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Origin story.

Geoffrey Stone, a law prof at the University of Chicago, has long been a …

hero of mine. Especially today, with Stone’s release of an email exchange he had with the notorious Richard Spencer.

In an April 18 op-ed in the New York Times, Stone defended Spencer’s First Amendment right to speak at Auburn University.

According to Stone, he received an e-mail from Spencer thanking him for his piece saying, “[he thinks] it will be looked back upon as significant in changing the contemporary free-speech debate.”

In the e-mail, Spencer also expressed his desire to return to his alma mater for a speaking event.

… Stone wrote back, saying that he thought Spencer’s views were not worth discussing, and that he would not extend him an invitation.

“My strong support for the right of students and faculty to invite speakers to campus to address whatever views they think worth discussing does not mean that I personally think that all views are worth discussing. From what I have seen of your views, they do not seem to me [to] add anything of value to serious and reasoned discourse, which is of course the central goal of a university. Thus, although I would defend the right of others to invite you to speak, I don’t see any reason for me to encourage or to endorse such an event.”

More here.

Middlebury College: America’s Wealthiest Gated Community

The greatest privilege of all is being able to shut out offensive ideas.


Freedom and safety both require a level of risk and a careful balance. Unhappily a free society is simply not compatible with never-ending, numbing comfort. A bubble is its own kind of cage.



Know hope.

[North Korean] authorities have reportedly been holding mass meetings in various parts of the country to warn people against making sarcastic remarks about the regime and its supreme leader. … Officials pointed to the phrase “this is all America’s fault” as an example of sarcasm it doesn’t want uttered. It’s common for North Koreans to use the phrase ironically to criticize the country’s leadership.

“[B]ringing Title IX complaints over exceedingly minor errors in a publication you disagree with and naming them ‘retaliation’ is an abuse of the process. To then keep on pressing a bad case in public even after it’s been arbitrated and you’ve been told you’re wrong, is worthy of a correction.”

Laura Kipnis is apparently willing to spend the rest of her life trying to talk sense to her inquisitors. Color UD impressed.

“When we said that ‘Kipnis does not speak for us,’ we lent credence to the idea that Kipnis was responsible for speaking for us in the first place.”

A Northwestern University student, reflecting on the Laura Kipnis fiasco, targets groupthink. He’s absolutely right.

“[Laura Kipnis] was accused … of writing an article that upset some students. Turning that into a federal case is beyond the pale.”

UD liked Northwestern. She didn’t love it (she loved her graduate school, the University of Chicago), but she liked it. In Erich Heller, for instance, she found not merely a compelling teacher, but a compelling human being.

As Geoffrey Stone points out here, NU has been making an ass of itself, in the matter of free speech, for some time now. He discusses two recent cases, including that of Laura Kipnis.

Laura Kipnis wrote a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education in which she raised important questions about the regulation of student-faculty relationships, the meaning of consent, the procedural irregularities that frequently taint the efforts of colleges and universities to address such issues, and the messy and destructive lawsuits that often follow.

Kipnis’ article is a serious, provocative, and valuable contribution to the ongoing debate about these often difficult and vexing issues. Among other things, Kipnis charged that some of the recently enacted campus codes dealing with such matters have had the effect of infantilizing women students. This, she reasoned, is not a good thing.

In response to this essay, several students at Northwestern staged a protest demanding “a swift, official condemnation” of the article because they had been made to feel uncomfortable by her thoughts on the subject. One woman student went so far as to describe the essay as “terrifying.” Shortly thereafter, a women student who had filed sexual assault charges against a professor at Northwestern filed a Title IX (sex discrimination/sexual harassment) complaint against Kipnis because of the publication.

As Kipnis traces in a powerful new article published this week in the Chronicle of Higher Education, for the past several months she has been subjected to a star-chamber proceeding in which outside investigators retained by Northwestern University have sought to determine whether her initial essay somehow constituted unlawful retaliation, “intimidation, threats, coercion, or discrimination” against the student who had previously filed the sexual assault charge against the faculty member at Northwestern.

As anyone who has read Kipnis’ initial article can discern, the accusation is ludicrous on its face. An essay that takes aim at the substantive values and procedures employed by universities in their efforts to regulate sexual relationships on campus is not, and cannot rationally be taken to be, an act of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment directed against any particular student who may have filed such a complaint.

