Parkway High School – September 28, 2017

Bossier Parish, LA

Parkway High School, one of 34 public secondary schools in the Bossier Parish school district in northwest Louisiana, implemented a policy whereby students may be punished with reduced playing time, suspension, or removal from sports teams if they demonstrate during the national anthem. The school principal, Waylon Bates, wrote a letter to parents and student athletes, in which he referred to protests as disruptions and asserted that participants must stand in a respectful manner at such moments. Scott Smith, superintendent of the Bossier Parish schools, has also publicly stated that students in his district are expected to stand for the national anthem. The policy changes are a reaction to the fact that many coaches and players in the National Football League (NFL) have been kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice in the United States, especially since Donald Trump became president.

Key Players

Parkway High School Principal Waylon Bates sent a letter home to parents and athletes, informing them of the school’s new policy regarding extracurricular activities.

Scott Smith is the Bossier Parish schools superintendent who insists that all student athletes stand respectfully during the national anthem at sporting events.

Marjorie Esman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Louisiana, cited the constitutional rights of the students in her reaction to the prospect of their punishment.

Further Details

Colin Kaepernick, the former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, ignited what is now a well-known and widespread movement of protesting racial injustice in America during the singing of the national anthem at sporting events. Kaepernick kneeled or sat during the Star-Spangled Banner before most games in the 2016 NFL season, but the trend attracted major media attention in the 2017 season, when more players and some coaches began joining him in solidarity. President Trump expressed his intense anger over what he deemed “total disrespect of our heritage…for everything we stand for” at a political rally in the South.

The NFL protests sparked both widespread support and staunch condemnation from people around the country, and eventually entered the realm of high school sports. Schools on Long Island and in New Jersey threatened serious disciplinary action for those who kneeled during the national anthem. Louisiana is one place where the reaction was particularly severe. Principal Waylon Bates, of Parkway High School, wrote to inform families of athletes of the school’s expectations. His letter said:

“The LHSAA (Louisiana High School Athletic Association) allows school principals to make decisions regarding student participation in the National Anthem while competing in athletic contests and games. Parkway High School requires student athletes to stand in a respectful manner throughout the National Anthem during any sporting event in which their team is participating. Failure to comply will result in loss of playing time and/or participation as directed by the head coach and principal. Continued failure to comply will result in removal from the team. Parkway High School is committed to creating a positive environment for sporting events that is free of disruption to the athletic contest or game.”

Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, has challenged this policy, citing the First Amendment rights of the students.to protest peacefully.

Outcome

The Rules Remain in Place

Despite condemnation and warnings from the ACLU in Louisiana, the rules against protests by athletes during the national anthem remain in place in the Bossier Parish schools in Louisiana.

External References

Louisiana Schools Threaten to Punish Students for Kneeling, NYPost

High Schools Threaten to Punish Students Who Kneel During Anthem, The New York Times

Louisiana High School Will Kick Students Off Team if They Don’t Stand, The Washington Post

Louisiana School District to Student Athletes, Fox News

Trump: NFL Owners Should Fire Players, CNN Politics

Prepared by Bridget McElroy ‘18

Uploaded January 15, 2018

New York University – February 2, 2017

New York, NY

Conservative actor and comedian Gavin McInnes was forced to cut a seminar short when student protesters interrupted his lecture. The demonstrators used pepper spray on McInnes as he was entering the event.

Key Players

Canadian Gavin McInnes is a conservative comedian, actor, and co-founder of Vice Media. He cut ties with Vice in 2008. In 2016, he founded the Proud Boys, a far-right group that he refers to as a “pro-Western fraternal organization” for men who “refuse to apologize for creating the modern world.” McInnes, a self-described “western chauvinist,” has used racial slurs in his writings and argues that women earn less than men because they are less ambitious. He has appeared on Fox News and The Blaze.

Further Details

Gavin McInnes was invited by the NYU College Republicans to give an on-campus speech on February 2, 2017. Elena Hatib, president of the student group, told the NYU Local, “Even though I don’t personally agree with everything he says, I think he brings up interesting conversation topics, especially for NYU and the current campus culture.”

Before the event, members of a student group called NYU Anti-Fascists, which said McInnes “has a long track record of using incendiary language to attract media attention and frenzy,” gathered along with non-student demonstrators outside NYU’s Kimmel Center, the New York Post reported.

Upon McInnes’ arrival at the facility, pushing and shoving broke out among the assembled protesters, according to video footage of the incident later posted to social media. It was unclear who started the fight. Protesters chanted “Nazi scum, your time has come” as he approached the center, with some demonstrators carrying signs or lighting “Make America Great Again” hats on fire, according to the Post. During the uproar, McInnes was attacked with pepper spray. He was treated by emergency responders in the bathroom of the Kimmel Center while security and university officials guarded the door, The Washington Times reported.

