Archive for October, 2009

Newspaper Thieves at UNC Chapel Hill Post Evidence of Their Crime on Facebook

October 29, 2009

The Carolina Review Daily, UNC Chapel Hill’s conservative journal, reports that in April of this year, large numbers of their latest issue went missing from a couple of locations on campus.  The students assumed they were stolen, but the culprits were unknown.

Until now.

As student writer Christopher Jones reports (h/t Jay Schalin at the Pope Center),  photographs of three leftist campus activists (including one student who writes for the daily student newspaper, and one who is apparently running for mayor of Chapel Hill) in possession of the stolen issues were posted to one of their Facebook pages.  The three are shown preparing to paint their apartment, and they are using numerous copies of The Carolina Review Daily as dropcloths.

I can’t say why those three (and possibly others) thought it would be a good idea to engage in theft and censorship, especially when they are self-proclaimed advocates of a “democratic society.”  And I can’t say I understand why they thought it would be a good idea to post evidence of their act to their Facebook page.

But I can say this—newspaper theft is a crime, and it happens far too frequently.   The students involved may now be facing charges that they violated the UNC Honor Code.  Let’s hope that UNC Chapel Hill makes clear that they take newspaper theft seriously, and that in a true “democratic society,” censorship and theft are not tolerated.

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“Just Kidding” Defense Trumps First Amendment Rights

October 28, 2009

As David French discusses at Phi Beta Cons, a protracted legal battle between Brothers Under Christ (BYX) and the University of Florida (UF) took an unfortunate turn yesterday.  The Eleventh Circuit dismissed BYX’s lawsuit against the University, saying that it was no longer a live controversy.  The history of the case and the University’s actions render this decision quite disturbing.

BYX is a Christian fraternity.  Like many student groups that organize around a set of beliefs, BYX limits its membership to students who adhere to the group’s core beliefs—in this case, Christian beliefs.  On May 17, 2007, UF refused to let BYX become an official registered student organization because it considered BYX’s membership standards to amount to “religious discrimination” that violated the University nondiscrimination policy.  Thus, instead of using the nondiscrimination policy as a shield to protect religious organizations, UF—like many other public universities—used it as a sword to punish BYX for its religious beliefs.

BYX sued to preserve its First Amendment rights to free speech, free association, and the free exercise of religion.  For almost two years, UF resisted the litigation in the face of clear Supreme Court precedent holding that nondiscrimination policies cannot be applied in a manner that would burden a private group’s First Amendment rights to organize around a wide variety of beliefs.  But after oral arguments at the Eleventh Circuit, UF got cold feet.  At the last possible moment, it changed its policy, registered BYX, and moved the court to dismiss the appeal, essentially telling the court, “We were just kidding.”

Surprisingly, the Eleventh Circuit granted UF’s motion and dismissed the case for mootness, essentially holding that there was no longer a reason to litigate.  Unfortunately, this ruling provides no security for the student group other than the “good faith” of the same university that fought so hard to keep it off campus.  Moreover, the decision encourages universities to resist constitutional compliance and discourages student groups from seeking to hold universities accountable for their unconstitutional policies.  Why wouldn’t university officials fight the little student group on campus when they can wear it down through protracted litigation and then change the policies at the last possible instant—without penalty—if things look bad?

In short, the Eleventh Circuit has made judgment day for public universities a more remote possibility, and thereby darkened the constitutional horizon for students and student organizations in Florida, Georgia and Alabama.

Simply Ludicrous

October 28, 2009

Over at Phi Beta Cons, David French highlights one of the most ludicrous statements of the day, a letter from Professor Gerald Horne entitled “Stalin Was No Worse than the Founding Fathers.”  Such nonsense merits quoting in full:

Jonathan Brent expresses surprise—if not shock and disgust—at what he sees as the rehabilitation of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in contemporary Russia (“Postmodern Stalinism,” The Chronicle Review, September 25).

Pray tell:  Is there any analytical difference between the phenomenon he perceives and the glorification and hagiography that bedeck the slaveholding “founding fathers” of his own United States (not to mention those that founded the settler colonies upon which this slaveholding republic was based)?  Or is the difference that in this latter case, after all, we are discussing the brutalization of only Africans, and in the former case, non-Africans—and we all know that the lives of one are worth more than the lives of the other?  Or is the difference that Stalin’s rule lasted 30-odd years while North American enslavement was a process that stretched over centuries?

The obvious absurdity of this “moral equivalency” becomes all the more vivid when one considers the magnitude of the horrors that Stalin and his comrades unleashed during the 20th century.  But when faculty members like Professor Horne dominate academia by ratios between 8-to-1 and 30-to-1, outlandish statements like this sadly become standard university fare.

