Ethics Dunce: Friends University (Kansas), Or “Why Do Colleges Find That Free Speech Thingy So Complicated?”

Cutting to the metaphorical chase: Friends University in Wichita, Kansas, refused to allow a student recital honors project titled “The Shows They Don’t Want Us to Produce: A Study of Censorship Throughout the History of Musical Theatre,” to take place on campus. Yes, Caitlyn Fox’s show about censorship was censored.

Brilliant.

Some of the songs Fox would sing in her recital were “Aquarius” from “Hair,” “Maybe This Time” from “Cabaret,” “Gethsemane” from “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Schadenfreude” from “Avenue Q” and “My Unfortunate Erection” from “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” among others. The program had been approved, Fox had been assured that all was well, and then the university’s vice president of academic affairs and dean of the faculty sent Fox an email that kicked the recital off campus. He wrote in part:

“I’m writing to let you know that in the past few hours we have received significant complaints from staff members and donors regarding [your] Recital/Honors Project. People who have worked at and/or supported the university for a long time are considering withdrawing their support if we move forward with having the recital at Friends.”

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So…Would Georgetown Law Dean Treanor Have Suspended Philosopher Stephen Kershnar?

We’re still waiting to see if Georgetown University Law Center, my disgraceful alma mater, will fire scholar Ilya Shapiro for expressing doubts that limiting the pool of Supreme Court nominees using factors that have absolutely nothing to do with judicial competence, experience or acumen is the best way to get the optimum Court. The statements condemning Shapiro by GULC’s Dean have been indefensible, consisting of woke virtue-signaling and speech-chilling posturing. It worked: none of the law school’s faculty have had the courage or integrity to oppose him, essentially abandoning their support for academic freedom.

This caused me to wonder in the Law Center would be similarly hostile to philosopher Stephen Kershnar of the State University of New York at Fredonia if he were instead a GULC faculty member. Kershnar, you might have read, gave a recent interview about “sexual taboos” on the philosophy podcast Brain in a Vat.The politically conservative Libs of TikTok posted a video about it and social media went metaphorically berserk. Kershnar expressed doubt that adults having sex with minors is necessarily wrong, and raised some hypotheticals and examples to make his point. Grandmothers in some cultures fellate baby boys to soothe colic, for example. Kershner also opined that the harm to children and teens who engage in sex with adults has not been established, and he made a terrible Rationalization #22 (“It’s not the worst thing”) argument that children participate in a number of activities besides sex that they don’t fully “understand” and which aren’t generally considered to be harmful. He also posed thought experiments, like…

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Ethical Quote Of The Week: Faculty Letter To GULC Dean Treanor In Support Of Illya Shapiro [CORRECTED]

So far, 106 professors from all points on the ideological spectrum have signed a letter to Georgetown Law Center’s Dean Treanor, telling him what should not have to be explained to a Top 20 law school dean: that “academic freedom protects [Illya] Shapiro’s views, regardless of whether we agree with them or not. And debate about the President’s nomination, and about whether race and sex play a proper role in such nominations more generally, would be impoverished—at Georgetown and elsewhere—if this view could not be safely expressed in universities.”

Shapiro, as discussed here, has been suspended (“put on leave pending an investigation”) by Treanor, and if past behavior by Georgetown Law Center is any indication, he is likely to be fired, forced to resign, or to have to humiliate himself by submitting to “sensitivity training” after a public confession of WrongThink.

Here is the letter, which appears to have been coordinated by the Foundation For Individual Rights in Education. Those seeking to add their names to the signatories can email facultyoutreach@thefire.org.

Disgracefully, no member of the GULC faculty has signed the letter to support their colleague—and the principles of freedom of expression and academic freedom at their own institution—as of this writing. Continue reading

To Be Fair, MIT Was Probably Corrupted By Being Too Close To Harvard….

MIT

Dorian Abbot, an associate professor of geophysics at the University of Chicago, wrote in an op-ed on New York Times exile Bari Weiss’ Substack last weeky that MIT, just a few bocks beyond Harvrad on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, Mass., had informed him that his Carlson Lecture was being canceled to “avoid controversy.” He wrote in part,

“In the fall of 2020 I started advocating openly for academic freedom and merit-based evaluations. I recorded some short YouTube videos in which I argued for the importance of treating each person as an individual worthy of dignity and respect. In an academic context, that means giving everyone a fair and equal opportunity when they apply for a position as well as allowing them to express their opinions openly, even if you disagree with them. 

