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How Free Speech Died On Campus 530

Posted by timothy
from the marching-band-refused-to-yield dept.
theodp writes "The WSJ catches up with FIRE's Greg Lukianoff and his crusade to expose how universities have become the most authoritarian institutions in America. In Unlearning Liberty, Lukianoff notes that baby-boom Americans who remember the student protests of the 1960s tend to assume that U.S. colleges are still some of the freest places on earth. But that idealized university no longer exists. Today, university bureaucrats suppress debate with anti-harassment policies that function as de facto speech codes. FIRE maintains a database of such policies on its website. What they share, lifelong Democrat Lukianoff says, is a view of 'harassment' so broad and so removed from its legal definition that 'literally every student on campus is already guilty.'"
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How Free Speech Died On Campus

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  • Yeah! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 18, 2012 @01:27PM (#42020007)

    This guy is advocating racism and sexual harassment! Shall we defeat him, PC gang?

  • by slashkitty (21637) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @01:27PM (#42020011) Homepage
    Norfolk State: "The policy broadly prohibits using any university internet technology resources "to further personal views" or "religious or political causes." It also prohibits downloading or transmitting "inappropriate messages or images," without defining "inappropriate."
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 18, 2012 @01:42PM (#42020135)

      That was a major issue at my University, StFX.

      The entire "community code" was so vague, you were in violation of something at any given time. They put fines on student accounts for violations, and don't release transcripts unless they're paid.

    • by DavidClarkeHR (2769805) <david...clarke@@@hrgeneralist...ca> on Sunday November 18, 2012 @01:49PM (#42020223)

      Norfolk State: "The policy broadly prohibits using any university internet technology resources "to further personal views" or "religious or political causes." It also prohibits downloading or transmitting "inappropriate messages or images," without defining "inappropriate."

      Unfortunately, most universities don't have an explicit policy in place. If you're an undergraduate, rather than tell you they don't want opposing viewpoints, they'll just graduate you quickly with average marks. But if you're a graduate student? Your advisory commity will they'll revoke your funding (after the first year), your review committee will slow-walk your research, your lab-coordinator will have difficulty finding you space to work and - if you're lucky - you'll be forced to write massive changes into your thesis before you graduate. If you're not lucky? That's 3-5 years of study with no degree.

      Graduate studies costs 4-5x more than undergrad studies, and carry a stigma of "Well, you couldn't cut it there, why would we accept you here?".

      • by phantomfive (622387) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @02:42PM (#42020695) Journal

        Your advisory commity will they'll revoke your funding (after the first year), your review committee will slow-walk your research, your lab-coordinator will have difficulty finding you space to work and - if you're lucky - you'll be forced to write massive changes into your thesis before you graduate. If you're not lucky? That's 3-5 years of study with no degree.

        This is true, I've seen this. But usually it's not because you are in the wrong party. In the cases I've seen, it's been some kind of weird personal vendetta.

        In one case I knew a physics student failed his oral exams because he was too confident. In another case, for a music degree, a professor didn't like the student because he didn't take enough notes in his class. The student complained to other professors, and the answer he got was, "Yeah, it's not fair, but we have to live and work with him, we don't have to deal with you, so we're not going to do anything about it."

        It's a lousy system, and it's as if professors feel they need to fail somebody, and if there isn't anyone bad enough to fail, they'll find some other reason to fail them.

        • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @02:55PM (#42020805)

          It's a lousy system, and it's as if professors feel they need to fail somebody, and if there isn't anyone bad enough to fail, they'll find some other reason to fail them.

          I had a prof who said 'I know what it takes to be a real physicist, and none of you have it' and failed the entire class.

          We were all asked to leave after appealing.

