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.”

College students back free speech, but …

Occidental College faculty are considering a microaggression reporting system to let students report insensitive remarks by faculty or classmates. Reason TV asked Occidental students what constitutes a microaggression. Just about everything, it turns out.

Asked about free speech, most students backed the idea, in theory, if not in practice, write Zach Weissmueller and Alexis Garcia.

“If you say ‘You’re less of a person because you’re Muslim/Jewish/Christian/Catholic… that’s not okay. That’s a hate crime,” one student told us.

Another student argued that the government should curtail the speech of Donald Trump, while a protest organizer told us that free speech is a rhetorical device used by the privileged against the oppressed.

In a recent Pew Research Center survey, 40 percent of millennials believe the government should restrict speech offensive to minorities.


Yik Yakkers kicked out of college

In response to a Yik Yak post that read “#blackwomenmatter,” a Colorado College student wrote, “They matter, they’re just not hot.” Thaddeus Pryor, a junior, was “suspended for two years” for “abusive behavior” and “disruption of college activities,” reports The Catalyst. 

His house mate, Lou Henriques was expelled for posting a screenshot from a South Park episode showing a character on Wheel of Fortune  incorrectly answering a “People Who Annoy You” question with the letters N_GGERS displayed. (The correct answer was NAGGERS.) Another Henriques’ post referred to a South Park character running down the hall yelling “RACE WAR.”

Yik Yak is anonymous, but someone tipped off the administration that Pryor and Henriques were responsible.  Within 24 hours, they were kicked out of school. Two deans made the decision.

Both students have appealed.

“I apologized” for the six-word comment, Pryor told the Colorado Gazette.  However, the deans accused him of writing earlier Yik Yak posts that he agreed were “racist and hateful.” Pryor said he didn’t write the earlier posts or know who did.

“There have been shorter suspensions and lesser punishments for things related to sexual assault and physical violence,” he said.

In a campuswide assembly to discuss the Yik Yak posts, some students said they were offended. OK, maybe they were.

If making a lame joke and quoting South Park are grounds for suspension and expulsion . . . How can any college educate children so frail?

FIRE reminds Colorado College about free speech in this letter.

Erika Christakis, who set off a flap over racism by suggesting that Yale students could pick their own Halloween costumes, will no longer teach child development at Yale.

“I have great respect and affection for my students, but I worry that the current climate at Yale is not, in my view, conducive to the civil dialogue and open inquiry required to solve our urgent societal problems,” she said in an email to The Washington Post.

Journalism teacher suspended for … ?

When student reporters asked why a popular teacher and debate coach wasn’t being rehired, San Gabriel High School principal Jim Schofield tried to kill the story, suggesting a fluffy profile instead, reports Reason.

Jennifer Kim, the award-winning journalism teacher and newspaper adviser, backed her students’ right to publish. She’s been placed on administrative leave, “barred from speaking to her students and prohibited from coming on campus without an escort while the district conducts a retroactive investigation into her conduct,” reports the Pasadena Star-News.

"Transparency Man" visits a protest by San Gabriel High students against the firing of a teacher.

“Transparency Man” visits a protest by San Gabriel High students against the firing of a teacher.

The suspension came Aug. 10, a week after Kim discussed California’s free-speech protections for student journalists and advisors with the new principal, Debbie Stone, at yearbook camp.

Matador staffers say a math teacher has taken over Kim’s job. Meanwhile, the newspaper’s online site is down.

The Alhambra Unified school board passed a free-speech policy earlier this month, following “months of demonstrations held by student journalists alleging censorship, bullying and a lack of transparency in the district,” reports the Star-News.

The board’s new policy, “Freedom of Speech/Expression, School-Sponsored Publications,” borrowed some clauses from California Education Code 48907, a state law that governs free speech on high school campuses, while still omitting others.

Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, a nationwide advocacy organization for student journalists and their advisers, filed a complaint with the district on Tuesday about the policy, saying it “falls short of the requirements of California law and should be revised to become fully compliant.”

Among other things, the policy does not recognize the state law’s ban on retaliation against journalism advisers.

A protest web site called Defy Silence Under Alliance is calling for Kim’s reinstatement.

Obama hits campus ‘coddling,’ but will he act?

President Obama called for open debate on campus at a Des Moines forum yesterday.

College students don’t need protection from different viewpoints, said President Obama at a Des Moines forum.

President Obama criticized political correctness on college campuses at a Des Moines town hall on college affordability, reports Vox.

“I don’t agree that (students) . . . have to be coddled and protected from different points of view,” said the president, who’s apparently read The Coddling of the American Mind in The Atlantic.

I’ve heard some college campuses where they don’t want to have a guest speaker who is too conservative or they don’t want to read a book if it has language that is offensive to African-Americans or somehow sends a demeaning signal towards women. I gotta tell you, I don’t agree with that either.

. . . anybody who comes to speak to you and you disagree with, you should have an argument with ‘em. But you shouldn’t silence them by saying, “You can’t come because I’m too sensitive to hear what you have to say.” That’s not the way we learn either.

“If Obama is actually opposed to the new scourge of political correctness on college campuses, he could prove his dedication to the cause by directing the Education Department to relax its relentless Title IX inquisition,” writes Robby Soave on Reason‘s Hit & Run. Federal “guidance” obliges universities to censor, he writes.

Hans Bader has more on how Obama’s Education Department has used anti-discrimination law to pressure schools and colleges to restrict free speech on campus.

