Monday, May 23, 2016

Harvard’s war on ‘privilege’

The blacklisting of single-sex social clubs is another blow to student freedom

Harvard University, ultra-exclusive dispenser of lifelong privileges, now claims that ‘privilege and exclusion (are) at odds with our deepest values’. Seriously. Does this mean that Harvard will begin loosening its admission requirements and start offering free tuition to all undergraduates (with the exception, perhaps, of gazillionaire kids)?

Of course not. It means that Harvard will punish students who belong to single-sex social organisations of which university administrators disapprove – namely, fraternities, sororities and final clubs. (There are female as well as male final clubs, but the exclusively male enclaves are the primary targets of Harvard’s wrath.) Students who dare to join these groups will risk damaging their graduate and professional careers: they will be barred from ‘leadership positions in recognised student organisations or athletic teams’, and will not be eligible for dean’s endorsement letters for such honours as Rhodes scholarships and Marshall fellowships.

Harvard’s crusade against these particular exclusionary groups was sparked by concerns about alleged sexual assaults and the misogynist attitudes the final clubs allegedly propagate. But these concerns are not discussed in Harvard dean Rakesh Khurana’s explanation for the new policy. Instead, with a straight face, he declares, ‘In their recruitment practices and through their extensive resources and access to networks of power, these organisations propagate exclusionary values that undermine those of the larger Harvard College community’.

Dean Rakesh doesn’t explain how the university manages to exploit its ‘extensive resources and access to networks of power’ without promoting ‘exclusionary values’. Perhaps he thinks the answer is self-evident: Harvard is an ‘inclusive community’, president Drew Faust asserts, as she excludes from substantial benefits students whose associations she disdains.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) rightly characterises this new policy as a blacklist of students who don’t share Harvard’s ‘political preferences’. FIRE vice-president Robert Shipley stresses, ‘I had hoped that universities were past the point of asking people, “Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of a group we don’t like?”. Sadly they are not.’ As FIRE co-founder Harvey Silverglate adds, ‘Who’s to say that Harvard’s leaders five years from now won’t decide that Catholics or Republicans should be blacklisted because they might not line up with Harvard’s preferred values?’.

There are, of course, numerous single-sex groups (in addition to sports teams) that Harvard students may continue to join with impunity. Indeed, Harvard’s list of official student organisations includes affinity groups based on religion, race and ethnicity, as well as sex or gender, among other demographic categories, from BAGELS, a queer/jewish student group, to the Half-Asian People’s Association and the Latino Men’s Collective.

Officially recognised organisations are generally supposed to comply with the university’s anti-discrimination policy, which differentiates them from now-verboten social organisations that formally exclude members on the basis of sex. But final clubs, fraternities and sororities are not recognised or affiliated with Harvard: they exist and operate independently, which is why blacklisting students who choose to join them is such an affront to personal liberty. It’s a bit like punishing students for private, off-campus speech that administrators find offensive.

And, like most blacklists, this one does not just violate the associational freedom of people directly targeted. It limits the freedom of any campus group that wishes to associate with them, depriving approved organisations of the right to elect targeted students to leadership positions. As Harvard’s undergraduate council tactfully wrote in responding to the new policy, ‘We strongly encourage the college and the advisory group enforcing these recommendations to be mindful of internal democratic processes of student organisations… Vetting of elected members of student government based on affiliation in certain groups is detrimental, and fundamentally opposed, to the vivacity of the democratic process.’

Safe Space advocates mounted an angrier protest of the new policy, as a group of female students marched through Harvard Yard, defending their need for exclusively female clubs. ‘On campus and in a society that is so male-dominated, female spaces are crucial sources of empowerment… in the classroom men speak more than women, and on the weekend… women are targeted and shamed for their sexuality’, one student asserted. ‘Hear her Harvard. Value Women’s Spaces and Voices’, a sign proclaimed. ‘Don’t make women collateral damage’, another implored.

