Senate recommends suspension of controversial tenured blogger

Given the threats I’ve had from past UO presidents, interim presidents, provosts, interim provosts, presidential advisors, VP’s, AVP’s, VPAA’s, general counsels, interim general counsels, faculty athletic representatives, and former journalism deans, which have ranged from vague to specific, I’m always curious about where the line on faculty blogging is.

This story out of Marquette shows that one of their faculty bloggers crossed it. Their Senate carefully investigated the situation with full recognition of academic freedom, and specifically noting the tendency of administrators to use civility clauses against free speech. The Senate then came down in support of the administration and a one-year suspension without pay. Their argument is persuasive.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel  has the story here. The Marquette administration has posted the documents here, with explanation. The Senate’s Faculty Hearing Committee’s report, here, is well worth reading in its entirety.

Note the contrast in transparency between UO and Marquette (which is private and not subject to WI FOIA). When UO gets sued they use it as a reason to hide documents. When Marquette gets sued they use it as a reason to post documents on the web. Or at least documents that make them look good.

U of Chicago gets free publicity for promoting free speech. UO doesn’t.

Chicago has some good public relations people, and a smart President and/or Board of Trustees. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has the press release here, on their free speech efforts:

University of Chicago Reforms All Speech Codes, Earns FIRE’s Highest Free Speech Rating

CHICAGO, April 26, 2016—The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is excited to announce the latest university to earn its highest, “green light” rating for free speech: theUniversity of Chicago (UC). In cooperation with FIRE, UC revised all of its speech codes to join an elite group of colleges and universities that maintain policies respecting student and faculty free expression rights and meeting First Amendment standards. …

Here’s my take – sorry, long story:

In January 2015 Chicago announced the Report of the Committee on Freedom of Expression, chaired by Geoffrey R. Stone, Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law. The full text of that long and self-congratulatory report is here. The gist:

From its very founding, the University of Chicago has dedicated itself to the preservation and celebration of the freedom of expression as an essential element of the University’s culture. In 1902, in his address marking the University’s decennial, President William Rainey Harper declared that “the principle of complete freedom of speech on all subjects has from the beginning been regarded as fundamental in the University of Chicago” and that “this principle can neither now nor at any future time be called in question.” Thirty years later, a student organization invited William Z. Foster, the Communist Party’s candidate for President, to lecture on campus. This triggered a storm of protest from critics both on and off campus. …, …, …

In a word, the University’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed. It is for the individual members of the University community, not for the University as an institution, to make those judgments for themselves, and to act on those judgments not by seeking to suppress speech, but by openly and vigorously contesting the ideas that they oppose. Indeed, fostering the ability of members of the University community to engage in such debate and deliberation in an effective and responsible manner is an essential part of the University’s educational mission. …, …, …

Actually, that’s a lot of words.  The University of Oregon Senate and President Richard Lariviere said it less pompously, more forcefully, and five years earlier in UO’s 2010 Freedom of Speech and Inquiry Policy. The full text:

The University of Oregon values and supports free and open inquiry. The commitment to free speech and freedom of inquiry described in this policy extends to all members of the UO community: Faculty, staff, and students. It also extends to all others who visit or participate in activities held on the UO campus.

Free speech is central to the academic mission and is the central tenet of a free and democratic society. The University encourages and supports open, vigorous, and challenging debate across the full spectrum of human issues as they present themselves to this community. Further, as a public institution, the University will sustain a higher and more open standard for freedom of inquiry and free speech than may be expected or preferred in private settings.

Free inquiry and free speech are the cornerstones of an academic institution committed to the creation and transfer of knowledge. Expression of diverse points of view is of the highest importance, not solely for those who present and defend some view but for those who would hear, disagree, and pass judgment on those views. The belief that an opinion is pernicious, false, and in any other way despicable, detestable, offensive or “just plain wrong” cannot be grounds for its suppression.

The University supports free speech with vigor, including the right of presenters to offer opinion, the right of the audience to hear what is presented, and the right of protesters to engage with speakers in order to challenge ideas, so long as the protest does not disrupt or stifle the free exchange of ideas. It is the responsibility of speakers, listeners and all members of our community to respect others and to promote a culture of mutual inquiry throughout the University community.

But that’s not the whole story. Randy Geller, UO’s General Counsel at the time, tried to subvert this straight-forward defense of free-speech rights with a “Facilities Scheduling Policy” restricting free speech with weasel words like these:

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The UO Senate fought Geller off, passed a policy with none of this language, and President Lariviere signed that too.

