Patterico's Pontifications

5/9/2016

Praise (But Only Qualified Praise) for the Gophers

Filed under: General — JVW @ 9:46 pm



[guest post by JVW]

We have been cataloging the sad and ugly attempts at some universities to trample on the free speech rights of students all in the name of diversity and tolerance, or whatever trendy shibboleth is being bandied about on campus these days, so it is only fair that we acknowledge those institutions of higher education who are looking for ways to protect students from the censorious crybullies who wield all the power in Obama’s post-racial America. With that in mind, let’s put our hands together for the University of Minnesota where the faculty is working on adopting a statement of principles regarding free speech. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the statement codifies four important principles of free speech:

(1) A public university must be absolutely committed to protecting free speech, both for constitutional and academic reasons.

(2) Free speech includes protection for speech that some find offensive, uncivil, or even hateful.

(3) Free speech cannot be regulated on the ground that some speakers are thought to have more power or more access to the mediums of speech than others.

(4) Even when protecting free speech conflicts with other important University values, free speech must be paramount.

These are four excellent pillars for supporting the full protection guaranteed by the Constitution to all Golden Gopher students, even the ones who aren’t any good at hockey. This statement has been approved by a faculty committee and will next come to the entire faulty for a vote. Naturally a collective of mushminded graduate students finds the statement to be offensive as do the wannabe Stasi of the undergraduate senate, so this committee must be headed in the right direction. Unfortunately, due to the winding down of the academic year and the glacial pace at which university bureaucracies move, this initiative might wither on the vine until next fall.

And, truth be told, there is at least one aspect to the faculty committee’s document as drafted that should cause a degree of heartburn to anyone who is tired of the shenanigans that go on in higher education. In one of the recommendations for how free speech can be protected on the UM campus, the committee makes the following suggestion: “Create a position of free-speech advocate or vest the powers of a free-speech advocate within the existing faculty governance structure.” Isn’t it just like the modern academic to suggest more bureaucratic positions, especially at a taxpayer-funded university? While it may be true that too many students have been hauled in front of campus kangaroo courts without the counsel of any supportive ally, how do we know that the free speech advocate position won’t be occupied by a Melissa Click-type character? After all, if an academic who held a joint appointment with the journalism school can seek to ban reporters from a public event, what guarantee does the Minnesota taxpayer have that the appointed free speech advocate will be a bona fide supporter of open expression instead of just another administrative empty suit in cahoots with the crybullies?

So let me see if I can help the UM bring about this free speech champion without sticking the Minnesota taxpayer or the tuition-paying student with the tab. The University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus has a student population of over 50,000 students, and it has an Office for Equity and Diversity which consists of nine — count ’em nine! — sub-offices, including the perennial favorites Conflict Resolution, Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence, and of course Institute for Diversity, Equity and Advocacy. The OED office boasts of fourteen administrators with titles such as Vice President, Associate Vice Provost, Assistant Vice Provost, Associate Vice President, Assistant Vice President, and Assistant to the Vice President. That’s an awful lot of vice for a midwestern college campus. The Office for Diversity in Graduate Education, just to take but one example, has a staff of five, three of whom carry the title of “Director.” I am guessing that the Office of Equity and Diversity is often on the complainant side of these campus free speech kerfuffles, so how about we cut one position from that group for every free speech advocate that the UM finds it needs to hire? And since the current employment listings at the UM feature at least three open full-time regular positions in the OED, we can start by redlining those jobs and using the saved headcount for the new free speech advocates. Everybody wins in that scenario.

In closing, I would like to point out that once upon a time every college and university in this country had plenty of free speech advocates on staff. They were collectively known as the faculty.

– JVW

3 Responses to “Praise (But Only Qualified Praise) for the Gophers”

  1. Here’s an interesting exercise on which jobs are really needed and which are just window dressing: UM only appears to have the three open positions in the OED, yet they are practically begging for people with MD’s to come and teach in the Medical School. Once you land a cushy position in the Office for Equity and Diversity, you probably only leave to take a higher position at another bureaucrat-heavy school. But the world certainly needs physicians.

    JVW (30a532)

  2. When I rule the world, there will be no colleges or universities. No school after age twelve, for that matter. All trades and professions will be by apprenticeship. The egghead types can read books on their own and/or find their own private individual or group tutors. This extension of childhood into the twenties, in some cases the late twenties, by the “higher education” racket, has gotten ridiculous.

    nk (dbc370)

  3. Minnesota has a university?

    Cruz Supporter (102c9a)


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