Tag Archives: First Amendment

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Cartoonist Garry Trudeau

The exquisitely rendered artwork of Gary Trudeau, circa 1970.

The exquisitely rendered artwork of Gary Trudeau, circa 1970.

“At some point free expression absolutism becomes childish and unserious. It becomes its own kind of fanaticism.”

—-Doonesbury cartoonist and relentless critic of the Right, Garry Trudeau, in a speech delivered on April 10 at the Long Island University’s George Polk Awards ceremony, where he received the George Polk Career Award.

Trudeau is a Yale grad, so perhaps we should cut him some slack muddled thinking. (Kidding!) However, in making his weak case that legitimate and socially acceptable satire only consists of “punching up,” he appeared to be advocating government prohibition of certain kinds of speech, to be designated by Trudeau and his ideological allies, who, of course, know best.

In doing this, Trudeau came very close to aping the popular theme from activists on the Left, especially on campuses, that “hate speech isn’t protected by the First Amendment.” “Hate speech” is an invention of progressives, and is generally defined as political or social criticism of members in good standing of their club, or groups and individuals they sympathize with or approve of.  Saying that you hope Rush Limbaugh’s kidneys fail is funny and deserved;  saying Mike Brown engineered his own demise by attacking a cop is hate speech. It’s easy when you get the hang of it: just look at the world like Gary Trudeau.

Earlier in his speech, he talked about “red lines” in satire, and blurrily–that is, inarticulately enough that he has plausible deniability, called for restrictions on “hateful” cartoons like those that prompted Islamic assassinations in Paris: Continue reading

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Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Citizenship, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Quotes, Government & Politics, History, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Popular Culture, Professions, Religion and Philosophy, Rights

How Can Schools Teach Students About Citizenship And Rights When They Don’t Know What Rights Students Have?

Sorry about this, Tiffany, but your school definitely can't suspend ME...

Sorry about this, Tiffany, but your school definitely can’t suspend ME…

Today’s example of totalitarian school tactics committed by administrators who should be attending classes rather than overseeing them comes to us from Memphis, Tennessee. Highland Oaks Middle School suspended three students for posting a teacher’s mugshot on Instagram. Eighth grade teacher Tiffany Jackson had been arrested for driving with a suspended license, and a student discovered her mugshot online. He posted it,  and many more students re-posted the picture.

How could students posting public information on their own Instagram accounts be grounds for punishing them?  It isn’t. The school has no right to do this, and suspending students for such protected conduct just serves to intimidate them  and other students from exercising their rights as citizens.

That, of course, is the idea.

I agree that it wasn’t kind or fair of the students to set out to embarrass a teacher, but that’s a matter for discussion—education, perhaps— not discipline.

There has been a disturbing amount of deliberate or ignorant trampling on student speech lately, notably the University of Oklahoma expelling students for a constitutionally-protected racist chant, but also in high schools across the country where personal social media posts have been and are being treated as grounds for discipline. This is not to be tolerated from educational institutions in a democracy. Schools are fond of n0-tolerance: I can’t think of any conduct that should be less tolerated than teachers and administrators trying to control legal conduct and protected speech by students that occur off school grounds. We need to raise citizens who understand and respect individual rights, not burgeoning fascists who think that authority can and should shut down speech and conduct it doesn’t like.

At Highland Oaks Middle School, administrators eventually overturned the suspensions. I don’t care: fire them.

For this has to stop.

Meanwhile, welcome to the Streisand Effect, Ms. Jackson! Thanks to your employers trying to cover-up your offense by muzzling your students, everyone is seeing your mugshot. Just trying to do my part to discourage this blatant abuse of power….

_________________________

Pointer: Res Ipsa Loquitur

Facts: WNC Action 5

 

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Filed under Education, Government & Politics, Rights

The Case Of The Too Candid Catholic Teacher

"You can unzip it, Patricia, when you work somewhere else...."

“You can unzip it, Patricia, when you work somewhere else….”