Sororities and female final clubs probably were collateral damage of Harvard’s punitive new policy, given prevailing assumptions that male social clubs cause sexual assault. But perhaps because Harvard can’t substantiate that assumption, it continues to rely on professed opposition to discrimination, whether practised by women or men. And it seems likely that the university targeted female as well as male clubs in order to appear even-handed, and perhaps to avoid equal-protection challenges under Massachusetts law.

Is Harvard’s assault on free association legal? As a private university, it’s not bound by the US Constitution, specifically First Amendment associational rights, but students punished for joining private, off-campus clubs may find relief under the state’s constitution, its civil-rights statute and Massachusetts common law.

They will not, however, find support from the many liberals or progressives who have applauded Harvard’s blacklist and share the hostility to fundamental liberties – of speech, association and due process – that now prevail on many American campuses. Harvard’s anti-association policy should be vigorously opposed, but the greater challenge for civil libertarians is defeating the illiberal authoritarianism that gave rise to it.


David Horowitz is bringing the truth to bear on Muslim Jew-hate on American campuses

From David:

The Freedom Center is getting ready for round two in the battle against the pro-Hamas, Jew hating campus organization Students for Justice in Palestine. We just won the first round. By a knockout.

As you may know, a few weeks ago we launched a campaign in which we circulated posters on several California college campuses showing the names and photos of students and faculty allied with the SJP and calling them for what they are -- Jew haters.

We hit pay dirt particularly at San Diego State University where the SJP and its radical fellow travelers went berserk, attacking us and also the SDSU President Elliot Hirshman, who made the mistake of saying that our posters might deserve the protections of free speech.

For this, the pro-jihadis and their radical allies threw the campus into turmoil, calling for Hirshman's resignation and at one point blockading him in his automobile.

It was what our president calls "a teachable moment."

Pro-jihadis and the radicals raged, but many SDSU students seemed to be listening to us. I spoke about SJP's Jew hatred on-campus in the aftermath of the crisis with President Hirshman. What I had to say was well enough received that I've been invited back to speak at San Diego State again in the fall.

Our campaign made an impact in the media as well as on-campus. All four major TV networks were at the press conference that followed my speech; and all four reported my charges that BDS is a Hamas-financed effort to bring Israel down and that SJP is a supporter of this terrorist organization. This message was telecast on the evening network news and reported on KPBS and the San Diego Union Tribune.

In other words, as a result of our actions, the truth about SJP -- that it is a terror-supporting, Hamas-associated campus group -- was put in front of millions of residents of the San Diego area.

No other pro-Israel organization has been able to reach so many people in an urban area with facts that utterly discredit Israel's enemies. More importantly, we laid the groundwork for a fall campaign to strip SJP of its campus funding and support.

We are going to expand the campaign from California to the country as a whole. We will find out who the student and faculty supporters of this Jew hating, pro-Hamas student group are on a dozen hand picked campuses across America.

We are going to put their photos on posters and when school reopens in late August, we will circulate these posters at each of these campuses. Then, as the SJP reacts, furious that its imposture as just another campus "cultural" organization has been destroyed, what began as a postering event will become a media event, as the local and national press covers our demand that cowardly university administrators stop the funding of this hateful anti-Semitic and pro-jihadi group.

Via email. You can donate to the campaign here

UK: Parents' fury after school organised 'bikini body fitness classes' for students

A school has apologised to furious parents after a teacher organised 'bikini body fitness classes' for students.

Parents were outraged when they learned about the after school sessions at The Ripley Academy in Derbyshire, which teaches pupils aged between 11 and 18, and complained to staff.

The classes were set up by a supply teacher at the school, without the permission of principal Carey Ayres, and have now been cancelled.

One parent, who did not want to be named, said: 'Isn't it bad enough to have impressionable girls already worrying about the state of their bodies?  'I am all for healthy lifestyle but this is sexualising the fitness class.

A spokesman for Ripley Academy said the school apologised to parents who might have been offended by the classes. 'As soon as we were made aware of these after school classes they were cancelled as they did not reflect the values of the academy,' she said. 'We would like to sincerely apologise for any offence caused.