          Professors are high level employees, even though they seem relatively low in the university hierarchy they have a lot of independent authority and judgment, and the entire system is setup around professors being both professionally and ethically responsible to their discipline as a whole. If they don't think you've demonstrated the right behaviour they can be rid of you as a drain on that community, and as someone who would tarnish the universities reputation. The upshot of this is that professors can break all sorts of soft rules to get whomever they want as grad student, pay them past funding periods, run labs the way they want, run their own IT etc. But it also means the occasional asshole has quite a lot of authority to make your life miserable, and well, every department has at least one prof you just don't want to go near.

          I'm in Comp sci, and we have a prof who repeatedly insists (via e-mail) that we should cut off internet access to the department. The last place I was had a professor who's entire workload was teaching 2 courses (no committees, no research), and he liked to teach courses on whatever was 'cool' (as defined by his teenage daughter I guess), even if this had nothing to do with the broader programme goals. Getting rid of a tenured professor is really really hard, it's expensive, and usually they don't go completely crazy until they're towards the end of their careers, so you don't want to fire someone with health problems etc. There's a huge legal expense, and bad press. And students sometimes love the crazy ones because they are certainly interesting.

          • by gtall (79522) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @03:51PM (#42021277)

            Yep, but it is worse than that. Universities these days want to hire young stars that will essentially bring in enough money to pay their own salary and keep a phalanx of students. This makes the department look like they are on the cusp of whatever passes for research in their area.

            The emphasis is on "young" too. Age discrimination starts early in academia. If you aren't a star by 35, good luck. And if you get rejected for tenure at one place, expect the same at the next. Many professors only get to their really good research until their 50s when they've acquired a lot of experience and depth of thought.

            I wish I had a fix for this system, but I don't. Every time I think of something, I can argue why it wouldn't work or even make things worse. There does need to be some sort of oversight. But professors won't agree to any oversight unless it is by their peers...who probably find nothing wrong with any professors behavior.

            • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 18, 2012 @04:19PM (#42021503)

              Professors are hired on their ability to do research. Most professors spend 39 hours a week doing teaching, administrative duties at the university, applying for grants and service to the field (peer review, organizing conferences, etc.). So when do they do their research? Well, they find time for research by working more than 39 hours a week. If you think about that for a moment, you will realize that most professors do research exclusively in their free time, yet their research ability is what they were hired for. There are only two positions that sometimes actually are research positions at universities: PhD student and postdoc. Also, there are far more postdoc positions than there are professor positions. So you end up with a rarefied group of people who were selected for research ability, luck and ruthlessness in pursuing their goals, and then you task them to a job's capacity with administration and teaching without much oversight. I don't know how anyone can think that the result of that should be good for research, for students or for professors.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 18, 2012 @06:13PM (#42022181)

          In any decent university there is an academic appeals committee where, if the professor isn't abiding by the terms laid out in the course syllabus, the professor's evaluation can be overruled. Furthermore, consideration of such cases often involves independent evaluation of student work. In my experience, if a student really is being treated unfairly, the situation usually gets corrected. I've sat on such a committee. It usually went 40:60 student versus prof's stories. I've evaluated plenty of examples where students thought they were being treated unfairly, but actually they were not.

          The key in both situations is not to base it on "They don't like me", but "They said I'd be evaluated this way, and, here, take a look at this work for yourself and compare it to the rest of the class to see for yourself." The worst when sitting on that committee was hearing the student's story, then asking to see the work, and they've lost it or some other lame reason that may as well be equivalent to "the dog ate it". Well, I sympathize, but if it was that important and you were being shafted, you better keep that stuff or we can't help you.

          I've also helped a student at graduate level who really was being treated unfairly. As it started to turn sour I told them to meticiously document the time they spent on their work, perform outstandingly in all their course work, keep copies of their work, records of e-mail exchanges, everything. The idea was that if it did come to the point where they had to make a case to others, they could show to any impartial person what went wrong (and that it wasn't them). When the time came they found plenty of support from other faculty, because the evidence was kind of obvious.