Then in 2013, during negotiations with the new UO faculty union, new UO President Mike Gottfredson tried to argue that UO faculty could be disciplined for criticizing the UO administration. Colleen Flaherty had the story in Inside Higher Education, here:

But the university’s counterproposal decouples academic freedom and free speech, addressing them separately. Academic freedom is “necessary to teaching and research,” it says, with no mention of the role of academics in speaking out if not related directly to teaching and research. Rejecting explicit union language on free speech, the counterproposal instead guarantees protections afforded by the First Amendment and state law. [Which are weaker for public employees.] …

Margaret Paris, professor of law and president of the Faculty Senate, has not been involved in union negotiations but said that the union statement likely would influence the ultimate Senate document, since it would be difficulty to work off two different policies when most of the faculty belong to the union (although law professors do not).

Paris also said she was aware of the university’s preference to decouple academic freedom and free speech in the final Faculty Senate statement, and that she would likely support it. Because the policies “spring from different sets of values,” it makes sense that each deserves individual attention, she said.

Oregon’s administration works closely with the Faculty Senate and Paris is looking forward to a collaborative process finalizing the document, she said.

But those involved in union contract negotiations said otherwise.

Bill Harbaugh, professor of economics and moderator of the “UO Matters” blog, which is frequently critical of university policy, said decoupling academic freedom from free speech left room for administrators to punish those faculty – like him – who say things administrators don’t like. He also objected to the idea that administrators would be the ones deciding what qualifies as “civil.”

The university has previously publicly accused Harbaugh of including “consistently anti-university” statements on his blog.

“The university is place of higher learning,” warranting explicit protections of free speech, Harbaugh said. “The new policy takes out all the pro-free speech stuff and instead includes many restrictive rules about how faculty can be engaged in free speech. It’s aimed in part at limiting the critical faculty right to criticize the administration outside of [the formal university setting].”

(Full disclosure: that would be me, and this blog.)

The UO faculty union fought off Mike Gottfredson with the help of Mike Mauer of the AAUP. The UO Senate then set up an academic freedom working group to work around the obstructive efforts of Senate President Margie Paris, and her support for Gottfredson’s efforts to make criticizing his policies on a blog a disciplinary offense.

Margie Paris was out-maneuvered and out-voted, and in the end Gottfredson had to sign a new UO Policy on Academic Freedom that augmented Lariviere’s policy on free speech with specific language on the right to criticize the UO administration:

c. POLICY AND SHARED GOVERNANCE. Members of the university community have freedom to address, question, or criticize any matter of institutional policy or practice, whether acting as individuals or as members of an agency of institutional governance.

… These freedoms derive immediately from the university’s basic commitment to advancing knowledge and understanding. The academic freedoms enumerated in this policy shall be exercised without fear of institutional reprisal. Only serious abuses of this policy – ones that rise to the level of professional misbehavior or professional incompetence – should lead to adverse consequences.  Any such determinations shall be made in accordance with established, formal procedures involving judgment by relevant peers.

Reviewed and Approved By: Michael Gottfredson, President. Date: 05/28/2014

So why is Chicago getting all the good press, instead of UO?  Because Chicago agreed to work with FIRE to ensure that *all* their policies are consistent with their policy on free speech. UO has not, and therefore we are on FIRE’s “red light list”. Details and examples from the UO Student Code of Conduct and more, here.

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And the UO administration recently added this disclaimer to our Academic Freedom Policy. And, from a cursory search of AVP Chuck Triplett’s policy library, only to this policy. How odd:

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Provost of UCSD’s Eleanor Roosevelt College goes Geller over chalk

4/12/2016:  In the Washington Post, here:

The San Diego Union-Tribune (Debbi Baker) reports on a controversy about pro-Donald Trump sidewalk chalking at the University of California at San Diego, which drew this response from Prof. Ivan Evans, the provost of one of the six UC-San Diego undergraduate colleges (Eleanor Roosevelt College):

ERC Condemns Vandalism On Campus

It is with dismay that the ERC community and the campus at large learned that vandals, as yet unknown, defaced university property on Friday by chalking offensive comments on the sidewalks close to the Raza Resource Centro and on Library Walk. … Whoever furtively inflicted this incident on campus does not deserve the attention they cannot receive through rational discourse and open debate. In condemning the incident, ERC expects that any violation of UCSD’s Code of Conduct will be treated with the greatest seriousness and draw the fullest sanctions that may apply.

In 2010 former UO GC Randy Geller tried to get the UO Senate to include a ban on chalk in the facilities use policy, except when authorized by the president:

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We rejected this proposal. But what would Eleanor Roosevelt say? I’m not sure. While the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights that she negotiated with the Soviets does include free speech, it doesn’t specifically address furtive water-soluble chalking.

