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Campus Free Expression: What We’re Reading July 2019

Beginning this month, BPC’s Campus Free Expression Project will share 10 articles, op-eds, books, and blog posts about the state of campus free expression. Each month’s list will identify informative reads about the campus climate at schools across the country, approaches to creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for robust intellectual exchange, and a range of perspectives addressing these fraught issues.

Two of this month’s readings are especially interesting when considered together: Kevin Carney’s op-ed “How Higher Education Became a Pawn in the Partisan Forever War” and George R. La Noue’s recently-released Silenced Stages. Carney argues that Republican lawmakers are using concerns over schools limiting free speech of conservatives on campus to cut state appropriations. However, colleges are not simply pawns in an unfair game: as La Noue documents, the public’s concerns about a lack of viewpoint diversity on many campuses are well-founded, but there is a way forward. College leaders must work to regain public confidence by acknowledging fair concerns and demonstrating that campuses will foster free expression. La Noue offers positive strategies for campus leaders, faculty, and higher-education donors to increase the range of views heard on campus.

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Campus Happenings

Oberlin College Ordered to Pay $44.4 Million Damages in Libel Suit Brought by Small Business

Daniel McGraw | ABA Journal | June 17, 2019

“The issue was not about the student protests at Gibson’s Bakery in November of 2016, but how the school supported the protesters in various ways that cut the business’s earnings from about $900,000 in 2016 to a projected $433,000 this year.”

The Dangers of Opportunity: How Leaders in U.S. Higher Education Articulated Policy After “Unite the Right” in Charlottesville

Z.W. Taylor, D.M. Zaragoza, and C.E. Hartman, C.E. | Critical Questions in Education| June 27, 2019

An analysis of 99 statements issued by college and university leaders in the wake of the 2017 violent protests in Charlottesville, and how those statements were informed by schools’ policies that mention hate and bias incidents, the U.S. Constitution and First Amendment, and free speech and free expression.

Common Reading Program for the Class of 2023 Guide

Washington University in St. Louis | Summer, 2019

Washington University in St. Louis has selected Nadine Strossen’s HATE: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship as its required summer reading for incoming freshmen. WashU leaders explain how this book will help prepare students to engage in meaningful dialogues.

State and Federal Policies

On South Dakota’s HB1087 and Legislative Viewpoint Diversity Heterodox Academy Blog

HXA Executive Team | Heterodox Academy Blog | June 17, 2019

A letter sent by Heterodox Academy leadership to the South Dakota Board of Regents, arguing that South Dakota’s new law about free speech and intellectual diversity risks imposing a top-down approach that does not serve the unique character of each campus community and suggesting approaches to implementing the new law.

How Higher Education Became a Pawn in the Partisan Forever War

Kevin Carey |Chronicle of Higher Education | July 9, 2019 (paywall)

“As the American electorate becomes ever-more efficiently divided into ideologically coherent political parties, every major issue of public concern becomes another front in the partisan forever war. State university systems have mostly avoided that fate, held steady by history, tradition, cultural commitments, and a bipartisan faith in the economic value of learning and knowledge production. Now tectonic political pressures are threatening to overwhelm that consensus….”

Op-eds and Thought Pieces

The Perception Gap: How False Impressions are Pulling Americans Apart

Daniel Yudkin, Stephen Hawkins, Tim Dixon | More in Common | June 2019

An analysis of Republicans’ and Democrats’ estimates of what percentage of the opposing party hold extreme views. One notable finding: the more educated Democrats are, the more likely they are to overestimate the percentage of Republicans who hold extreme views.

Why Harvard Was Wrong to Make Me Step Down

Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. | New York Times | June 24, 2019

“Unchecked emotion has replaced thoughtful reasoning on campus. Feelings are no longer subjected to evidence, analysis or empirical defense. Angry demands, rather than rigorous arguments, now appear to guide university policy.”

Against Conservative Pessimism on Free Speech

Greg Lukianoff | National Review | July 1, 2019

“But given the notable progress that defenders of free speech both left and right have made on American campuses in recent years, the considerable distance we still have left to go, and the increased attention that can only help us traverse that distance, now is not the time to give in to defeatism.”

Big Reads

Silenced Stages: The Loss of Academic Freedom and Campus Policy Debates.

George R. La Noue | Carolina Academic Press | published May 27, 2019

La Noue finds that too often students do not have the opportunity to hear diverse viewpoints on important issues of the day. His conclusions are based on original research about the topics and participants in on-campus policy debates or forums where divergent viewpoints were presented at 97 universities and colleges and 28 law schools. He makes recommendations of ways to address this viewpoint diversity deficit.

Panic Attack: Young Radicals in the Age of Trump.

Robby Soave | All Points Books | published June 18, 2019

Soave argues that the liberal norms of free speech on campuses are being eroded by small minorities of illiberal left-wing and illiberal right-wing activists. Soave brings his reporter’s skills to elucidate the perspectives of students, faculty, and administrators on campuses across the county.