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What We’re Reading Blog June 2022

Universities’ attempt to limit student speech lead June’s top-10 reads, with articles about a private university facing controversy around a proposal to prohibit advocacy for certain views and two public universities facing lawsuits over alleged violations of students’ First Amendment freedoms.

Campus Happenings

Lee University to Bar Students From ‘Identifying’ Or ‘Behaving’ As A Different Gender, As New Policy Draws Criticism
Wyatt Massey | Chattanooga Times Free Press | May 22, 2022

A private evangelical Christian university is facing scrutiny over a draft policy that prohibits students, faculty, or staff members from advocating “in person, in writing, or online for sexual acts, behaviors, or lifestyles that are contrary to Scripture.” An expert on LGBTQ student experiences is quoted, saying that this draft policy exemplifies a trend at evangelical schools.

Judge Rules Against UH Anti-discrimination Policy
John Lomax | The Cougar | May 24, 2022

A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against the University of Houston, a public university, finding that its anti-discrimination policy likely infringes on students’ rights. “‘The University cannot choose to abide by the First Amendment in the Constitution,’ the injunction stated. ‘It is not guidance — it is the law.’” Prior to the ruling, the university updated its policy; however, the judge ruled that “voluntary cessation does not guarantee the University will not amend its policies.”

Christian Student Challenges University’s No-Contact Order
Ashley Vaughan | World | June 7, 2022

A graduate student at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville is suing the university, a public institution, for damages and an admission that it violated her constitutional rights. The school had ordered her not to contact several students, who complained about her social media posts and messages. “In the past, such orders were typically reserved for instances of sexual harassment or threats of violence.”

State and Federal

University System of Georgia Nixes Free Speech Zones
Amy Rock | Campus Safety Magazine | June 2, 2022

“The University System of Georgia Board of Regents voted last week to change their institutions’ free speech policies to align with new legislation … [that] designates all unrestricted outdoor spaces that are part of the 26-campus system to be used as public forums … Georgia is the 22nd state to ban free speech zones, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.”

Op-Eds and Thought Pieces

Diversity Statements Are the New Faith Statements
Justin P. McBrayer | Inside Higher Ed | May 23, 2022

A professor compares diversity statements required in job searches by many secular colleges to faith statements required by religious institutions. He argues that requiring such statements “artificially limit an applicant pool, ask for commitments that go beyond our evidence, signal our tribal loyalties and close questions.”

The Right-Wing Outrage Machine Is Doing Campus Conservatives No Favors
Jonathan Marks | The UnPopulist | June 1, 2022

The author, a professor and self-described conservative, argues that some conservative organizations and media figures who purport to defend free speech and campus conservatives are in fact engaged in “patently dishonest” critiques. The critiques, he argues, end up undermining higher education institutions generally and campus conservatives in particular by suggesting that “universities are irredeemable.”

Princeton’s Warning to Its Campus Community: Speak at Your own Risk
Megan McArdle | Washington Post | June 6, 2022

The author writes that Princeton University’s dismissal of classics professor Joshua Katz will chill speech. An initial investigation into the professor’s sexual relationship with a student did not result in his dismissal, but the second did. She argues that Katz’ unpopular views spurred the instigation of the second investigation–“which suggests double jeopardy”–and its outcome: “All of which suggests Katz would never have been fired if he hadn’t voiced a controversial opinion.”

Free Speech Can’t Trump Every Other Right on Campus
Alicia Plerhoples | Washington Post | June 6, 2022

A professor at Georgetown University Law Center argues that the principle that “all students deserve to walk into our lectures, our conferences and our classroom knowing that they will be respected as individuals” is a more essential value than free speech. On that basis, she argues her school was right to dismiss Ilya Shapiro for speech that caused “institutional harm and personal pain.”

Big Reads

Free Expression and Constructive Dialogue in The University Of North Carolina System
Timothy J. Ryan et. Al | May 17, 2022

Survey data from eight University of North Carolina System campuses indicates that the “campuses do not consistently achieve an atmosphere that promotes free expression,” although students want to hear different points of view. Students’ reported reasons for self-censorship include “fear of becoming ostracized from peers, ‘othering’ comments from faculty, and simple imposter syndrome.” The University of North Carolina Board of Governors’ Committee on University Governance discussed the report at its May meeting.

Understanding the Campus Expression Climate: A Research Report from 2019, 2020, 2021
S. Zhou and S.C. Zhou | Heterodox Academy | June 1, 2022

A longitudinal assessment of student opinion finds students express strong support for open inquiry and viewpoint diversity but also considerable reluctance to discuss potentially fraught topics such as gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, and, especially, politics. Student reluctance to discuss these topics varied, with political orientation having the greatest impact on reluctance and Democratic students being the least reluctant to express their views.

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