UO makes national top 10 list for free speech!

Unfortunately it’s the list of the top 10 *worst* universities for free speech. The Oregonian’s Andrew Theen has the report here. The FIRE list is here.

I am quoted by Theen as arguing that top 10 is a bit unfair, given President Schill’s recent decision to drop the proposed restrictions on the time, place, and manner of free speech:

… Harbaugh did credit UO President Michael Schill for one recent policy move that is a win for free speech on campus: stepping away from a controversial proposal to restrict speech under certain time, place and manner restrictions. …

As universities try to restrict free-speech, state legislators try to protect it

The UO administration finally gave the UO Senate a copy of their proposal to restrict free speech, here, and the Senate is now working on a less restrictive policy.  The Chronicle has a new report on the state legislation here (gated if off campus). An excerpt:

… So far, all of the lawmakers who have introduced such legislation have been Republicans. President Trump himself expressed anger this month, when violent protesters shut down an appearance by Mr. Yiannopoulos, a Breitbart editor, at the University of California at Berkeley.

In Virginia, however, Democratic members of that state’s House of Delegates played a substantial part in its passage this month of a bill briefly declaring that no public college there can abridge the freedom of anyone — including students, faculty members, employees, and invited guests — to speak on its campus.

Even before the 2016 presidential election made clear that the nation had become exceedingly polarized, some state legislatures had been moving to protect the speech rights of public-colleges students, mainly by barring such institutions from maintaining limited “free-speech zones” or by adopting new protections for student journalists.

The divisiveness that the election and its aftermath have brought to campuses, as well as recent uproars on campuses over certain speakers, appear to have heightened awareness of such speakers’ vulnerability to what is widely known as “the heckler’s veto” — protest disruptive enough to keep them from being heard.

The measure that North Carolina’s lieutenant governor has proposed is based heavily on model legislation devised by the Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank in Arizona, and by Stanley Kurtz, a senior fellow at the right-leaning Ethics and Public Policy Center, in Washington, D.C.

Likewise, the Tennessee bill contains a provision calling for public colleges to punish people who interfere with the free-speech rights of others. The bill also has language providing that students may sue colleges that violate their speech rights for injunctive relief, attorney fees, and court costs.

A measure passed 65 to 25 by North Dakota’s House of Representatives, and now pending before that state’s Senate, takes a different, and somewhat softer, tack. It would require the State Board of Higher Education, which governs the North Dakota University System, to adopt a policy that prohibits public colleges from restricting speech, punishing students for free expression, or shielding students “from constitutionally protected expression merely because it is considered unwelcome, disagreeable, or offensive.” …

University presidents act to protect hate speech

FIRE has the report here:

At the University of Maryland (UMD), President Wallace Loh issued a statement yesterday in response to a set of 64 demands from ProtectUMD, a coalition of 25 student groups. The demands, issued in late November, include calls for punishing speech protected by the First Amendment. Specifically, the coalition demands an “[i]mmediate response to hate speech or actions from the University including a consequence (e.g. mark on transcript, potential suspension).” Tellingly, “hate speech” is left undefined.

The University of Maryland has an obligation under federal law to respond to discriminatory harassment, which is unprotected by the First Amendment, as is speech that constitutes incitement or a true threat. But there is no First Amendment exception for “hate speech,” an inherently subjective concept that has no legal definition; one person’s “hate speech” is another’s political manifesto. The vast majority of speech that some or even most might consider “hate speech” is protected by the First Amendment, and for good reason. ProtectUMD’s call for punishing “hate speech” runs headlong into UMD’s legal and moral obligation as a public institution to uphold the First Amendment.

