Posts Tagged ‘political correctness’

New AU student? Report for your oppression training

American University, in Washington, D.C., according to this document from last month, “is undertaking an ambitious plan to modernize the general education experience” with the assistance of a task force whose Nov. 30 report “outlines a dramatically different approach to liberal arts education,” one that includes “sustained attention to issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion.”

The draft of “Reimagining General Education: Toward a New AU Core Curriculum” envisages the following changes:

* All first-years would be obliged in their second semester to take a one- or three-credit course in oppression studies. Sample content: “Students will explore how historical violence, such as the early slave trade and genocidal conquests, shape the contemporary experiences of marginalized groups and struggles for human rights. Class materials will consider how entrenched systems of inequality marginalize some groups and privilege others.” (The draft text describes this as a three-credit course, but at another point says that whether it will be for one or three credits is yet to be determined.)

* “If budget allows,” “all students living on campus” will be housed with the cohort of students with whom they have taken the series of mandatory courses culminating in the oppression course. They will live under upper-class “mentors” and it is envisaged that “student support teams” will emerge from each cohort under the supervision of the mentors.

I wonder whether they will wind up calling these mentored support teams “block committees for the Defense of the Revolution.”

FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) reminds us, citing a University of Delaware episode, that dormitory mentoring in oppression studies goes back a while. Meanwhile — more or less unrelatedly, except that at a higher level it is most certainly related — per this University of Louisville law faculty anecdote, a colleague who told students on the final day of class to “think for yourselves” and that multiple political viewpoints should feel welcome at the school was promptly hauled to account [Russell L. Weaver, Courier-Journal] (& Robby Soave, Reason)

Law school embraces social-justice theme

In 2014 the faculty of the Louis D. Brandeis Law School at the University of Louisville voted to commit the institution to “social justice,” and now plans are afoot to rebrand the public institution as the “nation’s first compassionate law school.” If everyone could settle on the same definitions of social justice and compassion, and maybe also agree that those values should trump others, the schools’ direction might look more neutral and scholarly, and less nakedly political. [Luke Milligan, Louisville Courier-Journal] U of L is hardly the first school to go down this path; as I note in my book Schools for Misrule, a number of law schools including some Top 30 institutions have veered off in the same direction in recent years, even before this year’s campus protests furnished considerable new momentum. But see: a second U of L lawprof dismisses the concerns as overblown, and points out that the school’s adoption of the word came in the context of a city-wide campaign in which various leading Louisville businesses and civic institutions had been prevailed on to declare themselves “compassionate.” [Caron/TaxProf]

P.S. If law schools want to jump into explicitly promoting social justice, John McGinnis has a modest proposal for how they might do that.

Medical roundup

  • FDA and other agencies launch crackdown on more than 100 dietary supplement companies [Orange County Register editorial, thanks for quoting]
  • 14 years ago Sally Satel warned that political correctness was getting into medical schools in a big way. How prescient was that? [Yale Daily News via Dave Huber/The College Fix on Yale med-school dean’s capitulation to demands for “anti-oppressive” curriculum reform, video of Satel on C-SPAN “Book Notes” with Brian Lamb discussing “P.C., M.D.“]
  • Unexpectedly! “Insurer cutbacks squeeze patients out of high-end care” [Houston Chronicle]
  • “Deflate Drug Prices by Reforming the FDA” [Richard Morrison, CEI, thanks for quote]
  • Penny wise: Obama plan would penalize doctors who recommend routine prostate cancer tests for older men [WSJ, Betsy McCaughey/New York Post]
  • “Clearly, it would take an extraordinarily overbearing [British] state to move [sugar] consumption anywhere close to this target.” [Christopher Snowdon]
  • Widely asserted ethical prohibition on paying organ donors comes at more than a monetary price [Alex Tabarrok](link fixed)

Campus climate roundup

Academic freedom, conformity of opinion, and the student demands

Of the demands being made by protesters in the current wave of unrest on American campuses, some no doubt are well grounded and worth considering. Some of them, on the other hand, challenge academic freedom head on. Some would take control of curriculum and hiring out of the hands of faculty. Some would enforce conformity of thought. Some would attack the rights of dissenters. Some would merely gut the seriousness of the university.

Last night I did a long series of tweets drawing on a website which sympathetically compiles demands from campus protests — TheDemands.org — and noting some of the more troublesome instances:

  • From Dartmouth: “All professors will be required to be trained in not only cultural competency but also the importance of social justice in their day-to-day work.”
  • From Wesleyan: “An anonymous student reporting system for cases of bias, including microaggressions, perpetrated by faculty and staff.”
  • From the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: “White professors must be discouraged from leading and teaching departments about demographics and societies colonized, massacred, or enslaved under white supremacy.”
  • From Guilford College: “We suggest that every week a faculty member come forward and publicly admit their participation in racism inside the classroom via a letter to the editor” in the college paper.

My series drew and continues to draw a strong reaction. Now I’ve done a Storify pulling it together as a single narrative and including some of the responses. Read it here.