          Profs can be unfair assholes, just like anyone else can, but on the whole most of them aren't. It's unpleasant and risky to deal with a situation like that as a student, because the prof is in a position of power. However, 9 times out of 10 the problem *is* with the student, and blaming the prof is just a convenient excuse. I know this, because I *strive* to be fair, yet I've heard all sorts of unjustified complaints. I don't mean the "prof is a hardass kind", but "prof said it would be X, but actually it was Y", even though I can go back to the syllabus and point at the part that does indeed say I'm expecting "X". Statistically, these aren't many cases anyway (most students are satisfied), but the ones that aren't, well, a lot of them are a bunch of whiners who want to blame everyone *else* for their problems. I've had people show up at my door at the end of term with a 49% saying "Oh, gee, Dr. X, can you please (arbitrarily) increase my mark by 1% so I can pass?" [Checks records. Student didn't do easy bonus point assignment X, Y, or Z, and lost 10% right there]. "Uh, no" == "Professor X is an unfair hardass" on Rate My Professor. Naturally, the the prof figures prominently when people get an F, not them, even if 90% of the class passed just fine. Go figure.

          For the other tenth, the legitimate complaints, students need to look out for themselves and realize that the other profs will support them if the evidence is clear enough. For graduate work, one of the reasons there's a committee rather than a single supervisor is to ensure that a student has someone knowledgeable to turn to if someone is being unreasonable. It can still go horribly wrong, and profs do have a lot of power, but there are checks-and-balances for a reason, and students need to avail themselves of those if they discover that their supervisor is an ass. It is going to be messy and it doesn't always turn out well, but I've seen enough examples to know that it often does turn out ok.

  • Coporate Influence (Score:5, Insightful)

    by qw(name) (718245) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @01:34PM (#42020069) Journal

    It's all because of greed. Universities have adopted corporate tactics to become and stay "more competitive in the marketplace" and that means shielding themselves from lawsuits and making themselves more appealing to donors.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by brianerst (549609)

      Please. It's because universities are overwhelmingly run by a single ideology (in this case, leftism, but in another time or universe, rightism). Combine a monoculture of 'correct' thought, a hypersensitivity to hurting any favored/traditionally disenfranchised group's feelings and (as you said) fear of lawsuits and the professional outrage club and you get these codes. The fact that university faculty are usually the strongest supporters of and agitators for these codes should be shocking, but sadly it isn

      • It's because universities are overwhelmingly run by a single ideology (in this case, leftism, but in another time or universe, rightism).

        Universities are not hotbeds of leftism, and they never really were. A few universities are or were, but for the most part, here is what life at today's universities is like:

        1. Don't ask the wrong questions
        2. Climb the ladder: you are at school so you can get a good job afterward
        3. Know your place
        4. Pay!
        5. Don't complain about money!
        6. Never question how the system works, and make sure you call anyone who does question the system annoying.

        Corporations generally don't care at all about what you say - they just want your money

        Yes, they care about money. That's why they care about what you say:

        http://w [guardian.co.uk]

    • by westlake (615356)

      Universities have adopted corporate tactics to become and stay "more competitive in the marketplace" and that means shielding themselves from lawsuits and making themselves more appealing to donors.

      So, nothing new under the sun.

    • shielding themselves from lawsuits

      The limiting liability part is valid. No one is going to sue students. They have no money. The university has money, so any lawsuits will be directed at them, even if the university had nothing to do with inappropriate behavior by students.

      Yes, it's the same with sexual harassment. Nobody sues the offender, who has no money. The employer gets sued. For this reason, companies have explicit policies and education on sexual harassment.

      It's simply astute business practice to avoid getting held accountab

    • by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @02:21PM (#42020497)

      Speaking of corporations, what the heck is up with the summary: "how universities have become the most authoritarian institutions in America"??

      Hmm... the MOST authoritarian institutions in America. A little hyperbole? I suppose it depends on how you define "institution." If you mean "institution" as in "institute" which often implies a research organization, the claim is probably trivially true, since universities are probably the most common independent research organizations in America.