In response, President Loh’s statement—titled “True to Our Values”—explains why freedom of expression must remain at the core of the university’s commitments. While acknowledging “the rise of angst, hurt, and anger in fraught times,” President Loh writes that UMD community members “cannot learn, teach, pursue truth, and advance knowledge without academic freedom and freedom of expression, civility and respect, diversity and inclusion, openness and shared governance.” Instead of censorship, President Loh embraces the challenge of free speech and its necessity for our democracy:

No anodyne will heal the divisions in our country today, nor should it. At the University of Maryland, we do not fear the clash of ideas and values. I ask every member of our academic community to help us move forward with an open mind, consider different perspectives, and debate with respect and civility. These are the qualities that make trust, collaboration, and progress possible in a democracy.

…  University of California, Berkeley

Meanwhile, 2,800 miles to the west, UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks also recognized the necessity of free speech in a statement to the campus community. Chancellor Dirks’ letter was prompted by an upcoming visit from Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos, planned for next Wednesday and sponsored by the Berkeley College Republicans. Responding to calls for censorship and disinvitation, Chancellor Dirks wrote:

Since the announcement of Mr. Yiannopoulos’s visit, we have received many requests that we ban him from campus and cancel the event. Although we have responded to these requests directly, we would like to explain to the entire campus community why the event will be held as planned. First, from a legal perspective, the U.S. Constitution prohibits UC Berkeley, as a public institution, from banning expression based on its content or viewpoints, even when those viewpoints are hateful or discriminatory.

Duck threats to revoke student-reporter press passes are not normal

Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch recruited a panel of 12 student newspaper sports editors, including the Daily Emerald’s Kenny Jacoby, to ask a few questions about covering big-time college sports. Here:


Q: Has a school administrator/athletic department official ever threatened to take away your credentials? If yes, please describe in detail what happened

Allentuck: No …

Andrews: No. …

Ashame: No.

Baumann: … never …

Caplan: No …

Carroll: No …

Hummer: … never happened …

Jacoby: Yes — it’s happened to at least three sports editors at the Daily Emerald in the past four years, including myself. During our reporting of the Pharaoh Brown story this year, I directly called the football player whom Brown concussed, rather than requesting an interview with him through the athletic communications office. I had previously interviewed him within the athletic department’s interview guidelines, but one of the sports information directors was standing nearby during the interview, so I wanted to give the player a fair chance for final comment. After I called the player, the SID called me into his office. He said in his mind there were no exceptions to Oregon’s interview policy, and if the Daily Emerald continued to break protocol then the only recourse would be limiting our access. He said he was ready to pull our credential to the Civil War game on Nov. 26 but would let it slide one time with the expectation that it wouldn’t happen again.

The university senate caught wind of the athletic department’s threat to revoke our credential. It requested the UO’s general counsel to investigate whether the athletic department’s interview policy and threat against the Daily Emerald were in violation of UO’s polices on freedom of inquiry and free speech, and on academic freedom. The latter policy states, “members of the university community have the right to investigate and discuss matters, including those that are controversial, inside and outside of class, without fear of institutional restraint.” The president of UO agreed to let the general counsel investigate the potential free speech violations; that investigation is ongoing.

Polglaze: … never happened …

More on the UO Senate website here.

General Counsel will investigate Pintens’s restrictions on athletes’ free speech

Max Thornberry has the news here:

“The matter is not one within the purview of the Senate, but President Schill always welcomes the advice and helpful assistance of the Senate Chair and Vice Chair,” Tobin Klinger, university communications officer said in an email to the Emerald. “He has asked the General Counsel of the university to look into the matter and inform him about what happened and whether what happened was consistent with university policies and procedures.”

Always happy to help, but “not one within the purview of the Senate?” Really? We take umbrage, Lord Tobin.

Assoc Athletic Director for Communications charged with assaulting reporter

for violating team rules about interviewing athletes.


That would be at Baylor:

Police charged Heath Nielsen, Baylor’s associate athletic director for communications, after James McBride, a reporter from the Keller, Texas-based Texas Blaze News, told police Nielsen assaulted him Nov. 5 after the Bears’ 62-22 loss to TCU in Waco, Texas. According to Waco TV station KWTX, McBride said he was attempting to take a photograph with a Baylor football player when Nielsen grabbed him by the throat and pushed him away, saying McBride was breaking the school’s rules against conducting interviews on the field after games.

