The Good News Is That For Once The Student Whose Speech Was Punished Isn’t A Conservative. The Bad News is That American University Doesn’t Get That First Amendment Thingy…

Daniel Brezina was one of eight Washington College of Law (at American University) students investigated since May 25 for commenting in a class group online chat regarding Justice Samuel Alito’s leaked draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overruling Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Another law student complained that the students’ pro-abortion positions expressed during the discussion harassed and discriminated against him because they went against his religious beliefs.

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression took on Brezina’s case, and he was finally cleared of any wrongdoing by the school after more than six weeks of being investigated.

Wow. I was an adjunct professor of legal ethics at American. Apparently none of the universities I’ve been affiliated with have reliable ethics alarms.

Maybe it’s me.


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Pre-Debate Ethics Distraction, 9/29/2020: Prediction: Whatever Happens, I’m Going To Hate It, And The News Media Will Lie About It.

The question for the ages: Was this the most unethical pair in a Presidential debate before tonight?

1. Well this seems ominous. This morning the Trump campaign requested  that a third party inspect both candidates for electronic devices or transmitters. President Trump had already consented to such an inspection, and the Biden campaign had reportedly agreed to this days ago. The New York Post reported a few hours ago that the Biden camp refused the condition.

What’s going on here? I can only assume that it’s gamesmanship. Biden would be beyond demented to try to cheat in a broadcast debate.

2. Here are results of the FIRE’s college free speech rankings survey, as determined by students. My alma mater ranked #46 out of the 56 schools ranked; no surprise there. The school I worked for as an administrator after getting my law degree there is two slots worse.

3. Prediction: It will not end well for poor David Hogg. I foresee a tragic opera in his future. Too young for the prominence he was thrust into as a survivor of the Parkland shooting, cynically exploited by the news media and activists who did not care about him, he is now condemned to have no support from any quarter. His best course would be to quietly leave the public gaze forever, and fight off the addiction of fame. It’s not easy. Continue reading

The Black Lives Matters Effect, Part 2: Purdue’s Free Speech Chill

Perdue letter


So powerful is the desire to be seen as on the “right” side  in an era where race trumps everything that a major university is harassing a student because he dared to be critical of Black Lives Matter. This is another, more sinister aspect of the Black Lives Matter Effect. A racist hate group that claims to promote virtuous objectives as cover, Black Lives Matter causes well-intentioned progressives-in-denial to equate well-earned attacks on the group to rejection of racial justice.

This episode is especially troubling. Purdue University Northwest student Joshua Nash received an ominous letter summoning him to a “required Administrative Meeting” scheduled by a campus administrator to discuss Nash’s personal Facebook comments. This is as appropriate as a letter demanding a student’s appearance before authorities because there was a complaint about his off-color toast at a wedding reception.

Nash says he isn’t certain which Facebook post was deemed worthy of threatened discipline, but it was probably the one where he states “Black Lives Matter is trash because they do not really care about black lives. They simply care about making money and disrupting events for dead people.” According to Nash, that comment was reported to Facebook, with removed it and suspended his account for 30 days. Nash also claims that a campus official said his social media comments could result in his expulsion.

I assume that FIRE will soon be in Nash’s corner, and maybe, just maybe, the ACLU, depending on what its integrity level is these days. This is campus suppression of free speech. I think the threat of expulsion–for a Facebook post?—is too ridiculous to be taken seriously, but the letter is bad enough. All students need to know is that a politically incorrect Facebook post will get them hauled into a “meeting,” a.k.a. inquisition, and their speech, with the exceptions of a few wilful martyrs, civil libertarians, and rebels, will be effectively muzzled. Continue reading

Believe It Or Not, There Is Good News On The Campus Speech Front

greenlighThe Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) reports that  less than half of America’s colleges maintain policies that severely restrict students’ right to free speech, an all time low since the campus speech defending non-profit started tracking the problem.

Spotlight on Speech Codes 2016: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation’s Campuses reports on policies at 440 of America’s largest and most prestigious colleges and universities.

The report tells us that…

  • The percentage of red light schools has declined from a high of 75 percent in 2007, while in the same time period the number of green light institutions has grown from just eight institutions (2 percent) to 22 this year (5 percent).

This welcome news is especially surprising given the explosion of administration capitulations to student demands for restrictions on campus expression deemed “offensive” or “hostile” to minorities. In fact, I wonder how much of the report was complete before Mizzou Madness. Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Month: Ken White, of Popehat


“Civility is not weighed equally with free speech. It is not a prerequisite of free speech. It is a value, an idea, to be tested in the marketplace of ideas with other vales. Free speech is often uncivil. Lenny Bruce was uncivil. “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” was uncivil. “I have not yet begun to fight” was uncivil. “I called you naughty darling because I do not like that other world” was uncivil. “Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments, I submit; so let it be done!” was uncivil. The equality of all humans regardless of station has always been a deeply uncivil idea, because “civil” usually means “that which makes me comfortable.” Comfortable people paint nice watercolors but otherwise don’t accomplish much.”

Ken White, First Amendment lawyer, wit, philosopher and blogger par excellance, in a masterful dismembering of a sinister  email about free speech sent to Berkeley students, faculty, and staff by U.C. Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks .

An equivocating, double-talking, free-speech degrading college administrator attempts to warp our nation’s values in the minds of the young, and Ken exposes the university’s censorious and timid soul for the dangerous fraud and the disgrace to intellectual freedom that it is.

As Carly Simon said once about James Bond, nobody does it better.

What Do You Do With The Racist Frat House?

