Tag Archives: Universities

Campus Free Speech and Sabotage

Many CLR Forum readers will be familiar with Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, the Supreme Court’s 2010 opinion upholding the constitutionality of an “all-comers” policy at the UC-Hastings law school. The all-comers policy required student groups, including religious organizations like CLS, to open their membership to all law students, regardless of belief. By a 5-4 vote, the Court held that this policy was a reasonable, viewpoint-neutral regulation consistent with the First Amendment.

One of the arguments CLS made against the all-comers policy was that the policy made it vulnerable to sabotage by students hostile to its message. Non-Christians could join CLS precisely in order to hijack the organization and subvert its mission. The Court dismissed this concern as fanciful. There was no history of hostile takeovers of campus groups, Justice Ginsburg wrote, and one had to give law students more credit for maturity. Besides, the law school’s code of student conduct prohibited disruption of campus activities; if such things happened, the law school would surely intervene.

Justice Ginsburg’s dismissal of the possibility of student hijacking came to mind as I was reading this post on Rod Dreher’s blog. Dreher describes a recent forum on marriage organized by a student group at Columbia University. The forum was open to everyone on campus and featured speakers with traditional views, including Sherif Girgis, Lynn Wardle, and Bradford Wilcox. Even though  the forum was sold out, the room was half empty. Why? Campus Democrats had hoarded tickets, apparently in an effort to prevent people from attending and hearing the speakers. Some campus Democrats did attend briefly to hold up protest signs and walk out. Here’s one student’s view of the situation, from the Columbia student paper:

From the start, the CU Democrats seemed misinformed—if not intent on spreading misinformation—about the purpose of the forum. It was not, as some that day said, an “anti-gay marriage tirade,” but a debate on the status of the modern family. . . . [T]he issue of the future of the family is a conversation that the CU Democrats seem unwilling to allow to take place, much less to take part in, despite their physical presence.

To be sure, hoarding tickets to a one-day conference is not the same thing as taking over a group. And, depending on your view of things, you might think of what the Columbia Democrats did as a harmless stunt or even a brave gesture for equality. Still, the campus Democrats used an all-comers policy to disrupt an event sponsored by another student group and limit that group’s message from reaching its intended audience. To me, this suggests that the possibility of hostile takeovers is not as far-fetched as the Martinez Court believed.

Muslim Students at Catholic Universities

Here is an interesting story about how many Muslim female students prefer university life on Catholic campuses.  Though the story somehow still manages to snicker at Catholic higher education — would it be so intolerably wrong, one wonders, to require a single course in Catholic thought or history at a Catholic university? – it conveys the comfort of devout Muslim students within a Catholic university.  Though the story does not mention it, President John Garvey of Catholic University once made similar statements about the religious life of Muslim students at Catholic University in response to a cooked-up, and subsequently discredited, controversy.

Horwitz, “First Amendment Institutions”

This November, Harvard University Press will publish First Amendment Institutions by Paul Horwitz (University of Alabama School of Law). The publisher’s description follows.

Addressing a host of hot-button issues, from the barring of Christian student groups and military recruiters from law schools and universities to churches’ immunity from civil rights legislation in hiring and firing ministers, Paul Horwitz proposes a radical reformation of First Amendment law. Arguing that rigidly doctrinal approaches can’t account for messy, real-world situations, he suggests that the courts loosen their reins and let those institutions with a stake in First Amendment freedoms do more of the work of enforcing them. Continue reading

Controversy About Secularism Class at Georgetown

A fight is developing between First Things blogger Matthew Cantirino and Georgetown Professor Jacques Berlinerblau over a description of Berlinerblau’s new class on secularism. Last Friday, the Washington Post profiled Berlinerblau’s class, which the Post described as an engaging, fair, but perhaps tendentious freshman seminar that had as its central theme the need for separating religion and public life. The Post used the class as an example of the burgeoning field of Secular Studies  in American universities, a development some liken to the creation of Women’s Studies departments a couple of generations ago. Yesterday, Cantirino discussed the Post article, including  its suggestion that courses like Berlinerblau’s might be an occasion for “academic indoctrination” (Cantirino’s words). This morning, on the Chronicle of Higher Education’s website, Berlinerblau demanded an apology. I’ll let Cantirino respond for himself, but maybe Berlinerblau should demand an apology from the Post reporter, since the article Cantirino was discussing says that over the course of the semester Berlinerblau had “managed to change the minds of most of his students,” including at least one who came into the class suspicious of secularism. That’s not indicative of indoctrination, of course, but it does suggest that Berlinerblau was trying to convince students of a particular point of view, and that seems to be the sense in which Cantirino was using the phrase. Read the exchange for yourself.

Lasson on Anti-Semitism on University Campuses

Kenneth Lasson (University of Baltimore School of Law) has posted Antisemitism in the Academic Voice: Confronting Bigotry Under the First Amendment. The abstract follows. –YAH

The romanticized vision of life in the Ivory Tower – a peaceful haven where learned professors ponder higher thoughts and where students roam orderly quadrangles in quest of truth and other pleasures – has long been relegated to yesteryear. While universities like to nurture the perception that they are protectors of reasoned discourse, and indeed often perceive themselves as sacrosanct places of culture in a chaotic world, the modern campus, of course, is not quite so wonderful.

The academic enterprise in America was besmirched by racism early on: until the latter part of the Twentieth Century, segregation and ethnic quotas were the norm, not the exception. But what was once accepted prejudicial policy has now given way to an aberrational form of political correctness, which still vividly illustrates failures of scholarly rigor – the abandonment of reliance on facts, common sense, and logic in the pursuit of narrow political agendas – and which are all too often presented in the academic voice. Continue reading