FIRE finds Syracuse University creating prohibitions against “threatening mental health”—even with a single remark

January 20, 2022 • 12:45 pm

I’ve heard of a lot of conventional universities trying to truncate freedom of speech, but not in such a draconian and ambiguous fashion as Syracuse University in New York. Syracuse has previously received the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE’s) yellow-light rating, which means that the school has restrictions of expression that would be illegal at public universities(Syracuse is a private school.) However, within Syracuse’s free-speech policy is a sub-policy on nonsexual harassment that prohibits the following, all of which is reasonable and indeed, considered unprotected “speech” by the courts:

Harassment is defined at the University as unwelcome conduct or speech directed at an individual or group of individuals, based on a Protected Category, which is so severe or pervasive that it unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, terms of employment, educational program participation, or it creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment for study, work, or social living. To qualify as Harassment under this policy, the speech or conduct must be both viewed by the listener(s) as Harassment, and be objectively severe or pervasive enough that a reasonable person would agree that the speech or conduct constitutes Harassment.In determining whether reported speech or conduct qualifies as Harassment under this policy, the University will consider all circumstances surrounding the reported incident(s), including, without limitation, the frequency, location, severity, context, and nature of the speech or conduct, including whether the speech or conduct is physically threatening or humiliating, rather than a mere offensive remark. The University will also consider the intent of the speaker(s).

Now “intent” is not really something that one can adjudicate, and doesn’t belong here, but the rest of the policy is not only reasonable, but shared by both private and public universities. Note that the violations have to be based on a “protected category”, which I don’t think is necessary because anyone can be subject to harassment that can constitute an “intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment.” But the incidents have to be more that one-off statements, even to members of a “protected class” (I’m not sure what Syracuse considers to be a “protected class”).

However you construe harassment, though, it doesn’t hold in the case described below.

What happened is that Syracuse freshman biology major Samantha Jones was at a party, and there saw a guy who was rumored to have “a history of problematic behavior toward women.” Jones went up to the guy and asked him flat out if he was a registered sex offender.

Granted, this is not the best way to get to know someone, and of course you can always look up online whether someone’s a registered sex offender. But this guy was Canadian, and I’m not sure if Americans can ascertain that online. However, the question, though weird, is neither out of line (maybe she would have left the party if the answer was “yes”), nor a violation of free speech, nor harassment.

But Syracuse didn’t see it that way, because they also have a Student Conduct policy that says this (my emphases):

The following behaviors, or attempted behaviors, are considered violations of the Syracuse University Code of Student Conduct:

  1. Physical harm or threat of physical harm to any person or persons, including, but not limited to: assault, sexual abuse, or other forms of physical abuse.
  2. Assistance, participation in, promotion of, or perpetuation of harassment, whether physical, digital, oral, written or video, including any violation of the Syracuse University Anti-Harassment Policy or Sexual Harassment, Abuse, and Assault Prevention Policy. Bias-related incidents, including instances of hate speech, may qualify as harassment under this Code and the University’s Anti-Harassment Policy.
  3. Assistance, participation in, promotion of, or perpetuation of conduct, whether physical, electronic, oral, written or video, which threatens the mental health, physical health, or safety of anyone.

Because of her single question, Ms. Jones was punished by Syracuse. Here’s an extract from the FIRE report:

In October, having heard rumors of past predatory behavior, Jones approached a fellow student at an off-campus party and asked him if he is a registered sex offender in his native country, Canada.

He reported the incident to campus police, who referred the matter to Syracuse’s Office of Community Standards. Last month, the University Conduct Board found Jones responsible for violating a ban on “[c]onduct, whether physical, electronic, oral, written or video, which threatens the mental health, physical health, or safety of anyone.” Jones has since been placed on disciplinary probation and is required to attend “Decision-Making” and “Conflict Coaching” workshops.

“Accusing someone of something that has no validity, especially being on a sex offender list can harm one’s mental health and safety,” wrote Syracuse administrator Sheriah Dixon in a December memo detailing Jones’ formal punishment. The problem with this assessment? Jones didn’t accuse the man of anything. The Conduct Board’s own findings conclude plainly that all Jones did was seek clarification about rumors.

This is ridiculous. If Jones did that repeatedly, it could constitute harassment, but she asked the question once. Note as well that anything can be construed as harming one’s mental health. All you have to do is assert it; you don’t need to prove it, I suspect, by having the victim examined by psychiatrists, though that would be problematic as well.

You simply cannot prosecute someone for single questions or comments that the recipient takes as “harming their mental health.” That would prohibit any question or speech that the recipient finds “offensive”. (The boundary between “offense” and “mental harm” was erased a long time ago.) Finally, there is no restriction that your mental-health-harming statement be aimed directly at the complainant. What if, for example, a Jewish student said they were caused mental harm because somebody said “Burn down Israel” online? That is legal speech so long as it’s not uttered in front of a bunch of Hamas supporters holding Molotov cocktails.

FIRE sent letter to Syracuse that you can see at the link below:

FIRE wrote to Syracuse on Friday, asking the school to reverse its charges against Jones and reminding the institution of its obligations to protect student speech and facilitate sexual abuse reporting. FIRE urges Syracuse to clarify to students that asking questions or reporting sexual misconduct on campus doesn’t constitute “mental harm” — and won’t get them punished.

FIRE warned that this policy would be abused when Syracuse adopted it in 2020. Jones’ case shows how easily the “mental harm” ban ratchets up the stakes of any run-of-the-mill student disagreement. The looming threat of punishment will cast a chill over campus conversations.

Indeed. And it’s clear that Jones, however awkward her question, was trying to find out whether she was in the vicinity of a convicted sexual predator. Since he was Canadian, perhaps there’s no other way she could find out.

This is the result of adopting speech and conduct codes that include “mental harm” as an offense. Now if the offense is deliberate and repeated, yes, it can create a legal violation against harassment, but this is not such a case.

Syracuse should rescind the punishment immediately and apologize to Ms. Jones. At the bottom of the page, if you wish, you can fire off an email to Syracuse (there’s already a boilerplate you can sign) objecting to what it did to Ms. Jones. I’ve said my piece and sent it off.

No college can have a speech or conduct code so severe that it penalizes students whose one-off statements are supposedly damaging to “mental health”. And remember, even if you’re not in college or much interested in this kind of stuff, this kind of mishigass that begins in universities invariably spreads to the wider society. As Andrew Sullivan presciently said, “We’re all on campus now.”

I’ve written; it takes just a second. Imagine if all the readers who felt likewise took 2 minutes to send the email too? They’d get tens of thousands of complaints, and they couldn’t ignore that!

Guest Post: “Aftermath of the Prof. Jason Kilborn Controversy at UIC.”

December 18, 2021 • 12:15 pm

Yesterday I got an email from a student recounting an incident I’ve described before: the attacks on University of Illinois at Chicago Law Professor Jason Kilborn. Kilborn was demonized and punished for putting the redacted words “b—-” and “n—–” on an exam in describing a hypothetical case where these words were relevant. In contrast, at the University of Chicago, Law Professor Geoff Stone used the “n-word” in class yearly in his Free Speech course as a demonstration, and was never disciplined or warned by the administration. (Geoff did stop this practice after he met with some black law students.)  But UIC isn’t that keen on free speech or academic freedom.

You can read more about Kilborn and the execrable behavior of his university at these two FIRE posts: #1 and #2.

At any rate, the student, Joseph Shen, deliberately chose to use his name in this post, and what you see below is what he wants to tell us. The title is his as well. His piece is between the sets of asterisks:

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Aftermath of the Prof. Jason Kilborn Controversy at UIC.

Greetings WEIT readers, my name is Joseph Shen, a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Recently, my university released its final word on an event relevant to the issue of progressive politics clashing with academic freedom of expression, and I’d like to share with you some details that would otherwise be unavailable outside UIC. The event in question is the controversy surrounding Jason Kilborn, a professor at the UIC School of Law (formerly the John Marshall Law School, whose renaming is another topic discussed here before), and his use of censored but recognizable slurs on an exam question. Our host has previously mentioned this issue in several previous posts.

First, some background on UIC. If you search for UIC on the FIRE website, you’ll find that my university is sadly given a red-light rating for having a policy that “substantially restricts freedom of speech.” As a public University in an overwhelmingly politically liberal state and city, it’s not surprising that the administration has steadily made changes that push progressive politics even at the cost of academic freedom. Curiously, UIC’s Policy on Open Expression is given a green-light rating despite the university’s overall red-light rating, which means the university is being hypocritical when it acts the way it did in controversies such as this one.

On Nov. 30, the university sent an email to the UIC Listserv summarizing its findings of and corrective actions to the events that happened around Dec. 2020 – Jan. 2021. The full redacted investigational report is linked in the email but only available to people with UIC long-in credentials. After reading the email and full report, there are some key points from the email that I want to mention and comment on.

First, the Chancellor gives a statement containing the following claim (indented, bolding is mine):

UIC remains unequivocally committed to fostering an environment conducive to learning and free of any form of harassment or discrimination. UIC also strongly supports and defends faculty rights of academic freedom, a critical component to preserving the intellectual integrity of our University. These are not antithetical principles, nor can they be. Our faculty prove daily that both principles can be honored. The key is not what ideas are presented or tested; it’s simply great consideration for how it’s done in a respectful manner for all involved. The use of words that disparage individuals based on identity or background is not necessary for academic freedom to flourish and is inconsistent with our commitment to create an inclusive and conducive learning environment. These actions are not acceptable in our educational settings from any member of the campus community.

