Thursday, March 21, 2019

Speech - Part 2

Note: UC created a free speech center in order to fend off political and judicial attacks. But it has tended to be on the wrong PR side of this issue. When the Trump administration announced it would be producing some kind of free speech regulation, the response should have been "fine, we already do it," rather than a long argument that the rule was unnecessary. Free speech is a motherhood-and-apple-pie value.

In any case, see below:

UC Berkeley in spotlight as Trump expected to issue campus free-speech order

Michael Cabanatuan, March 20, 2019, San Francisco Chronicle

Motherhood and you-know-what

kind of pie
The debate over free speech on college campuses moves into the White House on Thursday, and as has often been the case over the past 50 years, UC Berkeley will be front and center.

President Trump is expected to issue an executive order requiring colleges and universities to support free speech if they want federal funding — and four past or present members of the Berkeley College Republicans, the conservative student organization that helped provoke a nationwide debate over free speech on college campuses, say they’ve been invited to witness the signing.

The group has organized numerous events featuring or promising conservative headliners, including provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, whose speech was canceled in February 2017 by the university after protesters — many of whom were non-students affiliated with local anarchist groups — broke through barricades, stormed the building, broke glass and lit fires.

That incident led to protests, counter-protests and sometimes violent confrontations on the streets of Berkeley and in Civic Center Park downtown.

While much of the tension over the free speech issue on the Berkeley campus has eased, it hasn’t disappeared. Last month, Hayden Williams was punched in the face while recruiting for a conservative organization at a table on Cal’s Sproul Plaza. The attack was captured on video, went viral on the Internet and was played and commented on repeatedly on Fox News. Williams’ attacker was later arrested. Neither man is a UC Berkeley student.

Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ condemned the attack as “reprehensible” and having “no place here.” The university has spent $4 million in the last year to ensure the right of conservative students to “safely and successfully” hold events, Christ said. It settled a lawsuit last fall with the nonprofit Young America’s Foundation, pledging to accommodate conservative events even if protests are threatened.

Still, earlier this month, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump welcomed Williams to the stage, suggested that he sue the university, and promised an executive order requiring universities and colleges to assure free speech if they want to continue receiving federal money. No specifics have been mentioned. Critics have said such an order is unnecessary.

Matt Ranau, president of the Berkeley College Republicans, said he supports the president’s order and is thrilled that he’ll be able to see it being signed. Ranau and three present or former members of the conservative campus group, were invited Monday to the signing ceremony.

“Being invited is a huge honor,” Ranau said. “I’ve never been to D.C. or seen the president up close. Obviously free speech on college campuses is something very close to me. I’m really glad President Trump is taking some action on addressing this issue. I’m fully supportive.”

Naweed Tahmas, the group’s former vice president who graduated in May; Troy Worden, the group’s past president; and Jacob Nikolau, a current student and member, who was working at the table with Williams, also were invited to attend.

The anticipated executive order would come the week after a federal judge in Oakland again dismissed four other conservative students’ lawsuits against UC Berkeley and its officials but allowed them to sue two UC police officers for their actions in the 2017 riot that prompted the cancellation of Yiannopoulos’ speech.

The students say that the police allegedly put them in danger by locking the doors to Martin Luther King Center, blocking a possible escape route as the violent protest raged outside.

Wednesday’s court ruling will allow the conservative students’ attorney to question UC officials, including President Janet Napolitano and police officials, about the orders given officers, said Shawn Steel, an attorney in the case and a Republican National Committeeman.

“That’s going to be fun,” Steel said.

UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said the university “is prepared to vigorously and successfully defend our position in court.”

On Wednesday night, the Associated Students of the University of California was considering a resolution supporting free speech, condemning violence and noting that UC Berkeley, the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement, has come under a “misconception... that depicts the University to be one that is against free speech.”


UPDATE: The text of the order is at:

FURTHER UPDATE: There are lessons in the sequence of stories below from South Dakota concerning excess internal political correctness and external political response.

Noem, GOP target university 'political correctness' with first-of-its-kind diversity, speech law

Jonathan Ellis, Sioux Falls Argus Leader | Published 7:57 p.m. CT March 20, 2019

South Dakota became the first state in the country to pass a law requiring its university system to promote intellectual diversity after Gov. Kristi Noem signed a bill into law Wednesday.

The measure also bars the South Dakota Board of Regents and the state’s six public universities from interfering with constitutionally protected speech, including speech that some might find “offensive, unwise, immoral, indecent, disagreeable, conservative, liberal, traditional, radical or wrong-headed.”