4/8/2016: President joins student protest for free speech right to chalk

Continue reading

Duck PR flack Tobin Klinger exercises free-speech right to praise his employer

tobinfor_web

The Daily Emerald has the latest on the administration’s removal of the Divest UO banner, from reporter Max Thornberry here:

… [UO Strategic Communicator Tobin Klinger], on the other hand, praised the university for creating an environment that fosters discussion and debate about the issues of the day.

“It comes down to the concept of an active protest,” Klinger said. “This is not an issue that relates to any kind of specific messaging. It has everything to do with facilities use.”

I may not agree with Klinger, but I’ll defend his right to collect a UO paycheck while saying nonsense like this – although $117,300 seems a bit high when we’re laying off humanities faculty.

Meanwhile it sounds like the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is going to defend the right of UO students to use a bush outside UO’s administration building to raise public awareness about their CO2 Divestment campaign.

If you want to understand the real history of Klinger’s facilities use argument, go here and page down. In brief, here’s the language former UO General Counsel Randy Geller wanted to include in the facilities use policy, to restrict banners:

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The UO Senate rejected this language, along with the entire idea of limiting First Amendment rights to “free speech zones”. UO President Richard Lariviere did not agree to this language either. The language above is not UO policy. To the contrary UO debated it and rejected it. The Facilities Use Policy that the Senate agreed to, and which Lariviere signed, and which is current UO policy, does not restrict our students’ right to use banners to encourage vigorous debate about matters of public importance.

UO administration removes CO2 Divest banner from Johnson Hall bush

4/6/2016 update: The day Merle Haggard died? Have our administrators no sense of patriotism? Or irony? More on the troubling response from the UO Foundation CIO here.

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3/29/2016 update: Press Conference on the Johnson Hall steps, Facebook event page here.

Our students have been conducting a quiet CO2 Divestment sit-in the Johnson Hall lobby for months. The administration has banned their banner from the bush outside JH, and now the students are apparently going to reassert their free-speech rights.

Do they have the right to put up the banner? I’m no lawyer, but here’s some UO history. Back in 2010, former UO GC Randy Geller wanted to change UO policy to implement “Free Speech Zones”, outside of which First Amendment rights would be tightly controlled. This was in reaction to the Pacifica Forum incidents. Geller’s policy starts on page 13 here. It’s funnier than Animal Farm.

Free speech is indispensable, but:

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UO will restrict Free Speech, except inside the Free Speech Zones, and even then you’ll need insurance and maybe a reservation:

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No unapproved banners outside free speech zones – and don’t even think about posting the video on the internets:

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Oh yeah, no camping or chalk either. Chalk? What’s that about?

All of Geller’s silly language above was rejected by the UO Senate and it is not UO policy. 

The Facilities Use Policy that was adopted instead is at http://policies.uoregon.edu/policy/by/1/04-facilities/facilities-scheduling. It turned Geller’s policy on its ass, by limiting the areas UO can control to buildings and “scheduled outdoor spaces” i.e. the EMU amphitheater. The Senate rejected all of Geller’s anti-free speech, anti-banner, and anti-chalk language.

The Facilities Use policy is paired with the powerful Free Speech and Inquiry policy, at http://policies.uoregon.edu/policy/by/1/01-administration-and-governance/freedom-inquiry-and-free-speech:

Free speech is central to the academic mission and is the central tenet of a free and democratic society. The University encourages and supports open, vigorous, and challenging debate across the full spectrum of human issues as they present themselves to this community. Further, as a public institution, the University will sustain a higher and more open standard for freedom of inquiry and free speech than may be expected or preferred in private settings.

How much clearer could this be? It’s not like the CO2 Divestment students are doing anything reprehensible, like using chalk.

3/13/2016: UO bans students’ fossil fuel divestment banner from a bush? Continue reading

Senate meets Wed 3-5PM to weaken godless ethics policy, regulate faculty inputs to online classes, and then listen to our students if time permits

Senate Meeting – April 6, 2016. Browsing Room, Knight Library; 3:00-5:00 pm. 2015-2016Agendas,  Watch Live.

Synopsis: Ethics passed eventually. Online input policy passed. At the last minute VP for Student Life Robin Holmes bailed on the student-led discussion of the Mandatory Live-In Policy non-policy, probably preventing any substantive discussion before it goes into effect.

The UO Divest students gave a report on the goals of their sit-in, and reported that the administration has removed their divestment banner from the bush outside JH, claiming it was a “structural element”. This seems like an obvious violation of UO’s free -speech policy and the careful language in the Facilities Use Policy that the Senate negotiated with Lariviere in 2010.