This is a form of the ‘Free speech, but…’ claim that Prof. Coyne has talked about many times. I fully agree, and I believe you would too, that of course people in academia should be considerate of what others think and should in general adjust their actions and words to maintain respect towards each individual. The problem is when the recipient of your actions and words is extremely sensitive and becomes offended when you don’t follow the strictest guidelines. Anyone is capable of setting their tolerance so low that the most innocuous words and phrases become offensive.

The chancellor’s claim is palpably wrong because if one’s expression of academic opinion greatly offends another, then you can’t have both freedom of academic expression and freedom from (verbal) harassment. The solution is to not let individuals be the ones to set the bar and instead have generally accepted guidelines that can be agreed upon by most people of any background. Rather than judging Prof. Kilborn’s actions according to only the tolerance level of the particular students who were offended, judge them according to best practices of general guidelines for professional conduct. What did he intend with the question, what are the justifications for the question, do others people in the same demographic as the offended students think the same? These are all things to consider in best practices that are not considered when you only listen to the particular people offended. Extreme progressives don’t want to consider these points or just dismiss them, and the university has sided with this type of progressive.

Second, in addition to the use of the censored slurs (which was one of four racial harassment allegations), Prof. Kilborn was also charged with racial discrimination on two accounts:

(1) Dropping and refusing to re-add a student to a course based on race; and (2) Imposing an in-person participation grade bump policy that precluded Black students who could not attend in-person classes from receiving extra points due to COVID restrictions and precautions.

After reading the full report, it’s clear (to me at least) that the particular student who made those charges is the one responsible. Prof. Kilborn responded appropriately by dropping the student for not attending class (in person or remotely), not responding to emails, and submitting “woefully deficient” work as make-up. He also ultimately gave extra points to all students, which would have included the complainant. Neither of these responses by Prof. Kilborn was racially motivated nor directed only towards minority students. I suspect that the particular student adheres to the narrative of prevalent systemic racism and believed Prof. Kilborn acted out of racism because that would have matched the narrative. Ostensibly, the student didn’t seek information that would have given the whole picture and stuck to their initial assumption of racism. I fully admit that we have no knowledge of the student’s personal circumstances and that they may have perfectly valid reasons for missing class. That, however, does not entitle them to the level of special treatment they were asking for and a passing grade in a class they didn’t attend. Fortunately, the report found Prof. Kilborn to be not guilty of these charges. But the fact that a student was so quick to accuse him of racial discrimination without first investigating and introspecting is symptomatic of how wedded many modern university students are to progressive ideas. It has indeed become a social religion for them.

Lastly, Prof. Kilborn was found guilty of four racial harassment allegations, including the censored slurs. This was due to 5 actions in his history:

[Prof. Kilborn] Did violate the harassment aspect of the same Policy. This conclusion was not based on a single incident, but on his conduct considered in cumulative fashion and in context. The conduct included: (1) Using the word “cockroaches,” which was not directed to Black students, but in context, could have been perceived as directed towards racial minority plaintiffs; (2) Using the term “lynching,” although apologizing immediately for it; (3) Using African American Vernacular English [AVE] when referring to lyrics of an African American rapper; (4) Using racially charged language (the redacted terms “‘n____’ and ‘b____’…”) in an exam question;*** and (5) Responding to concerns about the exam with insensitive, chastising, and arguably threatening comments in January 2021, including using the term “homicidal” during a four-hour Zoom meeting with a student.

I argue that none of this should be considered harassment by a critically-thinking person. Regarding the above five points: 1) Words can and should have different meanings in different contexts. We should be cognizant of how others think about a word, but that action should be reciprocated. 2) The fact that Prof. Kilborn immediately apologized is a sign that he has some consideration and isn’t an inherent racist. Why is it that the offended never give people second chances, only all or nothing? What’s the point of sensitivity training if people can’t be forgiven for transgressions? 3) If the lyrics are indeed in AVE and he was quoting them, then what was he to do, convert them to the standard English equivalent or forbid himself from saying them? Gatekeeping language does not help build appreciation for one’s linguistic quirks. 4) I have nothing to add that Prof. Coyne and people like John Mcwhorter haven’t already said perfectly. 5) This may be the most valid criticism of Prof. Kilborn’s behavior, but we don’t have the specifics to judge for ourselves. I personally would not have used language like Prof. Kilborn, but that should not infringe upon his right to speak freely so long as his intention and the main effect of his speech are not verbal harassment or anything else not protected by free speech laws.

The end result is that Prof. Kilborn must go through “intercultural competency individual training and coaching sessions” and will have his courses monitored for four semesters. The training will likely be a waste of time and effort because of the dubious efficacy of DEI training. The monitoring reeks of Big Brother-like surveillance. I feel such disappointment at my university for their behavior in this debacle. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely to improve in the future.

I hope you all find this helpful and informative. I’m sorry for this long, boring, and depressing post, but I’ll add two things I hope you find enjoyable. Below is a picture of my beloved cat Scooter. Rest assured that he’s kept fat, sleek, and thoroughly spoiled by his staff.

I know our host often shares his love of good music. Here is one of my favorite songs from the 90s, sung by Lesley Lee, about not wanting to wake up and lose sight of your love in your dreams.

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JAC: Here’s a YouTube video, produced by FIRE, of Kilborn describing his “transgression”.  And thanks for Joseph for sending along information bout Kilborngate!

Greg Lukianoff on the recent history of campus free speech

December 15, 2021 • 1:15 pm

Over at the Reason site, Greg Lukianoff has an interesting article on the two (yes, two) ages of American political correctness. You’ll have heard of Greg, as he’s president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and co-author with Jon Haidt of The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure.  The present article is not on the FIRE site, so represents Lukianoff’s personal analysis rather than any official statement of FIRE. But it’s an interesting analysis, although some people may find it long. Click screenshot to read it.

I’ll give a brief summary. The article, as one expects, deals mainly with issues on campus

We’re noqw in the “Second Great Age of Political Correctness”, which Lukianoff sees as extending roughly from 2015 to the present.  This means that, as during the First Age (1980-around 1995), there was the the “political correctness” we see today: divisiveness between “tribes” on campus, a disconnect between students and administrators (but in the earlier years, the administrators were the censors), and approved language which was eventually mocked as “p.c.”

The period of quiescence lasted from about 1995-2015. Now, of course, we know what age we’re in, because it’s largely the subject of this website. Colleges have speech codes, approved ways of talking and thinking, punishment and demonization of transgressors, and restrictions on freedom of speech that causes speakers to be deplatformed. This trend has of course spread beyond campus, most notably into the media.

It’s Lukianoff’s contention that during the Great Quiescence, the ground was being laid for our present age of political correctness. What happened? First of all, administrators began burgeoning in colleges, and many of these came from schools of education, which are seen as the most activist educational institutions of all. Thus a flood of activist administrators was filling the colleges, as well as secondary schools. Universities then began hiring “more politically homogenous professors and administrators; and reframing speech policing as a crucial part of protecting students’ mental health.”

And there was this:

But it wasn’t just an increase in coverage. Something else had changed on campus. During the previous two decades, administrators were usually the leaders of campus censorship campaigns. Students, in turn, resisted those efforts. In late 2013, however, there was an explosion in censorship that was student-led. The infrastructure built during the Ignored Years was producing downstream effects.

The generation hitting campuses in 2013 had been educated by the graduates of those activist education schools. In some cases they were literally the children of the students who had pushed for (or at least were OK with) speech codes in the ’80s and ’90s.

This generation also grew up with social media; it had a genuine awareness of how hurtful and nasty speech can be, especially when anonymous and online. But it had not been taught that freedom to engage in nasty speech is necessary to the functioning of our democracy and to the production of knowledge.

This all sounds plausible, and a lot of Lukianoff’s article goes to documenting the deplatformings of speakers (now largely but not exclusively to the Left), the Right’s attempt at censorship by passing anti-CRT laws, the firing of professors for saying verboten things and making Nazi salutes (yes, the salute thing really happened, and is not a fantasy of “The Chair” t.v. show), the creation of Pecksniffian “bias response teams” to police campus behavior, and the increasing polarization and liberalization of campuses. Here are some data just for fun:

More recent statistics paint a starker picture. A 2019 study by the National Association of Scholars on the political registration of professors at the two highest-ranked public and private universities in each state found that registered Democrat faculty outnumbered registered Republican faculty about 9-to-1. In the Northeast, the ratio was about 15-to-1.

In the most evenly split discipline, economics, Democrats outnumber Republicans “only” 3-to-1. The second most even discipline, mathematics, has a ratio of about 6-to-1. Compare this to English and sociology, where the ratios are about 27-to-1. In anthropology, it’s a staggering 42-to-1.

In the Ignored Years, higher education became far more expensive and considerably more bureaucratized. From 1994–95 to 2018–19, the inflation-adjusted cost of public college tuition nearly doubled. Meanwhile, the administrative class expanded, from roughly one administrator for every two faculty members in 1990 to nearly equal numbers of faculty and administrators in 2012.

What’s more, preliminary research showed a “12-to-one ratio of liberal to conservative college administrators,” wrote Samuel J. Abrams of Sarah Lawrence College in The New York Times in 2018. His conclusion: “It appears that a fairly liberal student body is being taught by a very liberal professoriate—and socialized by an incredibly liberal group of administrators.” Following the Times article, Abrams was targeted twice by students in an unsuccessful campaign to get him fired for speaking out.

