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What We’re Reading: April 2023

Controversial campus speakers are front and center in this month’s selections, with a federal judge shouted down, an author withdrawing from a speaking engagement out of protest concerns, and a student suspended for his campus speech.

Campus Happenings

Next Steps on Protests and Free Speech
Jenny S. Martinez | Stanford Law School | March 22, 2023

Stanford Law School Dean Jenny Martinez apologized to a federal circuit judge after hecklers, with the support of an associate dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion, prevented him from delivering prepared remarks. Dean Martinez argued that the disruption violated school policies and that “the commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion actually means that we must protect free expression of all views.” Moving forward, she plans “more detailed and explicit” policies to protect both speaker and protestor rights.

International Struggle Over Antisemitism Definition Lies at Center of GW Debate
Faith Wardwell and Nikki Ghaemi |The GW Hatchet |March 30, 2023

Pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian groups have filed civil rights complaints against George Washington University with the Department of Education this year, alleging anti-Semitism and anti-Palestinian racism respectively. The pro-Israeli group requests that the school adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism. Some argue that the definition may be used to quelch criticism of Israel that should be protected.

County College of Morris Student Suspended, Sues After Speaking Against Homosexuality
Lori Comstock | Daily Record | April 3, 2023

County College of Morris warned a student against preaching against homosexuality and then suspended him when he persisted. Now the student is suing the school, alleging violations of his First Amendment rights. The school’s position is that “Members of the LGBTQ+ community are a protected class under the Law Against Discrimination and [the student] subjected others to bias-based harassment, causing a hostile environment.”

Cornell Leaders Reject Student Resolution Demanding Course Trigger Warnings
Lexi Lonas | The Hill | April 4, 2023

The Cornell University Student Assembly passed a resolution urging the university to direct faculty to provide advance notice before classes with “graphic traumatic content” and allow students to skip those class meetings penalty-free. President Martha Pollack and Provost Michael Kotlikoff rejected the resolution, writing, “It would have a chilling effect on faculty…and it would unacceptably limit our students’ ability to speak, question, and explore.”

State and Federal

5 State Plans to Restrict Faculty Tenure You’ll Want to Watch
Jeremy Bauer-Wolf | Higher Ed Dive | March 13, 2023

State legislators and executives are taking aim at tenure. In Texas and Iowa, lawmakers wish to end tenure; in North Dakota and Florida, lawmakers are seeking post-tenure review and other changes; a Louisiana legislator plans to introduce tenure legislation. Lawmakers advancing these measures cite free speech and faculty productivity concerns, while critics say such steps will undermine academic freedom and faculty recruitment.

Republicans: Campus Free Speech Under Attack
Katherine Knott | Inside Higher Ed | March 30, 2023

The House Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee held a hearing on free speech. Republicans “sought to show how universities are failing to educate students and creating a climate of self-censorship.” Democrats shifted the spotlight to recent efforts in state legislatures to restrict curriculum. Subcommittee chair Rep. Burgess Owens (R-UT) asserted, “This committee should explore possible legislative avenues” to address free speech issues.

Op-ed and Thought Pieces

Understanding Campus Expression Across Higher Ed: Heterodox Academy’s Annual Campus Expression Survey
N. Barbaro and S. Zhou | Heterodox Academy | March 22, 2023

Heterodox Academy published findings from its 2022 survey of full-time college students, including: 59% of students were reluctant to discuss controversial topics; 63% of students say that their campus’ climate keeps people from expressing their beliefs for fear of offending others; and only 61% report that their school “frequently” or “very frequently” encourages students to consider a wider range of views. Students who reported high levels of in-person classroom and campus interactions were less likely to self-censor.

Liberal Professors Can Rescue the G.O.P
Jon A. Shields | New York Times | March 23, 2023

Jon Shields, a government professor at Clairemont McKenna College, writes, “it’s hard to imagine how the next generation of Republican leaders will become thoughtful conservatives if all they’ve ever been tutored in is its Trump-style expressions.” Instead, Shields urges a coordinated national campaign to add a course on the conservative intellectual tradition to every college’s course catalog, a campaign that would ask liberal professors to teach the best of conservative thought.

You Can’t Cancel Me, I Quit
Mary Eberstadt | Wall Street Journal | March 27, 2023

Mary Eberstadt, an author and essayist, describes her reasons for withdrawing from a speaking engagement at Furman University after learning of potential protests: “Bullies have a right to protest, but that right doesn’t extend to dragooning others into untruths—including the untruth that people who join a hateful mob have any intention of listening to a speaker in the first place.” Furman University President Elizabeth Davis responded; Eberstadt (and another recent speaker) replied in turn.

Big Reads

Practicing Democracy: A Toolkit for Educating Civic Professionals
Nicholas V. Longo | Campus Compact & the American Association of Colleges and Universities | March 16, 2023

Nicholas Longo, a Providence College professor, published a civic engagement toolkit on topics including community learning agreements, developing civic professionals, and connecting careers to the common good. The toolkit includes vignettes drawn from BPC’s Academic Leaders Task Force report. Longo’s premise is that civic education must be integrated into curricula rather than confined to narrow civics programming.

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