Free Speech And Universities

We are fans of free speech.  Recently, we were less enthusiastic than Ann Althouse about UW-Madison’s robust defense of free speech she reported on December 21 because we thought we could predict the situations in which universities would defend free speech.  We think the data that Ann has compiled in an astonishingly short period of time is consistent with out theory.

The robust defense of free speech was posted on Wednesday.  On Friday she reports that one group at the same school, UW-Madison, is trying to silence the Young Americans For Freedom (YAF) and she wisely says:

Maybe the Student Coalition for Progress should be invited into some intensive freedom of speech training.

She is absolutely right again.  Unfortunately, there appears to be no comment from the previously robust defenders of free speech.  Of course, the YAF is a right wing group.

Again on Wednesday, Ann and then on Monday Eugene Volokh report on earlier events at the University of Oregon law school.  A white female law prof dressed up as a black male physician at a Halloween soiree that included students at her house.   Eugene gives extensive analysis.  Here is part of it:

Last week, the University of Oregon made clear to its faculty: If you say things about race, sexual orientation, sex, religion and so on that enough people find offensive, you could get suspended (and, following the logic of the analysis) even fired. This can happen even to tenured faculty members; even more clearly, it can happen to anyone else. It’s not limited to personal insults. It’s not limited to deliberate racism or bigotry.

This time it involved someone making herself up as a black man at a costume party (as it happens, doing so in order to try to send an antiracist message).

Ann is right: “What sad, timid people!”  That’s how life is at the university.  There are many attempts at intimidation and often they are successful.

Sidebar One: There seems to be no problem at Oregon with the female professor dressing as a man.  End Sidebar One.
Sidebar Two: We have often commented on how bias at the university hurts funding.  Eugene seems more hopeful:
For a long time, universities have argued that the public has to tolerate the views of professors, even when those views sharply depart from established moral and political orthodoxy, and even when the views create offense and upset (which indirectly often create disruption). That’s how universities have tried to maintain public support, including financial support from legislators [unsuccessfully in our opinion] and from donors[more mixed results here], in the face of such offensive professor views.
We are not convinced that the university has won the argument.  We see this as the cause of the funding problems.  We suggest that universities use more speech to reduce the funding problems.  End Sidebar Two.
Eugene agrees with Ann and us.  In discussing Oregon’s attempt to square its policy with free speech he says:

Lovely sentiments [about free speech]! But what do they mean? Nothing, when it comes to speech that the university labels “harassment” — which, recall, is apparently any speech that is seen as offensive based on race, religion, sexual orientation, sex, gender identity, and so on, and creates enough of a furor.

It takes less than a week to catalogue the problems of speech at the university.  Again, more speech should be the solution when concerns about free speech come up.  The problem is that the university will almost always defend speech from the Left and rarely defends speech from the right.  It puts faculty members in a bad light because we are shown to have no principles.  We can and should do better in promoting free speech.

 

 

Relegation In The NFL

We know relegation isn’t feasible in the NFL because there are no replacement teams and no place to put the relegated teams.  Still it would increase fan interest for next week.

Sidebar: The three worst teams in the NFL all won today.  The Browns, 49ers, and Jaguars had won three of 42 games before today.  Today they won three of three.  End Sidebar

The first question is how many teams would be relegated.  Soccer leagues relegate three of 20.  The NFL has 32 teams so four or five is a reasonable number. The Gloves-in-law picked four so we will go with that. Picking some larger number would make different games crucial.  This year four works well.  Four for the current year would mean that the Browns and 49ers are already gone and the Bears, Jaguars, Jets, and Rams are on the bubble.  Now four ugly games next week: Jaguars v. Colts, Bears v. Vikings, Bills v. Jets, and Cardinals v. Rams become epic battles for survival.  The four games are particularly ugly without relegation because none of the eight teams can possibly go to the playoffs.  Relegation would make both ends of the NFL standings exciting at the end of the year.  It will take years but let’s start working on it.