So much for history. Lukianoff’s peroration is a genuinely valuable list of things that we should do “to save higher ed”. And these should be read by all college administrators and faculty:

Amid the Second Great Age of Political Correctness,American higher education has become too expensive, too illiberal, and too conformist. It has descended into a period of profound crisis wrought by shifts in hiring, student development, and politically charged speech codes developed during the Ignored Years, when too few were paying attention. American campuses should be bastions of free expression and academic freedom. Instead, both are in decline.

We cannot afford to just give up on higher ed. College and university presidents can and should do the following five things:

  1. Immediately dump all speech codes.
  2. Adopt a statement specifically identifying free speech as essential to the core purpose of a university and committing the university to free speech values.
  3. Defend the free speech rights of their students and faculty loudly, clearly, and early.
  4. Teach free speech, the philosophy of free inquiry, and academic freedom from Day One.
  5. Collect data and open their campuses to research on the climate for debate, discussion, and dissent.

Those who donate to colleges should refuse to do so without demanding these changes.

#3 and #4 particularly interest me, as I want to make sure that colleges can defend free speech, which means preventing violations of it. And this means having some kind of policy like the University of Chicago’s Kalven Report, which, by preventing university administrators and departments from making official statements about politics, ideology and morality (except in specially delineated circumstances), prevents the chilling of speech by those who disagree. #4 should be a part of all orientation at colleges, and also taught in secondary schools: a unit on the reasons for our First Amendment, what it means, and why it’s valuable. Watching Hitchens’s video about free speech should be mandatory.

At the end, Lukianoff touts “alternative models to traditional higher education”. He mentions the recently-discussed “anti-woke” University of Austin, for which I have little hope, and Khan Academy, which is much better. As Lukianoff argues, “It’s not too hard to imagine a future in which employers value a mastery level from the Khan Academy or a degree from Minerva more than a degree from a middling traditional university.” I have no quarrel with that, though I’m a fan of the traditional university where you interact with your professors and fellow students online, and can have small group discussions in which people learn from each other. “Mastery” is not just the goal of college; one goal is to awaken a love of learning and dispute, an inculcation of critical analysis, and the production of students who know how to analyze evidence and come to rational conclusions. You can’t get that with an online education.

And I’m with Greg 100% in his conclusions:

The bottom line is that the opinions of professors and students should be ferociously protected, and that those who run universities must reject the idea that colleges and universities exist to impose orthodoxies on anyone. Over the past decade, too many academic institutions have grown used to promoting specific views of the world to incoming students.

Radical open-mindedness would be wildly out of place at most contemporary universities. Getting there will take substantial cultural and political change.

That starts with self-awareness. One lesson of the First Great Age of Political Correctness and the P.C. wars of the 1980s and ’90s is that it was a huge mistake to think that because a movie like PCU skewered campus culture, the problem had already fixed itself. As a result, the problem was allowed to grow worse.

We can’t make that mistake again. The ideal time for achieving real change in higher ed was 30 or even 40 years ago. The next best time is now.

Alternative and online colleges are not going to save us, for the rot has spread too far. We need adherence to the five points above, and a group of people who won’t financially support colleges who violate those points. Money talks, and colleges are already worried about the loss of income from miffed donors who aren’t down with extreme wokeness.

More news from New Zealand about the big science vs. indigenous “knowledge” ruckus

December 14, 2021 • 9:30 am

Suddenly I am inundated with emails from disaffected Kiwis who take issue with the New Zealand government’s and academia’s new push to teach mātauranga Māori , or Māori “ways of knowing” as coequal with real science in high-school and university science classes.  Many of these people are worried that the country is being swept with an ideology that “all things Māori are good” (tell that to the moas!), and that such an attitude is going to affect not just science, but many parts of life.  It’s one thing to recognize and make reparations to a people who were genuinely oppressed for so long, but that doesn’t mean that that that group should be valorized in every way, nor that their “ways of knowing”, which include creation myths and false legends, can be taken as coequal to science and taught in the science classroom.

I’ll divide this post into three bits.

 

A. Is mātauranga Māori really going to be implemented in this way, or simply taught as what it is: an agglomeration of practical advice (some of which can be considered “science construed broadly” if it’s verified), legends, myths, and statements now know to be outright false?

Documents suggest that yes, the coequality is indeed the plan.

You can find the general present-day NCEA curriculum here (NCEA is the National Certificate for Educational Achievement, which sets the standards for New Zealand secondary schools). I haven’t gone through all the standards for various areas, but I’ve looked at chemistry, biology, and “physical and earth sciences”.

This page, “What’s changing?“, details how the curriculum will be tweaked, setting out a list of changes that will be made (this plan was apparently approved in 2020, two years after a public consultation that apparently few were aware of).  I quote:

The NCEA Change Programme is a work programme led by the Ministry of Education to deliver the package of seven changes aimed at strengthening NCEA:

2.) Equal status for mātauranga Māori in NCEA – develop new ways to recognise mātauranga Māori, build teacher capability, and improve resourcing and support for Māori learners and te ao Māori pathways.

And if you click on the link “Equal status. . .”, you see this (my bolding):

It is vital that there is parity for mātauranga Māori in NCEA, and it has equal value as other bodies of knowledge.

What we’ve heard:

Māori respondents have told us that NCEA doesn’t do enough to open te ao Māori pathways through the qualification and disadvantages too many ākonga from experiencing success as Māori.

Key changes:

  • Integrate te ao Māori and mātauranga Māori into the new ‘graduate profile’ for NCEA, and into the design of achievement standards.

  • Ensure equal support for ākonga Māori in all settings, and equal status for mātauranga Māori.

  • Develop more subjects to make sure that te ao Māori pathways are acknowledged and supported equally in NCEA (e.g. Māori Performing Arts).

  • Ensuring that, where possible and appropriate, te ao Māori and mātauranga Māori are built into achievement standards for use across English and Māori-medium settings. That might mean:

    • Having Māori-centred contexts for exemplars and assessment resources (e.g. local iwi history).
    • Designing more inclusive standards and assessment resources that allow for diverse cultural perspectives on what’s important (e.g. considering community or hapū impact, not just individual user needs.
  • Build teacher capability around culturally inclusive NCEA and assessment and aromatawai practice that is inclusive of ākonga Māori.”

So yes, the parity between mātauranga Māori and real science is going to take place, and will be used in assessing student achievement.

As to what this might mean in particular, have a look at the goals in each of many academic areas as well as proposals for change and “Big Ideas”.

As one example, check out the “learning matrix” for “Physics Earth and Space Science”:

One of my correspondents singled out this goal (I quote):

” Explore how mauri is an essential part of the natural and human-constructed world and how it is essential to maintain or restore mauri.” – Mauri, insofar as I understand it at all, being a nebulous concept usually translated as “life force”.

The other alterations of physics, meant to fit into Māori “ways of knowing”, are obscure and worrying.

And on the chemistry and biology page, under “What is chemistry and biology about?” and “Big ideas and significant learning”, you will find not a single mention of evolution, the most important and most unifying area of biology. Why else would evolution be excluded unless to placate the Māori view, which is one of creationism? This omission is stupid and offensive.

 

B. What is the New Zealand Royal Society up to? As you may know if you’ve followed this, seven professors from Auckland University signed an innocuous (to rational folk) letter protesting the trend to make mātauranga Māori taught coequally with science in science classes, a move equivalent to teaching Biblical creationism in evolution class. You can see the letter, published in the weekly magazine “The Listener” here or here. Two of the signers, Garth Cooper and Robert Nola, are FRSNZs, meaning “Fellows of the Royal Society of New Zealand”, a high distinction (Michael Coarbilis, another FRSNZ and signer, died on November 13).

The Royal Society, miffed by the claim that science should be defended as science, and not infused with myth and “other ways of knowing”, put up an objection to the letter and began an investigation of the two surviving FRSNZs.  Their statement, which makes the Royal Society look like a joke, is still up:

Note the insistence, by a body presumably dedicated to promoting truth, that “The recent suggestion by a group of University of Auckland academics that mātauranga Māori is not a valid truth is utterly rejected by Royal Society Te Apārangi. The Society strongly upholds the value of mātauranga Māori and rejects the narrow and outmoded definition of science outlined in The Listener.

This would be funny if it weren’t a ridiculous implication that truth is what any group maintains is truth. Further, the RSNZ is insisting that mātauranga Māori is a “valid truth.” They really should take this statement down, for it’s an embarrassment.

Meanwhile, the RSNZ’s investigation of Cooper and Nola continues, itself an embarrassment. Read the letter the two signed and see if you think they should be shamed and punished for it by the very Society that lauded them as eminent scholars.

Richard Dawkins also wrote to the then head of the RSNZ objecting to their statement above; you can see Richard’s letter here and his letter to the New Zealand public here. This letter, as well as the ones I and other readers and Kiwis wrote, have had no effect. If I know the signers, Cooper and Nola will not truckle to the clowns who issued the RSNZ statement above. For its own reputation, the RSNZ should drop the investigation immediately.

 

C. What is the University of Auckland up to? There may be good news here. But let’s review history first. Earlier this summer, Vice-Chancellor Dawn Freshwater issued a statement explicitly criticizing The Listener letter and its seven signers, making their identities easy to find. Two of her statements from Freshwater’s official announcement of July 26:

A letter in this week’s issue of The Listener magazine from seven of our academic staff on the subject of whether mātauranga Māori can be called science has caused considerable hurt and dismay among our staff, students and alumni.

Note the “hurt and dismay claim”, which at the very outset puts her statement in a context of emotionality rather than reason. And there was more:

While the academics are free to express their views, I want to make it clear that they do not represent the views of the University of Auckland.