      But that's a dumb reading. So if we interpret "institution" in the broader sense of an organization created for a particular purpose, how about... I don't know... the TSA, the military? They aren't "authoritarian" at all... [\sarcasm]

      Or, for that matter, most corporations that have at-will employees. How many places could you keep your job if you acted in your workplace like many college students act on college campuses?

      The article identifies a real issue, but colleges are now the MOST authoritarian organizations in the U.S.? Hardly.

  • Typical.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by drewsup (990717) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @01:41PM (#42020115)

    So in order to not offend ANYONE, NO ONE is allowed to say ANYTHING.
    This goes right along with sports where there is no winner\ everyone gets a trophy to PC playgrounds with no jungle gyms.
    I weep at what has happened to my country in the past 30 years. I think it's time to start again from scratch.

  • At the community college im attending to bone up on some tech skills they have a 'free speech zone' in the main quad. It is hideous that the college has institutionalized where and when free speech can occur. I understand the practicality of such a solution, but i cannot ignore its chilling effect.
  • by Beetle B. (516615) <beetle_b@NosPam.email.com> on Sunday November 18, 2012 @01:45PM (#42020169)

    Most of the examples in the article have a pro-conservative leaning. So I went to their FIRE database and tried to find some cases where I knew universities tried blocking left-wing people from speaking. Not surprisingly, I didn't find at least the ones I was aware of.

    I think it's good someone is defending conservatives' right to speech. I simply feel they should be open about their partisanship.

  • by TubeSteak (669689) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @01:52PM (#42020251) Journal

    I'm not surprised the Wall Street Journal allowed Mr. Lukianoff to mischaracterize the contents of Fordham's statement.
    Read it for yourself and see if it really matches the tone of WSJ's article : http://www.fordham.edu/Campus_Resources/eNewsroom/topstories_2601.asp [fordham.edu]

    November 9, 2012

    The College Republicans, a student club at Fordham University, has invited Ann Coulter to speak on campus on November 29. The event is funded through student activity fees and is not open to the public nor the media. Student groups are allowed, and encouraged, to invite speakers who represent diverse, and sometimes unpopular, points of view, in keeping with the canons of academic freedom. Accordingly, the University will not block the College Republicans from hosting their speaker of choice on campus.

    To say that I am disappointed with the judgment and maturity of the College Republicans, however, would be a tremendous understatement. There are many people who can speak to the conservative point of view with integrity and conviction, but Ms. Coulter is not among them. Her rhetoric is often hateful and needlessly provocative--more heat than light--and her message is aimed squarely at the darker side of our nature.

    As members of a Jesuit institution, we are called upon to deal with one another with civility and compassion, not to sling mud and impugn the motives of those with whom we disagree or to engage in racial or social stereotyping. In the wake of several bias incidents last spring, I told the University community that I hold out great contempt for anyone who would intentionally inflict pain on another human being because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or creed.

    "Disgust" was the word I used to sum up my feelings about those incidents. Hate speech, name-calling, and incivility are completely at odds with the Jesuit ideals that have always guided and animated Fordham.

    Still, to prohibit Ms. Coulter from speaking at Fordham would be to do greater violence to the academy, and to the Jesuit tradition of fearless and robust engagement. Preventing Ms. Coulter from speaking would counter one wrong with another. The old saw goes that the answer to bad speech is more speech. This is especially true at a university, and I fully expect our students, faculty, alumni, parents, and staff to voice their opposition, civilly and respectfully, and forcefully.

    The College Republicans have unwittingly provided Fordham with a test of its character: do we abandon our ideals in the face of repugnant speech and seek to stifle Ms. Coulter's (and the student organizers') opinions, or do we use her appearance as an opportunity to prove that our ideas are better and our faith in the academy--and one another--stronger? We have chosen the latter course, confident in our community, and in the power of decency and reason to overcome hatred and prejudice.

    Joseph M. McShane, S.J., President

    Compare and contrast with

    Mr. Lukianoff says that the Fordham-Coulter affair took campus censorship to a new level:
    "This was the longest, strongest condemnation of a speaker that I've ever seen in which a university president also tried to claim that he was defending freedom of speech."