McInnes attempted to deliver his scheduled speech, but was interrupted after only a few minutes. About twenty minutes into his presentation, protesters began to enter the room, shouting over him. McInnes claimed to be “relieved” that those who tried to keep him from speaking “were not Muslim,” and later called an NYU spokesman “a dumb liberal asshole.” He was escorted out of the room.

Outcome

Some protesters arrested, speaker ends speech early, departs campus

Eleven individuals were arrested on charges “including criminal mischief, drug possession, disorderly conduct and obstructing government administration,” reported the New York Daily News. None of them were NYU students. After McInnes left the Kimmel Center event, he tweeted, “Thanks for asking if I’m OK guys. I was sprayed with pepper spray but being called a Nazi burned way more,” accompanied by a yellow crying-face emoji. President Donald Trump also appeared to weigh in on the incident via Twitter, writing the next day that “Professional anarchists, thugs and paid protesters are proving the point of the millions of people who voted to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

External References

11 Arrested at NYU Protest Against Conservative Firebrand Gavin McInnes, DNA Info

Violent Protests Break Out on NYU Campus Over Gavin McInnes Seminar, Fox News

Protesters storm NYU over conservative speaker’s seminar, The New York Post

Conservative speaker Gavin McInnes pepper-sprayed by NYU protesters, The Washington Times

6 conservatives sparking free speech debates on campuses, USA Today

Conservative Speaker’s Appearance Ignites Protests at NYU, NBC New York

Trump Supporters at the DeploraBall, The New Yorker

Eleven arrested during protest against conservative comedian at NYU, Reuters

Prepared by Ian Prasad Philbrick ‘17

Uploaded January 15, 2018

Texas A&M University – December 6, 2016

College Station, TX

Following student protests of an on-campus speech by white supremacist Richard Spencer, who was invited by a non-student local resident, Texas A&M University changed its policy to require that future speakers have on-campus sponsorship by a recognized organization.

Key Players

Richard Spencer is president and director of the National Policy Institute, which is dedicated to “the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent,” according to the organization’s website. In November 2016, Spencer addressed a National Policy Institute convention and shouted “Hail Trump!” in a manner that provoked members of his audience to give a Nazi-like salute. In January 2017, Spencer would be punched in the face by a masked assailant during Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration. Also, his membership was revoked at a gym in Alexandria, VA, due to his political beliefs.

Further Details

On December 6, 2016, approximately 400 people gathered inside Texas A&M’s Memorial Student Center to watch a speech by Richard Spencer, CNN reported. He had been invited to speak at the campus by Preston Wiginton, a Texas A&M alumnus who communicated with the alt-right leader online and has invited other controversial speakers to the College Station, Texas, campus in the past, according to The Texas Tribune. Taking advantage of the university’s public status, Wiginton, who is not officially affiliated with the university, paid to reserve the on-campus space for Spencer’s appearance.

Spencer was met with jeers at the event. Some students held protest signs, CNN reported, including one that displayed an image of Adolf Hitler’s face with a gun to his head and read “Follow your leader.” Law enforcement officers with riot shields expelled protesters from inside the hall where Spencer was speaking, and the university’s police department arrested two non-student attendees on unknown charges.

Texas A&M Senior Vice President Amy Smith said the school “finds [Spencer’s] views as expressed to date in direct conflict with our core values.” The university sponsored a counter-event during his speech called “Aggies United”, featuring actor Hill Harper, journalist Roland Martin, and Holocaust survivor Max Glauben, among others.

Outcome

Event proceeded as planned, university changed speech policy

Richard Spencer was able to speak on campus in December 2016, despite student protests and opposition by university administration. On March 21, 2017, however, Texas A&M announced it was altering its speaker invitation policy to require that all future non-faculty speakers have on-campus sponsorship by a recognized organization before they rent space there. The new policy also requires that an external speaker’s sponsors attend the event and assume responsibility for any damage to university property or unpaid fees owed by the speaker. According to Vice President Smith, “university officials are concerned about fringe and hate groups descending on campuses for the purpose of disruption,” reported CNN. “As one of the stewards for protecting and enhancing the brand, this is particularly troubling to me as the influx of these outside groups may connote…an environment of acceptance by our campus when none are actually our students or faculty.”

External References

Richard Spencer’s appearance at Texas A&M draws protests, CNN

“Strongest Skinhead” is behind white nationalist’s speech at Texas A&M, The Texas Tribune

Hundreds Protest Speech by White Nationalist Richard Spencer at Texas A&M, NBC News

Texas A&M University changes campus speaker policy over Richard Spencer visit, CNN

Texas A&M limits guest speakers after Richard Spencer visit put ‘undue burden’ on school, official says, Dallas News

Prepared by Ian Prasad Philbrick ‘17

Uploaded January 15, 2018

Reed College – 2016-2017

Portland, OR

Reedies Against Racism (RAR), a student group at Reed College, has staged numerous protests in an effort to promote racial justice and inclusion on campus. The protests began in September 2016, focusing especially on Humanities 110, a mandatory classics course for freshmen. The group has also criticized the college’s relationship with Wells Fargo, a financial services firm that they claim has ties to the private prison industry.