The University has deep respect for mātauranga Māori as a distinctive and valuable knowledge system. We believe that mātauranga Māori and Western empirical science are not at odds and do not need to compete. They are complementary and have much to learn from each other.

This view is at the heart of our new strategy and vision, Taumata Teitei, and the Waipapa Toitū framework, and is part of our wider commitment to Te Tiriti and te ao principles.

Now it’s not even clear if the University of Auckland even has an official view about science vs. mātauranga Māori, yet note that Freshwater characterizes the latter as “a distinctive and valuable knowledge system”, maintaining that “mātauranga Māori and Western empirical science are not at odds and do not need to compete.”  That is an arrant falsehood. For one thing, mātauranga Māori is creationist, which puts it squarely at odds with evolution. I won’t go on; you can find for yourself many other ways the two areas are “at odds” with each other.

The Vice-Chancellor should have said nothing about this issue, but chose to denigrate the letter and its signers. She got plenty of flak from the public and press for that announcement.

Since then, I guess she’s had second thoughts, as she’s just issued a new statement. Click on the screenshot to read it:

Here’s part of her statement, which in effect pretends that she never denigrated The Listener letter and its signers. Now she calls for calm and reasoned debate:

The debate that initially started as about the relationship between mātauranga Māori and science in the secondary school curriculum in Aotearoa New Zealand has intensified and extended over recent weeks, with a number of overseas commentators adding their opinions.

Unfortunately, the debate has descended into personal attacks, entrenched positions and deliberate misrepresentations of other people’s views, including my own. This important and topical debate deserves better than that.

I am calling for a return to a more respectful, open-minded, fact-based exchange of views on the relationship between mātauranga Māori and science, and I am committing the University to action on this.

In the first quarter of 2022 we will be holding a symposium in which the different viewpoints on this issue can be discussed and debated calmly, constructively and respectfully. I envisage a high-quality intellectual discourse with representation from all viewpoints: mātauranga Māori, science, the humanities, Pacific knowledge systems and others.

I recognise it is a challenging and confronting debate, but one I believe a robust democratic society like ours is well placed to have.

In this commitment to action, I acknowledge the University of Auckland’s particular responsibilities in this debate as a custodian of academic freedom and free speech. Seven of our academics wrote the letter in good faith to The Listener in July 2021 that sparked the debate in the first place, and many of our academic experts have contributed to the discussion since then.

While the open-minded exchange of facts about “the relationship between mātauranga Māori and science” has potential to be a good debate, I am not optimistic. For one thing, the “indigenous way of knowing” can be slipperly, varying widely depending on who’s interpreting it. It would be lovely if they got Richard Dawkins to defend science along with some of the signers of the letter. And, as one of my Kiwi colleagues said, “I think this is good news, but productive discussion is unlikely unless [Freshwater] discourages the ongoing use of terms such as racism and cultural harm to describe those who challenge the notion of equivalence.”

Note that Freshwater criticizes the “personal attacks and misrepresentations” of views, including her own views.  She was probably blindsided and stung by the response to her “politically correct” statement, not realizing that, to rational and science-minded folks, comparing mythology to science is like kicking a wasp’s nest. I am guessing that she’s ascribing the attacks and misstatements to the “science” side alone; if she didn’t mean that, she should have said that there was bad behavior on both sides.  For example, here are two prominent academics who agree with Freshwater but who were not very polite.  Joanna Kidman is a well known sociologist of Māori descent who is a full professor at Victoria University at Wellington, NZ. Note that “OWG” stands for “Old White Guy”. As a commenter below notes, this is ageist, racist, sexist, and probably ableist.

Siouxie Wiles wasn’t very polite, either, characterizing her critics as “dinosaurs”.  Wells is a British microbiologist and science communicator who is now a professor at Auckland and was named the 2021 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year.

Todd Somerville, the Director of Communications at the University of Auckland, sent me a letter of complaint about my original post, saying that I characterized Freshwater as “a woke and fearful woman”, which he said was an ad hominem remark. I removed that characterization to lessen the rancor as well as to placate the angry Somerville, who defended Freshwater’s statement at great length (I suppose that’s his job). But I wonder if Todd Somerville has also written to Siouxie Wiles and Joanna Kidman, criticizing them as harshly as he did me for their own ad hominem remarks, including denigrating Richard Dawkins as an “Old White Guy”. You can’t get much nastier than that! Somehow I doubt that Wiles and Kidman have been chastised.

Chair of Stanford’s Department of Computer Science sends out woke and confusing email affirming his department’s virtue

December 12, 2021 • 12:30 pm

I’ve spent a lot of time writing and working to try to get colleges and universities—especially mine—to refrain from issuing official political, ideological, or moral statements save under exceptional circumstances.  Freedom of speech is a sine qua non for a decent university, and that goes along with a university not trying to stifle or chill speech by issuing their “own” official positions.  For institutional statements of morality and ideology will necessarily stifle  the speech of those opposed to approved sentiments. We already know that half of college students, and a goodly proportion of professors, are self-censoring lest they incur the wrath of those who have power over them. In colleges, those with power are the Woke. Students and faculty who have issues with wokeness have, by and large decided to keep their mouths shut, and that is not what should be happening in colleges.

It’s for this reason that the University of Chicago not only has the nation’s most respected speech code, the “Chicago Principles of Free Expression“, but also a supporting set of principles to prevent units of the university from establishing official or “approved” political and ideological positions: the Kalven report. Without the latter, the former is toothless, for speech will be chilled and the Chicago Principles will mean nothing. Let me quote the heart of the Kalven Report once again (my emphases):

The instrument of dissent and criticism is the individual faculty member or the individual student. The university is the home and sponsor of critics; it is not itself the critic. It is, to go back once again to the classic phrase, a community of scholars. To perform its mission in the society, a university must sustain an extraordinary environment of freedom of inquiry and maintain an independence from political fashions, passions, and pressures. A university, if it is to be true to its faith in intellectual inquiry, must embrace, be hospitable to, and encourage the widest diversity of views within its own community. It is a community but only for the limited, albeit great, purposes of teaching and research. It is not a club, it is not a trade association, it is not a lobby.

Since the university is a community only for these limited and distinctive purposes, it is a community which cannot take collective action on the issues of the day without endangering the conditions for its existence and effectiveness. There is no mechanism by which it can reach a collective position without inhibiting that full freedom of dissent on which it thrives. It cannot insist that all of its members favor a given view of social policy; if it takes collective action, therefore, it does so at the price of censuring any minority who do not agree with the view adopted. In brief, it is a community which cannot resort to majority vote to reach positions on public issues.

Two caveats: of course individuals may comment as individuals, so long as it’s clear they are not speaking for the university but expressing a personal view (caveats are always useful to that end). And there can be some political statements allowed if they further the mission of the University: to teach, learn, and do research. (One okay statement would be opposing initiatives that may affect foreign students, like a government attempt to rescinding the DACA act.)

By and large, my university observes these principles, but departments are beginning to violate them, for they can’t resist commenting on issues of the day, even if it has no bearing on their department.  This also allows universities, who are increasingly taken over by administrators and hired diversity advocates, to issue statements that show how virtuous they are. Most of these statements, like the one below, are performative wokeness. They accomplish nothing except to call attention to a universty or department as being on the Side of the Angels. (For a similar example from UC Irvine, go here.)

And so the head of Stanford’s highly reputed Department of Computer Science, John Mitchell, in league with Breauna Spencer, the CS Department’s Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, issued a strongly worded but confusing statement on December 5 connecting the verdicts in the Rittenhouse trial (not guilty) and trial of the McMichaels and William Bryan for murdering Ahmaud Arbery (guilty). I happen to think that these verdicts were both correct and in accordance with the law. But they have little to do with one another save that racial tension (a demonstration in one case, bigotry in the other) was involved.

The Stanford Review, which I gather is the conservative student newspaper, has an article about the email that went out from Mitchell and Spencer to all the students and faculty in the Computer Science Department. It thus has the cachet of an official statement. Moreover, it tells students and faculty how they should be thinking and acting. There’s more to the article, too, but I’ll mention only briefly what I consider an irrelevant bit.

Here’s the email as reprinted in the newspaper:

On Friday, November 19th, a jury found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty on all charges. It was not disputed that Rittenhouse brought a firearm to a Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, killed Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum, and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz. As a department, we bemoan the loss of life.  We are deeply saddened and disappointed by these events and acknowledge the pain and suffering they have caused many members of the community.

On Wednesday, November 24th, Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William Bryan were convicted on nine counts, including malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, and criminal attempt for shooting and killing Ahmaud Arbery. Arbery’s case reflects a longstanding legacy of racial injustice. We offer our heartfelt condolences to Arbery’s family.

We condemn the violence, trauma, and suffering that the Black community has both historically and contemporarily endured. The pervasiveness of anti-Black racism reaffirms our department’s mission to create an equitable, diverse, and inclusive community that centers, affirms, and uplifts everyone and prioritizes an enduring sense of belonging and community for all.

For those personally affected by these events, the Stanford CS Department takes your well-being seriously. We understand that recent and ongoing affronts to the principle of racial equality or the Black Lives Matter Social Movement continue to be distressing, burdensome, and mentally and physically exhausting…

The Rittenhouse and Arbery sequences of events remind us of the work we must continue to do to eradicate anti-Blackness and systemic racism in our society. As Martin Luther King Jr. stated in his “I Have a Dream Speech” on August 28th, 1963, “we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.” Therefore, we call for accountability and powerful change. We fiercely and unapologetically ask that each person within our department take a stance against racism and other forms of oppression impacting marginalized communities and that we all educate ourselves on how to become anti-racists. Ibram Kendi writes that “to be antiracist is a radical choice in the face of history, requiring a radical reorientation of our consciousness.”

