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UCLA students blocked from enrolling in conservative professor’s Free Speech on Campus class

A conservative communications professor at UCLA claims his department chair is effectively blocking students from enrolling in his popular Free Speech on Campus class in a decision that’s likely politically motivated.

The department chair, meanwhile, says the situation is based on maintaining “reasonable class sizes across the major” and denies that her decision to reject students’ requests for enrollment is politically motivated.

Caught in the middle are frustrated students who simply want to enroll in lecturer Keith Fink’s “Communication Studies 167: Sex, Politics, and Race: Free Speech on Campus.”

Taryn Jacobson is one such student.

Students Have Every Right To Enroll in Free Speech Classes

A senior at UCLA, she told The College Fix she has never been able to take a class with Fink because his courses always fill up so quickly. This quarter, Jacobson said she was absolutely determined to get into Fink’s “Free Speech on Campus” class.

“This is one of my last quarters at UCLA and this class is crucial to my preparation for law school,” Jacobson stated in an email to The Fix. “It will also strongly guide my decision (either by affirming or disaffirming) my aspirations to attend.”

The class filled up quickly, as usual, and Jacobson was once again unable to get in. However, Jacobson said she attended the first class anyway and received a permission-to-enroll form from Fink, also known as a “PTE.” Unfortunately, Jacobson’s PTE was then denied.

This quarter marks the first time Professor Fink has experienced his department denying his PTEs, and he seems to be getting singled out. Other professors in the Department of Communication Studies report no issues with getting their PTEs approved, according to the Daily Bruin. Fink and his teaching assistants and students lay much of the blame on the new Chair of the Department of Communication Studies, Kerri Johnson.

Campus Leadership Is On The Attack To Free Speech

“Ever since this leadership change, the school has targeted Professor Fink and his classes in many ways, including by: (1) restricting his ability to enroll students at his discretion (a restriction not imposed on any other CommStudies professors), (2) reducing the size of his classes and moving them to smaller classrooms despite overwhelming student demand, (3) dishonoring ‘Permission to Enroll’ forms issued by him and failing to help students whose PTEs had been dishonored,” Andrew Litt, Professor Fink’s TA, stated in an email to The College Fix.

Additionally, Austin Kaidi, a UCLA alumnus who took Fink’s classes and also served as his TA, told The Fix: “For the past five years, Professor Fink has been able to educate large numbers of students without any problems. However one quarter after the Communication Studies appoints a chairwoman with incredibly left-leaning ideals, Professor Fink, the only outspoken conservative in the department, is singled out, his PTE’s are revoked, and his future classes are limited.”

Kaidi added that the room in which Fink teaches “Communications Studies 167” holds 292 seats, yet only 200 of the 241 students who attempted to join the class this year were able to enroll.

When questioned about the denial of Fink’s PTEs, Johnson told The College Fix: “As department chair, I am responsible for overseeing workload equity for my faculty, lecturers, and TAs and ensuring a productive learning environment for our students. One important aspect of this responsibility is to maintain reasonable class sizes across the major which entails an assessment of student to faculty and student to TA ratios. Accordingly, I do not approve modifications to enrollment caps unless implications for workload equity have been evaluated. In this case, they were not; petitions to add the class were issued without approval.”

She added: “With regard to the question of political discrimination, I was unaware of Mr. Keith’s political leanings until recently when Mr. Fink referenced them in an email. This exchange occurred long after the events in question.”

Fink did not respond to requests from The College Fix seeking comment.

He told the Daily Bruin: “I am well familiar with UCLA’s rules. This is a violation of academic freedom, a violation of (UCLA’s) own rules and students’ rights. Students are not being treated with equity here.”

Fink also told the Bruin he has spoken with his union representative and the ombudsman about the matter. “This is an important issue,” Fink said. “Most people don’t stand up to the administration when they are wronged, either out of ignorance of their rights or fear that their situation will be exacerbated if they challenge the school.”

“I am a voice of a teacher who’s not going to go away,” he added. “When I see an injustice toward students, I am going to fight.”

Jacobson, the senior trying to take Fink’s class, told The College Fix she is frustrated.

“Higher education is supposed to be about providing students with opportunities to learn and expand their horizons, rather than limiting them,” she said. “I have never experienced a situation like this: the professor wants to admit more students at no cost to the school, the room FITS more students, yet the actual department housing the course is thwarting his efforts and effectively denying me an educational opportunity — one that happens to be of great importance to me.”

Source:  The College Fix.  We have added section headings, information, and/or comments for clarity.