Key Players

Reed College President John R. Kroger, former attorney general of Oregon, has sought to address the concerns of RAR while criticizing the student group’s protest tactics. Though he commended a review of Hum 110’s syllabus, he asked students to “refrain from any further disruption in the classroom” and discouraged “ad hominem attacks against faculty members for teaching ancient Mediterranean texts…” When students staged a “peaceful sit-in outside [his] office,” Kroger wrote in a letter to students and faculty that he had “no objection” to it. He continued, “The meeting area outside my office is a place of symbolic power, and thus a reasonable place to express one’s political views.” However, he condemned “tactics that prevent the college from operating or subject our faculty, staff, and students to inappropriate or intimidating conduct.”

Lucía Martínez Valdivia is an assistant professor at Reed. She has urged students to refrain from protesting Hum 110 and instead “say yes to the text.” When student protests caused her Hum 110 lecture to be cancelled in September 2017, Reed Magazine published her planned remarks. Within her prepared lecture, she argued that students “should read things in good faith, understanding the distance, the strangeness from our own historical moment. If we get distracted by Plato’s misogyny or Lucretius’ imperfect mastery of physics, we miss the point, the bigger pictures of these works — the way Plato structures his arguments, for example, or the fact that Lucretius was driven to theorize about the nature of the physical world when that just wasn’t something people did.”

Further Details

In September 2016, students at Reed formed RAR, an organization dedicated to creating a more welcoming and just campus environment. Initially inspired by actor Isaiah Washington’s call to protest police violence against African Americans by staying home on September 26, 2016, RAR organized a boycott of all classes on that day. Concurrently, the group issued 25 demands, reported The Atlantic. They ranged from “[t]ransparency and long-term reform regarding Reed’s… investment in companies… that profit from the incarceration of black and brown people” to “the hiring of more tenure-track black faculty.”

One of RAR’s demands took aim at a humanities course called Hum 110. This course is the “foundation of the Reed College curriculum,” according to professor Peter Steinberger. In an article for Reed Magazine, he explained that Hum 110 is “an intensive, year-long course required of all first-year students,” meant to engage students in “the study of archaic and classical Greece, focusing on Homer, Hesiod, the lyric poets, the plastic arts (including vase painting, sculpture and architecture), Herodotus, Thucydides, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, the pre-Socratics, Plato, and Aristotle.”

In its list of demands, RAR called for Hum 110 to be “reformed to represent the voices of people of color… There should be an articulated understanding that ‘foundational texts’ are subjective and that the importance of the course is to foster student’s (sic) abilities to read, write, and listen/respond. Before this is accomplished, Hum 110 should be conscious of the power it gives to already privileged ideas and welcome critique of that use of power.” Specifically, RAR urged administrators to alter the mandatory nature of the course until reforms in the syllabus are made.

Hum 110, which has been taught at Reed since 1943, undergoes a curriculum review every 10 years, reported Inside Higher Ed. However, Reed faculty responded to RAR’s demands by agreeing to review the course ahead of the normal schedule. The special review began in September 2016. Reed faculty also agreed to conduct a series of meetings between Hum 110 professors and RAR-affiliated students. These meetings “ended when RAR members stopped coming,” according to The Atlantic. Some RAR students complained via Facebook of being “forced to sit in hours of fruitless meetings listening to full-grown adults cry about Aristotle.”

RAR-affiliated students regularly protested Hum 110 courses throughout the 2016-2017 school year. The protests usually entailed “RAR supporters position[ing] themselves alongside the professor and quietly hold[ing] signs reading ‘We demand space for students of color,’ ‘We cannot be erased,’ ‘Fuck Hum 110,’ ‘Stop silencing black and brown voices; the rest of society is already standing on their necks,’ and so on. The signs are often accompanied by photos of black Americans killed by police,” reported The Atlantic. In August 2017, RAR announced that students would continue to protest Hum 110 lectures and requested that protesters be provided class time to introduce themselves, reported Inside Higher Ed. Faculty leaders denied this request and cancelled the first Hum 110 lecture of the year when protesters disrupted it.