Apparently I missed another “media firestorm,” so allow me to catch up, particularly since the analysis of this story has been muddled beyond comprehension.

Patricia Jannuzzi, a religion teacher at Somerville’s Immaculata High School, posted this on her personal Facebook page:

jannuzzi-fb-post

This being the internet, after all, someone sent it far and wide, with resulting embarrassment to the school. Jannuzzi, a theology teacher with Immaculata for 33 years, was ordered to de-activate her Facebook page after an online petition   demanded that she be punished. Jannuzzi was placed on administrative leave,  and the school administration notified alumni, parents and students, in a letter that said in part,

“This episode has reflected not only on this teacher but, by extension, on Immaculata High SchoolWe regret deeply any hurt this has caused to any individuals and the negative light in which it has cast our school….Although these were posts to a personal social media page, Immaculata High School recognizes the need to ensure that our faculty, staff and students full understand the behaviors expected of them as members of our community and recognize our intolerance of discriminatory behaviors of any kind.”

Points: Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Education, Gender and Sex, Religion and Philosophy, Rights, The Internet

Ethics Hero: Sterling Karrenstein

mobile_phone_cameraAt West Iredell High School in Statesville, North Carolina, student Sterling Karrenstein witnessed a resource officer using a taser to subdue a fellow student who punched the officer in the face. As he documented the incident on  his cell phone, school staff attempted to stop Sterling, demanding that he hand over the phone and even attempting to take it from him. He refused. The school principal apparently later told Sterling that being on school property eliminated his right to record events.

Wrong.

At least someone knows what is in the First Amendment. Obviously Sterling didn’t learn it at West Iredell High School, but Ethics Alarms salutes him for insisting on his rights as a citizen despite being pressured to do otherwise by incompetent authority figures.

If it is not disrupting class, infringing on the privacy of others or otherwise violating school policy, taking photos or video is a fully protected right.

This does not mean, it is important to note, that tasering a student who punched him was necessarily wrongful conduct by the officer.

______________________

Pointer: Tim LaVier

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Filed under Education, Ethics Hero, Rights

Sooner Ethics Quiz: Abuse Free Speech Rights, Or Ignore Them?

David Boren, the president of the University of Oklahoma, announced that two students would be expelled from the school for leading a racist chant that was preserved on a video and went viral on YouTube. The video shows tuxedo-clad men from the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity  on a bus chanting :

There will never be a nigger at SAE
There will never be a nigger at SAE
You can hang him from a tree
But he’ll never sign with me
There will never be a nigger at SAE

Who would want to be in a house with these assholes?

 The national fraternity apologized and closed the OU chapter. That was a proper response. (Tell me again what’s good about fraternities.) First Amendment specialist Eugene Volokh, however, pointed out on his blog that the expulsion was unconstitutional:

First, racist speech is constitutionally protected, just as is expression of other contemptible ideas; and universities may not discipline students based on their speech. That has been the unanimous view of courts that have considered campus speech codes and other campus speech restrictions …The same, of course, is true for fraternity speech, racist or otherwise…Likewise, speech doesn’t lose its constitutional protection just because it refers to violence — “You can hang him from a tree,” “the capitalists will be the first ones up against the wall when the revolution comes,” “by any means necessary” with pictures of guns, “apostates from Islam should be killed.”

To be sure, in specific situations, such speech might fall within a First Amendment exception. One example is if it is likely to be perceived as a “true threat” of violence (e.g., saying “apostates from Islam will be killed” or “we’ll hang you from a tree” to a particular person who will likely perceive it as expressing the speaker’s intention to kill him); but that’s not the situation here, where the speech wouldn’t have been taken by any listener as a threat against him or her. Another is if it intended to solicit a criminal act, or to create a conspiracy to commit a criminal act, but, vile as the “hang him from a tree” is, neither of these exceptions are applicable here, either.