Nielsen, who was placed on the leave of absence shortly after the alleged incident, was arrested Nov. 8. Those in need of a criminal attorney, following being arrested for a crime like assault, may do well to reach out to the likes of the Law Offices of Robert Tsigler, NYC.

But the Ducks are doing their best on the subject of assaults and reporters.


Dave Williford. (GoDucks photo)

While Duck Associate Athletic Director for Communications Dave Williford hasn’t been arrested for trying to strangle a reporter, he did threaten to yank a student-reporter’s press pass for reporting on a series of alleged assaults and an alleged strangulation by Duck football players:

Kenny Jacoby, the sports editor of the Emerald, joined me on the radio show on Friday to download on the story, and how his team’s access was threatened by the University of Oregon athletic department after the student newspaper contacted a key player involved directly. (UO failed/refused to coordinate an interview request so the students say they reached out themselves).

“We were actually called into the athletic department office and we were told if we do that again we were going to get our credential pulled,” Jacoby said.

Coach Mick Helfrich let the player accused of breaking an alumnus’s arm play on Saturday, and he caught the game winning pass, probably saving Helfrich’s $3.5M job for another year or two.

Student condemns the administration’s proposed free speech TPM restrictions

Jennifer Gomez (Psychology), has an excellent op-ed in the RG today. Read it all, here’s an excerpt:

… Over the years, I have witnessed and participated in protests and marches, and I have watched the UO change. I have watched victims of sexual violence publicly find their voices. I have watched undergrads, graduate students, staff and faculty come together to publicly shed light on a glossed-over truth: the UO had two campus buildings named after white supremacists.

From the campus community’s grit, passion, perseverance and fights for social justice, the UO has changed. In doing so, it makes me proud to be a Duck.

Now, living out of state, I was shocked when I came across this new proposed policy ( http://rgne.ws/2goQlof ): “Time, Place, and Manner of Free Speech.” In rationalizing the need for this policy, President Michael Schill commends the UO as a leader in “the protection of free expression,” citing the UO policy, “Freedom of Inquiry and Free Speech” ( http://rgne.ws/2g1nIIO ).

President Schill goes on to describe members of the UO as a community — even a family — that can learn from each other through honest and respectful discussion. I agree with freedom of expression; I also agree with respect of others. What I cannot seem to understand is how freedom of expression and respect translate into dictation of excessive limitations to free speech.

Limitations that would bar protests inside or in front of Johnson Hall: the site of the highest level administrators on campus; and unsurprisingly, the site of many protests as well. …

Read the draft of the policy yourself. My interpretation is that if it were in place now it would have allowed – and perhaps even required – the administration to arrest the South Eugene High School students who marched down 13th street in front of Johnson Hall to protest Trump’s election:

(4)            While the streets and sidewalks of the campus are generally open to speech activities by University Entities, the Vice President for Finance and Administration may designate portions of a street and the time of day during which a street is not available for speech activities by any person or group, in order to meet traffic, emergency access, and public transit needs.   Any such restriction shall be content- and viewpoint-neutral basis. 



(1)            Any person violating these rules is subject to:

(a)             Institutional disciplinary proceedings, if a student or employee; and

(b)            An order to leave the immediate premises or property owned or controlled by the University by a person in charge of University property.

(2)            Persons failing to comply with an order by a person in charge to leave or to remain off the immediate premises or property owned or controlled by the University may be subject to citation or arrest for criminal trespass.

(3)            The Vice President of Finance and Administration, Vice President for Student Life, the Dean of Students, and their designees, have the authority of “persons in charge” of University property for purposes of these rules.

President Schill on Free Expression on Campus – Rights and Some Responsibilities

10/29/2016: The Daily Emerald now has a brief report by Desiree Bergstrom: “UO plans to tighten protest policy”


10/28/2016: Now posted on the Senate blog here, along with a draft of the administration’s proposed “Time Place and Manner” restrictions on free-speech and expressive activities. Please post your comments there.