“As a result, I was immediately targeted for cancellation, primarily by a group of graduate students in my department. Whistleblowers later revealed that the attack was partially planned and coordinated on the Ford Foundation Fellowship Program listserv by a graduate student in my department….

“That group of graduate students organized a letter of denunciation. It claimed that I threatened the ‘safety and belonging of all underrepresented groups within the department,’ and it was presented to my department chair. The letter demanded that my teaching and research be restricted in a way that would cripple my ability to function as a scientist. A strong statement in support of faculty free expression by University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer put an end to that, and that is where things stood until the summer of 2021. 

“On August 12, a colleague and I wrote an op-ed in Newsweek in which we argued that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) as it currently is implemented on campus “violates the ethical and legal principle of equal treatment” and “treats persons as merely means to an end, giving primacy to a statistic over the individuality of a human being.” We proposed instead ‘an alternative framework called Merit, Fairness, and Equality (MFE) whereby university applicants are treated as individuals and evaluated through a rigorous and unbiased process based on their merit and qualifications alone.’ We noted that this would mean an end to legacy and athletic admission advantages, which significantly favor white applicants. 

“Shortly thereafter, my detractors developed a new strategy to try to isolate me and intimidate everyone else into silence: They argued on Twitter that I should not be invited to give science seminars at other universities and coordinated replacement speakers. This is an effective and increasingly common way to ratchet up the cost of dissenting because disseminating new work to colleagues is an important part of the scientific endeavor. 

“Sure enough, this strategy was employed when I was chosen to give the Carlson Lecture at MIT — a major honor in my field. It is an annual public talk given to a large audience and my topic was “climate and the potential for life on other planets.” On September 22, a new Twitter mob, composed of a group of MIT students, postdocs, and recent alumni, demanded that I be uninvited

“It worked….”

Observations:

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And, As Night Follows Day, Academia Joins The False “Anti-Asian” Hate Narrative

Atlanta spa

Of course it has. The Axis of Unethical Conduct, which I have described as the three groups (“the resistance,” Democrats, and the news media) actively using lies, intimidation and suppression to advance a progressive agenda, really includes three more members: the educational establishment, Big Tech, and the social media platforms.

For now, let’s focus on the eggheads.

Harvard, which has lost my respect completely, sent a message to students and faculty that read,

“Many of us woke up yesterday to the horrific news of the vicious and deadly attack in Atlanta, the latest in a wave of increasing violence targeting the Asian, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander community … This violence has a history. From Chinese Exclusion to the nativist rhetoric amplified during the pandemic, anti-Asian hostility has deep roots in American culture.”

This is, in a word, crap. That master of academic anti-white race-baiting crap, Prof. Ibram Kendi tweeted: “Locking arms with Asian Americans facing this lethal wave of anti-Asian terror. Their struggle is my struggle. Our struggle is against racism and White Supremacist domestic terror.”

These are supposed to be scholars, searching for, teaching and revealing truth. There is no “wave.” Whites do not commit the majority of so-called “hate crimes” against Asians, blacks do, and out of proportion with their numbers in the population. There are no figures showing a significant increase in attacks on Asian-Americans in 2020. There are not many attacks on Asian-Americans anyway, now or earlier. A 50% increase in San Francisco, for example from 2019 – 2020 sent the number of actual crimes soaring from 6 to 9.

You know: a wave,

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Victim, Weenie And Enabler: The Persecution of Prof. Jason Kilborn

weenie

News: Now even “N-Word” will get you in trouble with the thought-police.

Related issue: Is it that conservatives are weenies, college administrators professors are weenies, Americans are weenies or all four?

University of Illinois law professor Jason Kilborn used a hypothetical about a employment discrimination case for his final exam. The exam referred to the use of racist and sexist rhetoric such as “n——” and “b—-“. The same question has been on the exam for ten years, but with compelled speech and the the enforced conformity with progressive cant on the ascendant, more than 400 people signed a petition condemning Kilborn, saying in part,

“The slur shocked students created a momentous distraction and caused unnecessary distress and anxiety for those taking the exam,” said the petition. “Considering the subject matter, and the call of the question, the use of the ‘n____’ and ‘b____’ was certainly unwarranted as it did not serve any educational purpose. The question was culturally insensitive and tone-deaf.”