Many professors permitted the protests, adhering to a “general understanding… that the protesters would be allowed to continue as long as they didn’t interfere in the lecture period,” according to Inside Higher Ed. Others were less tolerant of the disruption. Kambiz GhaneaBassiri, a professor of religion and humanities at Reed, declined to lecture while students held signs denouncing the course. He explained to Inside Higher Ed that this was “a personal decision for me. I felt I owed my colleagues and students in the course an explanation and shared my reasoning with them, but I never intended it to go further than that.” Lucia Martínez Valdivia, an assistant professor at Reed, says she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. In November 2016, she asked students not to protest during her class, doubting “her ability to deliver the lecture in the face of their opposition,” The Economist reported. “At first, demonstrators announced they would change tactics and sit quietly in the audience, wearing black. After her speech, a number of them berated her, bringing her to tears.” In October 2017, Valdivia authored an article for The Washington Post in which she claimed that “the right to speak freely is not the same as the right to rob others of their voices.” She noted that student protesters had silenced many of her colleagues and contended that “university life — along with civic life — dies without the free exchange of ideas.”

Some students, particularly freshmen, have been critical of RAR’s in-class disruptions. One student, “a low-income, first-generation American person of color,” anonymously wrote in a student magazine, “I want to be able to go to Hum lecture without having people holding pictures of dead children in my face.” In one telling incident, recounted by The Atlantic, RAR protesters disrupted Professor Ann Delehanty’s lecture on The Iliad with a “noise parade.” When Delehanty left the room to deliver her lecture in a different classroom, many students followed her instead of listening to a RAR demonstrator discuss Reed’s investment portfolio.

RAR’s protests extended beyond Hum 110 lectures. In October 2017, students affiliated with RAR staged a sit-in in President Kroger’s office in Eliot Hall. According to Kroger, the students demanded “that Reed terminate its relationship with Wells Fargo bank because of the bank’s alleged ties to the private prison industry, the Keystone natural gas pipeline, and, in the words of the student petition, ‘Israeli occupation crimes.’” When the protest spread to the treasurer’s office, also located in Eliot Hall, some students were issued a no-contact order following a confrontation with a staff member. While students who violated the order risked being referred to local police, they were still permitted to camp out in Kroger’s office, according to Oregon Live.

The sit-in, which lasted many weeks, eventually spread to the admissions office, too. There, students responded to vandalism that was discovered in the bathrooms of the college’s library. The vandalism advanced white supremacy and Nazi ideology, prompting RAR to make four demands related to inclusion on campus. They included “mak[ing] Reed a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants” and “edit[ing] the school’s missions statement so that it is anti-racist.”

On December 19, 2017, Reed’s Investment Committee declined to divest from Wells Fargo. The committee announced in a statement, “We have carefully considered the students’ request and have concluded that divestment for these reasons would violate the college’s Operating Principles and Investment Responsibility Policy, which are based on a deep commitment to academic freedom.”

Outcome

Student protest inside administrative building ends

On December 20, 2017, RAR announced via Facebook that the protest inside Eliot Hall had ended. The sit-in lasted many weeks, with students camping out in the offices of the president, the treasurer, and admissions.

Revision of the Hum 110 Syllabus is Likely

On September 13, 2017, a group of professors who teach Hum 110 proposed a revised syllabus that organizes the course “around four separate but related themes,” according to the chair of Hum 110. Another proposal involves adding “4th century North Africa and the rise of Islam” to the syllabus. As of October 2017, both proposals were under consideration by faculty.

External References

Reedies Against Racism’s Demands

The Surprising Revolt at the Most Liberal College in the Country, The Atlantic

Professors like me can’t stay silent about this extremist moment on campuses, The Washington Post

What Hum 110 Is All About, Reed Magazine

Occupation of Hum 110, Inside Higher Ed

Reed students have been camped out in the president’s office for 9 days, Oregon Live

A Message from President Kroger – Wells Fargo Protests

President’s Statement on Campus Protests

Update on Hum 110 Course Review, Reed Magazine

Investment Committee Issues Statement on Wells Fargo, Reed Magazine

Hum 110: The Lost Lecture, Reed Magazine

Arguments over free speech on campus are not left v right, The Economist

Prepared by Will Haskell ‘18

Uploaded on January 15, 2018

University of Wyoming – June 15, 2017

Laramie, WY

Native American high school students, participants in a summer institute at the University of Wyoming (UW), walked out of a performance of “The Fantasticks” in protest. The students took offense at the villainization of Native American characters in one scene and at what they perceived as an overly casual use of the word “rape” in a portion of dialogue. After they walked out, the UW United Multicultural Council (UMC) complained, and the university’s Department of Theatre and Dance made edits to their rendition of the play.

Key Players

Tim Nichols, husband of UW President Laurie Nichols, was essential in setting up UW’s Native American Summer Institute. He attended the play the night of the walkout, and afterward said that while he recognized the play was a period piece written in the 1960s, and therefore included some derogatory attitudes typical of the time, its performance was nonetheless inappropriate today. However, Nichols said that he believed the play did not entirely undo the progress the institute had made.

UMC Co-President Tyler Wolfgang authored the group’s statement regarding the performance, complaining that the production perpetuated outdated and offensive stereotypes of Native Americans and Latinos/Hispanics.

