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colleges and universities

That’s National Public Radio, summarizing a new report from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics that tells a very different story from the “1 in 5″ campus sexual assault slogan heard from the White House on down. Earlier here, etc.

P.S. Cato has now posted my Commentary article from last year on federal pressure for universities to reduce the procedural rights of accused students and faculty.

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Should we cheer or boo when outspoken professors at state universities become the target of public records demands filed by antagonists seeking their emails and correspondence? As we had occasion to note during the Douglas Laycock controversy in May and June, there’s plenty of inconsistency on this question on both left and right. Some who cheer FOIA requests when aimed at scholars supportive of the environmental and labor movements, for example, later deplore them as harassment when the tables are turned, and vice versa.

If there’s any group you might expect to take a consistent position on these questions, it’s the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), its members being prospective targets of such requests and thus at the very center of the issue. So what’s their opinion?

In 2011, when politically liberal University of Wisconsin historian William Cronon was the target of a FOIA request by state Republicans, AAUP sent a strongly worded letter on its letterhead denouncing the move as a threat to academic freedom. The group likewise came to the defense of environmentalists targeted by conservatives.

This spring, an AAUP document on “Academic Freedom and Electronic Communications” (see pp. 12-14) was moderately critical of FOIA requests targeting University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus and his journal editor over a much-criticized study providing social conservatives with ammunition against changes in family law favorable toward gays. Since no one suspects the AAUP’s leadership of sympathy with the content of Regnerus’s work, this suggested that the skepticism toward FOIA might be founded on principle.

Not long afterward, however, when prominent (and politically unclassifiable) University of Virginia law professor Doug Laycock came under FOIA attack from gay rights activists who disapproved of his courtroom work on religious liberties, the AAUP was quoted in the press talking in a more vague and reticent way of “balance” and saying it weighs in on particular controversies rather than taking general stands.

Now turn to the University of Kansas, where Art Hall, executive director of the Center for Applied Economics at Kansas University’s business school is under FOIA attack, accused of being too close to the free-market economics favored by donors from the Koch family of Wichita (who have also given much support over the years to the Cato Institute, which publishes this site). So what do you know? The state AAUP chapter is actually leading the charge against Hall, its members have raised funds to support the public records demand, and its state president vocally insists that there’s no danger whatsoever to academic freedom in allowing, as a group once put it, “fleeting, often casual e-mail exchanges among scholars to be opened to inspection by groups bent on political attack.”

You might start to wonder whether the AAUP is going to hold to any consistent position at all beyond the convenience of the moment. (& George Leef, Phi Beta Cons; reprinted at Minding the Campus) Update: Judge halts process to review proposed email release [Will Creeley, FIRE]

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Schools roundup

by Walter Olson on December 8, 2014

  • National Education Association has spent estimated $35 million on politics this year [Jason Hart, Watchdog]
  • Not everyone in academia admires the federal law entitling tenured professors to stay on “until they’re carried out of the classroom on a gurney” [Laurie Fendrich, Chronicle of Higher Ed; my earlier]
  • Montgomery County, Md.: “The School Religious Holidays Problem is Really a Public Schooling Problem” [Neal McCluskey]
  • “Concussion Lawsuits Hit High School Level” [AP; Cook County, Ill.]
  • Reminder: much-quoted “one in five college women is raped” statistic is not real [Christina Sommers, Time; the Washington Post's contribution (not to forget this); and a very important new piece by Emily Yoffe in Slate]
  • Ousting bad cops, ousting bad teachers: parallel obstacles [RiShawn Biddle, Dropout Nation]
  • George Leef on federal pressures behind Minneapolis school-discipline initiative [Forbes, earlier here and here]
  • DoJ “feigning concern about access for disabled children” in suit challenging Wisconsin school choice [George Will]

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Schools roundup

by Walter Olson on November 21, 2014

  • UCLA admins grovel, humiliate veteran profs over charges of “microaggression” [Heather Mac Donald, City Journal] Meanwhile, this piece on overuse of disability card/trigger warnings in academic settings has already gotten labeled #AbleistAbuse so read at own risk [June Thunderstorm, The Baffler]
  • Toughened D.C. truancy laws “flooding schools with paperwork and pushing tardy students into the criminal justice system” [WP]
  • Polite opinion beginning to turn in favor of procedural protections for accused in campus sex cases? [Ruth Marcus, Washington Post] Richard Painter: accused minorities may be at disadvantage under new house rules [Legal Ethics Forum]
  • Schoolboy hurts himself opening emergency exit at back of bus, lawsuit follows [NY Daily News]
  • Union fines Nassau Community College adjuncts for not “supporting” strike, including one who was on leave at time [Newsday] P.S. Union situation over at Rockland Community College has its own problems;
  • Before registering for classes, students at some universities must submit to Title IX training with wildly intrusive personal questions [Susan Fruth, FIRE]
  • Summary of Eric Hanushek’s expert report in Texas school finance case [Texas Public Policy Foundation]

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Schools roundup

by Walter Olson on November 12, 2014

Under pressure from federal Title IX enforcers, universities have been weakening the procedural protections for accused students who seek a chance to respond to the charges against them. As a result, cases like that of Yale athlete Patrick Witt will become more frequent. [Boston Globe; my Commentary piece a year and a half ago] A contrasting view: Christina Stoneburner.

