Tag Archives: The FIRE

The FIRE’s Ten Worst Colleges For Free Speech, 2018

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (The FIRE) is the heroic non-partisan, non-profit that does a lot of the work the ACLU should be doing, but doesn’t. The list (those with links are the colleges covered in 2017 Ethics Alarms posts):

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, N.Y.)

Drexel University (Philadelphia, Pa.)

Harvard University (Cambridge, Mass.)

Los Angeles Community College District (Los Angeles, Calif.)

Fordham University (New York, N.Y.)

Evergreen State College (Olympia, Wash.)

Albion College (Albion, Mich.)

Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.)

University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, Calif.)

Texas State University (San Marcos, Texas)

The whole, awful story of each is worth reading, especially in light of yesterday’s “Ethics Quote Of The Week.” FIRE does not rank the unethical colleges, but I’ll say this: Evergreen may be the worst of the worst, but Harvard is the most shameful.

The FIRE is one of the great ethics organizations in the nation, and deserves every citizen’s respect, support, and gratitude.

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Education, Government & Politics, Philanthropy, Non-Profits and Charity, Rights

California’s Ethics Rot

This is the prevailing culture in the state Hillary Clinton won so overwhelmingly that she was able to claim that she really “won” the election. You don’t want to live in that culture. It opposes the Freedom of Speech.

Opposing free speech is unethical. It also is undemocratic. But Californians are increasingly incapable of seeing this. It is a case study in how a culture rots. Some recent examples of how the rot is proceeding.

I. Mean Facebook posts are crimes.

In 2016, Mark Feigin posted five insulting comments on the Islamic Center of Southern California’s Facebook page. Among them:

  • “THE MORE MUSLIMS WE ALLOW INTO AMERICA THE MORE TERROR WE WILL SEE.”
  • “PRACTICING ISLAM CAN SLOW OR EVEN REVERSE THE PROCESS OF HUMAN EVOLUTION.”
  • “Islam is dangerous – fact: the more muslim savages we allow into america – the more terror we will see -this is a fact which is undeniable.”
  • “Filthy muslim shit has no place in western civilization.”

As a result, California is prosecuting him for allegedly violating Cal. Penal Code § 653m(b):

Every person who, with intent to annoy or harass, makes repeated telephone calls or makes repeated contact by means of an electronic communication device … to another person is … guilty of a misdemeanor. Nothing in this subdivision shall apply to telephone calls or electronic contacts made in good faith or during the ordinary course and scope of business.

A First Year law student of reasonable mental acuity could tell you in a trice that this was unconstitutional—that is, she could if she hadn’t been marinated in the anti-democratic culture that is 21st Century California. It is also an unethical and intellectually dishonest effort to use an ill-fitting law to punish “hate speach.” Here, in part, is the analysis of Prof. Volokh, a constitutional law specialist:

This can’t possibly be consistent with the First Amendment; indeed, in U.S. v. Popa (D.C. Cir. 1999), the D.C. Circuit set aside a telephone harassment conviction of someone who left seven racist messages on the voicemail of then-U.S.-Attorney Eric Holder; and the court focused on the “political message” of the speech, and not on Holder’s status as a government official. Given that insults targeted to a particular person, related to a political message, are thus constitutionally protected, so are more general insults aimed at an ideology and all its adherents, whether that ideology is Islam, Scientology, conservatism, gun rights, or anything else. Laws aimed at preventing unwanted repeated messages to particular private citizens shouldn’t be applied to messages sent to ideological organizations (or to public officials). And this is especially so when it comes to annoying Facebook posts, which the organization can simply block.

…I hope the court indeed promptly throws them out as unjustified under the statute, forbidden by the First Amendment, or both. But if the courts accept such charges, expect to see many more people, left, right, and otherwise, prosecuted for posting insulting messages on many groups’ web pages.

II. No free speech on campus without permission!
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Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/31/2017: The Too Many Year Ending Ethics Issues To Handle In One Day Edition”

JP’s Comment of the Day actually was sent in today, and so, despite the injustice of allowing him to jump in line (for there still are Comments of the Day from the Holiday Challenge of two days ago awaiting their honors), I’ve decided that this one should be published in close proximity to its target, which was #1 in today’s Warm-up, about Frank Bruni’s column,  “Higher Ed’s Low Moment, in the Times today. You should read Bruni’s column first to be fair to fine JP’s work, which is in the form of an open letter.