"Our university campuses should be places where students leave their comfort zones and learn about competing ideas and perspectives,” Noem said in a release. “I hope this bill lets the nation know that in South Dakota, we are teaching our next generation to debate important issues, work together to solve problems, and think independently.”

The bill had the support of two national groups, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, which promotes intellectual diversity, and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a group that promotes free speech, association and religious liberty on college campuses.

“An act of this scale concerning academic freedom and intellectual diversity is unprecedented, and sets a strong example for leadership in other states," said Michael Poliakoff, president of ACTA.

The bill was introduced after Republican lawmakers probed the Board of Regents for more than a year about incidents related to whether students’ free speech rights were being squelched by political correctness. Conservative groups have criticized colleges across the country following incidents in which conservative speakers were denied opportunities to speak, either by college administrators or angry protesters.

In response to lawmaker questions about free speech and so-called “free speech zones,” which limited where students had free speech rights, the board last fall passed new policies that guaranteed free speech on campuses.

But some lawmakers wanted those free speech rights, as well as the promotion of intellectual diversity, added to state law.

The bill passed the House but died in a Senate committee. However, lawmakers revived it after students at the University of South Dakota School of Law were asked to change the theme of a winter social from "Hawaiian Day" to "Beach Day" amid concerns that calling it Hawaiian was culturally incentive. The students were also told by the administration not to hand out lei, traditional Hawaiian flower garlands, at the party.

"Free speech zones send the false and illiberal message that a student's First Amendment rights are dangerous, and should be constrained within tiny, pre-approved areas of campus,” said FIRE Executive Director Robert Shibley. “We commend legislators in South Dakota for recognizing the critical importance of free speech to higher education, and encourage other states to follow their lead.”

The Board of Regents, which had opposed the bill, agreed to a compromise version signed by Noem.

Besides promoting free speech, it requires each university to report each year what they did to promote intellectual diversity and the free exchange of ideas, and to describe instances in which intellectual diversity or the free exchange of ideas were impeded.

The intellectual diversity provision also had the backing of conservatives, who point to surveys showing that Democrats far outnumber Republicans among college faculty and administrators.


USD regents back investigation into 'Hawaiian Day,' possible free speech policy violation

Jonathan Ellis, Sioux Falls Argus Leader | Published 9:28 a.m. CT March 4, 2019 | Updated 11:33 a.m. CT March 4, 2019

The president of the South Dakota Board of Regents said Monday that he approves of the University of South Dakota’s investigation into whether the board’s policy on free speech was violated in connection with a student party.

Kevin V. Schieffer commended USD president Sheila Gestring, who called for an investigation over the weekend into actions that led the law school’s Student Bar Association from changing the name of its “Hawaiian Day” social event to “Beach Day.” In a message to its members, the association said the name had been changed after it was “informed that our previous ‘Hawaiian Day’ was politically incorrect and a violation of our inclusive excellence policy.” The students were also advised not to hand out leis because the flower garlands given to tourists might be deemed “culturally incentive.”

Schieffer and other board members voted last fall to update the board’s policy on free speech, in an effort to bolster free speech rights for students on the state’s six university campuses.

“The board has made it very clear in policy that neither professors nor administrators can block or unduly interfere with free speech simply because some might find it offensive,” Schieffer said in a release Monday. “While it is important to conduct a careful investigation to ensure we understand all of the facts, it is also important to send a strong and prompt message that our freedom of expression policies will be enforced on the campuses. President Gestring has done that. We look forward to a full accounting of this case based on a record of factual findings rather than unsubstantiated reports.”

Schieffer added that the board looks forward to a report on the incident.

“We need to know that all of our institutions are effectively communicating and enforcing free speech,” he said. “Regardless of the outcome, this case presents a good opportunity to make sure that happens.”

On Saturday, Nathan Lukkes, the board’s general counsel, sent a memo to university presidents that said the board’s policy protects speech that some might find “offensive, bigoted, or otherwise distasteful.”

“The goal of our universities should not be to shield students from speech they find to be upsetting, offensive, or even emotionally disturbing,” he said.

“Our students,” he added,” should learn the importance of winning the day by persuasion, ideas, and facts, not by obstruction or censorship.”

The Hawaiian Day controversy comes as the first test of the board’s new policy on free speech, which was updated amid incidents on college campuses across the country in which academics, writers and others were denied opportunities to speak at colleges because their views were considered unwelcome.

