Friday, April 11, 2014

A Faculty Revolution Against Free Speech

Mike Adams

“We must do away with all newspapers. A revolution cannot be accomplished with freedom of the press.” - Ernesto "Che" Guevara.

When I first started writing about campus free speech issues for Town Hall in 2003, I complained that most college administrators were ignorant of the constitution. One of my readers, Jim Collins from Colorado Springs, was quick to correct me. Jim pointed out that college administrators aren't just ignorant of the First Amendment. Instead, he insisted that they are hostile towards it. Time has shown just how right he was. In fact, administrative hostility towards the First Amendment has gotten worse since 2003.

Unfortunately, this hostility has spread from the administration to the faculty. In fact, just a few years ago, Dick Veit, our former faculty senate president here at UNCW, joined an administrative effort to punish faculty who dared to criticize the administration in opinion columns written in off-campus forums. This was done under the guise of promoting "collegiality."

The collegiality pretext has been used at other universities. It was first pushed at UNCW by then-Chancellor Rosemary DePaolo. She actually admitted that it was intended to punish me for publicly criticizing the university - for various reasons such as excessive spending on diversity and exorbitantly high salaries for university administrators. Internal emails confirmed that collegiality was being proposed as a device to explicitly punish my constitutionally protected speech.

It is noteworthy that these emails also revealed that Dick Veit was working with the administration to put the collegiality measure in place. Fortunately, when the measure came up for a vote, the junior faculty rebelled and voted it down. Veit later left the senate in frustration over his failed effort to supplement "teaching, research, and service" with a broad "collegiality" factor, which could be used to veto the United States Constitution.

Unfortunately, there are a lot other Dick Veits working in academia. Enter Gabriel Lugo who is a fan of Ernesto "Che" Guevara and is the current faculty senate president at my university. Lugo recently circulated false information on the faculty senate mailing list, which, unfortunately, may embolden senior faculty and administrators inclined to punish junior faculty for speaking out on matters of public concern. This requires a little background information. Please keep reading.

Last year, as our university began to consider revamping promotion polices - like the ones in place when I was denied promotion - Lugo circulated a memo to faculty giving guidelines on academic freedom as it relates to the promotion process. He urged faculty to read two Supreme Court cases, which he claimed were relevant to the issue of free speech. One of those cases was Garcetti v. Ceballos (2006).

In Garcetti, Justice Kennedy wrote a majority opinion, which modified a previous rule regarding free speech and public employment. Previously, the Court said that public employees have a First Amendment right to speak out on matters of public concern without facing retaliation. Garcetti modified the rule saying that this right did not extend to public employees who spoke out on matters of public concern that were also a part of their "official duties."

The rule arose in the case of a public employee, Ceballos, who happened to be a district attorney. But some, including dissenting Justice David Souter, worried that the rule would be applied to professors who have a special role in the public square. In other words, the case was seen as a potential threat to academic freedom. For this reason, Justice Kennedy added a paragraph to the opinion noting that the rule in Garcetti did not specifically address the role of professors. Kennedy, writing for the majority, stated "We need not ... decide whether the analysis we conduct today would apply in the same manner to a case involving speech related to scholarship or teaching."

Enter UNCW. In my recent lawsuit challenging my 2006 promotion denial, the university tried to apply Garcetti to my speech. They specifically argued that the mere mention of the column on my promotion application transformed my private speech into an official duty thus stripping the views expressed in the column of First Amendment protection. In other words, the university claimed a right to punish the speech by denying my promotion.

Gabriel Lugo and the faculty senate were silent while this epic First Amendment battle was brewing. That battle was settled in a 2011 unanimous decision in my favor. In that decision, the 4th Circuit specifically ruled that the Garcetti "official duties" distinction does not apply to university professors. It was a monumental victory for academic freedom.

In January of 2014, the 9th Circuit relied on Adams v. UNCW. They refused to allow a university to apply Garcetti in order to justify suppressing another professor's speech. That victory (in a case originating in Washington State) shows that our victory in the 4th Circuit is now spreading across the entire country. It seems everyone is learning from Adams v. UNCW - except for UNCW Faculty Senate President Gabriel Lugo.

Lugo's insistence that Garcetti still applies to academic promotion cases (remember, he said so in a recent memo) raises some interesting questions. In fact, I have two questions for Lugo and the faculty senate:

1. Is President Lugo so out of touch that he has never even heard of the 4th Circuit decision in Adams v. UNCW? As a reminder, Lugo teaches at UNCW. In fact, our offices are in the same building.

2. Or is it the case that Lugo has heard of Adams v. UNCW and has decided to actively mislead the faculty about their rights?

Those are really the only two options. Lugo is either a) completely uninformed about, or b) actively opposed to, academic freedom. Of course, I have my own constitutionally protected opinion of where Lugo, the Peruvian fan of Che Guevara, stands. (Hint: Read the quote at the top of the column).

This battle for campus free speech is not a battle against ignorance of our rights. It is a battle against hostility towards our rights. All of this talk about collegiality is merely intellectual cowardice meant to shield tenured hypocrites from well-deserved criticism.