[Clarification: Apparently some readers were confused regarding whether the actual words were used or the version with dashes instead of letters so as not to offend. I thought the opening sentence of the post would make the facts clear: the words themselves were not used. I state once again that the Ethics Alarms policy is to use words themselves if the words themselves are the issue. The coded versions were used in this post because they were what was used in the exam.]

The petition also demanded that Kilborn be removed from all faculty committees, and that the school implement “mandatory cultural sensitivity training” for faculty and staff.

If the school did not have damaged ethics alarms and a lack of respect for academic freedom and fairness, it would have responded to the petition by explaining that the signatories were censorious and ignorant, that their petition was irresponsible, unfair and wrong, and if they could not accept this, their tuition would be refunded as they sough education elsewhere. Instead, the institution announced an investigation The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) in turn sent a letter to the University of Illinois-Chicago demanding that it protect the rights of faculty members. It said in part,

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Ethics Catch-Up, 7/23/2020: Waiting For Baseball Edition [Corrected]

This moment in “Field of Dreams” was how I started off my baseball and culture presentation this week. Ironically, the speech has always irritated me, because of its stagey blocking, and because it is a speech that sounds like a  speech, and is essentially right out of the book the film was based on. In the novel, “Shoeless Joe,”,the “Terrence Mann” character played by James Earl Jones was real life (and then, still living) recluse author J.D. Salinger. I dislike the speech, but the scene always moves me, for a personal reason.

As Terrance Mann stands, giving his speech, the ghostly players of the past silently assemble behind him in Ray Kinsella’s (Kevin Costner, of course) magic corn field. One of the players behind him has been identified in the film as Smokey Joe Wood, a 30 game winner with the World Champion 1912 Boston Red Sox. Just a few years before the film was made, I had been in the Fenway Park grandstands as  Smoky Joe, feeble, in his mid-nineties and in a wheel chair shortly before his death, barely threw out—more like dropped—the first pitch at a Red Sox Old Timer’s game, to a standing ovation.  And here he was, in that  corn field, but young and vital again.

Gets me every time….

1. Ethics query: is it ethical to perform “Piggies”? I just caught an old concert clip in which George Harrison and Eric Clapton performed the obnoxious pseudo-Marxist ditty “Piggies” (from the White Album) to thunderous applause.

[Notice of correction: I originally wrote that “Piggies” was a Lennon composition. All these years I assumed it was, heavy-handed and juvenile politics that it was. I am stunned that the song was George Harrison’s doing; I thought better of him.]

This was well after the Manson murders: I had never heard anyone perform the song in decades. Admittedly, it is just moral luck that a madman seized upon the White Album Beatles songs as his inspiration to mastermind the slaughters of  Sharon Tate, her unborn child, and her house guests, as well as supermarket executive Leno LaBianca and his wife Rosemary the following night. However, “Piggies” was the one song referenced directly in both murders. It is not inconceivable that if the White Album had omitted that song—no great loss, either–at least the LaBianca murders might not have taken place. I know I can’t hear the song without picturing carnage, and it seems to me singing the song is like a celebration of Manson’s work. I wouldn’t ban it; I don’t believe in banning anything.  I just think it’s bad taste to play it or perform it.

Is that inconsistent with my objection to “canceling”  “Dixie,” “My Mammy,” “Rockabye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody,” “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” “Oh Susanna!” and other songs that are redolent of the Old South? I would argue that those songs have the virtue of being great tunes and important cultural touchpoints…in other words, works of musical art that justify themselves. “Piggies,” in contrast, is musical junk, like about 20% of the White Album filler. Continue reading

“Welcome July, You Can’t Possibly Be A Bad As June” Ethics Warm-Up (Or Can You?)

Let’s try to get this month off to an ethical start….

1. Well, this sure won’t do it…Today’s Spineless Administrator Award goes to… Along with other university leaders, he  pressured Stephen Hsu to resign from his position as vice president of research and innovation after the school’s Graduate Employees Union , which represents teaching and research assistants, examined Hsu’s blog posts and interviews in search of damaging statements that could justify his “cancelling.”  Hsu had, after all, cited with favor a study that found police are no more likely to shoot African-Americans than anyone else. “We found that the race of the officer doesn’t matter when it comes to predicting whether black or white citizens are shot,” concluded the Michigan State-based research.

