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The Top 10 Outrageous Assaults on Academic Freedom and Education

Posted on January 7 2011 6:00 am
Diane Schrader, a former television news writer/producer, lives with her family in Los Angeles. She likes a nice cup of tea. Follow her on Twitter.

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2010 Top 10 Outrageous Assaults on Academic Freedom and Education in General

Seems like just about everybody wants to get in on this list-making thing at this time of the year. People look forward and make lists of resolutions. Others look backward and make lists of the “best of” or “worst of” the year. Here at Newsreal Blog, we are never bound by the calendar – we make lists year-round! That being said… it does seem like an awfully appropriate time to consider the most egregious, chilling examples of academic censorship on our nation’s campuses.

Why? Because our campuses are a place where free speech should be MOST revered, most protected. Unfortunately, that is hardly the case. We’ve got colleges threatening students, firing professors, and implementing all manner of underhanded tactics in order to censor (mostly conservative) free speech.

A special shout-out to the good folks at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), who generously offered their insights during the making of this list. FIRE is 100% committed to academic freedom – they will defend Bill Ayers’ right to speak at a college campus (and they have), but clearly a disproportionate amount of their energy is spent battling people like Ayers who would like nothing better than to silence all dissent against the Left.

These ten cases that follow all had developments in 2010. But how about we kick off with a couple bonus “oldies but goodies” that may not be from this year, but are still a lot of fun to consider. I have a soft spot for college conservatives who are bravely telling the truth about Islam, so I’m particularly fond of this case, from San Francisco State University in 2007, as reported by FIRE President Greg Lukianoff:

“… members of the College Republicans who stomped on hand-drawn Hamas and Hezbollah flags during an anti-terrorism protest were brought up on charges of “incivility” by the campus judiciary. When San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders called SFSU to ask how it could be possible to punish the students when the Supreme Court has held that even burning an American flag is protected expression under the First Amendment, university spokesperson Ellen Griffin responded, ‘I don’t believe the complaint is about the desecration of the flag. I believe that the complaint is the desecration of Allah.’ This response has always struck me as remarkable, as it is the first time I can remember that a public university official tried to explain away a violation of the Free Speech clause of the First Amendment by violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”

Ha ha! (For more California-based education fun, see my recent article The Top 8 California Schools that Are, Like, Totally Wasting Your Money.) Anyway, any time something ludicrous comes out of California, you can bet that something equally ludicrous is coming out of Massachusetts. And Tufts University proves my point! Administrators at that august institution found that the conservative student paper was guilty of harassment – for publishing a satirical advertisement to ridicule Tufts’ “Islamic Awareness Week.” The ad was actually pretty light on satire, as it consisted of quotes from the Koran and factual statements about Islam. Never mind! It made Muslims feel bad. So, stating facts=harassment, which is why Tufts continues to be on FIRE’s shortlist of schools that are really, really crappy in the “individual rights” department.

Oh, we could go on and on. There’s the guy who was accused under his university’s discrimination/harassment policy because he was seen reading an anti-Ku Klux Klan book (from the university library)… and the book had the word “Klan” on the front… and a black co-worker was offended. Yeah, it really happened.

But let’s get to THIS year’s outrages!

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