It’s Time To Talk About Defunding Universities That Won’t Defend Free Speech

Beyond the disinvitations, protests, and now anarchist violence at Berkeley are deep and less visible layers of suppression of thought and speech inside U.S. universities.  Comment:  Campuses have become ANTI Freedom of expression and free speech.

President Trump has wondered aloud—or at least tweeted—about the possibility of cutting federal funding for universities that fail to safeguard free speech. In the wake of the riot and arson February 1 that led the University of California at Berkeley to cancel a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, President Trump tweeted, “If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?”

One telegraphic question does not a policy make, but it does raise a matter worth thinking about. For several years the nation has witnessed an accelerating decline in respect for and protection of intellectual freedom in higher education.

Suppression of Free Thought and Free Speech Is Rampant

Some of these stories make headlines. When major colleges and universities “disinvite” prominent national and international leaders after tapping them to give commencement speeches or major addresses, people notice. News also travels in the wake of professional provocateurs such as Yiannopoulos, who intentionally set out to anger the already angry left and often succeed in rousing intemperate reactions to their childish taunts.

In other cases, videos of campus “social justice warriors” in action have captured such outrageous behavior that the public has been rightly alarmed. Professor Melissa Click at the University of Missouri yelling “We need some muscle over here!” The mob of Yale University students surrounding and taunting Professor Nicholas Christakis. The Black Lives Matter protesters rampaging through the library at Dartmouth. These are among dozens of live-action representations of what “protest” at American colleges and universities has devolved into. All too often that protest is lawless, ignorant, and contemptuous of the rights of others to express—or even to hold— contrary views.

Suppression of Free Thought and Free Speech

Beyond the disinvitations, protests, and now anarchist violence at Berkeley are deep and less visible layers of suppression of thought and speech. Declining to appoint faculty members who have failed the Left’s ideological litmus tests seldom can be captured by camera or headline. But such accumulated non-appointments by the tens of thousands has given us today’s all-leftism-all-the-time campus.

Likewise, filtering out candidates for college presidencies who have failed to take loyalty oaths to progressive orthodoxy has ensured that the leadership of higher education is politically single-minded. The shaping of college curricula is too far down in the weeds to receive much public attention, but curriculum is precisely where many campus protesters acquire their sense that respect for the rule of law is an impediment to the pursuit of power “by any means necessary.”

The list goes on. A “new civics” that elevates political activism over intellectual inquiry has become institutionalized on many campuses, often via programs run by the dean of students. Advocates of the idea that manmade global warming is an existential crisis have succeeded in shutting off debate on a whole range of related issues by declaring that any opinion other than their own is anti-science “denialism.” Look for a political or social issue on which Americans are divided in their opinions, and the odds are good that on college campuses you will find near unanimity of opinion conforming to the ideas of the progressive left.

The Left Has Captured Academia

This is plainly not because the progressive left has a monopoly on the best reasoning, the highest principles, or the most compelling evidence for the validity of its positions. Mostly it is because the progressive left has captured higher education.

This victory was the result of decades of hard work in taking control of colleges and universities department by department, appointment by appointment, budget by budget, decision by decision. Conservatives occasionally burst out with fierce complaints over higher education’s low academic standards and high politicization. The result of these complaints has been typically minor concessions and slowdowns in the program of full-scale capture.

A French revolutionary, Pierre Vergniaud, marched to the guillotine, appears to have coined the idea that revolutions devour their own. The progressive left may be at that moment now. In the last few years, more and more progressives have found themselves accused of thought crimes. Perhaps most famously, the feminist Northwestern University Professor Laura Kipnis was “investigated” by her university after some students took umbrage at her article published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, in which she took exception to some of the sexual harassment rules she had in general previously championed. Kipnis is not alone in her predicament. Inquisitions of this sort became common enough in recent years to prompt the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) to issue its own report warning of the danger.

Many college presidents have responded weakly to the campus disturbances of the last few years. Many preemptively surrendered to the radicals. Brown University’s commitment of $100 million to appeasement is probably the most spectacular such capitulation, but it is part of a widespread pattern that goes deep into the details of college life.

I’ve been paying close attention to a case at little Springfield College in Massachusetts, where a handful of radical feminist administrators are waging a bureaucratic war on a male English professor who has a scholarly and pedagogical interest in “men in literature.” He lives in a regime of what can best be described as Kafkaesque torment, in which his rights to free expression are stripped away, he is put under surveillance, ordinary faculty privileges are revoked, and no one in authority is willing to say why.

