College encourages lively consensus

Trescott University encourages a lively exchange of one idea, president Kevin Abrams told The Onion.

“We recognize that it’s inevitable that certain contentious topics will come up from time to time, and when they do, we want to create an atmosphere where both students and faculty feel comfortable voicing a single homogeneous opinion,” said Abrams, adding that no matter the subject, anyone on campus is always welcome to add their support to the accepted consensus.

Counseling is available for any student made uncomfortable by the viewpoint.

Free speech on campus? Not if it’s ‘unwelcome’

Title IX’s ban on sexual speech harassment trumps the First Amendment on college campuses, according to an April 22 Justice Department letter. “Unwelcome” conduct or speech of a sexual nature is sexual harassment  — and must be investigated — “regardless of whether it causes a hostile environment,” the letter told the University of New Mexico.
“The Department of Justice has put universities in an impossible position: violate the Constitution or risk losing federal funding,” said Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) President Greg Lukianoff.

“An enormous amount of everyday speech” would be sexual harassment under this definition, writes Joseph Cohn on FIRE’s site.

Did you overhear someone retelling an Amy Schumer joke about sex that you found unpleasant? According to the DOJ, that makes them a harasser—even if they only did it once and didn’t do it again after you asked. If that’s harassment, the term is devoid of meaning.

If a professor argues for transgender restroom access, conservative students might complain ze has made unwelcome comments about a sexual issue. Is Camille Paglia a sexual harasser? “Leaving sex to the feminists is like letting your dog vacation at the taxidermist” must be unwelcome to somebody.

Much narrower definitions of sexual harassment have been struck down as “unconstitutionally overbroad” in previous cases, writes Hans Bader, a former Office of Civil Rights attorney, on Liberty Unyielding. “Hostile or offensive” speech about sexual issues is protected speech unless it “objectively denies a student equal access to a school’s education resources,” these decisions have found.

Investigations chill free speech, adds Bader.

Northwestern Professor Laura Kipnis suffered through a “Title IX inquisition” last year after writing an essay on “sexual paranoia” that offended some students. She was cleared of all charges — after an ordeal that will discourage others from writing anything the least bit controversial.

Campus cop censors penis on ‘free speech ball’

To promote a showing of Can We Take a Joke?, a documentary about censorship of comedy on college campuses, University of Delaware’s Young Americans for Liberty chapter created a giant “free speech beach ball” for students’ comments, reports Reason‘s Hit & Run. A campus police officer told students to scribble over a penis drawn on the free-speech ball because it was “meant to provoke” and might offend some students.

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which sponsored the documentary, pointed out that the University of Delaware, a public university, “must abide by the First Amendment, which has very few exceptions — and subjectively offensive words or images are not one of them.”

Chalking for free speech at Emory

Emory students aren’t afraid of a little chalk, declared the campus chapter of Young Americans for Liberty. Over the weekend, libertarian students chalked slogans for all the presidential candidates, including an image of Donald Trump with the message, “Make Emory Great Again.”

“This was about the right to chalk and the right to express opinions,” said Alex Reibman, a student who helped organize the chalking.

Last week, after “Trump 2016” was chalked on campus, some Emory students demanded the university denounce Trump and acknowledge their “fear” and “pain.” (Were they too terrified to chalk “never” in front of the slogans?) University President James W. Wagner sent a campus-wide email sympathizing with students’ angst.

At the pro-free speech event, Wagner chalked, “Emory stands for free expression.”

However, Ajay Nair, senior vice president and dean of campus life at Emory, defended students’ need for “safe spaces” in an incoherent essay in Inside Higher Ed.  It reads like a parody of bloated writing.

Nair also claimed the chalkings violated “university policies, certainly not because of the content, but because the chalkings were done in unacceptable locations and without reserving the space.”

Yeah, it was “certainly not” about Trump.

At Scripps College, someone wrote “#Trump2016” on a whiteboard outside a Mexican-American student’s dorm room. Minjoo Kim, the student body president, sent a campus-wide email calling the pro-Trump message “intentional violence committed directly to a student of color.”

Violence? Or perhaps the word she’s looking for is “discourtesy,” as in, “discourtesy directed at a student of color, who may be opposed to Trump’s views on immigration and dislike seeing his name on her whiteboard.”

Unsafe for learning

‘Trump’ chalkings scare Emory kids

Emory students said they were in pain due to “Trump 2016” messages chalked on campus. Photo: Julia Munslow, Emory Wheel.

When someone chalked “Trump in 2016” on the Emory campus, students demanded the university denounce the Republican candidate and acknowledge their “fear” and “pain,” reports the student newspaper, the Emory Wheel.

“I’m supposed to feel comfortable and safe [here],” one student said. “But this man is being supported by students on our campus and our administration shows that they, by their silence, support it as well … I don’t deserve to feel afraid at my school,” she added.

. . . “[Faculty] are supporting this rhetoric by not ending it,” said one student, who went on to say that “people of color are struggling academically because they are so focused on trying to have a safe community.”

University President James W. Wagner refused a student’s request to send out a  University-wide email to “decry the support for this fascist, racist candidate.” However, he later sent an email pledging to improve the university’s social justice efforts.

Wagner also promised protesters the university will try to identify the chalkers using security-camera footage, according to the Emory Wheel. Wagner “added if they’re students, they will go through the conduct violation process, while if they are from outside of the University, trespassing charges will be pressed.”

James Wager, Emory's president, listens to protesters.

James Wagner, Emory’s president, listens to protesters. Photo: Julia Munslow, Emory Wheel

In short, they’ll be prosecuted for expressing their political views.