Well Said

We were going to say something about Obama’s recent behavior but we can’t say any better than Kim Strassel at the WSJ.  Do read the whole thing and see Wisconsin’s own Ron Johnson at work (thanks voters!).  Her conclusion:

A Trump administration could send a powerful message to future presidents and build public support by highlighting the “midnight regulation” phenomenon and then making it a priority to ax every final Obama order. Single them out. Make a public list. Celebrate every repeal. That would be as profound a rebuke to the Obama legacy—a legacy based on abuse of power—as any other.

Unfortunately, the vote at the UN can’t be undone as easily.  We hope that everything that happens in the next four plus weeks is subject to Command-Z but international problems cannot be undone as easily.

What Should Happen

Earlier we talked about the problems of Roger and Buck.  Buck is in the most recent post.  You can go look it up if you like.  Now we see what should happen when the shoe is on the other foot.  Ann Althouse has a nice report on a course called The Problem Of Whiteness taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Ann is a law school faculty member there.  A Wisconsin lawmaker is angry:

UW-Madison must drop the class, Murphy said. “If UW-Madison stands with this professor, I don’t know how the University can expect the taxpayers to stand with UW-Madison.”

Ann approvingly quotes FIRE (send them a few bucks before the end of the year) and they are exactly right that:

Thankfully… the university offered a robust defense of free speech on campus when “Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf said the university ‘supports the First Amendment rights of its students, faculty and staff, including their use of social media tools to express their views on race, politics or other topics, in their capacity as a private citizen.’”

We cannot be entirely supportive of Ann and FIRE because universities are not known for their robust defense  of free speech.  We wish they were but we can predict when they will support free speech fairly effectively.  Try reading the 12 student demand in this article to see what students think about free speech.  Ann quotes Connor at the Atlantic:

Uniting against illiberalism on the right and left is the best course.

Again, we agree with Ann and Connor.  The problem is that we are not choosing the best course.  Or perhaps somebody thinks this is not illiberal:

In one tweet, posted at 10:36 p.m. the day the officers were killed, Sajnani [the faculty member of the course in question] included a photo of news coverage and wrote, “Is the uprising finally starting? Is this style of protest gonna go viral?” Earlier that night, Sajnani had tweeted a link to a song on YouTube called “Officer Down” and wrote, “Watching CNN, this is the song I am currently enjoying in my head.”

Madison came out for free speech but didn’t seem to care about content.  We are all for more speech as the solution.  Try tweeting “Viva President Trump,” and see what happens.  Let’s bring John Derbyshire to Madison.  Let’s have him teach a course there.  It will not happen.  Instead, taxpayers will conclude that universities can’t administer themselves and need to be either starved or micromanaged.  Both are bad outcomes.  We wish that we were on the road to free speech at the university but we don’t think so.  We still support free speech and wish that everyone did.

Tenure And Academic Careers

Two stories remind of us the limits, usefulness, and effectiveness of tenure in universities.

Sidebar: University tenure is much different from K-12 tenure.  In K-12, tenure is automatic or nearly so after a short period of time.  At most universities, tenure is a significant hurdle, usually decided in the candidate’s sixth year.  At major research schools earning tenure is the exception.  At mid-level schools candidates are successful more often then not but it is a significant barrier.  End Sidebar.

First, there is Roger Pielke, jr recounting My Unhappy Life As A Climate Heretic at the WSJ.  Tenure did not protect his research:

More troubling [than the attacks from the Center for American Progress] is the degree to which journalists and other academics joined the campaign against me. What sort of responsibility do scientists and the media have to defend the ability to share research, on any subject, that might be inconvenient to political interests—even our own?

Roger lost his primary research interest but end of the article tells us the rest of the story.  It is almost a happy ending:

Mr. Pielke is a professor and director of the Sports Governance Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder. His most recent book is “The Edge: The Wars Against Cheating and Corruption in the Cutthroat World of Elite Sports” (Roaring Forties Press, 2016).