Banning ‘intolerance’ on campus

I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it — unless it offends someone. That’s not how the quote goes.

The University of California Regents may recognize a “right” to be “free from … expressions of intolerance,” writes Eugene Volokh, a UCLA law professor, in the Washington Post.
The proposed policy, which will be discussed Thursday, starts with a commitment to “the core principles of respect, inclusion, academic freedom, and the free and open exchange of ideas.” Just as important, apparently, is “tolerance.”

Examples of “intolerance” include:

* Depicting or articulating a view of ethnic or racial groups as less ambitious, less hardworking or talented, or more threatening than other groups.

* Depicting or articulating a view of people with disabilities (both visible and invisible) as incapable.

The policy condemns viewpoints without listening to the arguments, writes Volokh. “Faculty and students have a right not to hear it.”

Statements made in class or in a public forum are protected, but there’s no protection for a student newspaper, a student group’s web site, an e-mail exchange among acquaintances or a a lunch conversation in the cafeteria, writes Volokh.

Will students and untenured faculty feel free to discuss their views about disabilities, race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, sex or religion? Not likely.

Calling America a "melting pot" could be a "microaggression," University of California professors were warned.

Calling America a “melting pot” could be a “microaggression,” University of California professors were warned.

A few months ago, UC professors were advised to avoid “microaggressions,” Volokh wrote earlier. These are “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).” I call them “minor annoyances.”

Such microaggressions can create a “hostile learning environment,” according to UC and the federal government.

Among examples are speaking of color blindness, the “myth of meritocracy” or calling America a “melting pot.” These are ideas.

“Victimhood culture”  is big on campus, writes Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic. He cites a sociologists’ analysis of the shift from “honor” and “dignity” culture.

. . . at Oberlin College, a talk held as part of Latino Heritage Month was scheduled on the same evening that intramural soccer games were held. . . .  “Hey, that talk looks pretty great,” a white student wrote to a Hispanic student, “but on the off chance you aren’t going or would rather play futbol instead the club team wants to go!!”

On a blog called Oberlin Microaggressions, the Latina blasted the sender for using “futbol” instead of “soccer.” She wrote: “White students appropriating the Spanish language, dropping it in when convenient, never ok. Keep my heritage language out your mouth!”

Isn’t futbol an appropriation of football?

These people are loco.

Microaggressions from the majority to the minority are real and unavoidable, writes Megan McArdle on Bloomberg View. “A culture that tries to avoid them is setting up to tear itself apart.”

Once a right to be free from alienating comments is established, everyone will want it, including conservatives in very liberal institutions, she writes. “It’s microaggressions all the way down.”

Her advice: “Don’t be an ignorant jerk.”


Crybabies on campus

What do students learn in college? Increasingly, they’re learning to be big babies, write Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt in The Atlantic.  “Trigger warnings,” “microaggressions” and the zeal to “scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense” are threatening students’ mental and emotional health, they write.
Campuses are supposed to be “safe spaces” where “young adults are shielded from words and ideas that make some uncomfortable.” Never is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day.

Students expect college authorities “to act as both protectors and prosecutors,” they write. It’s a continuation of the message delivered by helicopter parents:  “Life is dangerous, but adults will do everything in their power to protect you from harm, not just from strangers but from one another as well.”

A campus culture devoted to policing speech and punishing speakers is likely to engender patterns of thought that are surprisingly similar to those long identified by cognitive behavioral therapists as causes of depression and anxiety. The new protectiveness may be teaching students to think pathologically.

Today’s college students are more likely to suffer from “severe psychological problems,” according to a 2013 survey of campus mental-health directors. Surveys also show students report high and rising rates of emotional distress, write Lukianoff and Haidt.

Cognitive behavioral therapy tries “to minimize distorted thinking” –such as overgeneralizing, discounting positives, and emotional reasoning, they write. People learn to recognize when their thinking is distorted, “describe the facts of the situation, consider alternative interpretations, and then choose an interpretation of events more in line with those facts.”

When people . . .  free themselves from the repetitive irrational thoughts that had previously filled so much of their consciousness—they become less depressed, anxious, and angry.

The parallel to formal education is clear: cognitive behavioral therapy teaches good critical-thinking skills, the sort that educators have striven for so long to impart. By almost any definition, critical thinking requires grounding one’s beliefs in evidence rather than in emotion or desire, and learning how to search for and evaluate evidence that might contradict one’s initial hypothesis. But does campus life today foster critical thinking? Or does it coax students to think in more-distorted ways?

Freshman orientation — now devoted to warning students not to offend others — should teach them this kind of thinking, Lukianoff and Haidt suggest. Students can learn to deal with offensive words and ideas without mommy, daddy or the dean of students.

In Academiaville, conform or flunk

Free speech? Not if you want to keep your job, writes Captain Capitalism, aka Aaron Clarey. “Employers act as a de facto fourth layer of government,” firing workers who make politically incorrect Facebook posts or (see Mozilla) back the wrong political cause.

Academia has become an “even more Orwellian fourth layer of government,” he writes. “Whereas the power of employers come from the fact you need a job, Academia’s power comes from the fact you need a degree to even get a job! (or so they say).”

“Professors, administrators, diversity officers and other worthless academic bureaucrats” enforce their “leftist, socialist, feminist, and anti-white anti-male ideology on the unfortunate and unsuspecting student-citizens of Academiaville.”

Students can attend conservative colleges, writes Clarey. Or they can bypass  a high-cost residential college and use certification, online courses and/or experience to qualify for a job.