What Northwestern should have done in the face of such a complaint was to dismiss it as quickly and decisively as possible and to reaffirm the fundamental right of members of the university community to write, speak, argue, and complain openly and vigorously about matters of public concern. Instead, Northwestern put Kipnis through months of “investigation” for doing nothing more than writing an interesting and provocative article in a journal of considerable repute.

It was only after Kipnis went public in her second article this week that Northwestern finally informed her that the charges against her were unfounded. As evidenced in both of these situations, it seems, not surprisingly, that the best way to get universities to stand up for academic freedom is to call them out publicly on their lack of commitment to the principles for which they are supposed to stand.

As Stone suggests, NU should be ashamed. It should replace whoever is running its Title IX office.


Update: Same idea.

Samuel Bagenstos, a University of Michigan Law Professor who, until 2011, served as the number two official in Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, says Northwestern wasn’t compelled to go as far as it did. “Federal law requires a prompt and equitable resolution of the complaint,” he says. “They do have to look into it. The question is, what does looking into it mean?”

In the Kipnis case, he says, “ All you would have to do was read her article, read the Tweet, and maybe talk to the people who filed the complaint to understand that there’s no conceivable way that even if everything in the complaint were true, there’s no way that was a violation of Title IX.”


Laura: A Title IX Film Noir


CHE Lives! The Chronicle of Higher Ed
Proves the revolution far from dead.

The broadside published Laura Kipnis
A writer whose way-radical hipness
Lies in her willingness to use free speech.

She uses this speech not only to teach.
She actually writes that way as well.

Some of her stuff makes others feel like hell,
And these have, in the name of Title IX,
Placed her smack in front of a firing line:
A high tribunal looks for a trigger
For trauma or rage or something bigger.

But no worries, mate! As part of her prep
She got to designate a shadow rep,
A sympathetic Northwestern colleague
Speaking for her side about the intrigue.


Several weeks have passed since Laura’s trial
And her shadow rep has himself, meanwhile,
Been hauled up on charges. And when these two
Decide it’s time for them to counter-sue?

When people choose to point the trigger gun
For sure the fun has only just begun.


UD thanks Dave.

No matter how repulsive the genital mutilators…

Clegg’s was the right move. Universities have to be free to draft their own policies on invited lecturers, and campuses should always lean hard in the direction of free speech.

The Deputy Prime Minister personally vetoed the plan during private talks with David Cameron, after one of the worst Cabinet rows in the Coalition’s five-year rule.

Mr Clegg said he could not support moves to require university bosses to vet visiting speakers and prevent impressionable students from falling under the spell of extremists – because Liberal Democrats feared the move would erode “free speech”.

… Theresa May, the Home Secretary, told the Telegraph that academics must now “play their part” in preventing radicalisation, even though there is no government guidance on how they should tackle extremist speakers.

Recent student protests against mandatory gender segregated seating at university events, and against speakers calling for the criminalization of the scourge of godless homosexuality, have been quite effective. International astonishment at Westminster University having gestated the fucker who cuts off everybody’s head has also helped clarify matters. Let this process play out.

The Warwick English Blues

Almost Hear You Sigh

I can almost hear you sigh
I can feel your nego vibes
Yeah Professor Pain-in-Ass
Gotta speak sarcastic sass

I wanna live without you
Want my old life to go on
I’m feeling sorry for myself
Can’t wait til you are gone

You acted all ironic
Your body was sardonic
You had a cold look in your eyes

I can almost hear you sigh
I can hear your ironeye*
I wanna live without you
Wanna make you go away
Gonna keep you from the students
With your naughty naughty ways


* irony (obs.)

Nice writing on the Steven Salaita controversy.

Quoted in an Inside Higher Ed article.

John K. Wilson, author of numerous books and essays about academic freedom, wrote on the AAUP blog that he found [University of Illinois chancellor Phyllis] Wise’s statement troubling. “Respect is not a fundamental value of any university, and being ‘disrespectful’ is not an academic crime. But it’s notable that Salaita really didn’t say anything personal about anyone. So here Wise greatly expands the concept, declaring that not only persons but ‘viewpoints themselves’ must be protected from any disrespectful words,” Wilson writes.

“I am puzzled as to exactly how a free university could possibly operate when no one is allowed to be disrespectful toward any viewpoint. Presumably, Wise will quickly act to fire anyone who has ever disrespected or demeaned Nazism, terrorism, racism, sexism, and homophobia. Since all ‘viewpoints’ are protected, then biology professors must be fired for disrespecting creationism as false, along with any other professor who is found to believe or know anything.”