Further Details

After the walkout, actors in the UW production worked to re-tool offensive moments in the play. The Department of Theatre and Dance included an insert in the program for future performances explaining the cultural context in which the show had been written and preparing audience members for certain awkward moments. The department also issued a statement published in The Laramie Boomerang, explaining that the use of Native Americans as stock caricature villains is unacceptable, but reflects attitudes prevalent in the 1960s when “The Fantasticks” was first performed. The statement goes on to address the play’s use of the word “rape,” clarifying that its use in a particular song title actually corresponds with an outdated definition that referred to an abduction; furthermore, it said, the line that mentions the “Rape of the Sabine Women” is an allusion to an incident from Roman mythology. On the whole, the statement acknowledged that the department had failed to prepare audiences for what they were going to watch.

The walkout also inspired editorials and opinion pieces in Wyoming newspapers. In The Casper Star Tribune, professional playwright James Olm wrote that the incident opened his eyes to his own “whitewashed perspective” of theatre. He did, however, also express his disappointment at the university’s decision to cancel the production’s four-stop tour through the state. Bob Bonnar, editor of the News Letter Journal, wrote that the university’s response to the walkout silenced art in the name of diversity.

The incident prompted strong responses from community members on social media. Some said they understood the department’s decision to amend the play, but that a preemptive explanation of the context in which the show was written should have been the first strategy employed. Others were angry at the students’ decision to walk out of the performance, saying that their actions clearly belied a lack of willingness to understand the show.

Outcome

“The Fantasticks” edited, tour dates cancelled

After Native American students walked out of the play, production staff worked to amend certain portions of it so future audiences would find it less offensive. The university cancelled the production’s tour dates in other parts of the state.

External References

‘Fantasticks’ scene prompts walkout, incites condemnation, The Laramie Boomerang

Olm: Fantastickssaga opened my eyes, Casper Star Tribune

Show silenced by diversity, News Letter Journal

UW Department of Theatre and Dance statement on the production, The Laramie Boomerang

Prepared by Chris Castano ‘16

December 7, 2017

Clemson University – August 2016 – September 2016

Clemson, SC

The Clemson University administration struggled with issues relating to Free Speech on campus during the latter half of 2016. In August, a man praying on Clemson’s campus with a sign urging others to join him was asked to leave the area by a university administrator. His religious expression was interpreted as solicitation, as he was not a Clemson student or faculty member and he was praying with his sign outside of a designated Free Speech zone. The next month, students were banned from displaying images of Harambe, a famous gorilla who had died earlier that year, in their residence hall.

Key Players

Kyra Palange, a graduate student and member of the conservative organization Young Americans for Freedom, joined the visitor in praying for a few moments before university administrators intervened.

Shawn Jones, Clemson’s assistant director for client services, approached the man praying with Palange and informed him that his speech was considered solicitation and was taking place outside of a campus Free Speech zone. He then asked the man to leave.

Further Details

Robby Roberts was praying on a grassy area of Clemson’s campus near Fort Hill around 3:15 pm on Thursday, August 25, 2016. According to the Charlotte Observer, Roberts was sitting in a folding chair with another stationed next to him, along with an 8×10 sign that said “PRAYER”.

Kyra Palange, a graduate student, was walking in that area and decided to join the man in prayer for a few moments. They were approached by Shawn Jones and made to relocate. Jones informed Roberts that in the future he would need to follow the proper procedure in order to be permitted to solicit on campus. Jones also offered Roberts the paperwork to begin the registration process. Palange caught some of the interaction on video. When questioned about the potential encroachment on the man’s First Amendment rights on a public campus, Clemson administrators defended Jones’ actions. Mark Land, a spokesman for the university, told the College Fix that “the community member in this situation was not asked to leave campus nor was his prayer with one of our students interrupted.” Land said that Roberts was simply directed to “an appropriate location, such as one of the university’s designated free speech zones.”

The prayer incident was not Clemson’s only issue with the First Amendment. In September 2016, images of a famous gorilla named Harambe were banned by a community director in a residence hall after a student filed a complaint. According to National Review, Community Director Brooks Artis said, “there have been reports that [Harambe] and the incident surrounding his death have been used to add to the rape culture as well as being a form of racism.” In an effort to avoid discomfort, all references to the gorilla were banned from being displayed in dormitories, reports The Federalist.

Since any part of a student’s room is considered his or her private space, including the exterior of the door, the Harambe ban was subject to intense criticism. After receiving negative media attention, administrators overturned the rule. In addition, the university implemented mandatory First Amendment training for resident advisors so that they understand what they can and cannot regulate in dorms and are aware of what speech is and is not protected by the U.S. Constitution. The first training occurred in January 2017.