We know why. The provost let slip at one point that his scholarly and teaching interest—“men in literature”—is itself a form of “sexual harassment.” So if President Trump is serious about “free speech” on campus, he has a much bigger problem than Berkeley’s impotent response to the 150 masked anarchists who set fires at the Yiannopoulos event. The suppression of free speech goes down almost to the molecular level at today’s colleges and universities.

The Debate Over How to Restore Freedom of Expression

So what is to be done? There are promising state-level initiatives. Stanley Kurtz, and James Manley and Jonathan Butcher of the Goldwater Institute, have recently offered model state-level legislation for protecting campus free speech. There have been stirrings of support for the 2015 “Stone Report” from the University of Chicago, which reaffirms at least part of the doctrine of academic freedom.

I have sought the endorsements of college presidents for a more robust “College and University Presidents’ Intellectual Freedom Commitment,” so far without success. My 2016 booklet, “The Architecture of Intellectual Freedom,” offers a short overview of the important differences between First Amendment rights, academic freedom, and intellectual freedom. The AAUP, which once could be relied on for care and precision in enunciating what academic freedom entails has, alas, become little more than a rubber stamp for campus advocates of progressive politics.

Public concern over the suppression of academic freedom on campus could take shape in many ways, of course. I meet with a wide range people who are eager to act. First, there are libertarians who in the name of the First Amendment would sweep away all restrictions on speech. I ask, “But what about the restrictions needed to maintain a coherent curriculum and rightful intellectual authority? What about the need to distinguish the pursuit of truth from the promulgation of opinion?” The First Amendment may be blind to these matters, but higher education cannot be.

Second, there are Tea Party-ish conservatives who see the nation’s tradition of ordered liberty as imperiled by those who reject the foundational ideas of order. They view much of American higher education as turned against what is best in American culture and society, and have little allegiance to “academic freedom” for its own sake. I ask, “But what will sustain those principles of ordered liberty if we give up on higher education? The pursuit of truth requires a context, as does the transmission of civilization. How to maintain either without free intellectual inquiry?”

Third, I meet conservative political activists who are ready to adopt the tactics of the academic left to promote their own agenda. To them, intellectual freedom means little other than the opportunity to fight back in kind: suppress the Left and champion the Right. I ask, “Don’t you recognize that you are buying into the corruption of higher education? Wouldn’t the nation be better served by colleges and universities that strive to be above the political fray and provide neutral ground where the full range of ideas can be debated?”

Fourth, I encounter advocates of more strenuous intellectual doctrines, who see the need to draw distinctions between permissible and impermissible forms of expression in higher education and who debate how to draw these lines. Do we let apologists for hostile foreign powers occupy prominent faculty positions, relegate them to the category of invited speakers, or bar them altogether? I ask, “Do these debates get us anywhere in dealing with the crisis at hand? Intellectual freedom is dying on campus. Can we afford a long discussion of whether Yiannopoulos is the cause or the symptom?”

Of course, I encounter plenty of liberals as well. The view that prevails among them is that the real threats to academic and intellectual freedom come from the religious right, big energy companies, capitalists in general, technocratic administrators, and all the other groups I’ve mentioned. I ask, “Do you have some cases in mind illustrating censorship originating from any of these sources?” What follows is either awkward silence or vehement denunciation of President Trump.

Here Are Two Potentially Fruitful Suggestions

What avenues do we really have, apart from state-level initiatives? The two that seem worth pondering are congressional action and “dear colleague” letters.

Congressional action would take the form of a bill that would emphasize the importance of intellectual freedom at colleges and universities that receive public money. This would be a very hard bill to craft, especially in light of the skill with which the academic left typically inverts the purpose of legislation. Title IX was passed to end sexual discrimination in higher education, but through the magic of President Obama’s Office for Civil Rights, Title IX became the instrument for imposing radical sexual discrimination on higher education. Could we craft an intellectual freedom bill that will not, in the fullness of time, be interpreted as a mandate for intellectual conformity?

Perhaps we could give it a try, but realizing that any threat to cut off funding entirely to offending institutions will make the law a dead end. What’s needed is a set of basic incentives to foster intellectual diversity and disincentives for violating intellectual freedom. Above all, the interpretation of the law has to be kept out of the hands of squirrely law professors and government bureaucrats, who will render it comatose at first opportunity. Oversight needs to be vested in a bipartisan national commission.