The email had appended to it a link to the “Stanford CS Anti-Racism Resource Toolkit“, a list of suggested readings, some of which are good, others not so good, but you can be sure that there’s nothing on it that would contravene CRT ideology. John McWhorter (who is an anti-racist)? Forget it. But you’ll certainly see the 1619 Project and books by Ibram Kendi and Robin DiAngelo.

Anyway, read the email.  It somehow manages to link the Rittenhouse affair, in which a young white man killed two white people and wounded one (in self-defense, the jury decided) while an anti-racist demonstration was going on, with the acts of three bigots who killed a black man, surely largely because he was black.  There is no connection between these two incidents save that race played a big role in one and a tangential and irrelevant role in the other. Nevertheless, Stanford manages to connect them as both showing that racism is bad, and that Stanford’s Computer Science Department stands strongly against it.

The final paragraph is a call to action for students and faculty, urging them to adhere to CRT’s version of anti-racism, even citing Ibram Kendi. They also cite Dr. King in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, but they tellingly leave out other words from that speech, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”  That of course didn’t mean that King thought race was irrelevant—he spent his life fighting for justice for African-Americans—but that it should not be the basis on which people make decisions about individuals.  And making decisions about individuals is precisely what this email is doing by connecting the murderers of Arbery, who were racists, to the actions of Rittenhouse, who is white and implicitly deemed bad, though he was found not guilty.

The upshot is that the Computer Science chair and diversity dean had no business issuing a statement like this. It is empty words, performative, devoid of meaning, and almost surely ineffectual. Those who disagree with Professor Mitchell will be afraid to take issue with his views. Others will simply not want to drop their computer science work and start fighting against racism. In the end, this statement, full of innuendo and debatable points, will chill the speech of people in the department.  If Mitchell wanted to issue his personal opinion, saying that “this is my personal view only and others may disagree”, that’s fine, though his position itself gives the statement an air of official-ness. Were I Mitchell, I would simply have shut up.

The article dwells a lot on one CS-recommended book by Assata Shakur, who fled to Cuba after being imprisoned for murdering a cop in the U.S. The piece decries her being made a heroine by being on the book list (she is a hero to many on the far Left). I don’t agree that she should be admired, but I’m more concerned with free speech in America, as Shakur, who is 74, will be free until she dies in Cuba. Ignore that bit and focus on what’s happening in science departments throughout America, something that I thought would never occur. STEM groups are loci of some of the most ludicrous performative antiracism you can find.  The editorial ends this way:

This debacle should serve as a warning to professors and departmental leaders everywhere, but especially in the sciences and engineering: DEI is poison, and if you let it take hold in your department, prepare to be taken for a ride. Today you’ll be promoting fuzzy concepts like “inclusion” and tomorrow what you’ll be including are terrorist memoirs on departmental reading lists. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

I would qualify the “DEI is poison” statement, for DEI is not poison in itself; it’s what many of its advocates do in practice that is toxic. And what they’re doing is taking the science out of science departments, turning them all into Departments of Social Engineering.

What should a university do when a rabid anti-Semitic student calls for the killing of Jews?

December 8, 2021 • 1:15 pm

This article about anti-Semitism on a U.S. campus is taken from the Jerusalem Post. Sent to me by a Jewish colleague, it raises a conundrum for hard-line free speech advocates like me. It’s not because I’m Jewish, but because the proper action of a University in a case like this is not completely clear. This is a fuzzy area. I’ll offer tentative opinions, but want to hear readers’ thoughts.

Click on the screenshot to read:

Yasmeen Mashayekh, the USC student under consideration, is a pro-Palestinian activist who made repeated anti-Semitic tweets, and when called out, she doubled down. Those tweets including calls to murder Jews, and her own desire to murder Jews.

Over the course of the last few weeks, a Palestinian student at the University of Southern California, Yasmeen Mashayekh, has come under intense scrutiny for her antisemitic and violent tweets, which include sentiments such as “Curse the Jews” (in Arabic), “Death to Israel and its b**ch the US,” and repeatedly expressing her “love” for US-designated terrorist organization Hamas and its members, even instructing others on how to assist the terror group online in the fight against Israel. She also celebrated violent attacks on Jews by Arabs, joking about how Jews were set on fire, and in May, Mashayekh tweeted, “I want to kill every mother****ing Zionist.”
When multiple groups drew attention to Mashayekh’s violent tweets, she doubled down, replying to the criticism with “Oh no how horrifying that I want to kill my colonizer.” She also attempted to argue that the phrase she used in Arabic meaning “curse the Jews” was simply a “Zionist” mistranslation, and in fact, she just meant “occupiers” – an explanation that left Arabic speakers of all backgrounds laughing.

Yasmeen also had a position of authority among students involving DEI:

Ironically, Mashayekh was a student senator for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, was allegedly employed by the university, and held multiple positions of leadership. Naturally, USC is now facing tremendous pressure to act, including from dozens of faculty who signed an open letter condemning Mashayekh’s comments. But instead of taking action, they issued a statement claiming they won’t share what they are doing because of “privacy concerns,” and that while they don’t support her comments, her statements are “protected speech.”

My colleague and the Jerusalem Post (the piece was an op-ed) thinks that the University may have violated the First Amendment by allowing a student to issue unprotected speech, didn’t punish her by firing her (she was removed as a DEI student senator and given a different job at the same salary), and at the very least assert that USC should have issued a statement condemning Mashayekh’s statements and affirming their support of Jews as well as denouncing anti-Semitism.

Several questions arise.

Did Mashayekh violate the First Amendment?  My answer is “no.” The First Amendment allows one to call for extirpation of groups, including statements like “Gas the Jews,” and “Kill the Jews.” The only circumstances in which such calls for violence are prohibited (as construed by the courts) are when those statements are liable to cause predictable, imminent, and foreseeable harm to others. That was not the case here. Mashayekh made her statements on social media.

As a private university, USC isn’t required to abide by the First Amendment. But because it espouses free speech in its own principles, see below, it should adhere to the First Amendment and not punish Mashayekh. In fact, USC says that it does adhere to the First Amendment:

From the USC speech policy: (my emphasis):

USC has long had established policies protecting the free speech rights and academic freedom of faculty and students.

In both policy and practice, when USC faculty speak or write as citizens, they are free of institutional censorship or discipline.  And academic freedom at USC protects all faculty. We vigorously defend these principles for faculty of every status and type of appointment.

. . . Our longstanding policies also declare that the University of Southern California is committed to fostering a learning environment where free inquiry and expression are encouraged and celebrated and for which all its members share responsibility. Dissent — disagreement, a difference of opinion, or thinking differently from others — is an integral aspect of expression in higher education, whether it manifests itself in a new and differing theory in quantum mechanics, a personal disagreement with a current foreign policy, opposition to a position taken by the university itself, or by some other means.  The university is a diverse community based on free exchange of ideas and devoted to the use of reason and thought in the resolution of differences.  The university recognizes the crucial importance of preserving First Amendment rights and maintaining open communication and dialogue in the process of identifying and resolving problems which arise in the dynamics of life in a university community.

Now the Jerusalem Post quotes Alan Dershowitz saying there was a violation here:

Even under the US Constitution, Mashayekh’s comments are not protected speech. Harvard Law Prof. Alan Dershowitz stated unequivocally that the comment about killing Zionists “is not protected speech for a university student,” and argued that should USC do nothing, they could be subject to losing federal funding.

I think he’s wrong, even though he’s a real lawyer and I just play one on television.

Should Mashayekh be banned from social media? According to their own principles, they can indeed ban her.  Whether they should do so is a complex question, for I also think that social media should adhere to the First Amendment as far as possible. But since they have the right to ban her, they can and should because her words violate their policies. What the real policies should be is above my pay grade. But the Jerusalem Post goes further, saying that Mashayekh’s statements violate other aspects of USC policy:

First, according to social media hate speech standards, Mashayekh’s comments are absolutely a violation of Twitter’s hate speech policies. Second, at USC, codes of conduct for university students prohibit expressing an intent to “kill” a minority group. For example, Mashayekh’s comments clearly violate the policy on prohibited discrimination, harassment and retaliation, which states, “the University prohibits discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived race, color, ethnicity, religion (including religious dress and grooming practices), creed… political belief or affiliation… and any other class of individuals protected from discrimination under federal, state, or local law, regulation, or ordinance (Protected Characteristics).”

The link to the quote is wrong in the paragraph above; the words are correct but the USC policy is here.  However, spewing hatred on social media does not constitute “discrimination,” “harassment” (which is meant to apply to individuals, not to groups), or “retaliation” (hateful words are not a form of retaliation, as they are not directed towards individuals who harmed Mashayekh). The miscreant was giving her opinion not on campus or at work, but on social media.

Should Mashayekh be fired from her student job?  I think USC did the right thing in transferring her to a different job at the same pay. In that way there was no retaliation, but her hateful behavior was not upholding the tenets of her position and therefore she did not deserve to continue on as a DEI counselor.

Should USC have condemned Mashayekh by naming her? Once again my answer is “no.” She did not violate USC’s speech codes, which are the First Amendment, and therefore condemnation by name or implication is a form of retaliation.