3:00 pm    Introductory Remarks, Senate President Randy Sullivan

3:05 pm    1.   Call to Order, 3:05 pm    2.   Approval of Minutes  March 9, 2016

3:15 pm    4.   New Business

4.1     US15/16-21: Revision of the Code of Ethics in Response to Feedback from the University President; Senate Executive Committee

Live blog: Schill’s not sure why we are bothering with this either. Something we inherited from OUS and it would look bad to ditch it. We then proceed to debate the Public Accountability clause and “inclusivity”. Someone tries to add the dread word “collegiality”. Harbaugh objects unless it specifies “collegiality as defined by New York City best practices.” Collegiality fails. Freyd proposes a simplifying amendment to delete everything after the second period. Passes. Harbaugh moves to change “ensures” to “requires”. Schill agrees. Amendment passes. The Godless UO now has a code of ethics, though the administration reserves the right to take another look.

My post from yesterday:

Yes, AVP for Collaboration Chuck Triplett has brought this back to us once more, for still more debate. And he tells people it’s the *Senate* that wastes time on pointless unenforceable motions? It seems someone in JH has taken a red pen to the public accountability language:

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But our administrators have no problem with this language in the UOPD’s ethics policy:

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Is there none righteous among the Senate, not one, with the stones (or ovaries) to propose an amendment adding God to the UO ethics policy? I’ll second, I swear (or affirm) to it.

OK, so we’re all atheists, just as Ben Carson thought. Well how about sustainability then? Even the godless worship sustainability. Maybe especially the godless. But Triplett’s Policy Advisory Committee is proposing repealing UO’s policy on sustainability, which we inherited from Pernsteiner and Triplett from back when they ran OUS, and before they ran Lariviere out:

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While I don’t doubt that UO’s “green brand” brings in more good students than the Duck’s party school reputation, I’m all for ditching this vacuous policy about “how we can live sustainably on Earth.” Instead we should should support our UO Divest students, who have a practical, well thought out program for reducing CO2 emissions through collective action, which they are working hard to implement.

4.2     US15/16-22: Policy on Undergraduate Online and Hybrid Courses: Student Engagement; Academic Council

Provost Scott Coltrane has appointed VPAA Doug Blandy of all people to lead a task force on online education, but his task force has just begun meeting, and he won’t share the schedule or agenda. Instead this proposal comes from the Academic Council. It does not attempt to deal with cheating or grade inflation in online courses, or evaluate what students might learn from these courses. Instead it’s all about regulating faculty inputs.

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Live-blog: Dreiling wants to see the SEI, here:

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White explains the impetus from this proposal: students were complaining that some online classes consisted of nothing more than video lectures and a final exam.

Koopman asks why the policy does not provide more guidance on what is meant by engagement – instead of defining it as what it’s not.

White: We are working closely with Doug Blandy’s task force to provide more examples in the SEI and other documents. Doesn’t want to give faculty language they can just cut and paste into a course proposal.

Wolverton: Agrees with Koopman, thinks there should be more guidance in the policy. 2.1 should reference the SEI. Furthermore, the SEI tracks *student* engagement, this seems focused on faculty workload.

Question is called, policy passes.

3:45 pm    5.   Open Discussion

5.1       Proposed Mandatory Live In policy for all new incoming students.

Last meeting we had to cut this very interesting student-led discussion off early, for lack of time.

Apparently VPSL Robin Holmes was not prepared to continue discussing the Mandatory Live On Policy for freshman that came up last month.

Senators ask whether or not this is just a delaying tactic on the part of VPSL.  Say it ain’t so!

4:15 pm    6.   Reports

Two UO Divest students, Joey and Nicole report on the progress of their JH sit-in and protest, aimed at encouraging the UO Foundation to divest from those fossil fuel companies that still haven’t gone bankrupt.

The students report that, after 8 weeks of their JH sit-in, the administration has been removed their banner from outside JH.

Dreiling: WTF? Don’t we have a free-speech policy?

Students: They told us that we couldn’t even stand there, because that made us “structural elements of the building.”

Senator: There have been many other banners on Johnson Hall over the years, including one celebrating the last capital campaign. Sounds structural?

Harbaugh: In 2010 the Senate rejected GC Randy Geller’s attempt to write a policy that would allow the administration to remove your banner. Perhaps the Senate should revisit this

Sullivan: Can faculty help out with the sit-in?

Students: We’re there from 9-5.

4:50 pm    7.   Notice(s) of Motion

4:50 pm    8.   Other Business

5:00 pm    9.   Adjournment

UO Code of Ethics requires employees to “dedicate ourselves before God to our chosen profession”, plus civility

11/28/2015: From what I can tell $130K VP for Collaboration Chuck Triplett is actually going to bring his UO ethics policy to the Senate for debate and vote.

You must “make decisions based upon the greater good” and act in “wise, ethical, and prudent manner”, while not “shifting blame or taking improper credit”. And the administration thinks the *Senate* is wasting faculty time with pointless discussions?

