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.

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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.

Anti-abortion speaker schools UOPD Officer on the 1st Amendment

UO Undergraduate Thomas Tullis got the video of a UOPD Officer making some extremely false statements about the First Amendment, to an extremely patient anti-abortion protester. The cop is very calm and professional about trying to keep the peace, but everything he says about UO and free speech is completely unconstitutional and utterly wrong. Kudos to UOPD Chief McDermed, who understands how badly her officers blew it. Story in the Emerald here:

UO Police Chief Carolyn McDermed submitted a statement to The Emerald:

“As free speech is a cornerstone of a public university, we expect our officers to understand the relevant laws and police, and do their professional best to protect the speech rights of everyone on campus, while ensuring safe access to our facilities and public rights of way. All UOPD officers will be reminded of the relevant laws and policies, and their role in protecting the safe practice of free speech on our campus.”

Tullis’s entire video, with annotations – is well worth watching:

Since it seems the UOPD needs a reminder about why we have police, UO’s Free Speech policy is here. We’re a University. We like free speech. Free speech that makes us uncomfortable is the most important kind of speech, we like it the best, and we pay our police to protect it the most:

Freedom of Inquiry and Free Speech

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.

“What If ….” UO’s leadership was as decisive as OU’s …

… instead of dumping millions on sophomoric strategic communicators and 160over90 branders? The RG Editorial Board asks the question, here.

Update: It appears OU President Bowen may have been a little too decisive, in following up his move to disband the frat with a decision to expel two students. Bowen’s move would be a violation of UO’s Free Speech Policy, which states:

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.

Eugene Volokh has more in the WaPo:

University of Oklahoma President David Boren has expelled two students for leading a racist chant. These students’ speech was indeed quite repugnant, but for reasons I discuss here, it’s protected by the First Amendment.

And here’s one reason why. Consider the president’s statement to the students: “You will be expelled because of your leadership role in leading a racist and exclusionary chant which has created a hostile educational environment for others.” Similar things could be said about a vast range of other speech. …

Judge approves free speech lawsuit against ISU Pres “in his personal capacity”

I’m no lawyer, but my understanding is that the normal immunity of state officials for official acts does not hold in cases involving violations of civil rights:

AMES, Iowa, January 7, 2015—Yesterday, an Iowa federal judge denied Iowa State University’s (ISU’s) motion to dismiss a First Amendment lawsuit filed by students. Chief Judge James Gritzner of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa rejected every one of ISU’s arguments in his 19-page order. This is the first time a judge has ruled in a case brought as part of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE’s) Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project. Three other lawsuits in the project have already been settled in favor of free speech, for a total of $210,000 in fees and damages.

“We’re very pleased with the court’s decision to deny every part of ISU’s motion to dismiss,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “FIRE looks forward to a successful outcome that affirms ISU students’ right to freely advocate for their beliefs.”

Student-plaintiff Erin Furleigh said, “It feels so good to know the facts can’t be ignored anymore.”

Furleigh and fellow student Paul Gerlich, the vice president and president, respectively, of ISU’s student chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), sued ISU in July 2014 as part of FIRE’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project. In their complaint, the students detailed how the university censored the group’s T-shirts based on their marijuana-related messaging and imagery, removed NORML ISU’s advisor, and implemented new guidelines for using ISU’s trademark in order to restrict NORML ISU’s speech. Attorneys at the Washington, D.C., office of the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine, which represents Gerlich and Furleigh, argued that ISU’s actions amounted to censorship that violates the First Amendment.

In response, ISU filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that the case was a matter of trademark use and not a free speech issue. The university also argued that NORML ISU’s T-shirts constituted government speech. Other grounds on which ISU sought dismissal include sovereign immunity, qualified immunity, and procedural due process.

The court refused to dismiss the case on any of these grounds. With respect to the trademark argument, the court’s order states that “[n]o infringement is involved in the case at hand,” confirming that NORML ISU’s right to advocate for marijuana legalization is a First Amendment issue. Furthermore, the judge’s order noted that well-established case law “hold[s] that college administrators cannot control the speech of campus groups because of disagreements with the groups’ viewpoints.” Judge Gritzner also allowed Gerlich and Furleigh to pursue their claim against ISU President Steven Leath in his personal capacity for violating their constitutional rights.

The case’s discovery process, in which the parties exchange documents and take depositions, will continue until June; trial is scheduled for December 2015.

FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, freedom of expression, academic freedom, due process, and rights of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty on campuses across America can be viewed at thefire.org.

I’ve been a little worried about my use of the UO logo and Puddles on the “crap-free UO webpage“, but Exhibit A eases my fears. Any ideas for new coffee cups?

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“No means no” free speech?

Doesn’t Oregon have a free speech policy? We do, assuming Chuck Triplett hasn’t cancelled it yet:

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.

But apparently that doesn’t apply if you are a Duck football player:

PASADENA, Calif. — Several Oregon players are facing team discipline after celebrating their win in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual by apparently mocking Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston and allegations of sexual assault that have followed the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner the past two years.

Video taken from the field as Oregon celebrated its 59-20 win in the College Football Playoff semifinal showed multiple players chanting, “No means no,” to the tune of the “Warchant” used by Florida State fans.

“We are aware of the inappropriate behavior in the postgame,” coach Mark Helfrich said in a statement released by Oregon on Thursday night. “This is not what our program stands for, and the student-athletes will be disciplined internally.”

This summer UO tried to discipline a student for yelling “I hit it first” out a dorm room window. (Yeah, I had to google that too.) The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education sent UO a stern warning letter about the first amendment, and UO Director of Student Conduct Sandy Weintraub quickly backed down. Post with links to RG stories here.