Should USC have called for tolerance and amity towards Jews?  Here I had to stop and think.  But since a divided campus with warring factions of students is not conducive to the function of a University, then yes, I think USC should have reaffirmed its principles of civility, respect, and comity. Everybody would know what this is about. The only other question is whether they should have mentioned the Jews.  This is a two edged sword, for if you just issue a general call for peace, it will offend the group who is seeking redress—the Jewish students, who would ignored or given lower status. On the other hand, if you mention that there is anti-Jewish rancor that impedes the University’s well-being, then all other groups, including Palestinans, will say “Well, why don’t you mention us when there’s anti-Palestinian sentiment?” And they have a point.

However, given the degree of anti-Semitism at USC and how it was inflamed by Mashayekh’s statements, I do think that mentioning the Jewish students as a particular target in a  University statement is warranted, and the right thing to do. That doesn’t mean that everyone should always get such call-outs, as it really depends on the degree of division at the time. A stingle student who complains, for example, does not warrant a University statement calling for people to be nice to him/her.

Whether you agree or not, weigh in below.

Alumni begin withholding donations from universities that suppress free speech or disinvite speakers

December 7, 2021 • 12:30 pm

This article from the “Education” section of the Wall Street Journal is heartening to free-speech advocates like me—and, I hope, us. It turns out that the suppression of speech or disinvitations of speakers on college campuses is beginning to hurt universities where it matters: in their pocketbooks. Increasingly, donors are withholding money to pressure schools to enforce free speech, and urging other alumni to do so as well. Alumni organizations with free-speech ends have formed at Cornell, Davidson, Washington-Lee, and the University of Virginia, among others. Since donations constitute 19% of the budget for student support at nonprofit four-year colleges (and 8% for public research schools), that’s a hefty chunk of change to worry about.

Click on the screenshot to read, or make a judicious inquiry if you’re paywalled.:

I love the story that begins the article:

Two years ago Cornell University asked a California real-estate developer and longtime donor for a seven-figure contribution.

Carl Neuss didn’t write the check immediately, saying he was worried about what he saw as liberal indoctrination on campus and declining tolerance toward competing viewpoints.

To allay Mr. Neuss’s concerns, the development office introduced him to some politically moderate professors, he said. The attempt backfired. The professors, he said, told him they felt humiliated by the diversity training they were required to attend and perpetually afraid they would say something factual—but impolitic.

“If you say the wrong words, you could lose your position or be shunned,” said Mr. Neuss.

Joel Malina, Cornell’s vice president for university relations, said “robust debate and a discussion of all views remain hallmarks of the Cornell experience both in and out of the classroom.”

Mr. Neuss, who graduated from Cornell in 1976, withheld his donation and then helped start the Cornell Free Speech Alliance. It is one of about 20 such dissident alumni organizations that have taken root on college campuses over the last couple of years—including several this fall.

Yes, the withholders and the leaders of these groups are often conservatives or moderates, but if they foster free expression without forcing students to parrot their own less liberal views, I don’t much care. Free speech is the sine qua non of good universities.  While there’s a danger that universities could be swayed towards the political views of big donors, given the liberality of American schools (see below) I don’t see that as a big problem. The more free-speech organizations and the more diverse views they encourage to create debate, the better.

Alongside these groups are non-college-specific free-speech organizations like FIRE and the Academic Freedom Alliance, both nonpartisan and both doing good work. Wokeness and its censoriousness and authoritarianism may still triumph, but it’s good to know that many people are fighting the good fight to maintain free speech, increasingly seen by the woke as incompatible with DEI.

Why are these groups forming? You already know, but here’s what the WSJ says:

The alumni pushback comes as colleges and universities grapple with demands by students, faculty and alumni to battle racism, which many see as a systemic and defining feature of American life. Universities around the country have fired or demoted politically outspoken professors on the right and disinvited conservative speakers who criticize things like the push toward diversity, equity and inclusion.

It’s not just that: more than race is involved, but a whole system of attitudes that, while I generally agree with them, have become dogmatic and rigid, which also stifles free speech, and go to extremes that can even force centrist liberals towards the right. While i don’t approve of the “watch lists” of liberal professors that some of these organizations compile, nor share the view that “This is a battle for Western civilization”, expressed by one professor, I may be too sanguine about the latter.  I sometimes wonder that if I could foresee what American universities will be like like in 30 years, I’d be horrified.

Anyway, there’s no doubt that the present woke climate on many campuses is causing both faculty and students to self censor. Study after study shows that. Here are some data:

Some students are caught in the middle. More than 80% said they self-censor at least some of the time on campus, according to a survey this year by RealClearEducation, College Pulse and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which covered more than 37,000 students enrolled at 159 colleges.

 

 

The “teach Maori other ways of knowing in science class” fracas continues; Richard Dawkins weighs in

December 4, 2021 • 12:00 pm

As I wrote yesterday, a big woke fracas is brewing in New Zealand, with the universities and government on the side of the woke, and the science professors (by and large) on the side of the angels. Since my piece appeared, I’ve gotten half a dozen emails from academics in New Zealand, objecting to the University of Auckland’s new policy to teach Maori “ways of knowing”, which include creationism, alongside modern “real” science—and in science class!  This all started last summer, and is still going on.

This notion of “different but equal ways of knowing” is palpably ridiculous, and while I don’t want to denigrate the Maori people or the efforts that both Maori and New Zealanders are making to achieve harmony, I cannot abide the insistence that Maori “wisdom,” which is a combination of mythology, religion, and questionable assertions about the Universe, to be taught as scientific truth. As the saying goes, “You are entitled to your opinions, but you’re not entitled to your own facts.” Clearly, this drive to incorporate indigenous beliefs into the science curriculum is part of an effort of the government and universities to placate and make reparations to the Maori, who were badly treated by European colonists. I applaud the drive for comity, but I deplore those who want to replace modern science with a melange of myths and faith. Yes, “indigenous knowledge” can be valuable, but its claims must always be tested using modern science.

The misguided effort to teach Maori indigenous knowledge as coequal with science will not only confuse the Maori (and everyone else!), but disadvantage those who embrace indigenous ways of knowing. Suppose, for example, that a Maori teenager wants to be a physicist. Well, there are no positions for “physicists doing Maori string theory”; there are only positions for physicists. There is no Maori physics or American physics or Indian physics, there is just “modern physics”.

I also wrote yesterday that seven academics from the University of Auckland wrote a short piece in The Listener (read it here), objecting to the insertion of Maori Matauranga (ways of knowing) into science curricula. Instead of their fellow academics defending them, the “Satanic Seven,” as I call them, have been demonized. Their jobs have been threatened, the Vice Chancellor of Auckland University has said the seven don’t adhere to the University’s “values,” and two of them are being threatened with expulsion from New Zealand’s Royal Society.

Here’s the message that Vice Chancellor Dawn Freshwater sent to the University of Auckland community, noting the equivalence of Maori and scientific “ways of knowing” and—playing the ultimate trump card—claiming that denying that Maori “ways of knowing” constitute science has “caused considerable hurt and dismay among our staff, students, and alumni.” I hate to be brutal here, but that hurt and dismay counts for nothing in this debate. The issue is about what is true, what is not true, and how to find the truth. (Click to enlarge).

This antiscience drive, in the service of good intentions but deeply misguided, must be stopped. If you want to see what Kiwi scientists are up against, read this piece (click on the screenshot):

Here’s just a bit:

Secondary science teachers may believe that teaching science through the scientific method aligns with tertiary science education, making a strong rationale for them to reject the proposed changes. But this belief is flawed on two grounds: first, since contemporary philosophy of science accepts that there is no one ‘scientific method’ (Okasha, 2016); and second, because tertiary science educators are also under pressure to introduce Māori knowledge into their curricula, and may well expect their secondary school colleagues to share this responsibility. The next section considers how science teachers could respond to the challenge represented by these changes in relation to each of the three Māori concepts in the titles shown above.

. . . . We argue that the introduction of carefully selected Māori concepts in NCEA Science is a positive move. It challenges deeply-held teacher assumptions about science and Māori knowledge, and encourages science teachers to consider the philosophy of science in more depth. On its own, such a change cannot overcome the entire history of lack of Māori participation and achievement in science education, but it is an innovative and interesting way to bring Māori concepts into school science. Arguably it does so in a more meaningful way than ‘translating’ science into Māori, which means the invention of a pressure-cooked lexicon (Stewart, 2011).

There’s a lot more, and I won’t go into the details, but suffice it to say that a lot of involves forcing Maori concepts into the Procrustean bed of modern science through selective interpretation. (One also sees this in the ways some Muslims claim that the Qur’an anticipates all of modern science.) It is a mess.  Maori anthropology and sociology should of course be taught to all Kiwis, for the colonial and Maori cultures are trying to effect rapprochement, and Maori culture is very deeply embedded in “colonial” culture. But there should be no compromise when it comes to teaching science.

One way to stop this insidious debasement of science is for the international community to call out New Zealand for what it’s doing. That is the route Richard Dawkins has taken, and more power to him. First he issued this tweet after he read my piece from yesterday:

And yes, write to Roger Ridley at the NZ Royal Society (he’s the chief executive) objecting to its contemplation of ejecting two scientists who signed this reasonable letter. Richard gives the email above, and I put up the letter I wrote to Ridley yesterday (bottom of post). I urge you to drop just a short email in defense of science, for I think it will have an effect.