I’ve already seen some pretty good suggestions for amendments, including the admirably brief

“University of Oregon Code of Ethics: All employees must follow the University of Oregon Policy on Freedom of Speech and Inquiry“.

If that fails, I’ll bring up my proposal for a Senate Unethical Activities Committee, with the power to investigate and blacklist offenders:

Meanwhile, rumor down at the Faculty Club Chapel (Episcopalian) is that there will also be questions from the faculty on how we can behave ethically without dedicating ourselves before God to our chosen profession, as VPFA Jamie Moffitt has been requiring the UO Police to do, ever since that unfortunate Bowl of Dicks incident:

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Good thing our Johnson Hall bowl game junketeers aren’t sworn officers. That part about “never accepting gratuities” would be a problem.

As for the God business, sorry, but a higher authority disagrees: “… no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

11/13/2015: UO ethics policy requires “civil, respectful, and nurturing environment”

And if you fail to “make decisions based upon the greater good” or don’t act in “a wise, ethical, and prudent manner” or if you engage in “shifting blame or taking improper credit”, you have violated UO policy, and you are subject to university discipline.

That’s according to UO’s newly revised “Code of Ethics” policy, posted on VP for Collaboration Chuck Triplett’s website, and open for comment here.

Continue reading

Gambling, guns, and an acid-test for UO’s free speech policy

Everyone favors free speech they agree with. The acid test is defending speech you disagree with. UO has a strong policy defending such speech, here:

The University of Oregon values and supports free and open inquiry. The commitment to free speech and freedom of inquiry described in this policy extends to all members of the UO community: Faculty, staff, and students. It also extends to all others who visit or participate in activities held on the UO campus.

Free speech is central to the academic mission and is the central tenet of a free and democratic society. The University encourages and supports open, vigorous, and challenging debate across the full spectrum of human issues as they present themselves to this community. Further, as a public institution, the University will sustain a higher and more open standard for freedom of inquiry and free speech than may be expected or preferred in private settings.

Free inquiry and free speech are the cornerstones of an academic institution committed to the creation and transfer of knowledge. Expression of diverse points of view is of the highest importance, not solely for those who present and defend some view but for those who would hear, disagree, and pass judgment on those views. The belief that an opinion is pernicious, false, and in any other way despicable, detestable, offensive or “just plain wrong” cannot be grounds for its suppression.

The University supports free speech with vigor, including the right of presenters to offer opinion, the right of the audience to hear what is presented, and the right of protesters to engage with speakers in order to challenge ideas, so long as the protest does not disrupt or stifle the free exchange of ideas. It is the responsibility of speakers, listeners and all members of our community to respect others and to promote a culture of mutual inquiry throughout the University community.

But it’s easy to write a strong policy. The acid-test comes when you have to follow it, for speech you disagree with. Like this:

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Fortunately the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is on the case. Given UO policy and the many SCOTUS rulings against prior restraint, this is an easy one. Full letter here:

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Trigger Warning

The gist:

… However, the Faculty Senate does not endorse offering “trigger warnings” or
otherwise labeling controversial material in such a way that students
construe it as an option to “opt out” of engaging with texts or
concepts, or otherwise not participating in intellectual inquiries.

… In issuing this statement, the Faculty Senate affirms that shielding
students from controversial material will deter them from becoming
critical thinkers and responsible citizens. Helping them learn to
process and evaluate such material fulfills one of the most important
responsibilities of higher education.

AMERICAN UNIVERSITY FACULTY SENATE RESOLUTION ON FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

9/9/15 Unanimously Approved

For hundreds of years, the pursuit of knowledge has been at the
center of university life. Unfettered discourse, no matter how
controversial, inconvenient, or uncomfortable, is a condition
necessary to that pursuit. American University stands in this tradition,
as stated in section 4 of the Faculty Manual.
(http://www.american.edu/provost/academicaffairs/faculty-manualtoc.cfm)

Freedom of speech–protected by the First Amendment to the United
States Constitution– undergirds the cherished principle of academic
freedom. As limits, either subtle or explicit, are increasingly placed on
intellectual freedom in venues of public discourse, the academy is
committed to the full expression of ideas.

American University is committed to protecting and championing the
right to freely communicate ideas—without censorship—and to
study material as it is written, produced, or stated, even material that
some members of our community may find disturbing or that
provokes uncomfortable feelings. This freedom is an integral part of
the learning experience and an obligation from which we cannot
shrink.

As laws and individual sensitivities may seek to restrict, label, warn,
or exclude specific content, the academy must stand firm as a place
that is open to diverse ideas and free expression. These are standards
and principles that American University will not compromise.
Faculty may advise students before exposing them to controversial
readings and other materials that are part of their curricula. However,
the Faculty Senate does not endorse offering “trigger warnings” or
otherwise labeling controversial material in such a way that students
construe it as an option to “opt out” of engaging with texts or
concepts, or otherwise not participating in intellectual inquiries.
Faculty should direct students who experience personal difficulties
from exposure to controversial issues to resources available at
American University’s support-services offices.