Here is JP’s epic Comment of the Day on the post,Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/31/2017: The Too Many Year Ending Ethics Issues To Handle In One Day Edition: 

Dear Mr. Bruni,

Thank you for that colorful article you posted in the NYT. As a college graduate from two universities (almost three), I can appreciate what you said regarding higher learning and its importance on the future of Americans (and in general the world). You see, I agree there is a lot that college has to teach us. Higher education should be focused, involve critical thinking, and provide much-needed life skills that are just not acquired at the at the high school level. While these could have been excellent points when defending the role of colleges and universities, you chose to skip right over them altogether. Instead, you chose to write about how people are wrong to not trust the system with not so subtle attacks on Trump, the Republicans, and the recent tax law.

I will give you some credit. You were able to point out some reasons why some of that trust is not there. You wrote, “I also hear more college presidents talking with more concern about their campuses’ images as enclaves of a distinctly illiberal liberalism. Especially ugly episodes this year at Middlebury College and The Evergreen State College fed that impression and, I think, increased many presidents’ resolve to do something about it.”

You also pay due attention to the much-noted lack of political diversity on campuses. However, it is clear from your article you believe these examples to be trivial based on your piece’s lack of focus, language used, and quick transitions.

With that in mind, let me ask you a question, Mr. Bruni:

Have you been hiding under a rock these last 10 years, or are you just so hidden in your elitist tower you can’t see Rome burning around you?

There are many good reasons that the public doesn’t trust college campus anymore. Follow me a little bit as I explore reasons.

The Teachers.

Just this past year alone we have witnessed a number of statements made by the professionals whose job it is to shape the minds of these students. These are the people who direct them, but with statements like the following, it is a wonder we haven’t had more students following the actual advice made by them (perhaps I don’t give these students enough credit on their critical thinking skills).

  • One professor at Montclair State University wished someone would shoot President Trump outright. He was later let go.
  • Another professor at Austin Community College said it was ok with him if Betsy DeVos was sexually assaulted. He later quit.
  • A University of Tampa Professor said Hurricane Harvey was “Instant Karma” for Texas because it was a red state. Nevermind that Houston, the heaviest area affected voted Democrat (moral luck) during the previous election, this professor had to get his two cents in. He was fired as well.
  • A Drexel professor said the shooting in Vegas this past year is what happens when white people don’t get what they want. His last day is officially today.

What is notable here is 70% of the staff tried to get his full reinstatement. This is somewhat bewildering because the professor is no stranger to racist tweets. writing last Christmas that the white genocide during the Haitian Revolution was a good thing. But of course if you here him, this was just a joke.

There are many more; this last is just icing on the cake:  A professor at California State University tweeted that Trump must be hanged. He later tweeted that “Justice = The execution of two Republicans for each deported immigrant.” This isn’t even retribution theology, it is just advocating for murder. He will be teaching again in the spring. Continue reading

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Foundation For Individual Rights In Education (The FIRE) Report: America’s Top Universities Deny Students Fair Hearings

(If you don’t know what this photo has to do with the FIRE report, you haven’t been paying attention…)

The FIRE, the heroic non-partisan non-profit that is dedicated to fighting restrictions on student speech, expression and other civil rights, has issued an important report showing how badly respect for Constitutionally guaranteed rights eroded during the Obama Administration’s embrace of the “war on women” narrative and radical feminist propaganda regarding the “rape culture” at American universities. From the press release:

“Spotlight on Due Process 2017” surveyed 53 of America’s top universities and found that a shocking 85 percent of schools receive a D or F grade for not ensuring due process rights. The schools were judged based on whether they guarantee those accused of campus misconduct 10 core elements of fair procedure, including adequate written notice of the allegations, the presumption of innocence, and the right to cross-examine all witnesses and accusers. FIRE awarded each institutional policy a grade based on how many of those elements it guaranteed.

“Most people will probably be surprised to learn that students are routinely expelled from college without so much as a hearing,” said Samantha Harris, FIRE’s vice president of policy research. “This report should be a huge red flag to students, parents, legislators, and the general public that an accused student’s academic and professional future often hinges on little more than the whim of college administrators.”

FIRE’s report found that 74 percent of top universities do not even guarantee accused students the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Making matters still more unjust, fewer than half of schools reviewed (47 percent) require that fact-finders — the institution’s version of judge and/or jury — be impartial.

Additionally, 68 percent of institutions fail to consistently provide students a meaningful opportunity to cross-examine their accusers or the witnesses against them — despite the fact that the Supreme Court has called cross-examination the “greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth.”

Most universities try students under one set of procedures for sexual misconduct, and an entirely different set of procedures for all other offenses. Of the 49 institutions in the report that maintain separate policies for sexual and non-sexual misconduct, 57 percent grant students fewer procedural protections in sexual misconduct cases — even when those cases allege criminal behavior. Troublingly, 79 percent of top universities receive a D or F for failing to protect the due process rights of students accused of sexual misconduct….