'They were organised by a supply teacher, who is covering a member of staff on maternity leave, without permission from the principal and this issue will be dealt with internally.

'At The Ripley Academy we do run a variety of extra curricular activities aimed at promoting a healthy lifestyle amongst all of our students and we would never condone any class, or after-school activity, that may put pressure on any young person in terms of their own body image.'


False rape charges: Arrogant British university thinks it is wiser than the police

Much of Melanie Duff’s life has exemplified a kind of elevated Cotswolds respectability. She is a former Olympic equestrian rider who is on personal terms with Princess Anne’s daughter Zara Phillips. Together they co-owned Zara’s favourite horse.

At the same time Mrs Duff immersed herself in local politics and was elected Tory mayor of Highworth, once riding into the Wiltshire market town on horseback to open a fair. Now she runs a livery next to her handsome farmhouse. So far, so picture-perfect.

But it was as a mother that Mrs Duff, 54, faced her greatest test.

For her assured existence was fractured two years ago when her polo-playing son Thady was wrongly accused of a vile crime: the gang rape of a woman during the May Ball at the Royal Agricultural University where he was studying.

‘It was horrendous,’ she says. ‘But everyone has dealt with it in their own way. Thady was remarkable in that, when he wasn’t having to deal with it, he had the ability to put it in a box.

In truth, Thady and fellow students Leo Mahon and Patrick Foster, all 22, along with their friend, James Martin, endured a two-year nightmare which only came to an end when the case against them collapsed – after the exposure of a scandalously flawed police inquiry.

Five weeks went by after they walked free, but they heard nothing from the university.

‘Personally, I think that, because it has been two years, they thought they would hear nothing more from us and it would just quietly slip away. It hasn’t,’ says Mrs Duff.

She and the other parents wrote a joint letter to the chair of governors asking for ‘the opportunity to come in and chat about the boys’ education’.

It was only then that the university made contact. Mrs Duff received a terse reply saying this was not possible. ‘They said the boys were adults and if they wanted to speak to the college, they had to write,’ she says.

Then, after the students’ ordeal was highlighted by The Mail on Sunday last week, each received a letter warning that they remain suspended. And, in what they perceive as a final insult, must now face an ‘internal investigation’ by the university.

Thady, who was in his first year when the rape allegation surfaced, is unable to complete his studies and Leo and Patrick are unable to collect their degrees, still unaware even of the results of the final exams they sat two years ago.

They remain, then, in a form of quasi-legal purgatory, still shackled by a crime they did not commit.

Perhaps, on reflection, it was too much for Melanie Duff and the other boys’ parents to expect the university to welcome their sons back with open arms. But neither did they expect the elite institution to deliver such an ‘extraordinary’ blow.

‘It seems so unfair,’ says Mrs Duff, who observed at close hand how the saga blighted – quite possibly irreparably – the lives of the three students.

The woman, her identity protected by law, had accused them of raping her at the £85-a-head black tie ball at the university in Cirencester, Gloucestershire. They vehemently denied the allegations, but the police believed her – not them.

All four men admitted having ‘consensual sex’ with the woman on the night of the ball. And they conceded that they were in a room with her at the same time – but denied that it constituted ‘group sex’.

Then, two long years later, the officer leading the inquiry, Detective Constable Ben Lewis, was found to have ‘broken’ the trial process.

Data on the woman’s phone that shattered her story had been inexplicably withheld from defence lawyers.

The university said last night that its ‘regulations allow for internal investigation of any incident which may breach the university rules’.

It added that it will ‘look into the incident at the May Ball and any matters pertaining to it’.

And asked when Leo and Patrick will receive their degrees, a spokeswoman said: ‘The issue of academic progress will follow the outcome of the internal investigation.’ Thady says: ‘How can we move on with our lives when they’re still holding this threat over us?’

‘The college May Ball is next weekend and I’m sure they simply want to make certain we don’t attend. But after the experience we’ve been through none of us would go anyway.’


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