In issuing this statement, the Faculty Senate affirms that shielding
students from controversial material will deter them from becoming
critical thinkers and responsible citizens. Helping them learn to
process and evaluate such material fulfills one of the most important
responsibilities of higher education.

Four word joke nets UO student five unconstitutional bad-conduct charges:

8/26/14: Four word joke nets UO student five unconstitutional bad-conduct charges:

Saul Hubbard has an excellent report on this in the RG. Peter Bonilla of FIRE notes: “Universities have never prevailed in court when defending their [anti-free speech] codes,” he said. “Every single time there’s a court challenge, they lose.”Of course that won’t stop Sharon Rudnick from collecting $300 in UO tuition money for each billable hour trying, just as she did with Gottfredson’s academic freedom restrictions.

If you’re a UO police officer keeping a list of people who should “eat a bowl of dicks” you get a promotion, high paid legal help from Dave Frohnmayer’s law firm, and UO Chief Strategic Communicator Tobin Klinger will write an angry letter to the editor denouncing the reporter for printing the story.

But UO’s rules are a little tougher for students. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has the story:

EUGENE, Oregon, August 26, 2014—The University of Oregon (UO) has filed multiple, blatantly unconstitutional conduct charges against a female student who jokingly yelled “I hit it first” from a dormitory window. The student, who wishes to remain anonymous, contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help. FIRE is calling on UO to immediately dismiss all charges against the student and reform its unconstitutional speech policies.

…On June 9, 2014, the female student in question was visiting with friends in UO’s Carson Hall dormitory. The student, looking out of the dormitory window, spotted a male and female student walking together (she did not know either of them) and shouted “I hit it first” at them in jest. The female of the couple responded with two profanities and the couple reported the student’s comment to the Resident Assistant of the dorm. The Resident Assistant located the student and insisted that she apologize to the couple for her remark.

The student readily obliged. That did not end the matter, however. On June 13, the student was shocked to receive a “Notice of Allegation” letter charging her with five separate conduct violations for her four-word joke. In addition to dubious allegations of violating the residence hall’s noise and guest policies, UO charged the student with “[h]arassment,” “disruption,” and “[d]isorderly conduct.” After being presented with these outrageous and unconstitutional charges, the student contacted FIRE. …

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Actually, thanks to Richard Lariviere UO has a very clear and strong free speech policy, but Doug Blandy is in charge of it, and as is often the case at UO implementation leaves something to be desired.And this all raises a very important question: Do these OARs trump official UO policies that have been adopted by the Senate and signed by the President?

8/28/2014 update: UO drops “I hit it first” charges but keeps them on student’s permanent record

From FIRE, and an RG story here:

UO did not respond to FIRE’s August 1 letter or to a previous June 5 letter regarding its problematic speech codes. In an August 27 article on the student’s case in The Register-Guard, a UO spokesperson defended the university’s Student Conduct Code as “appropriate” and claimed that it “doesn’t conflict with speech laws,” despite FIRE’s overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Later that day, however, UO informed the student via email that it was removing the charges against her. While still claiming that her “behavior may be a violation” of the UO Student Conduct Code, no record of the incident will be noted in her file and no further action will be taken.A first small step towards sanity from the Coltrane administration, or just another reminder that ridicule in the national press is the only way to make Johnson Hall do the right thing?

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7/23/2015: The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education wins another one:

ATLANTA, July 23, 2015—Today, more than eight years after his unjust expulsion, student Hayden Barnes’ federal civil rights lawsuit against Georgia’s Valdosta State University (VSU) and former VSU president Ronald Zaccari concluded with the announcement of a $900,000 settlement. 

In the spring of 2007, Barnes was expelled from VSU by Zaccari for a satirical environmentalist collage he posted on his personal Facebook page. With the help of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), Barnes fought back by filing a civil rights lawsuit in 2008 against the university, Zaccari, other VSU administrators, and the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. 

“After eight years, and one of the worst abuses of student rights FIRE has ever seen, Hayden Barnes has finally received justice,” said FIRE President and CEO Greg Lukianoff. “Thanks to Hayden’s courageous stand, would-be censors at public universities nationwide have 900,000 new reasons to respect the free speech and due process rights of their students.”

