At Least One Punch For Free

The Wisconsin Assembly has passed a law supporting free speech at the University of Wisconsin System campuses.  It would still need to be passed by the WI Senate and signed by Governor Walker.  NPR reports:

Students who disrupt campus events at University of Wisconsin System schools could be expelled under a bill approved Wednesday by the state Assembly.

Under the proposal, students who are found guilty of engaging in “violent or other disorderly conduct that materially and substantially disrupts” others’ free expression would be suspended after two offenses and expelled after three.

The measure is sponsored by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, who has said he believes it to be “one of the most important” bills to be taken up by lawmakers this session.

“One of our fundamental rights, one of the most important parts of being an American, the right to free speech, is under attack,” Vos said during debate. “On far too many college campuses, different points of view are not even allowed.”

The bill would allow any person to report another person for disrupting free expression. A formal investigation and disciplinary hearing overseen by the UW System’s Board of Regents would be required for anyone who has been reported twice for such disruptions.

The proposal also requires UW System institutions to provide training and orientation on the new speech policies to students and employees.

We are not big fans of handling free speech at the state level but this looks to be extraordinarily weak tea.  It seems to give protesters one or two free punches.  We think, depending on the circumstances, penalties for one violent disruption of speech should include suspending or expelling a student.  Naturally, the left is in a tizzy as indicated by a Facebook comment:

Making Wisconsin safe for the right wing nazis. “ve muss haff order.”

The opportunities for left wing Nazis was unspecified.  More troubling is the attitude of elected Democrats as reported by NPR:

“The problems with this bill: it is an unconstitutional bill, it is a gag order,” said Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison. “It basically gags and bags the First Amendment.”

Representative Taylor seems to be unfamiliar with the First Amendment.

The potentially useful part of the bill is in the last paragraph of the first quote.  First Amendment training might be useful to students and employees at UW System.  Perhaps we can sign up elected officials too.  We do not expect much from this bill in the event that it is passed.  The same folks will still be running the schools.


Teaching Universities A Lesson

There is a clamor to teach public universities a budgetary lesson for their behavior towards free speech and intellectual diversity.  A few weeks ago Tiana Lowe at NRO recommended that we defund Evergreen State University in Washington:

Public funding constitutes 46 percent of Evergreen’s annual revenue — $55.2 million from state appropriations and $32.3 million in state and federal grants. A public college that cannot defend the First Amendment or even the basic safety of its professors doesn’t deserve a cent of the taxpayers’ money.

Republicans in the Washington legislature have introduced such a bill.

In North Carolina it is about the UNC School of Law as Frank Pray reports:

The North Carolina Senate’s budget proposal, now being debated in the House, includes a $4 million reduction in funding to the law school, constituting nearly a third of the school’sbudget.

We agree with Frank when he says:

Instead of incentivizing greater intellectual diversity, in the long run it could endanger the school’s academic standing and embolden campus radicals. Case studies in other states show why legislators should think twice about this kind of meddling.

We think that such moves will drive all of the state schools to the left in support of their colleagues.  It might feel good to conservatives to batter the crazies financially but it will not lead to conservative results.  We need to  find ways to stop explicit behaviors and create incentives for free speech and intellectual diversity.  It is hard legislative work to create such incentives but that is the direction that we need to go.  As in most situations, the conservative solution takes time and effort.


Hope Or Defeat?

Elliot Kaufman, writing on NRO, has a story of a ray of hope at a university.  Do read the whole thing and check out the video that it links to.  A cynic might conclude that the cloud of the mob means that hope is forlorn at our universities despite a few brave folks.

The story: The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington describes itself as, “A progressive, public liberal arts and sciences college.”  It has a day of absence each year on April 12 when students and faculty of color meet off campus.  It also has a day of presence but that is not part of this story.  This year, allegedly because of the recent election, folks wanted reverse the situation and evict all the whites from the campus.  Elliot reports what happened first:

One liberal biology professor, Bret Weinstein, took issue with this change. Weinstein wrote a powerful e-mail to his colleagues on March 15. Deeply respectful and generous in tone, he made a simple point: There is a huge difference between a group or coalition deciding to voluntarily absent themselves from a shared space in order to highlight their vital and underappreciated roles . . . and a group or coalition encouraging another group to go away. The first is a forceful call to consciousness which is, of course, crippling to the logic of oppression. The second is a show of force, and an act of oppression in and of itself. You may take this letter as a formal protest of this year’s structure, and you may assume I will be on campus on the Day of Absence.