Outcome

Protest on campus

WeRoar Clemson, a student group dedicated to supporting Free Speech on campus, organized a protest to criticize the university’s actions toward Roberts and, more broadly, Clemson’s Free Speech policy, which it views as unconstitutional.

First Amendment taught and supported by the administration

After resident advisors seemingly infringed on students’ First Amendment rights, the requirements to become an RA changed. They now include mandatory First Amendment training.

External References

Kate Irby, Charlotte Observer

Pardes Seleh, Daily Wire

Katherine Timpf, National Review

Mitchell Gunter, The College Fix

Prepared by Bridget McElroy 18

December 8, 2017

University of Central Florida – July 2017

Orlando, FL

In February 2017, University of Central Florida (UCF) junior Nick Lutz found a four-page, handwritten letter tucked under the windshield wiper of his truck. The letter, signed “Love, Elizabeth,” was from his ex-girlfriend who claimed it was the only way to reach him. Lutz had blocked her on social media. Upon reading the letter, Lutz decided to edit it, marking it up with a red pen and giving it a final grade of 61/100, or D-. He took a picture of his work and tweeted it before mailing the letter back to Elizabeth. The tweet went viral. The following summer, as a result of the viral tweet, UCF decided to suspend Nick Lutz and give him additional sanctions, all of which he appealed.

Key Players

Nick Lutz was a rising senior studying sports management at the University of Central Florida when he received notice that he would be suspended for the summer and fall 2017 semesters, placed on probation until he graduated, and assigned a mentor. UCF imposed these sanctions in response to his viral tweet from February.

Elizabeth is Lutz’s ex-girlfriend who wrote the graded letter. Her last name, social media accounts and contact information were never revealed. She was not a student at UCF.

Jacob Stuart is a close friend of the Lutz family and served as Nick’s attorney in his appeal against the school’s decision, calling it an unconstitutional violation of free speech and expression.

Further Details

Nick Lutz’s tweet received approximately 121,000 retweets, or shares, and it was liked over 338,000 times. Around five months after the tweet went viral, UCF decided to take action against the student. After Elizabeth, who was reportedly still in high school at the time, complained to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office before reaching out to UCF with her concern that she was being cyber-bullied, Lutz was called in for a meeting with the directors of student conduct and Title IX to discuss the repercussions of his tweet.

Lutz left the meeting with a feeling that something would be done to punish him for his actions, reports The Washington Post. Days later, he was informed of his suspension and additional sanctions. He was put on academic probation for the remainder of his time at UCF, and he had to give a presentation and write a five-page paper about the impact of his actions on others. He was also assigned an academic mentor. CNN reports that Lutz said, “I was told before that probation was the most likely outcome. To hear suspension attached to my name made me outraged.” Although he expressed initial guilt about the tweet, Lutz ultimately stood by his actions, claiming that his “intent from the beginning was never to expose her.”

His attorney, Jacob Stuart, argued that dishing out sanctions such as those given to Lutz set a dangerous precedent for the university’s monitoring of student social media. He claimed in his formal appeal, which was posted in full on Lutz’s social media accounts, that the punishment was a clear violation of Lutz’s first amendment right to free expression, because while he was clearly making fun of his ex, he said nothing demeaning, derogatory, or threatening about her.

The university did not comment on the situation. UCF spokeswoman Courtney Gilmartin claimed Nick and the Lutz family would have to waive his FERPA rights in order for administrators to discuss the student’s affairs publicly.

Outcome

Charges Against Lutz Dropped by University

Just days after his suspension, UCF granted Lutz’s request for an appeal. Soon after, the university dismissed the charges against him, revoking the sanctions and reversing his suspension, saying, “Though your reported behavior is concerning, it does not appear to be an expressed violation of a Rule of Conduct.”

External References

Alex Harris, Miami Herald

Haley Samsel USA Today

Joshua Rhett Miller New York Post

Katie Mettler, The Washington Post

Nancy Coleman, CNN

Nick Lutz’s Tweet

Prepared by Bridget McElroy ‘18

December 1, 2017

Syracuse University – June 2017

Syracuse, NY

Syracuse University professor Dana Cloud received criticism from right-leaning publications such as Campus Reform and The College Fix for a tweet that some perceived as a call for violence. Cloud was participating in a counter-protest against the “March Against Sharia” rally in Syracuse, New York, on June 10, 2017. After the incident, Syracuse University Chancellor Kent Syverud defended Cloud, and a petition supporting Cloud gained signatures from around the country.

Key Players

Dana Cloud is a professor of communications and rhetorical studies at Syracuse University. She is a self-described “radical liberal,” and in 2006 she appeared in conservative author David Horowitz’s book that listed the 101 “most dangerous” professors in America, Syracuse.com reports. She appeared on the list for her outspoken support of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions against Israel) movement and her criticisms of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kent Syverud is the current president and chancellor of Syracuse University. He began his term on January 13, 2014. After receiving calls for Cloud to be fired, Syverud wrote an email to the campus community in which he defended Cloud’s actions.