    I guess in the print edition, the WSJ and Lukianoff can assume most people won't actually read the statement being attacked.

    • by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @02:27PM (#42020543)

      I guess in the print edition, the WSJ and Lukianoff can assume most people won't actually read the statement being attacked.

      The conservative media doesn't report the news anymore. They take statements out of context and generate their own version of news. Weren't you here during the last election season? ;-)

      • by westlake (615356) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @02:38PM (#42020647)

        The conservative media doesn't report the news anymore. They take statements out of context and generate their own version of news.

        Not so very different from Slashdot.

      • by fnj (64210)

        The conservative media doesn't report the news anymore. They take statements out of context and generate their own version of news. Weren't you here during the last election season? ;-)

        The liberal media doesn't report the news anymore. They take statements out of context and generate their own version of news. Weren't you here during the last election season? ;-)

        OK, now we've both got that out of our systems, how about we refuse to be gamed by the system with its false left-right divide which is only for sh

    • by Stiletto (12066) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @03:10PM (#42020949)

      So, basically, it went like this:

      College Republicans: We're inviting Ann Coulter onto campus to do her hate-schtick show.
      University Officials: Go ahead, but you're making yourselves look like douchebags and this university look like a circus.
      College Republicans: Uhmm.. OK, she's dis-invited.
      College Republicans to the Wall Street Journal: WAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH! THE COMMUNIST LIBRUL UNIVERSITY IS CENSORING OUR FREE SPEECH!!!! WAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!

      • by sgtrock (191182)
        How did this get modded +5? Directly from the officers of the College Republicans [salon.com]:

        The College Republicans regret the controversy surrounding our planned lecture featuring Ann Coulter. The size and severity of opposition to this event have caught us by surprise and caused us to question our decision to welcome her to Rose Hill. Looking at the concerns raised about Ms. Coulter, many of them reasonable, we have determined that some of her comments do not represent the ideals of the College Republicans and are

  • by roc97007 (608802) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @01:53PM (#42020269) Journal

    ...it is exercised by the students. In the sixties, freedom of expression on campus sometimes had a high cost. University administrations may have bowed to expediency in the seventies and eighties, but it does appear that the old shackles are back in place, although some of them have different names.

    Today's students can take back their freedom of expression, but will they have the guts to do so? Or will they continue to lament that "the man" doesn't allow them to say unpopular things?

  • We have outsourced our own brains and the decisions normally made by cultural mores to ideology.

    Ideology is a type of political theory that we assume is true, so we crusade toward it in the name of Progress and Utopia.

    Naturally, because it is a theory, it's unstable. In fact, there is often proof against it. But its adherents cling to it even more, because it provides for them an identity separate from their real-world identity.

    However, this instability leads to it having a need: as a symbol, it must prevai

  • Students should learn what they will face later in the real world. Knowing how things are going, i'd say that it complies with that mission.
  • by krisamico (452786) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @02:14PM (#42020427)

    for citizens in good standing. That is the definition of unalienable. Sometimes you have to fight for them though! Not to worry, you are witnessing Peak College. Bloated, wasteful, dysfunctional institutions will vaporize with the credit that pays their ridiculous prices. Goods and services purchased with credit are altered by the supply of said credit. When we stop rewarding failure with bailouts, that is. Affordable education that caters only to the needs of the student body will be a welcome change!

  • "free speech zones" (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bcrowell (177657) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @02:48PM (#42020743) Homepage

    TFA focuses mainly on content-based restrictions, such as prohibiting people from quoting certain passages from the Koran. But along with these restrictions, many schools now have extremely onerous "time, place, and manner" regulations. Although these are written so as to be blind to the content of the speech, they're often absurdly restrictive. I teach at a community college in Fullerton, California, where last year the police murdered a mentally ill homeless man. This resulted in murder charges being brought by the DA, and a city council recall. I wanted to set up a card table on my school's grassy quad to collect signatures for the recall petition. I went through the process of registering officially, and the restrictions were just nuts. They have two very small patches of grass, over at the corner of the quad, which are marked on the map. I was forbidden from approaching people as they walked by. A lot of colleges refer to these tiny patches, apparently without any consciousness of irony, as free speech zones.