Richard has also written to Ridley directly, and has given me permission to reproduce his email. Here it is:

Dear Dr Ridley:

I have read Professor Jerry Coyne’s long, detailed and fair-minded critique of the ludicrous move to incorporate Maori “ways of knowing” into science curricula in New Zealand, and the frankly appalling failure of the Royal Society of New Zealand to stand up for science – which is, after all, what your Society exists to do.

https://whyevolutionistrue.com/2021/12/03/ways-of-knowing-new-zealand-pushes-to-have-indigenous-knowledge-mythology-taught-on-parity-with-modern-science-in-science-class/

The world is full of thousands of creation myths and other colourful legends, any of which might be taught alongside Maori myths. Why choose Maori myths? For no better reason than that Maoris arrived in New Zealand a few centuries before Europeans. That would be a good reason to teach Maori mythology in anthropology classes. Arguably there’s even better reason for Australian schools to teach the myths of their indigenous peoples, who arrived tens of thousands of years before Europeans. Or for British schools to teach Celtic myths. Or Anglo-Saxon myths. But no indigenous myths from anywhere in the world, no matter how poetic or hauntingly beautiful, belong in science classes. Science classes are emphatically not the place to teach scientific falsehoods alongside true science. Creationism is still bollocks even it is indigenous bollocks.

The Royal Society of New Zealand, like the Royal Society of which I have the honour to be a Fellow, is supposed to stand for science. Not “Western” science, not “European” science, not “White” science, not “Colonialist” science. Just science. Science is science is science, and it doesn’t matter who does it, or where, or what “tradition” they may have been brought up in. True science is evidence-based not tradition-based; it incorporates safeguards such as peer review, repeated experimental testing of hypotheses, double-blind trials, instruments to supplement and validate fallible senses etc. True science works: lands spacecraft on comets, develops vaccines against plagues, predicts eclipses to the nearest second, reconstructs the lives of extinct species such as the tragically destroyed Moas.

If New Zealand’s Royal Society won’t stand up for true science in your country who will? What else is the Society for? What else is the rationale for its existence?

Yours very sincerely
Richard Dawkins FRS
Emeritus Professor of the Public Understanding of Science, University of Oxford

 

Atlantic article on why universities shouldn’t make official political or ideological statements

November 27, 2021 • 11:45 am

I swear, maybe I should try writing some of my website posts as articles for magazines, where I could actually get paid.  It’s not that I need the dosh, but getting a check is a special form of love in return for one’s words.  Don’t worry, though, I’ll never monetize this site.

The reason I thought about this is because monetized sites, like the Atlantic piece below by Conor Friedersdorf, often have articles about the very same topics I’ve written about days before. You’ll know about the several posts I’ve done about universities like UC Irvine and UC Santa Cruz making unwarranted statements about the Rittenhouse verdict (opposing it because it’s supposed to be an instantiation of “white supremacy”), when they should not be making any official statements at all.  Such statements violate the spirit of the University of Chicago’s “Kalven Report”, which prohibits my university from making official statements about any ideological, political, or moral issues unless they directly impact the mission of the university.  Why? I’ll reiterate what I wrote a week ago:

There are actually two principles of free speech that should be proclaimed and adhered to by every college and university in America, whether they be private or public. (Religious schools, of course, must exempt themselves.)

1.) There must be freedom of speech for all as that freedom is described by the First Amendment and construed by the courts.

2.) The university must remove itself from making official pronouncements on morality, ideology, or politics, except when those statements affect issues that could impinge on the mission of the university itself: teaching, debating, and learning.

The second principle is there to protect the first one. For if the University makes political statements, like the one we’ll discuss today, that chills or quashes the speech of other people who might fear punishment from the administration for their opposing stands.  If an administrative or departmental website puts out a statement supporting the goals of Black Lives Matter, or that the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict demonstrates white supremacy in action, or that science is structurally racist and misogynist, what student or untenured professor is going to contradict that in public?  We already know that about 55% of college students feel that the climate on their campus prevents them from saying things they believe. That goes for professors as well, though the percentage would be lower. Ideally, the figure should be 0%.

The University of Chicago has adopted both of these principles. The first is the famous 2014 “Report on the Committee of Free Expression” headed by Law Professor Geoffrey Stone, with the committee convened by the then President Robert Zimmer. Now called the “Chicago Principles“, the statement has been adopted in its entirety or near-entirety by over 80 American colleges and universities.

Now if I’d had the gumption, I’d have proposed a piece on Kalven and its violation by Rittenhouse-dissing universities. Sadly, the laws of physics prevented me. However, they didn’t prevent Friedersdorf, who undoubtedly got a big wad of green stuff for the piece below (click on screenshot). However, I’m not all that jealous because a.) he did a much more thorough job than I of collecting statements and parsing their meaning, and b.) He’s a better writer than I. So read the article (it’s free); you will find even more examples of miscreant university administrators, though his conclusion is the same as mine: universities should abide by the Kalven Report:

Friedersdorf summarizes several places where administrators issued negative statements on the Rittenhouse aquittal; these include UC Santa Cruz, UC Irvine, and the “progressive” New School, whose President, Dwight McBride, published an official statement that violates Kalven seven ways from Sunday. Friedersdorf’s take on McBride:

At the New School, McBride described a starkly different ethos:

I don’t know immediately how to parse the Rittenhouse verdict at a university where students, faculty, and staff work so tirelessly and passionately for social justice. Therein may lie the answer in this moment: when we don’t know yet what to say, let’s take solace in each other. Let’s unite in our shared commitments and values. I am grateful to be part of this community that is so driven to confront inequality, unpack systemic racism, challenge oppression, and create positive change.

Tellingly, McBride continued:

While we don’t know what to say, we know what to do, which is to act to build stronger communities, unite amongst ourselves, and use our scholarship and research in service of social justice.

He’s not calling for searching, candid discussion among people with diverse views. He’s presuming that the community is united in one collective view––and, what’s more, that the community is somehow united both in not knowing what to say and in knowing what to do about it! And what about professors and students who disagree that the verdict was unjust, or feel upset by inaccuracies in media coverage, or believe that Rittenhouse was a victim of prosecutorial misconduct, or worry that widespread criticism of the verdict is undermining the jury system?

Now deans and departments at my own University of Chicago have issued similar verboten political statements, though none that I know of about Rittenhouse. They’ve concentrated on systemic racism, and they all violate the Kalven Report. In that sense we’re hypocrites, for while ex-President Bob Zimmer recently reaffirmed that departments of our University cannot issue such official political statements, they’ve done it anyway, and the administration is too timorous to order these statements removed.

If nothing is done, the University of Chicago will go the torturous way of the New School and the University of California campuses, issuing statement after statement that gives “official” positions or, like the New School’s statement, tells all the students what they do or must believe and how they must act.  Parents of prospective students, I think, won’t be keen to send their parents to such woke schools, for they’ll get no instruction about what free speech means, much less how to exercise it.  And I’m sad because the unique aspect of the University of Chicago: it’s near-absolute encouragement of free speech, will erode away to nothing.

Those “official” statements are unnecessary anyway. Their main (if not only) purpose is to affirm the virtue of the writer by setting out ideological and behavioral principles that jibe with the progressive Zeitgeist. By doing that, though, they’re chilling the speech of anybody who thinks that, for example, the Rittenhouse verdict was correct. The uselessness of these statements is limned by both Friedersdorf and Glenn Loury:

But most top-down proclamations from administrators are unnecessary: As the Brown University professor Glenn Loury explained last year, they either affirm platitudes or present arguable positions as certainties. “We, the faculty, are the only ‘leaders’ worthy of mention when it comes to the realm of ideas,” he insisted. “Why must this university’s senior administration declare, on behalf of the institution as a whole and with one voice, that they unanimously—without any subtle differences of emphasis or nuance—interpret contentious current events through a single lens?”

It really is crazy—and totally unnecessary. Professors and administrators can write their own personal statements on websites and the like—that is free speech. But they need not, and should not, present those opinions as official views of their universities.

So I echo, and have anticipated, Friedersdorf’s conclusions, which are that universities should adhere to the Kalven principles. The Atlantic has a huge and intelligent audience, and though the Chicago Principles of Free Speech are widely known—and have been adopted by over 80 American universities—the Kalven Report is much less known, and Friedersdorf sets out its history as well as its principles. The report is here, and every university that has adopted the Chicago Principles of Free Speech should also adopt the Kalven Principles. They are simply two arms of the same endeavor: to allow free speech without intimidation. Friedersdorf has one a service by simply bringing this issue to the nation’s attention. But of course administrators at schools like Williams, Berkeley, and Santa Cruz simply can’t restrain themselves from weighing in on politics, thereby making themselves look empathic and sensitive.

Friedersdorf’s beginning:

At universities, the recent acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse should be an opportunity to study a divisive case that sparked complex debates about issues as varied as self-defense laws, guns, race, riots, the rights of defendants, prosecutorial missteps, media bias, and more. If administrators were doing their jobs, faculty and students would freely air a wide variety of viewpoints and have opportunities to better understand one another’s diverse perspectives. Instead, many administrators are preemptively imposing their preferred narratives.

And his ending:

Indeed, there are as many different views of what’s wrong in the world as there are individuals on a campus. People also differ widely in which news events, if any, they find upsetting. Students and faculty should challenge university leaders who, as if speaking for their entire communities, put forth subjective assessments and notions of what everyone else thinks or “must” do. These administrators tell the group what they think it wants to hear, create incentives for people to hide other views, and harm everyone’s ability to inquire and to learn from one another.

I wish that all the readers who fight for free speech at universities would also fight for the prevention of official statements on politics and ideology by those schools which, by giving “official views”, chill everyone’s speech. We already know that many professors and students—more than half of the latter in the U.S.—are intimidated from speaking freely about certain topics. That’s no way to get an education, much less produce a good citizen.