“I am pleased to have finally reached a resolution. It has been an epic journey,” said Barnes. “However, it was a worthwhile endeavor because I know as a result of this case other students will have their constitutional rights respected. I sincerely appreciate the work of my counsel and of FIRE, both of whom were instrumental in achieving justice.”Barnes’ years-long ordeal began on May 7, 2007, when Zaccari—angry with Barnes’ peaceful protest against the planned construction of two parking garages on campus—expelled him without a hearing. Absurdly, Zaccari tried to justify Barnes’ expulsion by claiming that a cut-and-paste collage Barnes had posted to Facebook was a “threatening document” and that Barnes presented a “clear and present danger” to VSU. …

Meanwhile UO is still on FIRE’s redlight list for free speech. We’ve got a great policy, but as you can see above some administrators are a little confused about what free speech means:

AAUP not kidding, will investigate LSU pres for firing cussing prof

7/12/2015 update: AAUP press release here:

The hearing committee, reporting on March 20, was unanimous in its
findings. It found that removal with cause should not be considered. As to the ADA, it
found that the charge was not substantiated by testimony. As to sexual harassment as
defined at LSU, it noted use of profanity, poorly worded jokes, and occasionally sexually
explicit jokes in her teaching methodologies. It found no evidence, however, that this
behavior was directed against any particular individual, only that some individuals who
observed the behavior were disturbed by it.

7/1/2015: “But swear words as a terminable offense? You have got to be fucking kidding.”

Wait – before you report me to Penny Daugherty, UO’s famously incompetent Title IX investigator, that’s a direct quote from columnist Rebecca Schuman in Slate:

What is going to happen when these fragile beings, who probably saw their first pornographic image on the Internet when their ages were still in the single digits, enter the workforce? What if they want to work in finance? Entertainment? Media? Sailing? Literally anything? I would love to be a proverbial fly on the wall of the Goldman Sachs HR office, as some wet-eared little pipsqueak complains about his boss’s foul language.

One of my worries coming back to college after a few years working on oil exploration crews was that my professors would kick me out for being unable to speak a sentences without swear words. Should I still be worried? Naah, UO has a very robust free speech policy, thanks to Richard Lariviere – a man who could channel a little LBJ when necessary:

Free speech is central to the academic mission and is the central tenet of a free and democratic society. The University encourages and supports open, vigorous, and challenging debate across the full spectrum of human issues as they present themselves to this community. Further, as a public institution, the University will sustain a higher and more open standard for freedom of inquiry and free speech than may be expected or preferred in private settings.

Free inquiry and free speech are the cornerstones of an academic institution committed to the creation and transfer of knowledge. Expression of diverse points of view is of the highest importance, not solely for those who present and defend some view but for those who would hear, disagree, and pass judgment on those views. The belief that an opinion is pernicious, false, and in any other way despicable, detestable, offensive or “just plain wrong” cannot be grounds for its suppression.

The University supports free speech with vigor, including the right of presenters to offer opinion, the right of the audience to hear what is presented, and the right of protesters to engage with speakers in order to challenge ideas, so long as the protest does not disrupt or stifle the free exchange of ideas. It is the responsibility of speakers, listeners and all members of our community to respect others and to promote a culture of mutual inquiry throughout the University community.

FIRE free speech lawsuits producing results

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education advocates for free speech for students and faculty. Starting last summer they decided to ramp up their game, with a legal fund set up to hire local law firms to sue universities that violated free speech rights.  They’ve had a good year:

One year ago today, with support from allies like you, FIRE launched our Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project and signaled the start of a new era for our advocacy. In the time since, Stand Up For Speech has dramatically reshaped the fight for free expression on campus.

None of the project’s successes would have been possible without your support. Whether through a direct contribution, a “like” or “retweet,” a forwarded press release, or a personal conversation, you’ve joined us in standing up for speech. You’ve helped us coordinate 10 lawsuits, secure five settlements, record nearly 40 individual policy changes in court or on campus, attract over 200 media mentions, and expose some of the nation’s worst speech codes to fellow liberty-lovers.

Even more importantly, you’ve given a voice to “the little guys” on campus. Thanks to you, students at Modesto Junior College and the University of Hawaii no longer have to confine their activities to tiny “free speech zones,” Citrus College student activists can organize events without a two-week wait, Western Michigan University student groups are no longer required to submit flyers for approval, and individuals at Ohio University no longer have to worry about a ban on “demeaning” language. By empowering each individual Stand Up For Speech plaintiff, you ultimately empowered more than 150,000 other students, who are now free to enjoy their expressive rights more fully.

This was just the beginning.

By donating today, you can help more students and professors fight back against the unconstitutional policies that fuel campus censorship. With your support, FIRE will continue to team up with the “little guys” to take on unconstitutional policies and absurd acts of censorship, coordinating lawsuit after lawsuit until administrators finally recognize and respect the First Amendment rights of their students and faculty members.