In a campus-wide email, Emory’s Student Government Association (SGA) expressed concerns about students’ physical and emotional “safety,” reports Daily Caller. “Emergency” funds will be released to groups hosting events responding to the “pain” caused by the pro-Trump chalkings.

The absurd idea that college students should be “safe” from ideas that make them feel bad is destroying the learning environment on campuses. It’s certainly destroyed Emory’s reputation.

If a kid is gay, what can a teacher say?

Hawaii may ban teachers, counselors and psychologists from trying to change a child’s sexual orientation, reports the Washington Times.

California, New Jersey, Oregon and the District of Columbia have banned therapists from using “conversion therapy” to persuade teens to reject their homosexuality. “A bill introduced in Congress would ban conversion therapy nationwide,” reports The Atlantic. “In April, President Obama called for an end to these therapies for gay youth.”

In the '90s, My So-Called Life included Rickie Vasquez, a gay teen who liked to use the girls' restroom to put on make-up.

In 1994, My So-Called Life introduced Rickie Vasquez, a gay teen who liked to use the girls’ restroom to put on make-up.

“Really, it’s a subtle form of child abuse,” said Camaron Miyamoto, the director of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex Student Services at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Republican Rep. Bob McDermott said parents have a right to choose treatment for children who are questioning their sexuality, but called for the state Department of Education to bar teachers from counseling minors about sexual orientation.

The state can regulate what topics of discussion are appropriate for public school teachers on the job, but the proposed law goes much farther to infringe free-speech rights, writes Scott Shackford on Reason‘s Hit & Run. It appears to regulate private school teachers and “a teacher engaged in private matters on his or her own time.”

Censoring speech can backfire, he warns. Only two years ago, conservative state legislators tried to pass laws that forbid teachers and educators from discussing homosexuality with students for fear teachers would tell kids it’s OK to be gay.

Wisconsin athlete suspended for tweet

It’s bad sportsmanship for high school fans to chant “air ball,” “season’s over” (during a tournament) or other insults declared the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association in an email.

Mockery ensued. ESPN analyst Jay Bilas tweeted “WIAA acceptable” chants.

Instead of “airball,” he suggests: “We note your attempt did not reach the rim, but only to alert the clock operator that a reset is unnecessary.”

Also WIAA-acceptable: “We hope for a positive outcome while fully realizing that the result is not a negative reflection upon our guest.”

But the “s word” hit the fan, when a student athlete tweeted a vulgar response:

April Gehl, a three-sport star at Hilbert High, was suspended for five basketball games for her vulgar response. “I couldn’t believe it,” Gehl said. “I was like, ‘Really? For tweeting my opinion?’ I thought it was ridiculous.”

Does she have a free-speech right to use a vulgarity on social media? If not, isn’t a five-game suspension over the top?

FAU seeks to fire Sandy Hook truther prof

Florida Atlantic University is taking steps to fire a tenured communications professor who claims the Sandy Hook massacre and other mass shootings are hoaxes, reports the Sun-Sentinel. James Tracy received a termination letter last week, but has the right to appeal.

James Tracy

James Tracy

In 2013, Tracy wrote on his blog that the Sandy Hook massacre probably was staged. University officials said he had a free-speech right to assert his views on a blog not affiliated with the university.

Tracy went on to claim that “almost every mass shooting or attack in the United States has been a hoax, including ones at the Boston Marathon, the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., and the recent shooting in San Bernadino, Calif.,” reports the Sun-Sentinel.

Noah Pozner

Noah Pozner

Earlier this month, Veronique and Lenny Pozner, whose son, Noah, died at Sandy Hook, accused Tracy of harassment for resisting conspiracy theorists.

Tracy sent them a certified letter demanding proof that Noah once lived, that they were his parents and owned the rights to his photo, the parents wrote in the Sun-Sentinel.

“Once Tracy realized we would not respond, he subjected us to ridicule and contempt on his blog, boasting to his readers that the ‘unfulfilled request’ was ‘noteworthy’ because we had used copyright claims to ‘thwart continued research of the Sandy Hook massacre event.’

On a “Sandy Hook Hoax” Facebook page, Tracy responded:

“The local conspirators in Newtown, such as the alleged parents of the murdered children, including Lenny and Veronique Pozner, have made out very well financially, soliciting contributions from generous yet misinformed Americans, where the families have averaged more than $1 million apiece.”

Tracy claims Noah’s death certificate is “a fabrication.”

Can a university fire a tenured professor for being crazy?

“Tenure is not immunity,” Jeffrey S. Morton, a tenured FAU professor of International Law, told the Sun-Sentinel.  Tracy’s “harassment of the parents of murdered children was vulgar, repulsive and an insult to the academic profession. While there are real reasons to protect tenure for academic research, Tracy’s ‘scholarship’ makes a mockery of what academics do.”

Yalies agree to repeal 1st Amendment

Fifty Yale students signed a petition to repeal the First Amendment, according to video maker Ami Horowitz. It took less than an hour, he says.

“I think it’s really awesome that you’re out here,” one man says in the video.

The video doesn’t show students who refused to sign. And it’s possible students were spoofing the spoofer.

Still, writes Reason’s Elizabeth Nolan Brown, “calls to trash the whole U.S. Constitution have become cool in certain lefty circles.”

Yalies “responded with a mix of embarrassment, sadness and literal disbelief” to the video, reports Fox News.

“Besides the fact that the First Amendment lists the most fundamentally important rights we hold as Americans, it is rather embarrassing to think Yalies could not see the irony that they were petitioning away – their right to petition,” wrote freshman Grant Richardson in an email to Fox.

“It’s a sad commentary on the present state of public opinion,” said Bruce Ackerman, a law professor.

Tom Conroy, a university spokesman, called it a “heavily edited prank video.”