Over the past year, controversies involving free expression have cropped up on campuses throughout the United States. Speakers have been disinvited at several universities as a result of objections to their views. At other universities, speakers arrived on campus only to be shouted down by their audiences. A student was disciplined at one college for making a joke about feminism; at another a similar fate met students who criticized the university’s affirmative action program. And at many universities, students demanded administrative sanctions against other students for their expressions of political views.

The University of Oregon has a proud history as a leader in the protection of free expression. In 1963, the university created a free speech platform outside the EMU. A few years later, during the height of Vietnam War protests, the university created new procedures that recognized the rights of students to protest and drafted policies that took a lenient approach to nonviolent demonstrations. In 1986, the free speech zone was expanded to the plaza outside our student union. Wayne Morse—our former law professor, dean, and US senator—was throughout his career an outspoken advocate for unpopular political positions.

Today, members of our community still use demonstrations to drive attention to their causes, including in just the past year marches organized by the Black Student Task Force, the Divest UO movement, and our own classified workers. Like other UO presidents, I have sometimes been mentioned less than lovingly during these protests. But like the majority of my predecessors, I am also deeply committed to the principle of free expression, both as embodied in the First Amendment and in the institution’s tradition of academic freedom.

Let me ground this conversation in the unequivocal statement that the UO embraces free expression as one of its core principles. It is outlined in the policy on Freedom of Inquiry and Free Speech passed by the University Senate in 2010 and signed by President Richard Lariviere. The policy states the following:

“Free inquiry and free speech are the cornerstones of an academic institution 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 wrong’ cannot be grounds for its suppression.”

My own views on free expression are entirely consistent with this strong statement of principle. As the inscription at the EMU Free Speech Plaza states, “Every new opinion, at its starting, is precisely in a minority of one.” Today’s unpopular sentiment or theory may become tomorrow’s orthodoxy. Perhaps even more important, unpopular views, even those that never catch on, cause us to question our commonly held presuppositions and engage in critical thinking, which is at the core of what we teach at a great university.
Of course, free speech is not and never has been an absolute right. Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said it best when stating that the law does not sanction someone “falsely shouting ‘fire’ in a theater.” Courts have determined that it is appropriate and necessary for government to define the time, place, and manner in which speech may coexist with the functions of government. In a university setting, we create restrictions that protect the safety of our community, the rights of our students to obtain an education, and the ability of our faculty, staff, and administrators to do their jobs effectively.
Last year, a group of students representing Divest UO occupied the waiting room of Johnson Hall and attempted to plant a sign in front of the main door for more than a month. They were respectful, interesting, and fun to engage in conversation. To be honest, I sort of liked having them there, even though they refused my offers of food. On the other hand, they disrupted business at Johnson Hall. When we looked for policies pertaining to the sit-in, we found that we had little more than vague rules prohibiting disruption and allowing for scheduling the use of facilities.

The absence of appropriate and well-understood rules for the use of campus spaces for the free exchange of ideas makes us all vulnerable. We don’t have a set of consistent policies and rules that are clear to students, members of the faculty and staff, or other entities who may wish to appropriately protest. More important, the absence of clearly articulated policies means that there is an unacceptable risk of arbitrariness and ad hoc rulemaking that in itself is a threat to the UO’s foundational free speech principles. While I liked the students sitting in the foyer, what if they had been hateful people advocating for policies we find reprehensible? Restrictions on speech—even those allowed by law—must be content-neutral.

To deal with this problem, I have asked our Office of General Counsel to draw up a proposal that sets forth a clear set of guidelines to govern the time, place, and manner of expressive activity on campus. They are in the process of getting feedback from stakeholders across campus and plan to take that proposal to the Policy Advisory Committee in the next few weeks. It is my hope that this process of circulating a proposal will allow us to craft the best policy possible, one that reflects the values of the community and serves the legitimate needs of the university. I view it as the beginning of a campus dialogue that will involve all constituents of our university including our students, classified workers, administrators, faculty, and University Senate. Because of the vulnerability I described in the previous paragraph, if for some reason we are unable to come to a consensus in four months, then I will enact a temporary policy until that consensus is achieved.