ACT for America is a conservative organization dedicated to “preserv[ing] American culture and to keep[ing] this nation safe,” according to the group’s website. ACT has condemned cities whose public schools serve halal food due to large populations of Muslims, discouraged interfaith dialogue with Muslims, and lobbied state legislatures to eliminate aspects of textbooks that contain allegedly inaccurate equivalencies among Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, reports The Atlantic. On June 10, 2017, ACT organized “March Against Sharia” rallies in 25 cities across the United States, including Syracuse. ACT for America has 280,000 members and over 1,000 chapters, according to Syracuse.com.

Brigitte Gabriel, ACT’s founder, emigrated to the United States from Lebanon in 1989 and describes herself as a “survivor of Islamic terror.” She has written two major books about fighting radical Islam: “They Must Be Stopped: Why We Must Defeat Radical Islam and How We Can Do It” (2008) and “Because They Hate: A Survival of Radical Islam Warns America” (2006).

Further Details

On June 10, Cloud was participating in a counter-protest against the “March Against Sharia,” which was organized by ACT for America. Syracuse.com reported that the counter-protesters chanted phrases like “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA” and “Muslims are welcome here.” As the ACT protest began to disperse, Cloud tweeted, “We almost have the fascists on the run. Syracuse people come down to the federal building to finish them off.” This tweet received more than 600 responses, with conservative pundit Ann Coulter retweeting it. Individuals responded with messages such as “@SyracuseU is it safe for my children to be on campus with this clearly unstable professor threatening violence?” Other people sent threats to Cloud.

On June 18, an online petition was circulated, titled “Statement of Solidarity with Professor Dana Cloud.” The petition defended Cloud’s tweet of June 10 and stated that the threats against her were not isolated to this incident, but “part of a campaign of intimidation and harassment against those standing in solidarity with Muslims and other oppressed groups.” The petition was signed by a large number of professors from colleges around the nation.

Syracuse president Kent Syverud also defended Cloud in an email to the campus community. According to Syracuse.com, he wrote, “I can’t imagine academic freedom or the genuine search for truth thriving here without free speech … Our faculty must be able to say and write things–including things that provoke some or make others uncomfortable–up to the very limits of the law.” He denied that Cloud’s tweet was intended to incite violence, and compared “blacklisting” professors to tactics used against suspected communists during the Cold War.

Both the march and the protest were reportedly peaceful, and no arrests were made. The two sides stood on opposite sidewalks shouting at each other, reports Campus Reform. The ACT-affiliated group was holding American flags and sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Outcome

Syracuse Stands By Professor

Syracuse president and chancellor sent an email to the campus community defending Cloud’s right to tweet and stating that she would not be fired. He also stressed the importance of free speech to academic freedom and intellectual pursuits.

External References:

Prof urges students to ‘finish off’ anti-Sharia protesters, Campus Reform

Syracuse University chancellor defends prof after tweets sets off right-wing backlash, Syracuse.com

About Brigitte Gabriel, ACT for America

America’s Most Prominent Anti-Muslim Activist Is Welcome at the White House, The Atlantic

Dueling Protests in Syracuse: ACT for America and counter-protest face off, Syracuse.com

Blacklisted: Syracuse University professor targeted for speaking out on politics, Syracuse.com

Syracuse University chancellor defends prof after tweets set off right-wing backlash, Syracuse.com

Statement of Solidarity with Professor Dana Cloud

The Dangers of Filtered Speech, Inside Higher Ed

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

December 1, 2017

Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas – June 17, 2017

West Helena, AR

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) voted to remove Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas from its list of universities censured for “violating principles and standards of academic freedom,” according to a media release on its website. The college had been on the AAUP’s censure list since 1978.

Key Players

Marion Hickingbottom previously served as a professor of history at Phillips Community College. Starting in 1966, he received nine one-year contracts from the university up until the 1976 academic year. According to a report released by the AAUP, Hickingbottom was a “demanding history teacher,” a “supportive colleague,” and helped found the faculty senate, of which he once served as president. He was also reportedly known for being outspoken about certain sensitive matters; The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that Hickingbottom was “a gadfly and a whistleblower.” The AAUP’s report explains that in February 1976 Hickingbottom noticed an illegal leasing arrangement between Phillips College and a local car dealership. He wrote a letter to the Arkansas Motor Vehicle Division informing them of the arrangement and requesting that his letter be kept confidential. Less than a month later, however, the president of Phillips College was informed of the letter and asked Hickingbottom to resign. Hickingbottom refused. The College then decided not to renew his contract for a tenth year.