But this is the NCAA. The coaches *own* those players.

UO administration to train “free speech” observers to monitor future protests

Full disclosure update: For all I know this program is a noble one. See the comments. But the provenance and timing is suspicious, I don’t have the $1,000 Dave Hubin would presumably charge me to seen the public records that would establish this, and he’d redact them anyway.

11/24/2014: My first reaction was that this flyer must be a joke. But I was told it was sent to UO Law students, and it does fit with Johnson Hall’s increasing bunker paranoia, so I checked out the URL. Sure enough, it leads to the Office of Student Life, run by VP Robin Holmes and Paul Shang, who were on the receiving end of a fair amount of free speech during the basketball rape allegation coverup protests.

Now they want to recruit UO staff and students to observe “protests, rallies and demonstrations on the UO campus” to “protect freedom of speech”.

Because there’s nothing that protects your freedom of speech like knowing there’s a paid snitch ($11 an hour) taking videos and names. If you know anything more about this program, or are familiar with how the Stasi dealt with protestors, please post a comment.

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FIRE files four free speech suits, one supporting faculty muckraking blog

This is good news, just in time to celebrate the 4th of July:

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a.k.a. theFIRE.org, has just announced a major new legal initiative. In the past FIRE has worked as an advocacy group, and co-ordinated free speech lawsuits on behalf of students and faculty. Now they have some serious new funding and have hired “preeminent First Amendment attorney Robert Corn-Revere of the national law firm Davis Wright Tremaine as counsel for students and faculty members participating in the Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project.”

I’ve had a few talks with FIRE and with a DWT lawyer over what I saw as attempts by UO and the UO Foundation to harass and retaliate against me for this blog. (For example, UO F, and UO.) The DWT lawyer spent several hours with me on the phone, and more on email. I asked what the bill was, and he laughed and said “nothing – this is a really interesting one, and these people are hilarious.”

These people are passionate about the importance of free speech in academia, and from what I can tell they know the law cold. And now they’ve got money, too. Today FIRE started off by filing four free-speech lawsuits, and they say more are coming. The most interesting case, from my perspective, is this:

At Chicago State University, administrators have repeatedly attempted to silence CSU Faculty Voice, a blog authored by Professors Phillip Beverly, Robert Bionaz, and other faculty members that exposes what they see as administrative corruption. After bogus accusations of trademark infringement failed to intimidate the professors, CSU hastily adopted a far-reaching cyberbullying policy to silence its critics. It then used the cyberbullying policy to investigate one of the faculty bloggers for harassment, leading to today’s lawsuit from Beverly and Bionaz.

The full complaint is here:

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FIRE redlights UO’s student conduct codes over free speech issues

The people at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education are dogged fighters for campus free speech rights. They’ve now given UO a “red-light warning” on its free speech policies, as explained here. While UO has a strong policy on freedom of speech, signed by President Lariviere and approved by the Senate, the interpretation by the Office of Student Conduct is significantly less liberal. For example, that office says that it is a violation of the student conduct code for a student to use curse words in an email to a professor. I don’t have many grad students who could pass that standard! FIRE also raises questions about the legality of the language UO uses regarding prohibited racial harassment. Their letter to President Gottfredson, asking for a response by June 26, is here:

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UO unions call on Gottfredson to sign Academic Freedom Policy

Today’s Register Guard has an op-ed on Academic Freedom from the presidents of the UO graduate student union (David Craig), the UO faculty union (Michael Dreiling), and the UO staff union (Carla McNeely):

On April 9, the elected UO Senate unanimously approved a statement on academic freedom that is among the strongest in the country. The policy commits the UO to supporting “open, vigorous, and challenging debate across the full spectrum of human issues as they present themselves to the university community.”

The policy specifically protects academic freedom in the areas of research, teaching, public service and shared governance. It affirms that “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.”

… If the Beavers can do it, why not the Ducks?

Good question. Perhaps the president of the UO administration, Mike Gottfredson, will commission a responding op-ed from his $207K lawyer Randy Geller, or his $218k strategic communicator Tim Gleason, or his $450 an hour backup lawyer Dave Frohnmayer?

I’m on the Senate ad hoc Freedom committee, and can report that the sticking point for President Gottfredson is giving students and staff “the freedom to address, question, or criticize any matter of institutional policy or practice”. 

That’s right, under Gottfredson’s version of Academic Freedom, the student and staff who signed this op-ed could be subject to institutional discipline for it.

Gottfredson should get over his weird obsession with controlling what people say, sign the policy already, and let us all get back to our jobs.

Senate to strip Geller of his powers?

4/8/2014 update: Not entirely, but this new UO legal services policy, to be debated and voted on at the Senate meeting this Wednesday, will sure put a crimp in his style. Among other sensible and long overdue restraints on our chief attorney:

Prior to any decision to participate in litigation not directly involving the University as a party by filing an amicus curiae brief, the General Counsel shall notify the President of the Senate of the intention to do so.

Kudos to Gordon Sayre (English) and Tom Lininger (Law) for getting this done. Maybe Geller will react by firing off another email like this one?

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Or this unlawyerly stupidity, which made it into the Oregonian?

4/2/2014: Randy Geller’s anti-free speech brief fails, OSU pays out $101K

In brief: UO paid our General Counsel to help write an anti-free speech brief to the SCOTUS. From the timing, it looks like President Gottfredson authorized this.

Back in 2009 OSU staff trashed the news boxes of a student publication called “The Liberty”. Liberty sued OSU over a First Amendment violation. The 9th circuit court said OSU should pay damages. OSU tried to appeal the case to the SCOTUS, and a group of other universities wrote an amicus brief, taking a firm first amendment stand: against free speech, and for the OSU administration. Our own Randy Geller joined in:

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