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What We’re Reading: February 2022

This month’s top ten reads include administrative responses to controversial expression and an article about far-reaching implications a new Supreme Court case may have for college athletes.

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Campus Happenings

Update on Ilya Shapiro
William M. Treanor | Georgetown Law | January 31, 2022

The dean of Georgetown Law School announced that he would place a newly appointed administrator on leave in the wake of controversy over the administrator’s Twitter thread criticizing President Joe Biden’s criteria for nomination to the Supreme Court: “I have placed Ilya Shapiro on administrative leave, pending an investigation into whether he violated our policies and expectations on professional conduct, non-discrimination, and anti-harassment.”

Message Regarding Posters Displayed on Campus
Mark Wrighton | George Washington University Office of the President | February 7, 2022

The president of George Washington University, after initially suggesting controversial satirical posters about the Chinese regime would be investigated and removed, announced: “There is no university investigation underway, and the university will not take any action against the students who displayed the posters.”

Federal and State

Ousted Football Coach Adds Free Speech to NCAA Athlete-Pay Miasma
Michael McCann | Sportico| January 21, 2022

The Supreme Court will hear Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, a case that “could present yet another example of the high court leaving its mark on athletics.” The case concerns the free speech rights of employees of public institutions, including colleges and universities. Separately from this case, many college athletes are pursuing recognition as employees. “As employees, college athletes would be bound by workplace restrictions on speech,” including those shaped by Kennedy.

Op-Eds and Thought Pieces

College Student Views on Free Expression and Campus Speech 2022: A Look at Key Trends In Student Speech Views Since 2016
Knight Foundation | January 25, 2022

The fourth report in the Knight Free Expression Research Series found a growing majority (65%) of students “feel that their campus climate stifles free expression” with only half of students agreeing that they “personally feel comfortable expressing dissenting opinions in the classroom.” The report also found most students (59%) want colleges to “allow students to be exposed to all types of speech even if they may find it offensive of biased.”

In Higher Education, New Educational Gag Orders Would Exert Unprecedented Control Over College Teaching
Jeremy C. Young and Jonathan Friedman | PEN America | February 1, 2022

In 2022, state legislatures are targeting academic freedom in college teaching with “educational gag orders,” departing from previous legislation that focused mostly on K–12 education. There are currently a few dozen higher education-focused bills, ranging from broad restrictions to targeted bans on certain academic frameworks. In some cases, violations of these proposed laws could result in loss of state funding.

Ivy League’s Brown Rues ‘Big Mistake’ on U.S.-China College Ties
Henry Ren | Bloomberg | February 3, 2022

Brown University President Christina Paxson is worried about federal government examination of ties between U.S. universities and China, while acknowledging concerns about theft of U.S. intellectual property. “‘We believe strongly in academic freedom and openness and exchange of knowledge,’ the Brown president said. ‘And we don’t want to do anything that makes people afraid to collaborate with somebody on a great project at another university.’”

What College Students Really Think About Cancel Culture
Jennifer Miller | The Atlantic | February 4, 2022

The author describes a “grassroots civil-dialogue movement that creates a new kind of safe space: one that invites students from across the political spectrum to discuss controversial issues, including policing, gender identity, and free speech itself. These spaces are not about First Amendment absolutism, but rather they aim to remove the anxieties of so-called cancel culture while still upholding a commitment to equity and inclusion.”

Why Colleges Don’t Care About Free Speech
John Hasnas | Wall Street Journal | February 6, 2022

The author, a professor, opines: “University administrators get no reward for upholding abstract principles. Their incentive is to quell on-campus outrage and bad press as quickly as possible. Success is widely praised, but there is no punishment for failing to uphold the university’s commitment to free speech. The solution is to create an incentive for schools to protect open inquiry—the fear of lawsuits.”

Big Reads

Antisemitism, Jewish Identity, and Freedom of Expression on Campus: A Guide and Resource Book for Faculty & University Leaders
Academic Engagement Network | January 2022

This resource book includes essays about antisemitism and anti-Israel movements on American campuses and in academic associations. Appendices include model statements and other resources for faculty, university administrators, and academic association leaders to counter antisemitism and academic boycotts of Israel while upholding free expression, academic freedom, and reasoned discussion.

Free Speech: A History from Socrates to Social Media
Jacob Mchangama | Basic Books | February 8, 2022

The author, founder and executive director of Justitia, a Danish think tank, situates contemporary free speech controversies in a historical context, concluding that understandable impulses to restrict hurtful or hateful speech sets precedents for censorship that harms individuals and society. Commenting on contemporary U.S. higher education, he writes, “while many conservatives fulminated about cancel culture establishing a liberal orthodoxy, liberals and progressives were also affected.”

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