So Roger has found a new area of research.  He isn’t entirely happy about the way he was treated but it appears tenure was helpful to him even if his colleagues failed him.

The University of Kentucky is having a conflict with Professor Buck Ryan.  Glenn Reynolds’ (Instapundit) analysis is exactly right:

AS WELL THEY SHOULD BE: University of Kentucky faculty upset over University’s claim that professor in “California Girls” case has no due process rights. The university’s position that there’s no due process unless tenure is revoked is both wrong and foolish.

But if I were a journalism professor in his position, I’d start looking into the University’s finances and relationships. I’m sure there’s plenty of dirt that an enterprising investigative journalist could find, because there always is. Remember, as a tenured faculty member you’re not trapped in there with them; they’re trapped in there with you!  [emphasis added]

One of the reports describes the situation as murky and it is unclear that Buck is as blame free as Roger. It is true that if similar charges were levied against an untenured faculty member it would put that person in a world of hurt.  We have seen it happen.  Now, as Instapundit says, Buck loses some travel funds but he is free to vex the administration.

Tenure is not without fault.  It seems to have provided real value to Roger.  It may provide for Buck too or it may be protecting him from justice.  The latter doesn’t appear likely at this point but more evidence could be forthcoming.  On the other hand, Buck would not be the first faculty member to suffer from being accused.  Conservatives should bear that in mind when evaluating tenure.

 

Profiles In Courage

The Electoral College vote is in:

After numerous challenges sprang up in his path, including a bitterly divisive election and attempts at recounts in three battleground states, President-elect Donald Trump finally cleared his last hurdle to the White House Monday.

The U.S. Electoral College officially punched his ticket on Monday, submitting and certifying the 270 votes needed to hand him the presidency.

It turns out there were six faithless electors.  Four were Democrats and two were Republicans.  Under threats and harassment, 532 of 538 of our fellow citizens performed their duty.  We thank all of them for their service but especially the Republicans who were subject to the vast majority of the negative behavior.  Unlike our military personnel, they had no reason to expect they would be subject to such behavior.  Well done citizens.

 

Strange Bedfellows

When conservatives are being bit by The Donald virus which caused folk to act irrationally when discussing the eponymous one,  Michael Gerson the house conservative (profile here) of the Washington Post has a rational article on Rex Tillerson.  Of course, he starts with a gratuitous insult:

There is always the danger of allowing low expectations to become irrational exuberance when those expectations are marginally exceeded. So any office in the Trump administration not filled by a kook or a crank feels like a victory for the republic.

Sidebar: it is not obvious that Michael has identified the kooks and cranks in The Donald’s administration.  In this piece he disparages Ben Carson but likes Mattis at Defense.  Perhaps he is working on identification. we are curios who the rest of them are.   Here is his WaPo List if you want to investigate.  End Sidebar.

But his conclusion is excellent:

Tillerson is a nominee who seems to improve on closer inspection. He deserves an audience of open minds.

Perhaps we can open his mind in other areas.  Here, the same article he starts off well:

The nominee has been vocal about the “humanitarian imperative” of confronting energy poverty. “Approximately 1.3 billion people on our planet,” he has argued, “still do not have access to electricity for basic needs like clean water, cooking, sanitation, light, or for the safe storage of food and medicine.”

We would strongly support Rex here.  Michael, on the other hand, turns out is not supportive when he trots out this:

An emphasis on this issue as secretary of state would be an example of productive continuity with the Obama administration, which made clean energy production in Africa a policy priority.

This is still good news.  We can agree on Rex and helping Africa with its energy needs.  We just need to convince Michael we should do it in a manner that actually helps the intended beneficiaries.  Conservatives are usually open to that conversation.  Perhaps The Donald virus has peaked and we can get to work.