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What We’re Reading: January 2022

This month’s 10 must-read stories address the academic freedom of professors who have been criticized for opinions expressed on social media and coverage of new legislation protecting student journalists in New Jersey.

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Campus Happenings

Louisiana AG Calls for LSU to Punish Professor Over Tweet
Josh Moody | Inside Higher Ed | December 13, 2021

Attorney General Jeff Landry called on Louisiana State University (LSU) to discipline a tenured journalism professor for a tweet “referring to one of Landry’s political workers as a ‘flunkie.’” The attorney general sent a tweet calling for “accountability” and a letter asserting that the professor’s tweet violates faculty handbook guidelines. LSU’s chapter of the American Association for University Professors published a statement supporting the professor, and LSU President William F. Tate IV, without mentioning the controversy, issued a statement supporting First Amendment rights and academic freedom.

SDSU President De la Torre Rebukes a Dean for Hostile Remarks About Conservatives
Gary Robbins | The San Diego Union Tribune | January 6, 2022

San Diego State University (SDSU) Dean of the College of Arts and Letters Monica Casper generated controversy with several tweets about the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse and the “Right’s agenda.” SDSU President Adela de la Torre responded to the controversy with a statement shared on Twitter: “I will always stand by the right to free speech, but I do not condone or agree with what she said. I do not support actions that seek to divide us or undermine civic discourse for any reason.”

State and Federal Policies

Republican Bill Would Punish Universities, Technical Colleges for Free Speech Violations
Rich Kremer | Wisconsin Public Radio | December 10, 2021

Wisconsin State Assembly representatives introduced a bill that “would punish Wisconsin state universities and technical colleges for free speech or academic freedom violations.” If passed, the bill would “allow state or federal courts, the state Higher Educational Aids Board, or state lawmakers to weigh evidence and decide if a college violated free speech rights.” Consequences for colleges could include financial penalties and the requirement to notify applicants that free speech policies had been violated.

New Jersey Becomes 15th New Voices State
Andrew Benson | Student Press Law Center | December 22, 2021

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-NJ) signed S108 into law, making it the 15th state to adopt legislation modeled after the Student Press Law Center’s (SPLC) “New Voices Act.” The law “prohibits the censorship of student journalists except in narrow circumstances.” SPLC Executive Director Hadar Harris, while applauding the passage of the bill, critiqued the legislation for prohibiting profanity, commenting that the new law “encouraged school administrators to unconstitutionally restrict the use of profane speech when it is newsworthy.”

Op-Eds and Thought Pieces

Young Dems More Likely To Despise The Other Party
Neal Rothschild | Axios | December 8, 2021

A Generation Lab/Axios poll finds nearly “a quarter of college students wouldn’t be friends with someone who voted for the other presidential candidate — with Democrats far more likely to dismiss people than Republicans.” The survey found 71% of Democrats and 31% of Republicans would not go on a date with someone who held opposite views, and “30% of Democrats — and 7% of Republicans — wouldn’t work for someone who voted differently from them.”

A Template for Academic Freedom
Colleen Flaherty | Inside Higher Ed | December 15, 2021

Faculty senates on more than a dozen campuses have passed or are considering resolutions addressing “state legislation or governing board policies limiting the teaching of race and other so-called divisive concepts.” Many of these are based on a template drafted in coordination with the African American Policy Forum and American Association of University Professors. The resolution “resolutely rejects any attempts by bodies external to the faculty to restrict or dictate university curriculum on any matter.”

How to Remedy the Campus Groupthink That Targeted Us
Sophia A. Nelson and Christina Crenshaw | Real Clear Politics | December 15, 2021

Two scholars, both women, one white and one Black, recount professional and personal consequences they experienced because of “campus cancel culture.” They criticize the “seriously flawed sociological and generational shift that has redefined the way we have courageous conversations (or not) on our college campuses,” offering recommendations including free speech policies and “campus dialogues that include all voices.”

When Professors Offend Students
Emma Pettit | The Chronicle of Higher Education | December 16, 2021

Disputes over academic freedom and what content is suitable to classroom discussion are increasingly frequent as professors find themselves at risk of punishment: “One or several of their students are hurt by something they said or did while teaching. Those students then ask, or demand, that the institution take action, sometimes by inflicting punishment.” The article surveys controversies over faculty classroom decisions and the wide range of administrative responses.

The Second Great Age of Political Correctness
Greg Lukianoff | Reason | January 2022 Issue

The author, the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, argues U.S. higher education is suffering a return of political correctness, albeit with different features than the political correctness of the 1980s and early 1990s. He makes recommendations including campus policy reforms, donor pressure to adopt free speech policies, and “alternative models to traditional higher education.”

UF and The Future of U.S. Public Higher Education
Carmen Diana Deere, et al. | The Gainesville Sun | January 11, 2022

The president and 12 other members of the Retired Faculty of the University of Florida assert that University of Florida (UF) has become “the leading example in the U.S. of political interference and subservience to partisan political interests by a large and distinguished American public university.” They call on the UF “administration, faculty and board of trustees” to assert the need for faculty independence in research, teaching, and dissemination of expert knowledge.

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