    As far as I can tell, the intention is simply to create conditions that make it absolutely impossible for students to stage anything like an actual political rally or protest. You simply wouldn't be able to fit more than about 10 human bodies into one of these free speech zones.

  • by couchslug (175151) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @04:17PM (#42021479)

    The students who hated all authority in the Sixties were RIGHT, but they sold out for the most part.

    Kids, the Man is fucking YOU even harder than he did your predecessors.

    Unless you get pissed off enough to act, "prepare your anus".

  • by westlake (615356) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @05:46PM (#42022015)

    The College Republicans regret the controversy surrounding our planned lecture featuring Ann Coulter. The size and severity of opposition to this event have caught us by surprise, and caused us to question our decision to welcome her to Rose Hill. Looking at the concerns raised about Ms. Coulter, many of them reasonable, we have determined that some of her comments do not represent the ideals of the College Republicans and are inconsistent with both our organization's mission, and the University's. We regret that we failed to thoroughly research her before announcing, that is our error and we do not excuse ourselves for it. Consistent with our strong disagreement with certain comments by Ms. Coulter we have chosen to cancel the event and rescind Ms. Coulterâ(TM)s invitation to speak at Fordham. We made this choice freely, before Father McShaneâ(TM)s email was sent out and we became aware of his feelings --- had the President simply reached out to us before releasing his statement he would have learned that the event was being cancelled. We hope the University community will forgive the College Republicans for our error, and continue to allow us to serve as its main voice of the sensible, compassionate, and conservative political movement that we strive to be. We fell short of that standard this time, and we offer our sincere apologies.

    Ted Conrad, President

    UPDATED: McShane Responds to College Republicans' Cancellation of Ann Coulter Event [fordhamobserver.com]

    The Republican Club tried to get the Student Association to spring for George Will, but was capped at $10,000. Fordham College Republicans withdraw Coulter invite [dailycaller.com]

    The Speaker's Bureau:

    Campus Speaker & Board of Advisors Member - Ann Coulter [cblpi.org]

    Click here to host an event with Ann on your campus!

    Fun times:

    The incident followed a Monday night lecture at the University of Western Ontario, where Coulter told a Muslim student to "take a camel" as an alternative to flying.

    Coulter made the comment as she responded to a question from student Fatima Al-Dhaher, who asked about previous comments in which Coulter said Muslims shouldn't be allowed on airplanes and should take "flying carpets" instead. Al-Dhaher noted she did not own a flying carpet and asked what she should take as an alternative transportation. Coulter did not deny making the flying carpet comment and replied to the university student, "What mode of transportation? Take a camel," to jeers and cheers. It was a decidedly pro-Coulter audience. One man, who identified himself as a U.S. citizen, described U.S. President Barack Obama as a "Marxist."

    She is well-known for her vehement views against Muslims. In a post-September 11 column, she wrote that the U.S. should invade Muslim countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.

    Coulter, who often comments on Fox News, once said Canada is "lucky we allow them to exist on the same continent" after the Canadian government did not join the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

    Coulter speech cancelled over fears of violence [ctvnews.ca]

  • by p51d007 (656414) on Sunday November 18, 2012 @06:53PM (#42022439)
    The "free thinking" radicals of the 60's counter culture movement, are today's 50 & 60 year old "professors" in most major institutions. Couple that with the ideology they have pushed in primary & secondary schools over the last 25 years, and they have melded the minds of today's 20-30 year old adults into believing that free speech is only free as long as you believe what they believe. If not, you are to be told you are a __________(insert favorite PC term), and need to be silenced. Until THAT ideology is removed, and the so called political correctness "movement" is contained, nothing will change it.

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