You will not be surprised how these folks reacted to the professor.  Elliot says:

Students occupied and barricaded the campus library, and accosted Weinstein outside his classroom. As you can see in this video, the mob surrounded him, yelled at him, swore at him, and openly admitted they did not want to allow him to respond. In the video, Weinstein nobly seeks to engage in “dialectic” with the student protesters, hoping to use “disagreement to discover the truth.” For a professor of biology, this is rather impressive stuff. But he misjudges the mob. “We don’t care what terms you want to speak on,” one student explains to supportive cheers. “This is not about you. We are not speaking on terms — on terms of white privilege. This is not a discussion. You have lost that one.”

Elliot concludes by asking what the students, faculty, and administration will do about this injustice.  He reports that two students stood with the faculty member.  There is no report of the faculty or administration supporting him.  Eugene Volokh reports that an administrator confirmed that it would be safer for the professor to stay off campus.

Professor Weinstein and the two students are a small ray of sunshine.  The inaction of the faculty and the administration in response to mob violence against free speech and especially reasoned speech are an enormous cloud of gloom.  Universities exist for reasoned speech.  We know exactly why universities are currently held in such low regard.


Faculty Fail Again

From Tyler O’Neil at PJ Media discussing Mike Pence’s graduation speech at the University of Notre Dame:

But just as Pence began speaking, about 150 people, half students and half faculty members, walked out of the speech. [italics in original]

Sidebar: We could not find confirmation of the faculty walk out at commencement.  We did find this:

More than 1,700 University of Notre Dame alumni, faculty and staff had also signed an open letter protesting Pence’s commencement speech gig on similar grounds, claiming the veep “actively opposes this sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good.”

That’s enough to bring the faculty to account.  End Sidebar

Students can be excused for behaving badly with regards to freedom of speech.  They are still learning.  Faculty do not have an excuse.  This kind of faculty behavior hurts all universities.  It is a perplexing problem because faculty, like everyone else, have and deserve freedom of speech.  Unfortunately, they keep using it to identify themselves as nasty, intolerant, and committed to opposing freedom of speech.  It is not a platform to encourage university funding.

We Are In This Together

A WSJ editorial concludes where the Middlebury debacle is:

Meanwhile, the Middlebury faculty is divided over endorsing free-speech principles that the University of Chicago, Purdue University and others have adopted. The fallout from Mr. Murray’s visit has dragged on for nearly two months, but the drama will continue until the administration decides to restore order, punish offenders and govern the place as adults.

As we have said, all universities are in this together.  Public universities suffer from their own sins and the sins of others.  We think that faculty are more to blame than administrators.

Administrators bear a smaller burden of the errors because they are responsible to the faculty.  Yes, administrators can help but if they are at odds with the faculty it won’t help the university from losing politically.  It is the failure of the faculty firs,t as the University of Chicago demonstrates, and the administrators second.  We, all university faculties, are in this together whether we want it that way on not.  The failure of the faculty to support free speech at many universities has and will continue to cause political problems for all universities.  Middlebury and Missouri hurt schools in Wisconsin and elsewhere.


Where Are The Faculty?

We have discussed issues at the university including free speech.  We have not been quite as eloquent as Heather Mac Donald:

Where are the faculty? American college students are increasingly resorting to brute force, and sometimes criminal violence, to shut down ideas they don’t like. Yet when such travesties occur, the faculty are, with few exceptions, missing in action, though they have themselves been given the extraordinary privilege of tenure to protect their own liberty of thought and speech. It is time for them to take their heads out of the sand.

If a faculty member ever asks, “Why does neither political side support us?” Heather has the answer.  Free speech is not the only area where faculty are AWOL but it is a very significant one.

Sidebar Update: Equal pay day is another example where the faculty are AWOL.  We have the analytical skills to kill this myth, for example see.  Instead, faculty (with tenure!) are, again, AWOL.  End Update Sidebar.

We have wasted our inheritance and deserve the opprobrium that is directed at us.  History will not judge us kindly.

A Tale Of Two Schools

It was the best of times and the worst of times at two universities.  The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (UWL) and the University of St. Thomas are in the news today and the juxtaposition is interesting.  UWL fired an employee and then, under legal action, has offered her the job back.  According to the Fox 9 headline, the St. Thomas student body president apologizes for anti-Isreal tweets.  Others call the tweets anti-semitic.  Here is the full text (excluding the salutation) of the Student Body President’s statement.  See if you can find the apology.

“I am writing this message in acknowledgement that we are in a climate that’s seeing a great rise in anti-Semitism, islamophobia, xenophobia, homophobia, hate crimes, and other various forms of oppression. This stuff is real. It is a critical time for our communities and we must unite together to challenge bigotry and racism in the world.

