Academic Freedom Today

The Feds are telling colleges to set up disciplinary courts and accept “preponderance of the evidence” in cases of sexual harassment.

But more often they involve alleged offenses defined in vague terms and depending often on subjective factors. Lukianoff notes that campus definitions of sexual harassment include “humor and jokes about sex in general that make someone feel uncomfortable” (University of California at Berkeley), “unwelcome sexual flirtations and inappropriate put-downs of individual persons or classes of people” (Iowa State University) or “elevator eyes” (Murray State University in Kentucky).

All of which means that just about any student can be hauled before a disciplinary committee. Jokes about sex will almost always make someone uncomfortable, after all, and usually you can’t be sure if flirting will be welcome except after the fact. And how do you define “elevator eyes”?

Given the prevailing attitudes among faculty and university administrators, it’s not hard to guess who will be the target of most such proceedings. You only have to remember how rapidly and readily top administrators and dozens of faculty members were ready to castigate as guilty of rape the Duke lacrosse players who, as North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper concluded, were absolutely innocent.

What the seemingly misnamed Office of Civil Rights is doing here is demanding the setting up of kangaroo courts and the dispensing of what I would call marsupial justice against students who are disfavored by campus denizens because of their gender or race or political attitude. “Alice in Wonderland’s” Red Queen would approve.

Over at UNC-Chapel Hill,

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) has surrendered to the “heckler’s veto” by revoking Professor Emeritus Elliot Cramer’s network access following outside complaints about a link on his website to an organization that advocates for animal welfare. Despite telling the complaining individual that the dispute was “not a University matter” and that the university did not monitor the content of websites maintained by professors, UNC nevertheless demanded that Cramer remove the link from his website and later canceled his network access entirely.

Cramer, a psychology professor at UNC since 1966 and an emeritus faculty member since 1994, is an active scholar as well as President of the Board of Directors of the Piedmont Animal Welfare Society (PAWS). He is also affiliated with an awareness group called the Friends of Orange County Animal Shelter (FOCAS), over whose activities Cramer first got into his months-long dispute with Joseph Villarosa. While unaffiliated with UNC, Villarosa has been determined to have the university step in and shut Cramer’s speech down.

Saint Augustine’s College prohibited a student from marching in the graduation ceremony because of a comment on Facebook.

These links are all from the webpage of FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. I was browsing it after viewing “Expelled” again–Ben Stein’s  Mooresque film about Intelligent Design. I found this article on the FIRE webpage about that film. Very interesting stuff:

… having reviewed thousands of free speech claims by college students over the years, I cannot remember one instance of a student being expelled for arguing for “Intelligent Design” or against Darwinism.

And then I try my darnedest to explain the movie I just saw. My biggest revelation in this, however, was more personal than academic: if Ben Stein cares so much about free speech and academic freedom, where has he been all these years? I conclude:

If you are reading this, Ben Stein, I ask you please take a look at the cases I cited yesterday . Please, take a look at the violations against religious students’ rights (including banning The Passion of the Christ), the gross violations of due process, the crazy brainwashing of students, and the actual ideological litmus tests at schools as prestigious as Columbia’s Teachers College. Did you know that most colleges maintain oppressive speech codes? Did you know that many colleges maintain tiny and out-of-the-way free speech quarantines called speech zones? We could use some high-profile help here, Ben. With your power and influence you really could help bring a missing dose of liberty back to campuses. But if you only care about ID education, I suspect you will only be preaching to people who already agree with you.