Arizona frat party

Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity at the University of Arizona decided that hosting an African-American stereotype party on Martin Luther King Day was a cool idea, and soon thereafter posted photos of the bash on various social media, showing drunk students posing like rappers,wearing baggy pants around their knees and drinking liquor out of watermelon cups.  The college community was appropriately horrified, and many are calling for the fraternity to be expelled for the incident and the students who attended the party punished. The Detroit Free Press story about the incident is headlined, “Racism or Free Speech”? This is the equivalent of a headline saying “Stupidity or Freedom of the Press?” It’s both. That’s the conundrum. Continue reading

The Fifth Annual Ethics Alarms Awards: The Best of Ethics 2013

Ethics Story 2013

I decided to start with the Best in Ethics this year, in contrast to other years, on the theory that it would get things off to a positive start in 2014. What it did, instead, was make me realize how negative Ethics Alarms was in 2013. Either there wasn’t much positive going on in ethics, or I wasn’t seeing it. My thanks to those of you who send me nominations for Ethics Heroes (and other stories); even when I don’t write about them, they are valuable. Please keep them coming. In the meantime, I pledge to try to keep the jaundice out of my eye in 2014. Things just can’t be as dire as they seemed last year.

Could they?

Here are the 2013 Ethics Alarms Awards for the Best in Ethics:

Most Important Ethical Act of the Year:

The U.S. Supreme Court declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, paving the way for the universal legalization of gay marriage. Yes, it was a legal decision, but it was also based, as all such culturally important decisions are, on a societal recognition that what was once thought to be wrong and immoral was, in fact, not. This is ethics, an ongoing process of enlightenment and wisdom about what is right and wrong, and the U.S. Supreme Court did its part. Continue reading

“Progressive” Values On The Campus: Rape, Tolerated; Free Speech, Not So Much

Now does it make sense to you, Juanita?

Juanita Broadrick: Now does it make sense to you, Juanita?

If one wants to puzzle through how Democrats can simultaneously trumpet a “War on Women” while generating standard bearers like San Diego mayor Bob Filner (now up to 9 identified sexual harassment victims, and counting; the latest appears to be Marilyn Monroe), Anthony Weiner, and of course, ex-President Bill Clinton (recall Juanita Broadrick?) , one need only to examine the schizophrenic values being nurtured in our great liberal arts universities, with the encouragement of the values–challenged Obama administration.

In May, universities received an ominous letter from Departments of Justice and Education announcing new guidelines regarding “sexual harassment” on college campuses. The new standards prohibit “any unwelcome conduct of sexual nature” and  include “verbal” conduct, meaning free speech is now officially suspect…and no longer free. (But if you have been following the news lately, you know that in Barack Obama’s America, free speech is just a trading chip for “higher priorities.”)

The new standards apply to every college receiving federal funding. According to Greg Lukianoff, president of FIRE, the government mandates  would allow a student to be charged with harassment if he asks another student out on a date and the target of his attentions deems that request “offensive.” Telling a sex joke could support a sexual harassment charge, as would using the word “fuck” in the presence of a female who resented it. FIRE points out that many presentations, debates, and expressions on campuses can now be censored as sexual harassment, citing campus performances of “The Vagina Monologues,” debates about sexual morality, and pro-con discussions on gay marriage as potential offenses.  Lukianoff, protesting that DOJ and DOE have now established speech codes that violate the First Amendment and completely ignore decades of legal precedent,says he is appalled at the attack on “free speech on campus from our own government.”

Appalled, yes, but certainly not surprised. The grip of political correctness is grasping for the throat of Free Speech in the Obama years, as the news media sits complacent and inert. FIRE is among those with the courage and determination to fight this blatant abuse of government power, but that does not diminish the seriousness of a Federal government that pays its election IOU’s to women’s rights groups by sacrificing free speech on campus.

But it’s worse even than that, for the modus operandi of this federal government, adopting the proclivities of its leader, is to speak loudly and carry a wet noodle. Just as the President is fond of making demands, ultimatums and condemnations, drawing lines and telling us to “make no mistake” about where he stands, and then following up with no tangible or meaningful action whatsoever, thus does his government fail to protect women’s bodies while trying to control what they hear. The 2011 federal Title IX investigation into Yale’s mind-blowing tolerance of rape on campus (it is referred to there as “non-consensual sex”) concluded  with a voluntary resolution that allowed Old Eli to avoid any disciplinary action for creating a “hostile sexual environment,” and this time we don’t mean allowing dirty limericks. Continue reading

The FIRE To The Rescue Again: But How Can This Keep Happening In U.S. Schools?

MontclaireThe FIRE, admirable campus First Amendment watchdog and champion that it is, is once again charging to the rescue of an innocent student being subjected to censorship, oppression and mind-control by a Stalinist state university…in new Jersey. Its victory is pre-ordained, as you will shortly see. The troubling questions are: Why are there schools in a democracy that act like Montclair State, presuming to tell students how to speak to each others and what views they can communicate in public? How do administrators that make and enforce such manifestly unethical and unconstitutional rules get hired in higher education—indeed, how are they bred at all? Finally, what vile and totalitarian principles does a school run by such dictators teach its students?

The facts of the case warrant little debate. Montclair State, in northeastern New Jersey, suspended Joseph Aziz, a 26-year-old graduate student, for comparing another student’s legs to “a pair of bleached hams” in a YouTube comment and defying a resulting ban on his internet speech. After his YouTube comments came to the attention of the school, Montclair State Coordinator of Student Conduct Jerry S. Collins  barred Aziz from all physical, verbal, and electronic contact with the student he had referred to in his YouTube comments. He also issued a virtual gag order, forbidding Aziz from posting on “any social media regarding” the student in question. Continue reading