Further Details

According to the AAUP’s report on the incident, Jimason A. Daggett, Phillips Community College’s attorney at the time of Hickingbottom’s firing, justified the professor’s dismissal by claiming that he “is not ‘on the team,’ that he does not have the best interests of the college at heart.” Other reasoning provided by the college’s administration posited that Hickingbottom had not utilized proper channels when he noticed the leasing issue. The two parties eventually resolved the situation, but the AAUP voted to censure the college in 1978 over the incident.

In 2017, the AAUP said in a statement on its website that the college had adopted a policy that assured faculty “with more than six years of full-time service would be retained indefinitely unless the administration demonstrated cause for termination in a faculty hearing.”

Donald R. Bobbitt, president of the University of Arkansas system, said in a statement that he “expressed his sincere appreciation” to the AAUP.

According to Campus-Watch’s reporting on the AAUP’s censure process, when an individual makes a complaint concerning a violation of academic freedom, the association reviews the situation and then makes a recommendation to the college to rectify the situation. Dr. Greg Scholtz, director of the Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance for the AAUP, explained to Campus-Watch that colleges typically resolve the violation. In the event that a college does not, the AAUP executive director can push forward an investigation that goes deeper into the situation, and then the AAUP can censure the college if it deems censuring necessary.

Outcome

AAUP Lifts Censure of Phillips Community College

In 2017, the AAUP announced that it would remove Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas from their censure list, upon the college’s adoption of a new faculty retention policy. The AAUP simultaneously removed the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

External References

History of the AAUP

About the AAUP

AAUP Removes Two from Academic Freedom Censure List, Adds Two, AAUP

AAUP Adds Two Institutions, Removes Two From Censure List [incl. Steven Salaita], Campus-Watch

Off and On the Censure List, Inside Higher Ed

A Divided AAUP Lifts Censure of U. of Illinois, The Chronicle of Higher Education

Academic Freedom and Tenure: Phillips County Community College (Arkansas), AAUP

Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18

December 1, 2017

California State University, Long Beach – September 7, 2016

Long Beach, CA

College administrators cancelled an on-campus performance of the satirical play, N*GGER WETB*CK CH*NK (N*W*C), scheduled to take place in the Carpenter Center for the Performing Arts at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) on September 29, 2016. The play, written and acted by three former college debate teammates, Rafael Agustin, Miles Gregly and Allan Axibal, was created with the intention of speaking about race in contemporary America. Using comedy, they crafted N*W*C using their own experiences with immigration and racial intolerance, slurs and stereotypes. Although N*W*C had been successfully staged and sold out in 2015, it was cancelled the following year because unspecified members of the campus community expressed concern over whether or not the show was adequately contributing to an educational dialogue. The show’s cancellation prompted Michele Roberge, the executive director of the performing arts center, to resign.

Key Players

Michele Roberge served as the executive director of the Carpenter Center for the Performing Arts for 14 years. She resigned upon learning that the performance would be shut down, telling the OC Weekly, “I just couldn’t come to work every day to work at a place that condones censorship.”

Further Details

The Carpenter Center for Performing Arts is technically a professional theater, although it is owned by the university. N*W*C is a play that has been touring the country for approximately 12 years. The small cast of writers visits college campuses in an attempt to foster conversation about real-life experiences with racial intolerance, integration, and immigration. The production has sparked protests of all kinds, including picketers, Neo-Nazi threats, and oppositional flyers, The New York Times reports.

In 2015, the NAACP penned a letter protesting CSULB’s decision to stage the show on its campus. In addition, many students objected to the play’s title. However, despite the criticism, University President Jane Close Conoley held firm and allowed the production to go forward.

But in 2016, the outcome was different. The performance was cancelled after numerous students and CSULB community members expressed concerns about it. Whereas the protests in 2015 had been primarily concerned with the title, those in 2016 objected to the content, OC Weekly reports.

Michele Roberge denounced the cancellation of the show as censorship. Upon resigning, she said, “by censoring this show, we’re depriving students of the opportunity from hearing a different point of view about race relations and making up their own minds about what’s in the news every day, from Black Lives Matter to police brutality. And as a professional presenting theater on a university campus, I think our job is to bring topics like this to the campus to be seen and discussed. But the university has curtailed my ability to do that, and I have enough integrity that I couldn’t accept [the decision],” the OC Weekly reports.

Outcome

Show cancellation

The show was cancelled, though the performers were compensated, OC Weekly reports.

Roberge resigns

Michele Roberge resigned from the position she had held for 14 years, because she was uncomfortable with what she considered censorship.

N*W*C tour continues

Although unable to perform at CSULB, a cast member of N*W*C said that the production would continue the tour as planned.

External References

Long Beach St. Pulls Plug on N*GGER WETB*CK CH*NK Show. Cancellation, or Censorship?, OC Weekly

What’s in a Slur? A New Play Searches for Answers, The New York Times

Prepared by Bridget McElroy ‘18

November 16, 2017