuses! And what if you or a friend or family member has to pursue a defense to an unmeritorious charge of sexual harassment? Forget it!

On May 9th, the Department of Justice and the Department of Education jointly issued a letter to the University of Montana, which the government called “a blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country,” and which mandates changes to campus sexual harassment policies that will effectively make each of the above actions punishable offenses and will turn hearings into even worse kangaroo courts than exist today. This is a very serious development that everyone who thinks our universities play an important function in society will want to know about.

In my latest column for Minding the Campus, co-authored with my research assistant Juliana DeVries, we argue that the federal government’s unconstitutional mandate will obliterate free speech and fair process on campuses and make every student guilty of “harassment” several times a day. You can read the column on the Minding the Campus website.  

An excerpt after the jump...

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"A Doctor's Posthumous Vindication" in the Wall Street Journal

On December 3, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled in favor of Al Caronia, a pharmaceutical salesman who had been convicted of violating the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act by pitching the off-label uses of a narcolepsy drug to doctors at conferences throughout the country. Declaring that the Department of Justice’s overly broad interpretation of the law violated Caronia’s free speech rights, the Court vindicated a practice that has become commonplace among physicians.

Doctors such as Peter Gleason, Caronia’s former codefendant, learn through their experiences with patients that many drugs turn out to be effective treatments for ailments other than those for which the FDA has granted official approval. And physicians have a well-established right to prescribe any drug for any use they see fit and to share their insights about effective treatments with other doctors. So it came as quite a surprise to Dr. Gleason when he was arrested by a half-dozen federal agents one day in 2006 and sent down the rabbit hole of the federal criminal justice system for allegedly conspiring to mislead his fellow physicians. I discussed Dr. Gleason’s unjust prosecution in my book Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent (Encounter Books, 2009). My latest piece for the Wall Street Journal serves as a postscript for that discussion, explaining how the Second Circuit’s ruling vindicated Dr. Gleason’s belief that he had never engaged in any improper activity – vindication that, tragically, came too late.

You can find the piece on the Journal's website.
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Unlearning Liberty Now Available on Amazon

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.   


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