A “dear colleague” letter would emulate the form of Barack Obama’s action through the Office for Civil Rights and the Department of Justice, in which some thread of jurisdictional authority is traced to existing law to “advise” colleges and universities how that law would be interpreted. This was one of the ways Obama grabbed power for himself with direct congressional approval. Like many others, I didn’t like it then and I don’t like it now. But it may be the only short-term tool President Trump has to cut funding for colleges and universities that suppress free speech.

If he were to go this direction, he would need to find a law open to aggressive interpretation. Possibly the First Amendment could lend itself to this purpose, but for a variety of reasons, it would be better to find some provision in the Higher Education Act that gives warrant for protecting intellectual freedom.

That’s the lay of the land. In the meantime, the “Resistance” to President Trump is likely to take us further and further into censorship, suppression of free inquiry, public disorder, and the hollowing out of faithful public purpose in higher education. Our colleges and universities are indulging them. They seem to be doing so with no recognition of their actual peril—peril not from Trump but from loss of their legitimacy as institutions in our free, self-governing republic.

A simpler solution would be for college presidents and trustees to uphold the principles on which their institutions were founded. Unfortunately, I don’t think that will happen. More likely they will wait to see what President Trump will do and then complain about it.

That means those of us who care about free expression in higher education need to come to grips with our choices right now. Let’s start with the idea that academic freedom is inseparable from the responsibility to give those we disagree with the opportunity to speak and to be heard. A university that fails at something so basic really does forfeit its claims on public support.

Source:  The Federalist.  We have added section headings, information, and/or comments for clarity.

Trump Crashes the U.C. Berkeley Free Speech Debate Following Protests

U.S. President Donald Trump threatened on Thursday to cut funding to the University of California at Berkeley after protesters smashed windows and set fires at the school, forcing the cancellation of an appearance by a far-right Breitbart News editor.  Comment:  Free Speech now means My Speech on college campuses.

Trump’s threat in a tweet provoked a response from California lawmakers, who in discussions on the floor of the state senate called it distasteful and an abuse of power, marking the latest clash between the Republican president and officials in the Democratic-majority state.

Free Speech May Have It’s Day

“If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?” Trump wrote on Twitter at 6:13 a.m. EST (1113 GMT).

It was not immediately clear what action Trump could take without authorization from Congress, or without risking legal action.

In California, a mostly Democratic state where lawmakers have already begun preparing legislation to combat Trump’s policies on immigration and climate change, the response was swift.

“To have the man at the helm of the most powerful nation of the world tweeting and threatening the University of California and talking about withholding funds, that’s unique and I find that very distasteful,” said Senate leader Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles Democrat.

Lawmakers said they would look into whether President Trump could actually take funds from the university which receives $400 to $450 in funding for research annually. In 2016, the university also received $216 million in federal student aid, a legislative official said.

“All we have to go on now is another angry tweet,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, a Democrat from the Los Angeles suburb of Paramount.

He said lawmakers would continue to seek ways to protect the state, a Democratic stronghold where voters went two-to-one for Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton in the November, 2016 election.

“We have been having ongoing discussions on how to protect California from potential harm from the Trump Administration – those discussions will continue,” Rendon said.

Trump’s tweet came in response to violence that broke out on the Unversity’s flagship campus amid demonstrations against the appearance of Milo Yiannopoulos of Breitbart News, the right-wing website formerly headed by presidential adviser Steve Bannon.

On Thursday, Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks condemned the violence.

“Last night the Berkeley campus was invaded by more than 100 armed individuals clad in all black who utilized paramilitary tactics to engage in violent, destructive behavior,” Dirks said.

The Free Speech Movement

He said the 38,000-student campus, home to the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s, respected Yiannopoulos‘ right to speak.

U.S. Representative Barbara Lee, a Democrat whose district includes Berkeley, vowed to fight any attempt to slash funding.

“Simply put, President Trump’s empty threat to cut funding from UC Berkeley is an abuse of power,” Lee said.

According to a Reuters review, the research money received by the university includes $121 million from the National Science Foundation for scientific research and $125 million from the Health and Human Services department for health and medical research. It may be difficult for Trump to cut off this money, as much of it is awarded through a competitive process that evaluates projects based on scientific merit.

Yiannopoulos has been a provocative figure on the internet for years, and has been widely criticized for comments he has made about Muslims, Black Lives Matter activists and feminists.

“Obviously it’s a liberal campus so they hate any libertarians or conservatives who dare to express an opinion on their campuses,” he told Fox News. “They particularly don’t like me.”

Source:  Newsweek.  We have added section headings, information, and/or comments for clarity.