Two more university deans (at Princeton and NYU) condemn the Rittenhouse verdict

November 25, 2021 • 11:30 am

Well, you’re going to have to rely on two conservative sites for this news.  The first site is The College Fix, a right-wing venue that reports about campus follies, usually of the woke genre. The other is another conservative site, Newsmax.  Together, they report the third and fourth instances I know about of a college administration going beyond the bounds by officially condemning the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse. (The previous two colleges were the University of California at Irvine, whose Vice-Chancellor first kvetched about the verdict before apologizing for opening his yap, and The University of Caifornia at Santa Cruz, whose two administrators—the Chancellor and the director of DEI—haven’t retracted their condemnation.) The Fix appears to have gotten its information about Princeton from Newsmax.

UCI and UCSC are very good schools, and both are public. Administrators are not supposed to make public statements about jury verdicts—especially when the verdict might have been correct—lest they chill the speech of the many people who likely took issue with the administrators’ opinion.

Be that as it may, this is all part of universities’ attempts to flaunt their virtue by appearing to take sides with the black protestors in Kenosha who, they think, were allies to the three white people whom Rittenhouse shot.  There is no explanation I can see other than that these universities want to be seen as being “on the right side of history”, in solidarity with the students.

At any rate, both The College Fix and Newsmax report that a dean at a tony private school—none other than Princeton University—sent out an email to students and faculty condemning the verdict and implying that it reeks of racism and white supremacy. The administrator was Amaney Jamal, recently appointed as dean of Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs.  Newsmax doesn’t give the full text of her email, but The College Fix does. Here’s the email Jamal reportedly sent out:

Dear SPIA [School of Public and International Affairs] community,

Last August, Kyle Rittenhouse shot and killed two protestors and wounded a third in Kenosha, Wisconsin. During his trial, he emotionally broke down on the stand, saying he was acting in self-defense. Today, he was acquitted of all six charges against him, including three of which were homicide related.

My heart feels heavy as I write this. As dean of a School of Public and International Affairs, I believe people have a right to assembly. I also believe that, during events like the protests following the shooting of Jacob Blake, it is the job of formal law enforcement bodies — not individual citizens —to ensure public safety. I fail to comprehend the idea of a minor vigilante carrying a semi-automatic rifle across state lines, killing two people, and being declared innocent by the U.S. justice system. Yesterday’s ruling sets a dangerous precedent.

Rittenhouse is not a racial minority, and some would say this is another example of biases and leniencies embedded within the justice system. That may be true. What we do know without a doubt is there are racial inequities in nearly every strand of the American fabric. Today’s verdict employs me to ask you — our current and future public servants — to investigate our policies and practices within the justice system and beyond. How can we use evidence-based research in pursuit of the public good? What role do we play, and what obligation do we have to serve?

It feels like an immeasurable, daunting task. I’m sure there are days in which you feel like giving up. In those moments, remember: Democracy is not a guarantee. We must always act with our feet, evoke change with action. We must always remain part of the policy solution. People. Policy. Progress. This is the basic order of our work. In between is passion, grit, tenacity. It is our moral duty to support and advance public policy that makes the world better.

Resources are available for our students. Sue Kim, our TigerWell outreach counselor, is available for virtual drop-in visits. Dr. David Campbell from Counseling and Psychological Services will host a virtual space for SPIA students to process the Rittenhouse Trial on Monday, November 22 at 5:00pm ET. …

With regards,
Amaney

Note the familiar use of Jamal’s first name, noted previously as a likely tactic for expressing “allyship” with the students.  More important, note how she racializes the event, claiming that Rittenhouse (or the judge or jury) may well have been racially biased (there was a “juror of color” on the Rittenhouse trial). She then moves on to the structural racism of America as a whole, and tells the students what they need to do to fix, which is not only something she should be doing, but also infantilizes the students—as if they don’t know that it would be good if they improved the world. But what if some of them want to become hedge fund managers? It is this call to action that violates Princeton’s policy of free speech, as students should be free from such incitements.  Princeton is not supposed to instill morality and ideology in its students; it’s supposed to teach them things and teach them to think.  Then can then make their own decisions.

Note the offer of counseling and a “virtual space to process the Rittenhouse Trial”.   The students are once again being treated like small children.

Finally, “Amaney” should not be questioning a verdict that she blatantly calls a “dangerous precedent”. Precedent for what? Apparently for letting white supremacists off the hook. She wasn’t in the courtroom, she wasn’t on the jury, and she apparently doesn’t understand that the law was applied as it was written.  She also doesn’t know that Rittenhouse did not carry a semi-automatic rifle across state lines. Perhaps owning one (which was legal) shouldn’t be permitted (which is what I believe), but then she should go after the gun laws.

The two reports are at the screenshots below, and I’ll add any useful information they provide:

Newsmax:

du Quenoy has a few questions for Dean Jamal.

Does she believe that Rittenhouse was “declared innocent by the U.S. justice system,” or did she “fail to comprehend” what really happened – that he was found “not guilty” in a trial by a jury of his peers?

As dean of a public affairs school, has she read the U.S. Constitution, including its Second Amendment?

Is she aware that U.S. citizens do, in fact, have the right to keep and bear arms, and to defend themselves and others with deadly force in a plethora of circumstances, particularly when they are violently attacked?

Does she know that our “right of assembly” does not grant anyone a right to destroy property, threaten bodily harm, hit people with skateboards, or hold pistols to their heads – all of which happened to Rittenhouse in the minutes before he pulled the trigger of his AR-15?

Does she realize that calling Rittenhouse a “vigilante,” especially after he was found not guilty on all counts, and falsely claiming that he carried his gun across state lines, exposes her and her university to potential defamation claims?

Do we know “without a doubt” that “racial inequities” figure “in nearly every strand of the American fabric?”

Many disagree, even if, as Jamal is undoubtedly aware, disagreeing on Princeton’s campus can result in baleful consequences, against which the traditional hallmarks of academic freedom are no shield.

Which “policies and practices” does she want her students to “investigate?” Open jury trials? Constitutional liberties? Rights of self-defense? Due process? Presumption of innocence?

and so on.

The College Fix:

The College Fix reports on other college follies around the Rittenhouse affair; I didn’t know of these:

The scholar is not the only one within academia to be voicing alarm over the verdict.

As The College Fix reported today, controversial Rutgers University professor Brittney Cooper had said the Rittenhouse verdict was a sign of “which version of whiteness” America wants. When discussing the fact that the men Rittenhouse shot were white, she said there “have always been white victims of white supremacy.”

At Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts, administrators scheduled “virtual and in-person physical” spaces for students who needed to process the Rittenhouse verdict. The spaces are segregated by the students’ color, with white and students of color being asked to attend separate “processing spaces.”

At New York University, Dean Neil Guterman issued a statement saying the school’s social work scholars, teachers, and learners “stand in solidarity with those protesting against racial injustice, and share the pain at the outcome of the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse.”

Brittney Cooper, whoever she is, does have the right to express her viewpoint so long as it’s stated as her personal opinion and not as an institutional statement. (I haven’t seen it). But Fitchburg State and now New York University have broadcast official opinions, which isn’t kosher.  Further, I easily found the statement of Dean Guterman on the internet. It is is official and also unwarranted. To wit (bolding is mine):

NYU Silver Dean Neil B. Guterman sent the following message to students, faculty, staff, and alumni on November 22, 2021.

To Members of the Silver Community:

As a community of social work scholars, teachers, and learners, we stand in solidarity with those protesting against racial injustice, and share the pain at the outcome of the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, who, at 17 years old with an AR-15-style semi-automatic gun, shot and killed Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum, and injured Gaige Grosskreutz during protests of the shooting of Black Kenosha, WI resident Jacob Blake. The acquittal verdict is reminiscent of George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the killing of Trayvon Martin, and once again lays bare the unequal and pernicious way our justice system permits and indeed enables deadly shootings. We also stand in solidarity with the Arbery family as we near a verdict in the trial of Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael, and William Bryan, who shot and killed Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed Black man in Georgia. Our profession stands for the promotion of all forms of social justice, protection of life, equal treatment, and we must continue to advocate against all forms of state sanctioned violence.

[JAC note: There was no state sanctioned violence in either the Rittenhouse case or the murder of Ahmaud Arbery.]

Such visible instances in the media can understandably be distressing — particularly for our BIPOC colleagues and other members of our community from marginalized groups. Given this and the many other challenges of the day, I encourage our community to find ways to come together to give and receive support from one another at this time, and in the coming days. NYU offers a number of resources to help community members care for themselves in difficult times like this.

  • Students may access the NYU Wellness Exchange to talk with a counselor 24/7 via phone (212) 443-9999, chat through the Wellness Exchange app, or by stopping by during their virtual drop-in hours.
  • Faculty and staff may contact the Employee Assistance Program (Optum) 24/7 at (888) 980-8740 and via chat in their app. Dr. Bob Talbot, NYU’s onsite EAP consultant, is also available as a resource.
  • Students, faculty, and staff seeking spiritual support may connect with a Spiritual Life Advisor through NYU Global Spiritual Life during their virtual office hours.

I am thinking of you all as we process this latest injustice and redouble our commitment to advance social justice and racial equity.

Neil B. Guterman
Dean and Paulette Goddard Professor

Lord, I don’t know what happened to American colleges, but they’re apparently full of adnministrator-cowards who are afraid of being mobbed by Social Justice.

 

h/t: Bill