We’ve come a long way in a single year, and FIRE is proud of these accomplishments. As we move forward, I hope you will help us add to that record. Your 100% tax-deductible donation will empower more plaintiffs, challenge more unconstitutional policies, and expose more overzealous administrators. Ultimately, together with allies like you, FIRE’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project can generate the pressure necessary to finally rebalance the incentives in higher education and restore the marketplace of ideas on campus.

Yours in Liberty,
Greg Lukianoff
President and CEO

P.S. Please help us celebrate by sharing our anniversary materials with your friends, so that more and more Americans start to stand up for speech!

As a commenter has noted, UO is currently on FIRE’s “red light list” for free speech violations – the worst ranking in the state. We used to have a green light, based on Lariviere’s free speech policy, but last summer a student yelled “I hit that first” out a dorm window. The Office of Student Conduct got medieval, so the student went straight to FIRE, who got them to back off pretty quick – this time without a lawsuit. Story here.

LSU President F. King Alexander fires professor for cussing

The Baton Rouge Advocate has the news here:

… Buchanan was fired even though a committee of five faculty members that presided over an 11-hour dismissal review hearing held on March 9 recommended that she keep her job.

While the committee found that her adult language and humor violated university policies that protect students and employees from sexual harassment, it found no evidence Buchanan’s comments were “systematically directed at any individual.”

The committee recommended she be censured and agree to quit using “potentially offensive language and jokes” that some found offensive.

The committee also faulted the university for failing to have the chair of Buchanan’s department work to resolve her behavior prior to having the Human Resources Office investigate.

LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander rejected the faculty committee’s recommendation that Buchanan be censured and instead urged the LSU Board of Supervisors to dismiss her.

In an April 2 letter to Buchanan, Alexander pointed to the committee’s finding that she had engaged in sexual harassment but didn’t mention that the committee had recommended censure, not termination.

The chancellor also cited an allegation that Buchanan had violated a student’s rights under the federal Americans With Disabilities Act, an allegation the committee had rejected as “not substantiated by testimony.”

Kevin Cope, president of LSU’s Faculty Senate, said Alexander’s dismissal of the faculty’s judgments in Buchanan’s case is disturbing, but part of a larger problem at many universities, not just LSU.

“Once it goes to the president, there is no constraint on what the president can do,” Cope said.

You gotta wonder what people call President Alexander around campus: “King”, “F.K.”, or just “FKing”?

Law professor Eugene Volokh on UC’s racial “microagressions” policy

From his Washington Post law blog, here:

One of the latest things in universities, including at University of California (where I teach) is condemning “microaggressions,” supposed “brief, subtle verbal or non-verbal exchanges that send denigrating messages to the recipient because of his or her group membership (such as race, gender, age or socio-economic status).” Such microaggressions, the argument goes, can lead to a “hostile learning environment,” which UC — and the federal government — views as legally actionable. This is stuff you could get disciplined or fired for, especially if you aren’t a tenured faculty member.

Continue reading

Gay rights are human rights – and so is anti-gay rights speech

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has a fascinating column by Ari Cohn analyzing the 1985 court case that required TAMU to support the Gay Students Services group, and the recent statement from Marco Roberts, the student plaintiff, appealing for the opponents of the Indiana “religious liberty” law to respect the free speech rights of its supporters. FIRE column here, Roberts column here:

This is not about being pro or against gays. It is about the fundamental concept of the freedom of speech, the most fundamental of all political rights. […] Many of my GLBT compatriots tell me that those who oppose gay marriage are trying to “hurt us” and thus have “no right” to their views. Well I say that no one has a right to come into the public space and demand fundamental change to everyone’s laws without arguing their case and subjecting it to debate.

And the famous quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes:

Aye tear her tattered ensign down
Long has it waved on high,
And many an eye has danced to see
That banner in the sky;
Beneath it rung the battle shout,
And burst the cannon’s roar;–
The meteor of the ocean air
Shall sweep the clouds no more.

Her deck, once red with heroes’ blood,
Where knelt the vanquished foe,
When winds were hurrying o’er the flood,
And waves were white below,
No more shall feel the victor’s tread,
Or know the conquered knee;–
The harpies of the shore shall pluck
The eagle of the sea!

Oh, better that her shattered hulk
Should sink beneath the wave;
Her thunders shook the mighty deep,
And there should be her grave;
Nail to the mast her holy flag,
Set every threadbare sail,
And give her to the god of storms,
The lightning and the gale!’

Whoops, wrong Oliver Wendell Holmes. I meant

If you have no doubt of your premises or your power and want a certain result with all your heart you naturally express your wishes in law and sweep away all opposition. … But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas — that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out.

And the last word, from Marco Roberts:

To this day I remember those fellow Aggiest who told me personally that they totally opposed what I believed, but would stand up for my right to say it—and they did. I intend to forever return the favor.