Posts Tagged ‘Oregon’

Pronoun prescription and co-workers’ rights

We earlier this year noted the New York City Human Rights Commission guidance directing that businesses may be fined if they do not use customers’ desired pronouns in relation to questions of gender, including preferred usages such as “ze” and “hir.” Now Eugene Volokh, who wrote about the earlier story, points out a recent Oregon settlement in which pronoun issues (the employee prefers to be called “they”) appeared to play an important part:

The school district agreed to settle the claim for $60,000 “as compensation for actual damages, emotional distress and attorney fees,” and with the district promising to “develop official guidance documents for administrators/staff that address working with transgender staff”; the documents, to be developed together with “TransActive and the District equity team,” will address, among other things, “pronoun usage.” “[V]iolations of the guidance will be grounds for discipline.”

But it is not at all clear, as Volokh notes, that it is respectful of co-workers’ rights to require them on pain of official discipline to employ “highly conspicuous, nonstandard usage.” Should instances of not doing so be defined as “harassment” or “discrimination,” they can bring with them serious legal consequences. Public employers such as school districts do have some legitimate managerial interests which can call for, e.g., standardizing forms of address in their workplace. On the other hand, novel pronoun coinages relating to gender are often praised as a way “to convey an idea about language and how language should be” — put more sharply, to convey particular ideological stances about issues of gender identity. We already know that under current interpretations of First Amendment law, government cannot require ordinary non-political employees on pain of dismissal to affirm propositions such as “Live Free Or Die” or the Pledge of Allegiance. A similar principle might extend — or? — to rules exacting affirmative ideological avowals of other sorts. More: Hans Bader, CEI.

Campus free expression roundup

  • 21 professors, including Bartholet, Epstein, and McConnell, write letter to Department of Education Office of Civil Rights [OCR] challenging its directives on campus sexual harassment [Ashe Schow, Washington Examiner] Student suing Colorado State over multi-year suspension adds OCR as a defendant [Scott Greenfield; more, George Will]
  • President Obama has been saying things students need to hear about intellectual freedom at commencements [Howard and Rutgers, Jonathan Adler] “Does Obama understand that his own government is responsible for the safe-space phenomenon he frequently decries?” [Robby Soave]
  • Protesters these days disrupting and physically shutting down a lot of pro-Israel campus speeches and events on US campuses [Observer; UC Irvine]
  • “Jokes, insensitive remarks, size-ist posters”: from a distance the doings of the University of Oregon’s Bias Response Team can seem kind of hilarious. Maybe not up close [Robby Soave/Reason, Catherine Rampell/Washington Post] “Towson U. [Maryland public university] implements ‘hate/bias’ reporting system to ensure ‘anti-racist campus climate’” [The College Fix]
  • Read and marvel at the arguments being deployed against Prof. Dale Carpenter’s proposal for bolstering free expression at the University of Minnesota [Susan Du, City Pages] “Why Free Speech Matters on Campus” [Michael Bloomberg and Charles Koch]
  • Faculty at George Mason University law school unanimously affirm commitment to renaming school after Justice Antonin Scalia [Lloyd Cohen, Michael Greve]

Campus climate roundup

  • Department of Justice: we’re going to use that Dear Colleague Title IX letter as a basis for prosecution, and colleges are going to need to crack down on speech if they want to stay in compliance [Eugene Volokh, Scott Greenfield, and FIRE, on University of New Mexico case] A brief history of how we got here from the Dear Colleague letter [Justin Dillon and Matt Kaiser, L.A. Times; my Commentary piece three years ago anticipating the basics] Why won’t even a single university challenge this stuff in court? [Coyote, earlier]
  • Dangers of “safe spaces”: Mike Bloomberg’s Michigan commencement address is getting noticed [Bloomberg View, Deadline Detroit, Soave] “Slogans Have Replaced Arguments” [John McWhorter]
  • Compulsory chapel will make no provision for adherents of dissenting sects: Oregon State plans training incoming freshmen in “social justice learning,” “diversity,” and “inclusivity.” [Robby Soave]
  • Running various departments at George Mason U. along lines recommended by Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”: no problem. Naming law school after Antonin Scalia: that might politicize things [Michael Greve via Bainbridge]
  • USC cancels visiting panel of gaming industry stars because it’s all-male [Heat Street]
  • Harvard aims sanctions at students who join off-campus, unofficial single-sex clubs [The Crimson, FIRE, background Althouse, Greenfield]
  • Margot Honecker, hated DDR education minister, filled schools with indoctrination, informants. Glad that era’s over [Washington Post, Telegraph, SkyNews obituaries]