How Wisconsin’s voucher students did better than you were told

Voucher students outperformed their public school counterparts on Wisconsin standardized tests, but you wouldn’t know it by reading any of the major state newspapers.

Newly released statistics from the Department of Public Instruction show that voucher students scored better than public school students, nearly across the board, when controlling for the students’ economic status. But don’t take our word for it. Here’s the data:

Standardized test scores tend to correlate with income level. Students living in poverty tend to score lower on standardized tests than students in better economic situations.

When attempting to control student test scores for these factors, voucher students mostly outperform public school students on the tests. They have also improved test scores at a faster rate during the past four years.

That said, DPI’s data doesn’t allow for exact comparisons of student performance across poverty levels. The DPI reports voucher student numbers without breaking down the data according to economic status. For public school students, DPI provides the scores for the students receiving free or reduced lunches.

The voucher program income cutoffs don’t perfectly align with free or reduced lunch income cutoffs, one measurement of student poverty.

A family of four cannot earn more than $43,752 to qualify for a reduced-price lunch.

The income cutoff for the statewide school-choice program is $50,636 for a family of four. In 2011 the Legislature increased the income limits for the Milwaukee and Racine programs from nearly $40,000 a year to nearly $71,000 per family of four.

The vast majority of students in the school choice-program qualify for a free or reduced lunch.

Media misleads

The major news outlets throughout the state, however, reported that voucher students in private schools performed worse than public school students on standardized tests.

“DPI: Wisconsin voucher schools show lower test scores compared to public schools” was the Wisconsin State Journal headline.

“Voucher students post gain in math, reading; still lag public schools,” read the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“Voucher student scores lag public school students,” read the Racine Journal Times, which ran the Associated Press story.

That’s what they reported, more or less following the narrative in the state Department of Public Instruction’s news release regarding the testing data.

It’s technically all correct, but only when comparing apples to oranges. In this case, that means comparing test scores of poorer voucher students with those of wealthier public school students.

“There is a general level of trust (among the media) because (DPI is) a government agency,” said Jim Bender, president of School Choice Wisconsin. “The rabid anti-school choice folks that sit at the controls of power inside (DPI) operate under a false veil of objectivity.  In reality, DPI knows whatever headline they put out in a press release will likely be the headline in the paper the next morning.”

Many of the newspaper reporters also included the students who opted out of the tests as part of the voucher students’ overall score. DPI reports students who opt-out of tests as scoring non-proficient.

The DPI numbers and media accounts also fail to adjust for the thousands of new voucher students who attended their private school for just a few months before taking the tests. Most of these students’ academic careers have been in the public school system.

“DPI advocates and lobbies against the program and consistently manipulates the release of data to put the school choice program in a negative light,” Bender said. “This release of data is no different. Unfortunately, many in the media just fall for it.”

It’s a hard fall.

Researchers looking at the decades-long Milwaukee Parental Choice Program found that voucher students had better reading and math scores, graduated high school at a higher rate and did better in college than their MPS counterparts. The choice program also helped MPS scores increase by fostering competition for students and, therefore, tax dollars.


Coursework is axed as Gove toughens up GCSEs and A-Levels: Education Secretary introduces plans for harder exams including questions in foreign languages 

Teenagers will carry out a dozen science experiments, study the sweep of British history and answer questions in foreign languages under dramatic changes to GCSEs and A-levels.

Coursework will be axed in almost all subjects – amid  concerns it leads to cheating and wastes teaching time – in favour of written final exams.

Papers will demand greater knowledge of mathematics, scientific  formulae, grammar, punctuation, British history and geography and cutting-edge science such as nanoparticles and space physics.

Unveiling the changes, Education Secretary Michael Gove said they would undo ‘the pernicious damage caused by grade inflation and dumbing down’.

He announced details of changes to a wide range of subjects which will be phased in from 2015. These include a requirement on pupils taking A-levels in any of the sciences to carry out at least a dozen practical experiments over the two-year course.

Pupils will be given a separate pass or fail grade for their performance in the practicals to stand alongside their usual grade in the written exam.

They will also be required to answer questions on the experiments in the main written exam. Mr Gove has said he backs ‘more whizzes and bangs in school science’.

But the move provoked fury among many scientists who say practical work should continue to be assessed as part of the overall A-level grade. English language GCSE will award 20 per cent of marks for accuracy in grammar, punctuation and spelling.

In a linked announcement, exams watchdog Ofqual said assessment in new GCSEs and A-levels would be ‘by exam only’ – except where the essential skills for a subject could not be tested in an exam.

Coursework or controlled assessments – coursework undertaken in exam conditions in class – will no longer feature in most GCSEs.

Ofqual chief executive Glenys Stacey said: ‘Non-exam assessments do not always test the skills they are meant to assess, they can disrupt classroom time better spent on teaching and learning and may provide limited evidence of performance across a group of students if they all get limited marks.

‘Importantly, non-exam assessments can narrow the focus of what is taught and can be vulnerable to malpractice, meaning the playing field is not level for all students.’

But head teachers’ leaders warned that schools and pupils faced ‘enormous pressure’ and confusion as the new-style exams are phased in.

‘Hastily implemented changes on such a scale carry an enormous risk,’ said Brian Lightman, of the Association of School and College Leaders.


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