CounterCurrent: Special Thanksgiving Edition
With academia continuing to fight against intellectual freedom tooth and nail, it can be easy to lose sight of victories on our side. These achievements, big or small, give us hope that higher education can someday be restored as the catalyst of American freedom. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are five encouraging developments for which we at NAS are grateful:
On November 5th, Washingtonians took to the polls and narrowly rejected Referendum 88, thereby blocking Initiative 1000 and retaining the ban on affirmative action within the state. Those who wanted to bring back racial preferences used deceptive language and conjured thousands of suspicious ballots, but still lost. Congratulations to Washington Asians for Equality and its affiliates for what appears to be a successful campaign protecting their communities from racial discrimination.
The South Dakota Legislature passed H.B. 1087, a bill promoting free speech and intellectual diversity within the state’s public universities. Among the bill’s provisions is a prohibition against “attempt[ing] to shield individuals from constitutionally protected speech, including ideas and opinions they find offensive, unwise, immoral, indecent, disagreeable, conservative, liberal, traditional, radical, or wrong-headed;” this is a clear win for free speech advocates. However, a bill is only as good as its implementation, an aspect of the law that state legislators have yet to write. Read NAS’s recommendations here.
Current foreign disclosure policies are futile in protecting national security, containing meager regulations that are seldom enforced. The NAS sent policy recommendations to Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, and we are happy to hear that she has taken them into consideration. The newly proposed regulations would require colleges and universities to disclose more information about gifts, including their purpose and the name of the donor, and lower the disclosure threshold to $50,000. If ratified, these regulations would go great lengths in protecting our campuses from foreign influence and espionage.
The Obama Administration dramatically expanded the power of Title IX officers, giving them all but free reign to punish alleged sex offenders with no regard for due process. President Trump has fought back through two executive orders which work together to improve procedural transparency in Title IX cases and protect the rights of the accused. The NAS applauds President Trump’s efforts and encourages him to continue combatting higher education’s “rule by bureaucracy.”
Speaking of rule by bureaucracy: In a disturbing Boston College case, Title IX adjudicators suspended male student John Doe for more than year based on uncorroborated charges of sexual assault. Although the evidence clearly pointed to a different student and the district attorney dropped all charges, college officers continued in their punishment of Doe. He brought the case to the First Circuit Court of Appeals, which found that Boston College violated state law in their Title IX proceedings. Doe was awarded $100,000 to cover one year’s tuition and lost income. While this is only a fraction of what he sought, it is encouraging to see the federal judiciary protect innocent students when college administrators will not. We hope that this case will embolden other wrongfully accused students to stand for justice and fight back against bureaucratic malfeasance.
Plus, a note from NAS President Peter Wood:
“We lost the initial trial in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, the case of the Asian students who sued Harvard for discrimination. The loss was expected, and we have greater hope as the case goes up on appeal, with the likelihood that it will eventually land at the U.S. Supreme Court. But the recent decision gives cause for celebration all by itself. Judge Allison D. Burroughs’ decision is rife with what lawyers call ‘appealable error.’ She tried to exonerate Harvard by claiming, in effect, that its racial discriminiation didn’t matter because Harvard’s heart was in the right place. We’ll see how that plays in appeal.”
The NAS trusts that you find these stories as encouraging as we do, and we are thankful for your help in protecting academic freedom nationally and locally amidst encroaching threats. We wish you a restful and joyous Thanksgiving with family and friends.
CounterCurrent is the National Association of Scholars’ weekly newsletter, written by Communications & Administrative Associate John David. To subscribe, update your email preferences here.