Free speech roundup

  • Uh-oh: “40% of Millennials OK with limiting speech offensive to minorities” [Pew Research, Cathy Young on Twitter (“OK, NOW can we stop the ‘naww, political correctness isn’t a threat to free speech, it’s just about courtesy’ spin?”)]
  • Breezy but informative guide to why Schneiderman & Co. might hope to find, amid the general rule that the First Amendment protects business speech about public policy, an exception/ loophole for business speech about public policy when it affects securities [Matt Levine, Bloomberg View; earlier on climate speech investigations here, etc.]
  • “Lawsplainer: How The Sixth Circuit Stood Up To Hecklers (And Cops)” [Popehat on Michigan case of Bible Believers v. Wayne County, Dearborn protesters threatened with arrest for “disorderly conduct” arising from prospect of violence against them]
  • Discrimination law: “Can Office Depot be forced to print flyers that it disapproves of?” [Eugene Volokh; compare Hands On Originals case in Kentucky]
  • Scary: UK’s Muslim Council calls for controls on UK press coverage of Islamic issues [Ben Flanagan, Al-Arabiya] Prominent Labour MP says he would have “no problem” with reintroducing blasphemy laws [National Secular Society]
  • Cook County sheriff sent letterhead takedown demands to Backpage.com over sex ads, but Supreme Court has looked askance at informal you’d-better-not-publish-this pressure by government [Ilya Shapiro and Randal John Meyer, Cato]
  • Portland, Ore. police department “encourages the reporting to law enforcement” of “offensive language used on social media” even when not illegal. It does? [Charles Cooke]

College and offense-screening: a message from the White House

In light of President Obama’s (quite admirable) recent comments on college as a place for the open exchange of ideas, could his administration call off its rules pressuring colleges to adopt unconstitutional speech codes? [Hans Bader, Glenn Reynolds, USA Today] “University of California considering recognizing a ‘right’ to be ‘free from … expressions of intolerance'” [Eugene Volokh; regents go back to drawing board; Sarah McLaughlin/FIRE; AAUP] “Deciding who is eligible to complain about microaggressions is itself an act by which the majority imposes its will.” [Megan McArdle] And the New Yorker contributes a politically correct “Lord of the Flies.”

To fit the crime: a social justice “Mikado”

The news that New York’s Gilbert & Sullivan Players have canceled a production of The Mikado because it was accused of purveying anti-Japanese stereotypes, and because there had been objections to Caucasian actors singing the parts, prompted me to write up a short piece in the new Weekly Standard on how the beloved operetta might be modernized for contemporary, social-justice-attuned ears:

So he decreed, in words succinct,
That all who flirted, leered, or winked,
Without consent-form double-inked,
Should forthwith be beheaded…

Correspondent Corey Bean contributed a verse:

My object all sublime
I shall erase the line —
Between micro-
aggressions and crime —
Between mere offense and crime;

The company for now is going to switch to a production of The Pirates of Penzance. “So now pirate-shaming is supposed to be okay?” Read the whole thing here.

Schools roundup

  • Illinois school district warns parents that in doing investigations under new cyber-bullying law it may require students to hand over their Facebook passwords [Vice Motherboard; earlier on “cyber-bullying”]
  • Powerful, from Christina Hoff Sommers: how a shoddy NPR / Center for Public Integrity campus-rape study fueled legal fury of Department of Education’s Civil Rights Division [The Daily Beast; more, Bader] Nancy Gertner, retired federal judge and prominent progressive voice, on due process for college accused [American Prospect] Questions for New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand [KC Johnson, Minding the Campus]
  • Smith College: “the word crazy was censored from the transcript, replaced with the term ‘ableist slur.'” [Kevin Cullen, Boston Globe]
  • “Community College Courtesy of the Federal Taxpayer? No Thanks” [Neal McCluskey, Arnold Kling]
  • “Families Of Two Newtown Victims Sue Town And School Board” [CBS Connecticut via Skenazy; recently on suits against gun businesses]
  • More coverage of open records requests as way to go after ideologically disliked professors [Inside Higher Ed, our take last month]
  • Washington Post piece went viral, but it’s dead wrong: “No, A Majority of US Public School Students are Not In Poverty” [Alex Tabarrok] Look, a not-yet-published paper that claims to confirm something many of us want dearly to believe about school finance. But will it have the staying power of Prof. Hanushek’s? [WaPo “WonkBlog”]

Slumdog Millionaire

The Bollywood masala homage, Slumdog Millionaire, received ten Oscar nominations today, including one for best picture. It’s an excellent movie, if one forgives the entertainment world’s plot device of having a game show take place live, when in fact virtually all of them are taped.

And where there’s success, there’s those who try to hijack it for their own publicity stunt. Such is the case of Tapeshwar Vishwakarma, who is suing two Indians associated with the movie, A R Rahman and actor Anil Kapoor, claiming that the use of the word “slumdog” is defamatory to Mumbai slumdwellers, and will get a court hearing on February 5. (Kapoor uses the word in the movie.) I know not Indian defamation and free speech law–this strikes me as the sort of issue Salman Rushdie had with people who did not grok the concept of “fiction”–but until this case is dismissed, let us hope Vishwakarma does not get a hold of Huckleberry Finn. (AFP, “Slumdog stars sued for defaming slum-dwellers”, Jan. 22).