Hey, Oklahoma…Rodgers and Hammerstein just called. They’re officially changing the name of the musical and the song to “North Dakota!”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz:

Which is the greater ethics breach: the students abusing their First Amendment rights, or the University of Oklahoma violating them?

Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, The Internet

Ethics Dunces: The Republican “Base”

National religion

Public Polling Policy surveyed 316 Republican primary voters—the hard core— from February 20th to 22nd to measure their attitudes and policy views, as well as their current preferences for President. The margin of error for the survey is +/- 5.5%. The results are here.

The headlines will be about the candidate rankings, which are meaningless at this point. The valuable revelation, especially for Democrats who want to mercilessly mock their Republican friends, if they have any, and Republicans who want to drown themselves out of hopelessness and shame are…

A. The graphic above, showing that 57% of the Republicans polled want to establish a national religion, Christianity, and

B. The fact that only 37% believe in evolution. Continue reading

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KABOOM! ARGHHH! How Can This Happen In The United States? How Can Any University Think This Is Legal, Fair, Ethical Or Rational? How Can A UNiversity That Acts This Way Be Trusted To Teach Anyone Anything, Other Than How To Be A Fascist?

Thank-you, University of Tulsa...

Thank-you, University of Tulsa…

I really didn’t need another KABOOM! so soon after the last one.

From The Foundation For Individual Rights in Education, with my brainless reactions in bold and brackets:

TU suspended student George “Trey” Barnett last October for three Facebook posts [ It’s unethical and probably illegal to punish Barnett for his own Facebook posts…] published by his husband that criticized another student and two TU faculty members. […but it is beyond belief for the school to punish him for what someone else, regardless of who, posts to his page.] None of the Facebook posts came from Barnett’s account; the statements were posted by his husband, who either tagged Barnett or posted them directly to Barnett’s Facebook page. Barnett’s husband later submitted a sworn affidavit attesting to his sole authorship of the posts. Nevertheless, shortly after TU professor Susan Barrett filed a complaint against Barnett arguing that Barnett could not “avoid responsibility” because someone else was responsible for the posts. [This is Kafaesque. Do these even people know how Facebook works? ] TU Senior Vice Provost Winona Tanaka imposed eight restrictive interim measures against Barnett. The sanctions included suspending his participation in certain courses and activities and even barring him from speaking about certain individuals. [University administrators can not bar whom a citizen may speak to; only judges can do things like that, and only rarely.]

Without affording him the hearing he was entitled to under TU’s University Student Conduct Policies & Procedures, and despite his husband’s affidavit, Tanaka found Barnett responsible for “harassment.” Tanaka also found Barnett guilty of retaliation and violating confidentiality requirements for speaking about the disciplinary charges with his husband—who was also his exculpatory witness. [ What??? WHAT??? Due Process? Rights of the accused? Procedures? Policies? ]

Less than two months before Barnett was set to graduate, Tanaka not only suspended him until at least 2016 but also permanently banned him from receiving a degree in his major even upon his re-enrollment. Barnett was forced to wait two months for TU to respond to his appeal, which the university summarily denied on January 9 without explanation—leaving Barnett unable to earn his theater degree as planned. [ All of this for what someone else wrote on the student’s Facebook page! My key question in ethics scenarios is “What’s going on here?” What’s going on here? I have no idea. An illicit relationship between the apparently fat faculty member Barrett and Tanaka? Insanity?]

…TU has also threatened … its independent student newspaper, The Collegian, which this week reported on Barnett’s suspension and criticized his treatment. The Collegian reports that after contacting TU administrators for comment, student reporters were told by TU’s director of marketing and communications that if “anything that the university deems to be confidential” is “published or shared, (that) could violate university policies.” The university refused to explain what might constitute “confidential” information and, come press time, the journalists were unsure what action the university might take against them. [ OK, let’s just stipulate that the University of Tulsa doesn’t accept the principles underlying the First Amendment. I will await its next abuse of power being aimed at impending worship requirements and a ban on assembly.]

Continue reading

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