The final topic that I would like to cover is how we treat each other. At our September convocation, I spoke to more than 3,000 incoming members of the Class of 2020. I told them that sometimes professors or classmates might say things that angered or even offended them. But the antidote to speech that one doesn’t like is not to shut down that speech. That is what totalitarian governments do. Instead—to paraphrase Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis—the antidote to speech we don’t like is more speech. I am delighted that we have not experienced the type of intolerant behavior that has taken place at many other universities in the 15 months since I assumed the presidency of the University of Oregon.

The fact that we have the right to say what it is on our mind, of course, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t think about the effects of our words on others. Racist or sexist speech, hate speech, is not welcome on this campus. Students, faculty and staff members must all remember that we are a family—a family of Ducks. That means something. We should not harm members of our community by making them feel bad or unwelcome. As a community of scholars, we can debate ideas and theories without insulting each other or resorting to name-calling. Think about how your speech affects the people who hear it. And if you say something, even inadvertently, that does create offense, consider apologizing or engaging that person in a discussion. That’s what people in a family do. That’s also how we learn from each other—through discussion.

This message—that there is nothing inconsistent between the notions of protecting free speech and being careful that our speech doesn’t harm members of our community—is one that we should all put into practice. Not because the university’s administration will step in to squelch the speech with disciplinary proceedings. We won’t do that unless it rises to the level of pervasive harassment that deprives members of our community of their rights to teach or learn. We should consider the effect of our speech on others because we are a community of scholars.

So let’s argue with each other robustly over ideas and policies. Let’s protest against oppression; let’s argue about politics; let’s even debate about questionable decisions emanating from Johnson Hall. But let’s do so respectfully, assuming that each of us just wants to do the right thing. And let’s also keep open the possibility that all of this speech might convince us to change our minds. That is the essence of rational discourse; it is why our university was created and why we chose to be here.

Mike Schill, President

Office of the President, 1226 University of Oregon, Eugene OR 97403-1226

Campus free-speech advocates are dupes of a vast right-wing conspiracy

9/4/2016 update: Greg Lukianoff of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education points out the fallacies in Jim Sleeper’s NYT op-ed:

Of course, this isn’t the only thing that Sleeper gets wrong. As he has done before, Sleeper attempts to present FIRE as part of a vast right-wing conspiracy, conveniently ignoring the incredible political diversity of our staff and the many, many cases in which we have fought for speakers and expression popular on the left, as well as speech that’s popular with practically no one at all. An honest reading of our case archives attests to this. As FIRE’s Will Creeley wrote just last month:

To be clear: FIRE defends student and faculty speech regardless of the viewpoint expressed or the speaker’s identity. If expression is protected by the First Amendment, FIRE defends it—period. That means we defend Democrats,Republicans, Libertarians, Democratic Socialists, and those affiliated with no party at all; Muslims, Jews, Christians, and atheists; environmental activists, animal rights activists, pro-choice activists, anti-rape activists, anti-war activists, and LGBT activists;free market advocates, pro-life activists, anti-immigration activists, and anti-affirmative action activists; student reporters, student government members, adjunct faculty, and tenured professors; and many, many more. FIRE even stands ready to protect the expressive rights of those who call for censorship, though we flatly disagree with those advocates’ goals.

Sleeper also pretends that we never wrote anything positive about protests at Yale. That’s not true, either.

Lukianoff has a point. Here at UO, FIRE even fought for the UO Divest students’ right to keep their Divest Now banner up outside Johnson Hall. I’m guessing that the Koch Brothers are not big CO2 divestment fans, but they are paying to help maintain our students’ right to argue publicly for it.

9/3/2016: The NYT has the scoop here. The author, a political scientist from Yale, is shocked to learn that Republicans are supporting free-speech. I wonder how many Republicans he has met while teaching at Yale?

