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What We’re Reading: July 2022

This month’s readings include legal decisions touching religious views and free expression, with a religious university ordered to recognize an LGBTQ club and a public university ordered to rescind no-contact orders issued after one student complained about a Christian campus club.

Campus Happenings

GW Defends Thomas Appointment Amid Calls for Removal from Law School
Lauren Lumpkin | The Washington Post | July 1, 2022

George Washington University refused calls to dismiss Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas from the faculty in the wake of his concurring opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Responding to a petition signed by students and others off-campus, the school asserted it would not dismiss Thomas “because we steadfastly support the robust exchange of ideas and deliberation.”

Judge Rescinds No-contact Order Against UI Law Students
Anthony Kuipers | The Moscow-Pullman Daily News | July 6, 2022

A federal court ordered the University of Idaho to revoke no-contact orders issued under its Title IX and Code of Conduct and Disciplinary Policies against three law students and a professor, who are, respectively, members of and faculty advisor to the campus’ Christian Legal Society chapter. The orders had been issued after a complaint about the club’s views on marriage. The judge found that this case is not encompassed by Title IX, that there was “almost no due process,” and that the university likely violated the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights.

Federal and State

Civic Secures Democracy Act
U.S. Senate | June 13, 2022

The Civic Secures Democracy Act would reauthorize and fund a civics grant program promoting “values such as appreciation for free speech, civil discourse, tolerance and inclusion, and understanding perspectives that differ from one’s own.” The bill would authorize $150 million annually for academic programs and centers, as well as teacher preparation programs. Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the bill’s co-sponsors, spoke about this legislation at the December 2020 launch of BPC’s Campus Free Expression Task Force.

Community College Board Relents on Search After Youngkin Threatens to Replace Members
Eric Kolenich | Richmond Times-Dispatch | June 29, 2022

The Virginia Community College System board of trustees acceded to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s (R-VA) demand to include a member of his administration on the search committee for a new chancellor of the 23-campus community college system, after Gov. Youngkin sent members a letter on June 17 asking them to resign if they did not agree to this demand.

Florida Educators, Student Allowed to Challenge So-Called “Stop WOKE Act”
CBS Miami Team| CBS Miami | July 8, 2022

A district judge allowed the request of a University of Central Florida professor for a preliminary injunction against the implementation of HB7 to move forward. The new law would place limits on how race-related concepts may be taught. The State University System of Florida Board of Governors considered a rule to implement the law at its June meeting and will revisit the topic at its August meeting.

Op-Eds and Thought Pieces

The Real Chill on Campus
Yascha Mounk | The Atlantic | June 16, 2022

The author, a writer and university lecturer, reports his experience that a wide majority of students want open debate but self-censor because of a minority of “ideological enforcers” who call out peers on social media or instigate administrative investigations. He argues campuses must “abolish restrictive speech codes,” assign “classic texts on free speech,” and “not shy away from disciplining the small minority of students that disregards the rules of the community.”

A New York Court Denies Yeshiva University Its Religious Freedom
Natan Ehrenreich | National Review | June 20, 2022

A student at Yeshiva University criticizes a New York court ruling that Yeshiva University is not a “religious corporation” and thus not exempt from laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. The student argues that the decision, which requires the university to recognize a LGBTQ student club, will chill religious freedoms, exacerbate tensions on campus, and undermine conversations about how to support LGBTQ students.

Colleges Should Do More to Slow Down ‘Fast Thinking’
Glenn C. Altschuler and David Wippman | The Hill | June 26, 2022

A college president and a professor argue “zealots on the left and the right” make headlines of “unrepresentative cases” of speakers disinvited or shouted down. Such headlines reinforce partisan divisions and obscure a greater challenge to open inquiry, namely “fast thinking.” They argue colleges “should lay the foundation for slowing down fast thinking in and outside the classroom, at orientations and convocations, and in communications to alumni and parents of undergraduates.”

Academic Freedom’s Proxy Wars
Suzanne Nossel | The Chronicle of Higher Education | June 27, 2022

The CEO of PEN America criticizes public and private universities for “proxy reprisals” when scholars are investigated, fired, or dismissed from administrative posts after controversial speech. In such cases, “university officials need to honestly interrogate their own systems, motives, and decision-making processes to avoid being complicit in punishments that flout free-speech principles.”

Big Reads

Universities Under Fire: Hostile Discourses and Integrity Deficits in Higher Education
Steven Jones | Palgrave Macmillan | June 27, 2022

A British professor analyzes stresses in the UK higher education system. As in the U.S., UK universities were once trusted institutions but are now “under fire” by the media, public, and government. One reason: “perceived incompatibility with, or opposition towards, free speech.” The author argues that free speech concerns are overblown but concedes academia has contributed to the issue by, for example, “too casually or too individually appealing to academic freedom.”

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