Update:  Apparently, Professor Horne is actually just regurgitating Vladimir Putin’s arguments from several years ago.  In refuting Putin (and thus Horne), Dr. Paul Kengor of Grove City College draws from recently declassified KGB documents and the work of one of Mikhail Gorbachev’s aides to place the wave of Soviet atrocities that claimed the lives of 60 to 70 million Russians in its proper context.

Audio of Roman Catholic Foundation v. Walsh oral arguments at the Seventh Circuit

October 28, 2009

On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit heard oral arguments in Roman Catholic Foundation, UW-Madison, Inc. et al. v. David G. Walsh, et al., a case involving the viewpoint discriminatory allocation of student activity fees at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  The case involves a First Amendment challenge to the University’s policy that requires students to pay a mandatory student activity fee, but bans the use of the fees for any student organization activity that includes prayer, worship or proselytizing. 

ADF Senior Vice President and Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence argued the case on behalf of the student group.  Our colleague, David French, discusses the implications of the hearing over at Phi Beta Cons.  The audio of the oral argument can be found here on the Seventh Circuit’s website.

We are not hostile, we just want to eliminate you

October 23, 2009
The Alliance Defense Fund has been running ads in a number of campus newspapers across the country to encourage students at schools with onerous, unconstitutional policies to stand up for their rights.
 
In an Oct. 20 piece in response to the ADF Center for Academic Freedom ad that appeared in the University of Iowa’s “Daily Iowan,” self-described UI admissions counselor” Tom Gioielli assures readers that ADF is blowing smoke about the threat against free speech on campus:
 

As I was perusing through the Oct. 19 issue of The Daily Iowan, I was intrigued by a half-page advertisement from the Alliance Defense Fund that read “College Students Deserve An Education Not Indoctrination.” Thinking this was a very true statement and a great point, I then looked under the caption to see the following statement: “Christian students at our public universities are being denied their right to openly express what they believe.”

 I’m sorry to be rude, but what the hell has this group been smoking?

Gioielli continues:

Now should religious figures be silenced at all on our college campus? Of course not. They have every right to speak what they believe as I do.

Fair enough, right?  Well, stand by for the conclusion – his message to Christians and the call-to-arms for his “tolerant” compatriots:

Keep out of our public schools. You already hold sway over a vast number of children and young adults in this country. The University of Iowa alone has over 20 officially recognized religious group on campus and an open forum for discussion. To all of the other tolerant religious or agnostic people out there: We should work together to root out this type of fundamentalist brainwashing that is occurring throughout our country.
 
So, Mr. Gioielli needs to answer the question: Does he believe Christians have a right to speak, or does he believe Christians need to be rooted out, eliminated from public schools?  It is not possible for one to believe both.  Oh, that pesky law of non-contradiction.
 
Even absent an answer, it’s pretty clear where this “UI admissions counselor” stands: with the vast majority of public universities and their administrations that maintain and enforce the very unconstitutional policies and practices the ADF Center for Academic Freedom is successfully knocking down across the country.  Toxic ideas like those expressed in Mr. Gioielli’s piece are not to be censored, but they are reason the Alliance Defense Fund has taken up the banner of freedom for college students across America who are asking for nothing more than a restoration of their First Amendment rights.   

Congratulations to FIRE and best wishes for the future

October 22, 2009

FIRE celebrates its 10th anniversary tonight in New York City.  David French, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom, will be in attendance.  Through the years, FIRE has been a stalwart advocate for the constitutional rights of students, faculty and staff on America’s college and university campuses.  On several occasions ADF has been blessed to team up with FIRE to restore constitutional protections on campus. 

In 2006, as a part of its speech code litigation project, FIRE assisted students at San Francisco State University as they faced a student conduct investigation after holding an anti-terrorism rally on campus.  SFSU administrators used a speech code that applied to every California State University campus to investigate the students for being “uncivil.”  FIRE’s efforts resulted in SFSU dropping the charges.  ADF later filed suit on behalf of these students and secured an injunction against the Cal State speech code.

In 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit rendered one of the first appellate decisions addressing a university speech codeDeJohn v. Temple University is now the standard bearer for the constitutionality of student harassment policies.  ADF and FIRE collaborated on the DeJohn litigation, and its principles have led to injunctions against similar speech codes in California, Pennsylvania and Washington.

It has been our privilege to partner with FIRE in these and other efforts.  Indeed, some of our own staff have worked for FIRE in the past. 

As all of FIRE’s staff prepare for and enjoy tonight’s celebration, we congratulate them on 10 great years and wish them many more successful years protecting liberty on campus.