It is not the only study that reached this conclusion, but as you have no doubt noticed, for now at least,  Facts Don’t Matter.

The graduate union maintains that administrators should not share research that runs counter to public statements by the university, “It is the union’s position that an administrator sharing such views is in opposition to MSU’s statements released supporting the protests and their root cause and aim.”

Hsu stepped down from his vice president role, but will stay on as a physics professor. The union had circulated a petition against Hsu and an open letter signed by more than 500 faculty and staff at Michigan State argued that Hsu supports the idea that intelligence is linked to genetics. A counter-petition in support of Hsu has had more than 1,000 signers, including many fellow professors from across the country, stating in part,

“To remove Hsu for holding controversial views, or for inquiring about controversial topics, or for simply talking to controversial personalities … would also set a dangerous precedent, inconsistent with the fundamental principles of modern enlightened higher education.”

On his personal website, Hsu rejected the claim of “scientific racism,” stating  that  he believes “that basic human rights and human dignity derive from our shared humanity, not from uniformity in ability or genetic makeup.”

President Stanley defended his decision to pressure Hsu to resign in a statement on June 19:

“I believe this is what is best for our university to continue our progress forward. The exchange of ideas is essential to higher education, and I fully support our faculty and their academic freedom to address the most difficult and controversial issues.”But when senior administrators at MSU choose to speak out on any issue, they are viewed as speaking for the university as a whole. Their statements should not leave any room for doubt about their, or our, commitment to the success of faculty, staff and students.

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An Update On The Professor Jacobson Controversy At Cornell

Last week Professor William Jacobson, a professor at Cornell Law School who writes a well-respected conservative blog, announced that there was a movement afoot among some faculty and students to get him fired. (Ethics Alarms discussed it here.) Here are Jacobson’s posts since then regarding the ongoing effort to have him dismissed for being critical of Black Lives Matter:

In a related development, the similarly politically incorrect (but so far anonymous) Berkeley history professor I criticized here is now being condemned by the university.

On this development, Professor Turley writes in part, Continue reading

FIRE Names The Ten Colleges That Most Abuse Freedom Of Speech. Yes, Harvard Is On It. Of Course It Is.

And yes, for the exact reason that caused me to turn my diploma to the wall.

Here are the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s 2020 selections as the 10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech:

Babson College (Wellesley, Mass.)

Babson College fired adjunct professor Asheen Phansey for a Facebook post parodying  President Donald Trump’s (dumb) tweet threatening to bomb 52 cultural sites in Iran. The professor’s satire wasn’t exactly Dave Barry, but it was obviously a joke:

“In retaliation, Ayatollah Khomeni should tweet a list of 52 sites of beloved American cultural heritage that he would bomb. Um… Mall of America? …Kardashian residence?”

The post was shared by a local gossip blog, and Babson administrators suspended Phansey pending an “investigation,” intoning that the college “condemns any type of threatening words and/or actions condoning violence” and that it was “cooperating with local, state and federal authorities.” That was some investigation: less than a day later, Babson  fired him.

FIRE  protested to Babson  earlier this month, pointing out that Phansey’s post was  obviously a criticism, not an endorsement, of threats of violence, mixed with sarcasm about American culture.

Ethics Alarms covered the incident here.

Jones College (Ellisville, Miss.)

Last spring, administrators and campus police at Jones College twice stopped student Mike Brown  when he tried to recruit students for a campus chapter of Young Americans for Liberty, telling him he needed the school’s explicit permission to speak on campus. When  Brown and two others displayed a sign inviting students to give their opinions about legalizing marijuana, a staff member called campus police. Brown was taken to the police chief’s office and, according to Brown, was told  he was “smarter than” to engage in such conduct on campus without permission. Two months earlier, a Jones administrator called campus police when Brown and a friend produced  an oversized beach ball they dubbed a “free speech ball” for students to write messages while Brown  talked to them about free speech and Young Americans for Liberty.  The Horror. Yes, the police told them they were not allowed to have a provocative beach ball on campus without permission from the school.

Brown has filed a First Amendment lawsuit with FIRE’s help. The Department of Justice has piled on, telling the school that its policies are unconstitutional.

Harvard University (Cambridge, Mass.)

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