“For the past year or so, I have been constantly harassed by a notorious organization that conducted a smear campaign against me by digging through my social media accounts and stating that I had made offensive comments. Yesterday, another organization published an article with the intent to discredit me and my reputation using the same methods. I believe the attacks levied against me by both organizations are Islamophobic. I am coming under attack for being a Muslim leader of the student government at a private Catholic institution. Growing up, I was taught by my religion to treat everyone with respect and dignity no matter where they came from or what they believed in.

“The tweets that resurfaced were from 3+ years ago and do not reflect what I meant at the time. My words were poorly chosen and shared during a period of time where I was very emotional about Israel’s politics and the loss of life in Gaza. I regret my choice of words and apologize for any impact this may have had on people reading my tweets.

“As a leader of this school, I am committed to supporting the students that I serve. If any student comes to me looking for help or support, I believe it is incumbent upon me to do everything that I can. I want members of the St. Thomas community to know that I am trying my best to look out for them and their interests.

“Now more than ever, it is critical for Muslims and Jews to unite, as we already have to combat the hate and attacks that come our way. I am in full support of the Jewish community, and am commanded by my faith to care for all people and to stand up for others who may come under attack. The Quran commands Muslims to “stand out firmly for justice…even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor…” (Quran 4:135)

“I want to reassure everyone that I am committed to serving and assisting each and every single student that I represent. I also want to assure you all that I stand firmly against anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, divisiveness, and oppression that don’t create an inclusive campus for everyone.

“As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” I call for everyone to come together in peace and unite to fight against the injustices that happen all around the world.”

Even in the world of politics this is hard to describe as an apology.  His apology is for the impact on others.  He accuses “notorious” organizations for “smearing” him.  He plays the Islamophobia card.  He takes little responsibility, “I regret my choice of words.”  What were those words?  Scott Johnson at PowerLine gives one example:  “[Y]ahood [Jews] will get what coming for them”. Which word or words were chosen poorly in that tweet?

The President of St. Thomas, Julie Sullivan has responded by glorifying diversity and condemning hate speech.  She says nothing about free speech.  She seems to have left the decision about the Student Body President to the students.

Meanwhile, the details of the UWL incident are coming out.  Here is part of the latest update from the La Crosse Tribune:

According to the initial complaint, submitted to UW-L police Sgt. Jordan Schaller on Feb. 2, Dearman reacted to a series of emails Gow sent out first in response to the January travel ban signed by President Donald Trump and one a few days later apologizing for any political tone in his comments. According to the complaint, Dearman initiated the conversation about the emails, saying Gow deserved the backlash he got. During the conversation, the student asked Dearman her opinion of the travel ban [the press loves to use this word with The Donald], to which Dearman said people should respect the president and that people “who don’t belong here” should leave.

The complaint further states that the student debated with Dearman, her direct supervisor, about the countries included on the travel ban list and Dearman spent several minutes saying immigrants don’t belong here, that she wasn’t a racist and she wasn’t trying to offend the student. The complaint said the student, who Gow said was of Asian descent, didn’t know what to say in response, so she just sat quietly until she left for class, before subsequently resigning her position.

It seems to us that there are three interesting issues in considering the two situations.

First, free speech is not encouraged at either institution.  It is clear that both schools are diversity cults where free speech is not valued while finding and eradicating hate speech is highly valued.  As these institutions try to eliminate the last vestiges of hate speech the decisions get increasingly difficult.

Second, the students know how to play the game.  The student body president accuses his “attackers” of Islamophobia.  He said he was taught to treat everyone with respect and dignity but he hadn’t leaned that lesson as of a few years ago.  The UWL student (snowflake really seems to apply here) spoke up against The Donald at first but then sat quietly, resigned, and complained.  She is identified as Asian but not religious affiliation is noted.  Her complaint got her immediate supervisor fired.

Third, there are big differences in the situations.  St. Thomas clearly has found some hate speech.  The person in question did it three or so years ago and was elected by the student body recently.  On the other hand the UWL situation is much less clear cut in terms of speech but involves a direct supervisor and subordinate (the student) as well as an overall supervisor, Chancellor Gow, and a subordinate, the employee.

These two situations point out the problems of diversity and “hating” hate speech.  It gets so confusing trying to sort out how to score all of the complaints and complainers.  For example, schools can and do discriminate against Asian students in admissions but the fact that she (is there a weight to that?  Both the student and employee are female.  Does that balance out?) is Asian allowed the Chancellor to say the comments were directed at a student of color.  Free speech is a much better rule but there needs to be a way to deal with interactions among folks.  For example, sending the employee for diversity training implies the employee would be punished for her speech.  Scoring is hard but schools need to trend away from the diversity cult and move toward free speech.