Posts Tagged ‘colleges and universities’

Does the AAUP approve of FOIA-ing professors’ emails?

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]

Schools roundup

  • 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]

Schools roundup

  • 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]

Schools roundup

Patrick Witt’s story: “A sexual harassment policy that nearly ruined my life”

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.

Schools roundup

  • 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]

California sex-consent law: an “engineer’s solution”

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.

More on that California college sex law

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.

“Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity…”

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.