Audio of ASU Students for Life v. Crow arguments at 9th Circuit

October 22, 2009

The audio recording of Tuesday’s oral arguments in ASU Students for Life v. Crow can be found here.  ADF Center for Academic Freedom attorney Heather Gebelin Hacker argued on behalf of ASU Students for Life.  A decision is expected in several months.

University of Wisconsin: Do as we say, not as we do.

October 21, 2009

On Monday, Travis ably deconstructed the University of Wisconsin’s position on what students and society want from higher education.  But it’s important to point out one particular portion of the article in Insider Higher Education by Kevin Reilly, President of the University of Wisconsin System: 

To have more secondary students graduate, and do so better prepared for postsecondary success, colleges and universities will need to redouble longstanding partnerships with the schools. This also includes changing the higher education culture so that we act as a compelling magnet for talent earlier in students’ lives, even if that requires that we cross some well established boundaries that we have grown all too comfortable respecting. Beyond traditional approaches, we need to reach pre-college students directly through their families, computer screens, cell phones, and iPods. We also will need to create thoroughgoing relationships with local community and religious organizations that serve as trusted interlocutors for many first generation and minority Americans and their children.

Oh really?  As Travis points out, the University has repeatedly discriminated against religious students on its campuses.  How could it possibly want to partner with religious organizations when it consistently fails to extend equal rights to Christian students?  Indeed, next week, the University’s lawyers will argue to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit that the University would violate the Establishment Clause if it allowed a Catholic student organization at UW-Madison to have the same access to student activity fees that secular student groups receive. 

If President Reilly wants to talk about working with religious organizations to higher education, perhaps he should start by providing the religious student organizations on his campus with the same constitutional rights as any other organization.

University of Wisconsin’s Four Pillars of Insanity

October 19, 2009

At Inside Higher Ed, Kevin Reilly outlines his prescription for curing popular frustration with higher education, one that ignores the systemic illness while suggesting no real changes.  His strategy—dubbed the “Four Pillars of Promise”—calls for “better preparation, more graduates, more research, and better dissemination and commercialization.”  So in his mind, the public is frustrated simply because it wants more of what it has been receiving.  This “more of  the same” approach brings to mind Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity:  “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

More importantly, Dr. Reilly overlooks the far more fundamental, far more obvious ills of modern academia:  as the wholly-owned subsidiary of the radical left, it blends intellectual repression with moral hedonism.  Whether it is imposing speech codes, kicking religious groups off campus, or adopting ideological litmus tests for certain programs, universities send a clear message to students:  “You can engage in any form of perversion you want as long as you think the way we tell you.” 

As President of the University of Wisconsin System, Dr. Reilly should be especially familiar with these problems.  As its institutions have been sued at least six times, the University of Wisconsin System embodies many of them and is well on its way to winning the ADF Center for Academic Freedom’s “Most Frequent Defendant” award:

  • In 2000, UW-Madison lost the landmark Southworth case where the Supreme Court declared that universities can only charge student activity fees if they allocate those funds in a viewpoint neutral way.
  • In 2005, UW-Eau Claire prohibited RAs from holding Bible studies in their dorm rooms, only to back down in the face of litigation.
  • In 2006, UW-Superior kicked InterVarsity, a Christian ministry, off campus because it wanted to have Christian leaders.  Weeks later, UW-Madison did the same thing to the Roman Catholic Foundation because it allegedly only let Catholics become members and leaders.  Two lawsuits later, both groups returned to campus.
  • Despite Southworth, UW-Madison continues to give funds to groups it favors (e.g., Sex Out Loud, Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group) and to deny funds to groups it disfavors (e.g., Roman Catholic Foundation, Conservatives for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT)).  Because it refused to comply with the clear requirements of the First Amendment, it became the target of two still-ongoing lawsuits, one from Roman Catholic Foundation in 2007 and another from CFACT in 2009.

 

Sadly, Dr. Reilly’s four pillars of insanity fail to address the real sources of frustration toward higher education:  an ivory tower mentality that derides and undermines values that most Americans cherish, silences any dissenting perspectives, engages in indoctrination rather than education, and openly disregards the elementary requirements of the Constitution.

ASU Students for Life case draws Hon. Sandra Day O’Connor

October 13, 2009

Next Tuesday, October 20th, ADF Center for Academic Freedom attorney Heather Gebelin Hacker will argue ASU Students for Life v. Crow to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  Last week, the Court released the names of the panel who will hear the case:  Hon. Sandra Day O’Connor, retired Associate Justice for the United States Supreme Court, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski and Circuit Judge Sandra Segal Ikuta.

The argument will take place at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law at 10 a.m.  The case involves several First Amendment issues, including whether ASU’s campus is a public forum for students, whether ASU can require students to obtain insurance before they engage in speech, and whether ASU can limit outdoor space reservations for student organizations to one zone per day.  More information about the case is here and here.