Campus climate roundup

  • New Oxford vice chancellor speaks out against threats to free inquiry as well as overregulation of universities [Iain Martin, CapX]
  • Feds: get in line on Title IX or we’ll yank your institutional science funding [Inside Higher Ed, background on Title IX]
  • More on scheme proposing mandatory oppression studies for first-year students at American University [Robby Soave/The Daily Beast (and thanks for mention), earlier]
  • Back to the days of Plessy v. Ferguson? Oregon State University holds racially segregated retreats [Peter Hasson, Daily Caller] More: University of Connecticut building segregated housing for (some) black male students [Campus Reform]
  • Sometimes there really is a good case for taking the names of evil long-dead men off public university buildings, especially if the alternative is to throw a $700,000 subsidy at a murderer-themed café that can’t make it on food sale revenues [The College Fix; UCSD’s Che Guevara cafe]
  • “Out in the real world, we have master electricians and mechanics, chess masters, masters of the universe, taskmasters of all kinds, and other such varieties of positions and titles connoting particular skill, knowledge or authority” [Harvey Silverglate, Minding the Campus, on Harvard College “masters” flap (citing “extraordinary recent expansion of the cadre of student life administrators … on virtually every campus throughout the nation”)]
  • “Post-Protest Mizzou: Adverse Consequences of the Capitulation” [Thomas Lambert, Pope Center, earlier Lambert on Missouri]

“I’ll pretend you’re a boat,’ the judge said dryly”

“Twenty years ago I prosecuted a tax protester who claimed — as one does — that the gold fringe on the courtroom flag made it an admiralty court. ‘I’ll pretend you’re a boat,’ the judge said dryly and proceeded with the mundane business of the case. Professionalism and protection of rights, not trading drama for drama, is the way to handle a self-styled revolutionary. It won’t entertain the media, but it will refute the assertion that the system can’t get it right.” [Ken White, Los Angeles Times, on the Oregon confrontation]

Bundy group’s claims are non-starters legally

Les Saitz in The Oregonian examines the constitutional land and sovereignty claims of the Malheur occupiers, which tend to sound in what I have previously called folk law. Many in the group were arrested last night. One final point: the Bundy group can call itself a militia if it likes, but only in the same sense that Dorothy Parker could call herself the Queen of Rumania. Earlier here.

Environment roundup

January 15 roundup

  • Malheur standoff: here come the self-styled “citizens’ grand jury” hobbyists [Oregonian, my two cents on this branch of folk law, earlier]
  • Your egg-flipping, coffee-guzzling grandma was right all along about nutrition, federal government now seems gradually to be conceding [Washington Post]
  • “Obama’s State of the Union pledge to push for bipartisan redistricting reform was a late add” [L.A. Times, Politico, American Prospect, Todd Eberly on Twitter, some earlier takes here and here]
  • More Charlie Hebdo retrospectives after a year [Anthony Fisher, Reason] Another bad year for blasphemers [Sarah McLaughlin, more] The magazine’s false friends [Andrew Stuttaford; hadn’t realized that departing NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos, who so curiously compared the magazine’s contents to “hate speech unprotected by the Constitution,” has lately held “the James Madison Visiting Professorship on First Amendment Issues” at the Columbia School of Journalism]
  • “The Ten Most Significant Class Action Cases of 2015” [Andrew Trask]
  • More from Cato on Obama’s “mishmash” of executive orders on guns [Adam Bates, Tim Lynch, Emily Ekins]
  • The “worst and most counter-productive legal complaint that’s been filed in a long, long time” [Barry Rascovar, Maryland Reporter on move by ACLU of Maryland/NAACP Legal Defense Fund to challenge as racially discriminatory the decision to cancel construction of a new Baltimore subway line]

Occupy Malheur and the Bundy boys’ bait

My take on the Oregon standoff, this morning at The Federalist:

As my Cato Institute colleague Randal O’Toole skillfully explained, none of the protagonists in the Oregon standoff really deserve our admiration: the Hammond ranching family misbehaved, the federal government overcharged, and then the Bundy cranks arrived to spray kerosene on the glowing embers….

Unlawful protest occupations of public places and government buildings have long been a familiar part of American public life, and even those not involving arms sometimes have rather serious consequences for the health and well-being of innocent bystanders….

In the ordinary calculations of humanity, events like Waco and Ruby Ridge and the Philadelphia MOVE bombing represent a grotesque failure. Despite the spirit of the mob and the ever-present temptation to shoot first, most such situations in our country are resolved with legal consequences for the wrongdoers but not with loss of life and limb. We should be glad of that.

Read the whole thing here. I’ve covered the earlier Bundy Nevada standoff in this space, as well as the wider phenomenon I call folk law. For more coverage of occupations, blockades, and acts of physical intimidation that were resolved without bloodshed (and sometimes without later legal consequences to those who broke the law) see our tag on selective law non-enforcement, including this from 2011 about how some cheered when unionized Wisconsin police announced solidarity with protesters occupying the state capitol and refused orders to oust them.

More: Randal O’Toole has a new post up on the Hammonds’ actions and punishment.