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What We’re Reading Blog May 2022

Controversy over campus speakers leads this month’s can’t-miss articles, with a controversy over invited speakers at two private colleges prompting a revision in policy about invited speakers on one campus and the early termination of an institute director’s appointment on another campus.

Campus Happenings

St. Vincent Policy Reins in Speakers, Approval Process Needed

Joe Napsha | Tribune-Review | April 19, 2022

Following controversy over a speaker’s remarks at a campus conference, Saint Vincent College announced that academic centers’ invitations to speakers must be approved by senior administrators. College President Father Paul Taylor wrote that the new protocol is meant “to make sure we invite a diversity of responsible opinion on a variety of topics important to our students’ educational process.”

St. Olaf Professor Says He Lost Leadership Post for Inviting Controversial Speaker to Campus

Ryan Faircloth | Star Tribune | April 28, 2022

St. Olaf College is terminating the appointment of the director of the Institute for Freedom and Community, after the institute hosted bioethicist Peter Singer under the auspices of the institute’s “Contemporary Controversies” speaker series. The Academic Freedom Alliance and FIRE wrote letters to the college’s president protesting the decision. Earlier this year, the Rhodes College Department of Philosophy controversially sponsored a talk by Singer.

It’s Time to Recommit to Civil Discourse and Free Speech

Jeremy Haefner | University of Denver Magazine | Spring 2022 May 6, 2022

University of Denver Chancellor Jeremy Haefner writes: “We fail our students if we don’t help them hone the skills to successfully encounter complexity, difference and thorny, complicated problems. Free speech, civil discourse, civil education, diversity of ideas, pluralism, engaged listening—a wealth of terminology describes these issues, but terminology should not be our focus. What is most urgent is that we actively engage in respectful discussion and learning with complex, different and diverse ideas.”

The Crimson Faces Backlash Over Editorial Endorsing BDS Movement

Vivi E. Lu and Leah J. Teichholtz | The Crimson | May 9, 2022

The Harvard University student newspaper editorial board generated both support and criticism with an editorial endorsing an academic boycott of Israel and the BDS movement. Harvard President Lawrence Bacow is quoted, “I think academic boycotts have absolutely no place at Harvard, regardless of who they target.”

State and Federal

University’s Discrimination Harassment Policy Stifles Free Speech, Court Rules

Nate Raymond | Reuters | April 22, 2022

A three-judge federal appeals court ruled unanimously that University of Central Florida policy on discriminatory harassment and bias-related incidents “likely violates the 1st Amendment by chilling the speech of students who want to advocate against abortion and affirmative action.” The case was returned to a lower court.

Oklahoma Governor Signs College Free Speech Bill into Law

Kaitlyn Bond | 5NEWS | May 5, 2022

Gov. Kevin Stitt (R-OK) signed a bill establishing an Oklahoma State Regents Free Speech Committee. The committee “will be responsible for training college deans and other administrators in First Amendment policies as well as reviewing and handling complaints.” The bill passed with bipartisan support in both chambers, and only two “nay” votes in the upper chamber.

Youngkin Wants College Presidents to Hire Faculty with ‘Diverse Political Perspectives’

Michael Martz| Richmond Times-Dispatch | May 12, 2022

Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA) followed up on his meeting with the state’s public university presidents with a letter asking them to develop a shared statement on free speech and inquiry akin to the Chicago statement as well as free speech policies including annual training, hiring of staff and faculty with diverse political perspectives, and events to model the productive exchange of ideas.

Op-Eds and Thought Pieces

Centering Discomfort

Mairead Carr | Inside Higher Ed | April 20, 2022

The author, an alumna of a Catholic college and an atheist, writes about the value to her as a philosophy major of not sharing her college’s theological commitments: “Being asked to check your privilege or to think about the assumptions you bring to conversations is not censorship. Being asked to write from another perspective rather than your own is not the pinnacle of illiberalism. Rather, these are the hallmarks of a liberal education.”

Bias Reporting Systems Are a Growing Threat to Campus Free Speech

Cherise Trump | RealClearEducation | April 27, 2022

The author, president of the nonprofit organization Speech First, summarizes the findings of the organization’s new report on bias reporting systems, which, it finds, exist on twice as many campuses as they did five years ago. She writes that campus bias reporting systems “intimidate and silence students whose viewpoints do not conform to certain social, political, and cultural narratives.”

What 3 Elements Are Driving the Attacks on Tenure, Free Speech in Higher Education?

Chris Burt | University Business | May 4, 2022

Recent legislative efforts to abolish tenure, influence university hiring, and limit classroom curricula are eroding academic freedom and campus free speech. Some suggest these trends may be resisted by efforts to educate the general public about how professors are reviewed for tenure and promotion and the risks of losing bright scholars who sense they cannot work freely at a university.

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