On Wednesday, lawmakers in the South Dakota Senate defeated a bill that would have added free speech requirements for the state’s universities into state law. The bill also would have mandated intellectual diversity among faculty and staff. The Board of Regents lead efforts to kill the bill.

But following the Hawaiian Day controversy, some lawmakers were contemplating efforts to revive the bill, which had already passed in the House.

USD president launches investigation into law school’s ‘Hawaiian Day’ decision

Trevor Mitchell and Jonathan Ellis, Sioux Falls Argus Leader | Published 4:39 p.m. CT March 2, 2019 | Updated 11:34 a.m. CT March 4, 2019

The University of South Dakota will be investigating the actions that led to a student organization renaming an event after it was told holding a “Hawaiian Day” event violates the school’s inclusiveness policy, the university announced Saturday.

USD President Sheila Gestring initiated the investigation, which will focus on the actions of the interim administration of the University of South Dakota School of Law, according to a press release.

The school's Student Bar Association notified members Wednesday in a Facebook message that the event would be renamed “Beach Day,” but that leis would still be distributed.

The association later said that leis would no longer be handed out after "it was determined that these are culturally insensitive by the administration after doing research based off of the essay written by the initial complainant."

Michelle Cwach, the university’s director of marketing communications and university relations, earlier this week said the interim administration advised that “certain elements of the programming be changed” and that leis not be distributed after hearing concerns from another law student.

The investigation will determine whether those actions violated Board of Regents policies, specifically related to the regents’ commitment to freedom of expression.

The policy, quoted in part in the release, notes that the university has a "fundamental commitment to the principle that viewpoints may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the institution’s community to be offensive, unwise, immoral or wrong-headed."

The release says policy violations are a serious matter, and the investigation into whether a violation occurred will be "thorough and swift."

"Administrative censorship of student speech and expression is a serious matter and not something USD condones," the release said, "without compelling justification consistent with Board policy, such as a genuine threat."

USD law students change party theme after 'Hawaiian Day' deemed 'culturally insensitive'

Jonathan Ellis, Sioux Falls Argus Leader | Published 6:56 p.m. CT Feb. 28, 2019 | Updated 12:17 p.m. CT March 1, 2019

A student organization at the University of South Dakota has been told that holding a “Hawaiian Day” social event violates the school’s policy on inclusiveness.

As a result, the Student Bar Association of the USD School of Law changed the name of the event to “Beach Day.” In a Facebook message to its members, the group said: “We greatly apologize to those we offended; it was unintentional.”

In the same message announcing the change from Hawaiian Day to Beach Day, members were told that the dress code was the same – floral shirts – and that leis, the traditional flower garlands that are often given to tourists in Hawaii, would also be handed out. But in a second message that went out to members on Wednesday, bar members were told that leis had been nixed from the event.

“It was determined that these are culturally insensitive by the administration after doing research based off of the essay written by the initial complainant,” the message said.

“All in all,” the message continued, “please try to just enjoy the event tomorrow – no matter what side you are on. Free food is still free food!”

Michelle Cwach, the university’s director of marketing communications and university relations, said the law school’s interim administration advised the Student Bar Association not to distribute leis because using items of cultural significance might be viewed as inappropriate. However, students were not told they couldn’t wear leis.

The event started as a pre-spring-break morale booster in what has been a brutal run of cold and snow in the Upper Midwest.

But after the event was announced as Hawaiian Day, SBA leaders were approached by another law student who expressed concern about the use of indigenous cultural symbols, Cwach said in an email.

A group leader met with school administration to discuss the issue. The administration reviewed an essay submitted by the concerned student and advised that the Hawaiian Day theme be changed, Cwach said.

The decision to change the event Wednesday came on the same day that South Dakota lawmakers killed a bill that would have mandated free speech on the state’s college campuses and required the Board of Regents to promote intellectual diversity among college faculty and staffs. Paul Beran, the CEO and executive director of the board, urged lawmakers to kill the bill, which had already passed in the House. A Senate committee voted the bill down.

Last fall, the board revised its policy on free speech to in what Cwach said was a “strong commitment to the First Amendment.”

“USD has already addressed this issue with interim law school administration and the SBA to clarify its commitment to the First Amendment,” she said. “USD continues to seek new ways to educate its campus community and current and incoming leaders on its responsibility to the First Amendment.”

Janelle Toman, the spokeswoman for the Board of Regents, described the review of the Hawaii Day party as an “isolated instance.”

“There is no system-wide review of university social events by the Board of Regents, and we have no such plans to do so going forward,” she said in an email.


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