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Schools roundup

by Walter Olson on October 7, 2014

  • New report: “Schools Cut Back as Litigation Costs Eat into Budgets” [California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, PDF] “Swings too dangerous for Washington schools” [AP; Richland, Wash.]
  • “Appeals Court Ruling Paves Way for Gender Quotas in High School Sports” [Saving Sports, Ninth Circuit on Title IX] More: Alison Somin [Ollier v. Sweetwater Union School District]
  • “College and university administrators demolishing freedom of religion and association” [Bainbridge]
  • “Grenade Launchers: The Newest Must-Have School Supply” [Jason Bedrick/Cato, earlier]
  • “It was against the school policy for elementary kids to have Chapstick” [Amy Alkon; Augusta County, Va.] “Mom Tells Therapist About Briefly Leaving Kids Alone, Shrink Calls Cops” [Lenore Skenazy]
  • Disability and school discipline: “Wondering why a preschooler would ever need to be suspended? Here’s an explanation.” [Amy Rothschild, Greater Greater Washington]
  • Civic education needed: some Greendale, Wisc. parents and educators wonder why non-parents are allowed to vote on school matters [Lenore Skenazy]

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“A federal judge in Southern California on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit that John Wayne Enterprises filed against Duke University in North Carolina. …The university objected last year when Wayne’s heirs tried to register the name ‘Duke’ to market bourbon and other alcoholic beverages.” [AP, earlier]

From rxc in comments:

The engineer’s solution:

Everyone who participates in the regulated activity needs to purchase a simple push-button device which controls a separate panel with a red light and a green light. During the regulated activity, each participant must hold down the button on the controller that illuminates the green light, which shall remain visible to the other party(ies) at all times. If, at any time, a participant releases this button, the green light goes off, and a red light comes on. Optionally, a siren could start to sound, to summon outside assistance.

These days, with Wifi and Bluetooth, I bet you could make the controller wireless and small enough to easily hold in one hand, leaving the other hand free for other activites…

I bet the Chinese could get something set up in a few weeks, and have it in stores by Xmas!

Failure to use such a device is cause to dismiss later allegations that consent was not given.

Batteries not included.

Earlier on the California law here and here.

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Hans Bader has some clarification on one issue on which there’s been widespread confusion, on which the California law does not go to the extreme some would have liked [San Francisco Chronicle letter to the editor; earlier]:

“New law redefines consent at college” (Sept. 29) claimed that California’s new “affirmative consent” law regulating college sex “says that a person cannot give consent if they are intoxicated.” But it does not say this. What it actually says is that “consent” is absent when “the complainant was incapacitated” due to alcohol.

Most intoxicated people are not legally deemed “incapacitated” and can consent, as law professor Anne Coughlin and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education have noted.

Many happily married people have sex after drinking. While some liberal Democrats who sponsored SB967 wanted to ban sex between intoxicated people, the final version of the bill does not do so.

Admittedly, the new law is disturbingly vague in other ways. Its co-sponsor, Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), said, “Your guess is as good as mine,” when asked how an innocent person could prove “affirmative” consent.

Hans Bader, Washington, D.C.

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California regulates college sex, in a law just signed by Gov. Brown and applying to campuses that accept state money. Key passages:

It is the responsibility of each person involved in the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the affirmative consent of the other or others to engage in the sexual activity. … Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time. The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.

Earlier here. More: K.C. Johnson on the very bad coverage in the New York Times, and less bad coverage in The Nation. And it’s totally reassuring that a Slate writer who won fame insisting on the guilt of the Duke lacrosse guys is being cited as an authority on why there’s no need to worry about the new California law.

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At least per this apparently official page from the University of Michigan; one hopes the institution is not planning to incorporate those notions into its (federally shaped) student discipline policies. [College Fix]

P.S. Related on “campus rape culture” furor: Cathy Young/Slate, Coyote, Scott Greenfield.

