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What We’re Reading – October 2023

New research reveals the challenges in shoring up free expression and academic freedom in higher education, even as colleges and universities navigate the pitfalls of issuing official statements about the Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel.

Campus Happenings

In These Red States, Professors Are Eyeing the Exits
Megan Zahneis and Audrey Williams June | The Chronicle of Higher Education | September 7, 2023

A recent American Association of University Professors survey of faculty members in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas found “widespread dissatisfaction with political incursions into diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, and tenure.” About a third of faculty reported that they were “actively considering employment in another state.” The survey also found that nearly “80 percent of respondents described their state’s political atmosphere surrounding academe as poor or very poor.”

College Community Protest at Talk by Dr. Robert George
Grace Apostol | The Elm | September 13, 2023

Students at Washington College in Maryland disrupted a “Freedom of Expression” talk by Princeton University professor Robert George, resulting in the cancellation of the event. Professor George’s opposition to same-sex marriage, abortion access, and gender fluidity drew strong protests from some student groups. In an email to the campus community, President Mike Sosulski said, “This is not the Washington College Way” and stated that the university would take disciplinary action toward those students who violated the honor code.

University of Chicago Launches Forum for Free Inquiry and Expression with Speaker Panels, Banned Book Collection
Eunice Alpasan | WTTW News | October 4, 2023

Long considered a leader on free expression in higher education, the University of Chicago launched a new initiative on free inquiry at an event on October 5 and 6 that featured a number of leaders from across the political spectrum as well as the unveiling of a collection of over 1,500 banned books.

State and Federal

Another Federal Appeals Court Recognizes Academic Exception to Restrictions on the First Amendment Rights of Public Employees
Josh Bleisch| The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression | September 13, 2023

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued an opinion in Heim v. Daniel in which it held that the speech of public university faculty is different from other state employees and that academic freedom is “a special concern of the First Amendment.” The Second Circuit “joins the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Ninth Circuits in holding that faculty should have strong academic freedom protections for on-the-job speech.”

Congress Unveils Report That Shows ‘Pervasive Degradation’ of First Amendment Rights on College Campuses
Kendall Tietz | Fox News | September 21, 2023

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce issued a twenty-page report about the deterioration of free speech and inquiry in higher education. The report suggests a slate of legislative proposals and enforcement mechanisms for forcefully addressing the problem. The committee’s chairwoman, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-VA), said “This report offers sensible solutions that can right the ship before it’s too late.”

Op-eds and Thought Pieces

Indoctrination Has No Place in Education
William A. Galston | The Wall Street Journal | September 12, 2023

As part of an exchange of views with New College of Florida Trustee Christopher Rufo, William Galston, Ezra K. Zilkha Chair in the Brookings Institution’s Governance Studies Program, argues against government restrictions on classroom instruction. While Rufo holds that American civic education must teach students to embrace the norms and practices of our civil society, Galston argues that civic education must expose students to both the defenders and the critics of the regime so that students might come to their own conclusions.

Campus Free Speech Survey Rife with Contradictions
Johanna Alonso | Inside Higher Ed | October 3, 2023

A recent survey conducted by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the University of Chicago Forum for Free Inquiry and Expression found the public has seemingly contradictory views on campus free speech. Most respondents do not want state governments or university administrators to interfere with what professors teach in the classroom. However, respondents also said that professors should be barred from inviting offensive speakers or promoting religious or political causes.

Here’s What Colleges Are, and Aren’t, Saying About the Israel-Hamas War
Maggie Hicks | The Chronicle of Higher Education | October 10, 2023

A small but growing number of colleges and universities have issued statements about the war between Israel and Hamas, and some of these statements have been criticized for remaining neutral on the issue and failing to condemn the brutality of Hamas’ terrorist attack in Israel. In particular, Harvard University’s response has received widespread condemnation, as has the joint statement issued by some of its student organizations. These recent events highlight the ongoing debate about university major events statements policies.

Middle East Crisis Pushes Education Department to Curb Campus Protests
Bianca Quilantan | POLITICO | October 12, 2023

Hundreds of student groups in support of Israel and Palestinians are protesting on their campuses in response to the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack. Colleges and universities are scrambling to issue their own statements and manage student protests even as the Department of Education comes under pressure to release a twice-delayed proposal that would require universities to investigate claims of discrimination against ethnic groups—especially Jewish people—or lose access to federal funding.

Big Read

Free Speech and Inclusion: How College Students Are Navigating Shifting Speech Norms
Constructive Dialogue Institute and More in Common | September 21, 2023

A recent report on free expression and inclusion on college campuses finds that neither is thriving and the fight to prioritize one is hindering learning environments.  Students across all ideologies expressed a value for dialogue, providing institutional leaders with a potential path forward.

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