The report later says that not one institution covered by the study received the top grade. Continue reading

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Swastika Ethics: 8 Observations On The George Washington University “Hate Crime”

swastika

I was recently reminded about the origins of the Nazi swastika, ironically enough, during the Cincinnati funeral service of my dear friend, Georgetown classmate,  lawyer and patriot Mitchell Dale, who died last summer. Looking down during a prayer, I was startled to see the Hindu version of the symbol in a mosaic imbedded in the church floor.

Oddly, the pastor and mourners weren’t arrested.

Yet last month, an unnamed Jewish student placed a small, bronze, Indian swastika on the bulletin board of his Jewish fraternity, Zeta Beta Tau, in the university’s International House. The building had recently been the target of an unidentified vandal who drew three swastikas on the walls. After posting the swastika, the student stayed close to the bulletin board, intending to discuss it and the previous vandalism with observers. He briefly stepped away, unfortunately for him, and during that period a member of the student’s fraternity saw the swastika and called GWU’s campus police. They  filed a report and took the swastika as evidence. When the student found out the police had been called, he immediately came forward to authorities and said that he had posted the  image to spark a conversation about the ancient symbol, cultural appropriation, messages, perception…as in what used to be called “education.” He said he did not intend to offend anyone, noting in doing so that this was an Indian swastika, not a Nazi one. He had just returned from studying religion in India, and said he became fascinated by the idea that a symbol that was not one of hate could become so defined by hate.

GWU suspended the student and evicted him from university housing pending the outcome of five disciplinary charges. The university also kicked him off campus, and referred the incident to the District of Columbia police for investigation as a potential “hate crime.” He could face expulsion.

Ethics observations:

1. FIRE, Freedom for Individual Rights in Education, is on the case. Thank you, FIRE. FIRE Program Officer and attorney Ari Cohn wrote,

“GWU may not ignore thousands of years of history and effectively forbid all uses of the swastika because it was used by Nazi Germany. It’s ironic that the charges against the student illustrate the very point he was trying to make in the first place—that context is important and there’s much to be learned about the history of the swastika.”

2. Now the Hindu American Foundation is protesting as well. This is the wonderful aspect of diversity, and a warning to institutions and diversity hounds that diversity must cut in all directions, or is a sham. It is discriminatory for a university to demonize and censor an aspect of a world religion’s symbology and culture. Do you think the administrators at GW sufficiently understood this, or just didn’t care, going with what they perceived as the most powerful interest group?

3. The George Washington fiasco comes in the wake of other  colleges  responding to anti-Semitic swastika vandalism, but that shouldn’t have mattered. 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.]

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The Campus Sexual Assault Witch Hunt Ethics Train Wreck, Complicated By The Fact That The Witches Are Real

"Wait...are you raping me, or am I raping you?"

“Wait…are you raping me, or am I raping you?”

There is no question that there are sexual predators on college campuses, or that some colleges let them get away with raps on the knuckles for sexual assault or worse. There is also little question, though various parties and activists deny it, that what constitutes genuine sexual assault and even rape has been so thoroughly politicized and muddled by irresponsible rhetoric, dubious statistics and cynical political maneuvering that addressing the problem of actual campus sexual assault is becoming impossible without harming, indeed destroying, the innocent in some cases.

At Stanford, women are rallying for a more stringent process and harsher punishment after student Leah Francis protested in an e-mail to the campus that she had been “forcibly raped” by a fellow student and he was permitted to graduate. Of course, Stanford didn’t find the she had been raped: her assailant was found guilty of sexual assault. The loose use of “rape” to describe sexual assault for political purposes is one of the reasons universities seem incapable of finding a satisfactory balance in handling such cases. At the risk of getting ahead of the post, I would say this: if it is alleged to be rape, then turn the matter over to the police and the justice system. Schools are not allowed to use internal procedures to investigate and punish murder; it makes no sense to permit them to do so with the serious crime of rape. The fact that the standards of proof and the requirements of due process are less stringent in a campus procedure is what simultaneously leads to inadequate sanctions for the guilty and railroading of the innocent. The solution to this problem has always been available: treat allegations of campus rape like any other kind of rape.

Unfortunately, colleges are often in thrall to the political agendas of feminists and their allies, so “rape” can mean many things, as can “sexual assault.” In the casual, morality-free sexual atmosphere now not merely tolerated but nurtured on college campuses, lines of consent are blurred, and missteps are inevitable. At the same time, the permissive sexual environment is a playground for predators, exploiters and manipulators. How are the genuinely culpable sexual assailants to be distinguished from the clumsy, the confused, the misled, or the drunk and overly aroused? Continue reading

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