FIRE’s Latest Victories

Inside Higher Ed has a great story today about our  friends at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). In July, FIRE’s attorneys launched a legal campaign–the “Stand Up for Speech Litigation Project”– to eliminate campus speech codes. According to the piece, their efforts have already garnered $200,000 in settlements. In these cases, FIRE has typically challenged college administrators who’ve restricted petitioning and demonstrations to unironically labeled  “free speech zones.” With victories at Citrus College, University of Hawaii at Hilo, and Modesto Junior College, FIRE has set it sights on larger schools like  Iowa State and Ohio University. We’re glad FIRE’s work is receiving so much mainstream attention, and we wish them good luck in their noble fight for free speech.

Shame on Gillibrand

Apart from Claire McCaskill, no senator has more aggressively advocated weakening due process protections for students accused of sexual assault than New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand. She continued her anti-due process crusade in two high-profile moves this week.

Emma Sulkowicz (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Emma Sulkowicz (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

First, Gillibrand invited Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz as her special guest for the State of the Union address. Sulkowicz has attracted international media attention for her “performance art” project of carrying a mattress around campus to protest what she considers Columbia’s insufficient response to a student she claims sexually assaulted her. No evidence exists that the student did, in fact, sexually assault her: even under Columbia’s extraordinarily imbalanced sexual assault policy, which tilts nearly all procedures in the advantage of the accusing student, the disciplinary panel didn’t find Sulkowicz’s allegation credible. Why Gillibrand came to believe Sulkowicz remains unclear.

It’s also unclear what message Gillibrand intended to send in selecting Sulkowicz, whose approach to criminal justice issues appears to be precisely what members of Congress should not encourage. Sulkowicz found the time to speak about her experiences with MTV, the Guardian, a local TV station, and several other media sources—but she wasn’t able to spare the time to follow through with the police about her complaint. (Or at least so she implied—the student she accused has suggested that actually the police looked into the matter and elected not to continue with the investigation, something that Sulkowicz never had previously admitted). It would seem that a senator Continue reading

A New Video on Gender Propaganda

“We don’t live in a rape culture, but ours is a society saturated with gender propaganda.” That’s the opening line of the latest in the “Factual Feminist” series of brief videos by Christina Sommers of the American Enterprise Institute. Here she discusses the gender discourse so prevalent on our campuses.


Why So Many Students Aren’t Ready for College

Education Views

We know that average American students today are not ready for college from two different sources: (1) Renaissance Learning’s latest report on the average reading level of what students in 9-12 choose to read or are assigned to read, and (2) the average reading level of what colleges assign incoming freshmen to read. From these two sources that are independent of each other, we learn that average American students read at about the grade 7 level. Some high school students can read high school-level material, of course, while others are still reading at an elementary school level (even though they are in high school).

Where is the evidence? According to Beach Books: 2013-2014, the top 7 books Continue reading

Is the President’s Community College Plan Worse Than We Thought?

The President​’s remarks on his free community college proposal didn’t address the concerns raised by higher-ed analysts; in fact, it simply created new ones. When he initially unveiled the plan, President Obama stated that free community college would be limited to students who maintain a 2.5 GPA and make good progress towards completing their degrees. However, in his address tonight he expressed a desire to make “two years of college…as free and universal in America as high school is today.” This statement raises the possibility that the federal government will eventually scrap the plan’s already minimal eligibility criteria, which would lead to many more enrollees and a higher price tag for taxpayers.

Moreover, the President failed to acknowledge his plan’s very real drawbacks. He stated that “forty percent of our college students choose community college​” but didn’t note community college students’ abysmal graduation rates. On a related note, he failed to detail accountability measures that would force schools receiving the new federal subsidy to improve student outcomes. This omission suggests that the President is relatively uninterested in improving community colleges before he directs more students to enroll. Without any such improvement, however, the President’s plan will likely hurt those he’s trying to help.