UD’s blogpal, Timothy Burke…

writes a great letter to the chancellor of the university that withdrew its offer to Steven Salaita.

It’s important for faculty to be conversant with the entirety of our public culture and to be able to travel across different media and platforms. Not just for the cultivation of their scholarship but also for their ability to teach the current and future generations.

thanks Wendy.


An Illinois AAUP committee has protested the firing of (or revocation of an offer to – it’s not yet clear) Steven Salaita. He had been offered a position by the American Indian Studies program at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Salaita has in the last few weeks issued a bunch of angry, ugly, anti-Zionist tweets, in response to the situation in Gaza.

The sources familiar with the university’s decision say that concern grew over the tone of his comments on Twitter about Israel’s policies in Gaza. While many academics at Illinois and elsewhere are deeply critical of Israel, Salaita’s tweets have struck some as crossing a line into uncivil behavior.

For instance, there is this tweet: “At this point, if Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised? #Gaza.” Or this one: “By eagerly conflating Jewishness and Israel, Zionists are partly responsible when people say antisemitic shit in response to Israeli terror.” Or this one: “Zionists, take responsibility: if your dream of an ethnocratic Israel is worth the murder of children, just fucking own it already.”

Grotesque, yes, but you don’t fire someone because of what he writes. Free speech and all. An American university decided to hire this guy; professors enjoy academic freedom. Remember Ward Churchill? He wrote of the people killed in the Twin Towers:

[T]hey were civilians of a sort. But innocent? Gimme a break. They formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America’s global financial empire – the “mighty engine of profit” to which the military dimension of U.S. policy has always been enslaved – and they did so both willingly and knowingly. Recourse to “ignorance” – a derivative, after all, of the word “ignore” – counts as less than an excuse among this relatively well-educated elite. To the extent that any of them were unaware of the costs and consequences to others of what they were involved in – and in many cases excelling at – it was because of their absolute refusal to see. More likely, it was because they were too busy braying, incessantly and self-importantly, into their cell phones, arranging power lunches and stock transactions, each of which translated, conveniently out of sight, mind and smelling distance, into the starved and rotting flesh of infants. If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I’d really be interested in hearing about it.

A professor at the University of Colorado, Churchill provoked national outrage, plus an effort on the part of that school’s administration to toss him out. But they couldn’t because of his free speech rights. They eventually figured out a way to dump him on the basis of his shoddy research.

If UI truly wants this guy out, it will have to try to cobble something like that together. Otherwise, it gets a reputation as a school unable to uphold academic freedom, and that risks making it unpopular to all sorts of job candidates.

UD thanks Wendy.


UPDATE: According to this comment of Cary Nelson’s at Inside Higher Ed, “the [University of Illinois] faculty senate’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure will be reviewing the Salaita matter.”

Karen Dawisha’s Manuscript Gets Tossed Right Into the …

… Schuster.

Having been turned down by Cambridge University Press – her longtime publisher – for fear of libel actions against it by the corrupt Russian oligarchs her book features, Karen (who UD knew when she was at the University of Maryland) will now have to settle for being published by Simon and Schuster, whose publicity department sent UD, this morning, an announcement that the book will be published this September.

I’ll re-post Karen’s response at the time to Cambridge:

Last week the EU and the US Government issued a visa ban and asset freeze on the very inner core that is the subject of my book. Many works will now come out on the makeup of the list and why each individual was placed on it. The answers to these questions are in my book. Isn’t it a pity that the UK is a ‘no-fly’ zone for publishing the truth about this group? These Kremlin-connected oligarchs feel free to buy Belgravia, kill dissidents in Piccadilly with Polonium 210, fight each other in the High Court, and hide their children in British boarding schools. And as a result of their growing knowledge about and influence in the UK, even the most significant British institutions (and I think we can agree that CUP, with its royal charter, 500-year history and recent annual revenues in excess of $400m, is a veritable British institution) cower and engage in pre-emptive book-burnings as a result of fear of legal action…. [Perhaps some day we] can once again turn to CUP with the knowledge that it is indeed devoted to publishing “all manner of books” and not just those that won’t awaken the ire of corrupt Russian oligarchs out to make a further mockery of British institutions.

As The Economist wrote, “In the light of the news from Ukraine, and the resulting sanctions recently imposed on some of what America now officially calls Vladimir Putin’s ‘cronies,’ …[Dawisha’s book] could hardly be more timely and important.”

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