For the record, UO’s free-speech and academic freedom policies, which are as strong as any in the country – far stronger than Chicago’s, for example – were written by an overwhelmingly liberal faculty. UO’s United Academics faculty union has defended free-speech and academic freedom from the University administration during each contract negotiation, with the help of the AAUP.

So this Yalie thinks the UO faculty, our union, and the AAUP are the Koch brother’s “useful idiots”? Sure.

Journalism prof Kyu Ho Youm in the Oregonian on UO’s Bias Response Team

More on Professor Youm, who came to the US as a student from Korea when it was still a military dictatorship, here. He’s been a longtime advocate for free speech and government transparency. His full Op-Ed is here. (Now in the RG too here.) The ending:

… It gets worse.

As a media law teacher-scholar and a former campus newspaper adviser, I was stunned by another case that has made UO a laughingstock in the national press: “An anonymous student reported that a newspaper gave less press coverage to trans students and students of color,” the BRT report stated. “Response: A BRT Case Manager held an educational conversation with the newspaper reporter and editor.”

The BRT’s ham-handed way of dealing with a student’s complaint about the Daily Emerald’s coverage was embarrassingly misguided. And it was a lost teachable moment for the BRT.

First Amendment attorney Charles Glasser adjures the BRT to take a more enlightening approach: “Students need to learn that living in a vibrant democracy requires being able to hear upsetting ideas without losing your mind. The same democracy allows — even encourages — responsible counter-speech. You could even teach them to write a coherent letter to the editor.”

The University of Chicago’s widely praised report of 2015 on freedom of expression offers good guidance about encouraging, not discouraging, free speech in academia: “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 wrongheaded.”

UO ought to join other schools, including Princeton University, in adapting and adopting the University of Chicago’s free-speech statement as its framework for campus expression. As a Supreme Court justice once opined, the best corrective for bad speech is good speech, not censorship or punishment.

I have engaged with my journalism and law colleagues on the BRT in recent weeks. Few have been eager to step forward and express their thoughts on the BRT. And I have been advised to be more “politically astute” in taking issue with the BRT and its impact on the UO faculty, staff and students.

A discerning UO colleague, who has endured a real-life chilling experience with the BRT, has told me: “Now that we have become a laughingstock to the entire nation due to our relationship with the BRT, nothing could be more important than discussing this issue with the entire faculty and staff.”

I agree.

Those of us who understand that free speech versus cultural sensitivity is not a zero-sum game should scrutinize the BRT in an uninhibited, robust and wide-open way. As Professors Jeffrey Aaron Snyder and Amna Khalid at Carleton College cogently noted in their New Republic article: “BRTs are fatally flawed” and that “BRTs will turn the genuine, transformative educational power of diverse voices into a farce.”

I’d like to applaud my journalism and communication colleagues for leading the UO conversations on the BRT. The BRT has been entrenched in the UO community as part of its institutional machinery for the past 17 years, but it has been subject to little scrutiny throughout its entire history.

The Bias Response Team has received little scrutiny because university professors are in general terrified of being accused of bias. Fortunately Prof Youm is not.

For the record, UO’s Academic Freedom and Free Speech and Inquiry policies are stronger than the University of Chicago’s policy. See here for the UO language and some history on how hard we had to fight former UO GC Randy Geller, former President Mike Gottfredson, and Sharon Rudnick, Tim Gleason, and Doug Blandy to get the Academic Freedom Policy passed and signed.

That fight’s not over – GC Kevin Reed is probably going to bring “time and place” restrictions to the UO Senate this year. Here’s hoping they’re not as ridiculous as Randy Geller’s anti-chalk efforts. And of course having a policy is the easy part. The hard part is following it. Has the BRT broken UO’s policy?

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:

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 11.17.32 AM

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 3.14.22 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 12.40.42 AM

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:

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 12.46.37 AM

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:

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 11.17.32 AM

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


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:

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 11.22.35 PM

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.