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E-Pluribus | March 24, 2023
Conservative professors as campus unicorns; politicians against free expression; and a DEI associate dean explains herself.
A round-up of the latest and best writing and musings on the rise of illiberalism in the public discourse:
Samuel J. Abrams: Conservative Faculty Are Outliers on Campus Today
A recent Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) survey finds a surprising 26 percent of college professors identify as conservative. Despite these higher than expected numbers, however, Samuel Abrams writes for RealClear Education that conservatives face different and greater pressures than their counterparts on the left.
Viewpoint diversity and the ability to question and debate openly in the search for truth are among the core values of higher education. Many faculty are consciously limiting their engagement in these central activities. The FIRE survey shows that when asked about limiting one’s expression, far too many faculty acknowledge that they have opted to keep quiet. Even among liberal faculty, 20 percent report that they could not express their opinions on a subject because of how students, colleagues, or the administration would respond. Among moderates, 34 percent felt the same way.
Most troubling is the 58 percent of conservative faculty – almost three times the percentage as liberal professors – who report regularly self-censoring out of concern about how the campus community could react. This is the antithesis of living a life of the mind.
Beyond self-censorship, conservatives are also deeply worried about ideological discrimination. When asked how often, if at all, their colleagues would actively discriminate against them based on their political beliefs, 19 percent of liberal faculty think that discrimination happens occasionally, frequently, or all the time; almost half of moderates (47 percent) feel the same way. But 70 percent of conservative professors believe that there is active discrimination against them because of their political beliefs.
Read the whole thing.
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Aaron Sibarium: Pennsylvania Dem Threatens To Withhold Funding From University of Pittsburgh Over Conservative Speakers
Money talks, and threats to withhold money talk quite loudly indeed when elected officials are involved. The Free Beacon’s Aaron Sibarium reports from Pennsylvania about a state legislator who is using financial threats to try to pressure the University of Pittsburgh to disinvite disfavored speakers from appearing on campus.
During an appropriations hearing on university funding, Pennsylvania state representative La'Tasha Mayes (D.) demanded that Pitt disinvite Cabot Phillips, Riley Gaines, and Michael Knowles from upcoming campus events. All three speakers have a history of "targeting transgender students," Mayes claimed—especially Knowles, whom she accused of saying that "transgender people should be eradicated."
Mayes called on university chancellor Patrick Gallagher, who was at the hearing to request additional funding from the state, to "cancel the speakers who are coming to campus"—implying that she might vote against his request if he did not. Mayes did not respond to a request for comment.
The exchange alarmed Speech First, a legal nonprofit focused on First Amendment issues, which called Mayes's remarks an "abuse of power."
"The state is saying that if the university doesn't violate its students' First Amendment rights, then their funding could be at risk," Cherise Trump, Speech First's executive director, said in a statement on Wednesday. "Lawmakers shouldn't be using veiled threats to hold funding over universities simply because they don't like a person who was invited to speak."
[ . . . ]
These attitudes have now found a foothold in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, where Mayes is one of several lawmakers targeting Pitt. Led by Democrats Jessica Benham and Malcolm Kenyatta, the House's LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus issued a statement last week condemning the university for hosting "transphobic speakers," claiming it would endanger the lives of LGBT students.
"This is not a free speech issue," Benham said in the statement. "Hate speech is not protected speech. This is about the safety of transgender students and recognizing that transgender people exist."
Read it all here.
Tirien Steinbach: Diversity and Free Speech Can Coexist at Stanford
The treatment of federal judge Kyle Duncan at Stanford Law School has been widely criticized (for example, see David French in Around Twitter below.) Tirien Steinbach, Stanford’s associate dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, who was caught up in the dispute, has taken to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to give her side of the story, including her intriguing question, “Is the juice worth the squeeze?”
My participation at the event with Judge Duncan has been widely discussed. I was asked to attend the event by the Federalist Society, the organizers of the student protest and the administration. My role was to observe and, if needed, de-escalate.
As soon as Judge Duncan entered the room, a verbal sparring match began to take place between the judge and the protesters. By the time Judge Duncan asked for an administrator to intervene, tempers in the room were heated on both sides.
I stepped up to the podium to deploy the de-escalation techniques in which I have been trained, which include getting the parties to look past conflict and see each other as people. My intention wasn’t to confront Judge Duncan or the protesters but to give voice to the students so that they could stop shouting and engage in respectful dialogue. I wanted Judge Duncan to understand why some students were protesting his presence on campus and for the students to understand why it was important that the judge be not only allowed but welcomed to speak.
To defuse the situation I acknowledged the protesters’ concerns; I addressed the Federalist Society’s purpose for inviting Judge Duncan and the law school’s desire to uphold its right to do so; I reminded students that there would a Q&A session at which they could answer Judge Duncan’s speech with their own speech, as long as they were following university rules; and I pointed out that while free speech isn’t easy or comfortable, it’s necessary for democracy, and I was glad it was happening at our law school.
At one point during the event, I asked Judge Duncan, “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” I was referring to the responsibility that comes with freedom of speech: to consider not only the benefit of our words but also the consequences. It isn’t a rhetorical question. I believe that we would be better served by leaders who ask themselves, “Is the juice (what we are doing) worth the squeeze (the intended and unintended consequences and costs)?” I will certainly continue to ask this question myself.
Read it all.
David French has written about the Stanford/heckler’s veto issue for the New York Times:
Via Conor Friedersdorf, which came first, the chicken or the egg? Which came first, the Constitution or a desire for a culture of free speech, due process, self-defense, and broad liberties?
And finally, Robert Tracinski uncovers an early example of gender wokeness!