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Labor roundup

by Walter Olson on August 28, 2014

  • What’s wrong with the NLRB attack on McDonald’s franchising, cont’d [On Labor, earlier here, here, etc.]
  • Postal union calls in American Federation of Teachers, other public employee unions to kill Staples postal partnership plan [Huffington Post]
  • U.S. Department of Labor uses coercive hot-goods orders to arm-twist blueberry farmers, judges say no [Jared Meyer, Econ21 and Salem Statesman-Journal]
  • “Watch Closely Obama’s Treatment of Unions” [Diana Furchtgott-Roth] “Obama ‘Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces’ Executive Order Will Punish Firms in Pro-Worker States” [Hans Bader, CEI]
  • Judge: massive document request signals NLRB’s emergence as litigation arm, and co-organizer, of unions [Sean Higgins, Examiner] Wobblies on top: NLRB sides with IWW workers over poster claiming eatery’s food was unsafe [Minneapolis Star-Tribune, earlier]
  • Academic debate on union issues already wildly lopsided, union-backed labor history curriculum unlikely to help [Alex Bolt, Workplace Choice]
  • Turning unionism into a protected-class category in parallel with discrimination law is one of the worst ideas ever [Jon Hyman, earlier here, etc.]

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Back to school roundup

by Walter Olson on August 25, 2014

  • Pending California bill would impose “affirmative consent” requirement on sex between students at colleges that receive state funding [Elizabeth Nolan Brown/Dish] “New Startup Connects Students With a Lawyer the Minute They Get In Trouble” [The College Fix] Yale vs. wrongly accused males [KC Johnson/Minding the Campus, related on due process] Provision in proposed “Campus Accountability and Safety Act” (CASA) would incentivize fining colleges by letting Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights keep the proceeds [Hans Bader; more on CASA] Idea that campuses are gripped by “rape culture” having wide-ranging effects, even off campus [Bader, Examiner]
  • Not only that, but the body was missing: “HS student says he was arrested for killing dinosaur in class assignment” [Summerville, S.C.; WCSC]
  • Is Mayor de Blasio really willing to sacrifice NYC select schools like Bronx Science and Stuyvesant in the name of equality? [Dennis Saffran, City Journal]
  • Administration trying to hold for-profit colleges to standard few public colleges could meet [WaPo editorial]
  • Progress of a sort: UC San Diego “has determined that most projects by historians and journalists need not be submitted to the IRB [institutional review board].” [Zachary Schrag; related speech]
  • “At Appomattox County [Va.] High School, the staff spent the summer changing its block-letter ‘A’ logo on everything from sticky notes to uniforms after the licensing agency representing the University of Arizona sent the school a cease-and-desist letter claiming potential confusion among consumers.” [Washington Post Magazine]
  • “Fifth Circuit Disobeyed Supreme Court in Allowing Racial Preferences at UT-Austin” [Ilya Shapiro, Cato]
  • Note that the pile-up of parking signs at a Culver City school is still “towering and confusing” even in the “after” photo following response to complaints [L.A. Times via Virginia Postrel]

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Through the actions of multiple federal agencies — the Department of Education, Securities and Exchange Commission, and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — the Obama Administration has succeeded in wiping out a major for-profit education provider with thousands of employees and 72,000 students, all without bringing a legal charge. Imagine what they could have done if they’d filed charges [WSJ editorial]

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KC Johnson is closing his definitive blog on the Duke lacrosse case and its aftermath, and reflects on it all in this final essay.

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Schools roundup

by Walter Olson on July 18, 2014

  • Harris v. Quinn aftermath: California teacher’s suit might tee up renewed challenge to Abood [Rebecca Friedrichs, earlier here, here, etc.] Recalling when CTA spent its members money trying to convince them their voting preferences were wrong [Mike Antonucci]
  • Calcasieu parish school board in Louisiana votes to stop paying insurance on student athletics [AP/EdWeek]
  • “Maryland Tested Kids on Material It No Longer Teaches, Guess What Happened?” [Robby Soave, Common Core transition]
  • Sexual harassment training of college faculty: a professor talks back [Mark Graber, Balkinization]
  • Eighth Circuit orders new trial in Teresa Wagner’s lawsuit charging Iowa Law discriminated against her because of her conservative views [Paul Caron/TaxProf, earlier]
  • “The 4 NYC teachers banned from classrooms who rake in millions” [Susan Edelman, New York Post] Adventures in Bronx teacher tenure [New York Daily News]
  • New Jersey: “Expensive New School Security System Traps Teacher in Bathroom” [Lenore Skenazy, Reason]

Duking it out

by Walter Olson on July 10, 2014

Duke University and the heirs of the late actor John Wayne have been fighting in court for nearly a decade over trademark/licensing rights to the word “Duke” [Eriq Gardner, The Hollywood Reporter]

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