Friday, September 22, 2017

New Middlebury College Speaker Policy Basically Encourages Their Students to Make Threats Against Speakers

Last school year, Middlebury College, an elite private school in Vermont, attempted to host controversial author and scholar Charles Murray before a mob stepped in and violently ended the event before it could begin. No charges were filed against the student protestors, despite the fact that a professor was left with a serious neck injury and a concussion in the melee. Now, hoping to prevent a repeat of these events, Middlebury has announced a new interim speakers policy: the school will simply cancel all speakers if there's a "credible threat" made against them.

While the first two points of the new policy are fairly standard (three weeks notice for reserving rooms, please make any note of any security concerns), the final four give significant pause. I've highlighted the questionable policies below:

Requests to schedule an event will be reviewed weekly by staff from Student Activities, Event Management, and Communications to identify any events that are a likely target of disruption, threats, violence, or other acts of intimidation, or are likely to draw unusually large crowds.

In the event of a credible likelihood, based on prior incidents or current evidence, that an event is likely to be the target of threats or violence, the Threat Assessment and Management Team will conduct a risk assessment of the event, consulting with local law enforcement as needed, in order to advise the administration.

Representatives from Public Safety/Campus Security and Risk Management will review the risk assessment and determine resources or measures that might be necessary to ensure that the event can proceed without undue risk to the speaker and/or members of the community. This review will include a consideration of Middlebury Emergency Preparedness Plan and Emergency Operations protocols.

In those exceptional cases where this review indicates significant risk to the community, the president and senior administration will work with event sponsors to determine measures to maximize safety and mitigate risk. Only in cases of imminent and credible threat to the community that cannot be mitigated by revisions to the event plan would the president and senior administration consider canceling the event.

Gee, I can't imagine a scenario where this could backfire, can you? This new policy effectively encourages student groups to make plans to protest and to threaten speakers that they don't want on campus. This is not something that Middlebury should want more of on their campus. While I'm sure Middlebury had the best intentions in creating these policies, this is not behavior that should be egged on.

Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, who graduated from Middlebury in 1982, described the interim policy as one that will "legitimize heckler's veto."

Instead, the school should crack down on those making the "credible threats" against the speakers, rather than canceling the event altogether. Nobody wins in this scenario. College is a time to be exposed to uncomfortable ideas and to learn new things. (Or, if a person doesn't like the speaker at the event, they could always do something else with their time.) It's absurd for Middlebury--or any college--to seriously propose this kind of policy. It's a disservice to its students.


How to Give the Public Confidence in Charter Schools 

A couple of policy tweaks could restore voters’ sinking support for charters

Last month, 17 young men and women began their final year at Success Academy Charter Schools, the largest of the many stunningly successful charter networks operating in New York City. The first ever seniors at Success, these students have gained a lot of peers during their eleven years of study — both within their own school network and at charter schools around the country. Since 2006 the number of American students in charter schools has more than tripled, rising to an estimated 3 million for the 2016–17 school year.

    It’s no shock that the rise of charter schools has spurred nationwide opposition from teachers’ unions, which are losing their vise grip on salary and benefits negotiations as independently managed schools spread. It is alarming, however, that the campaign against charters may be starting to gain ground. A poll released last Friday by the nonpartisan journal Education Next shows that public support for charter schools has declined by more than 10 percentage points just in the past year, with the rising doubts spread evenly across party lines.

    There are many possible explanations for the increasingly negative perception of charters among the American public. But school-reform advocates should take the news as an urgent call to rebut the slander being heaped on charters and to address the deficient policies that actually have held back their success in some regions.

    In the realm of slander, left-wing advocacy groups appear to be racing to outdo each other. The NAACP called for a freeze on all new charters last fall, alleging that independently operated schools siphon resources from needy public-school students. Then, when the group reiterated its stance in July, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten piled on by condemning charters as the “cousins of segregation.”

    These two intermingled charges don’t stand up to the evidence. If there is one area in which charter schools have excelled, it has been in delivering results for poor black and Hispanic students. Just like its previous nationwide study in 2013, the latest report from the Center for Research on Educational Outcomes showed that charters improved performance in reading and math at a higher rate than traditional public schools among low-income minority students. Accusations of discrimination have likely stoked public fears about charters, but frankly, the positive results in classrooms across the country will continue to speak for themselves over time.

    In the long run, expanding the practices that boost charter schools’ performance will be more important for sustaining such schools’ popularity than merely squashing thin left-wing criticisms. There are several states and regions in which charters have indeed lagged — rarely to the point of significantly underperforming neighboring public schools, but enough to make parents skeptical about the promises of the model. Fortunately, some of the differences between regions where charters flourish and ones where they flounder are clear, and could be corrected by shifts in state policy.

    The first big difference-maker in charter-school outcomes by region is the presence of authorizers that actively shut down underperforming schools. States such as Florida and Arizona, where charters are finally managing to reduce the achievement gap between their white and black students, are also among the leaders in closing low-performing schools: both closed more than 5 percent of their charters in 2015–16 alone. To ensure that poor-performing schools are held to account, regional authorizers must have both the power to close schools and the incentive to do so. Confoundingly, many charter-school authorizers are compensated based on the number of schools in their portfolios. In Michigan, where charters still outperform traditional public schools by a slight margin, a recent New York Times Magazine feature was nonetheless right to point out that the cash-strapped colleges and school boards that accredit charters have often hesitated to close schools and hurt their own bottom lines.

    A second, even clearer difference between regions where charters succeed and regions where they struggle is the balance of independent versus network-affiliated schools. Headlines often tout the fact that urban charters fare better than suburban ones, but much of this trend can be chalked up to the fact that charter schools in cities are likelier to belong to networks. These networks reduce the administrative costs for each of their schools and provide invaluable know-how for teachers and administrators at newly opened locations. Although the network model is already spreading to some sparsely populated areas, states could attract more power players like the Knowledge Is Power Program and Great Hearts Academies to their suburbs with tailored tax incentives.

    Since the first charter opened in 1991, school reformers have argued that the charter model would allow states and individual schools to test innovative methods of education. A quarter century of trials has proved these reformers right, with charter schools producing unmatched benefits for their students in most but not all cases. Now, the charter movement — like many of the graduates it has produced — is coming of age, ready to apply the best practices of its early years on a more consistent basis. Of course, maturity for charters shouldn’t mean an end to “experimenting.” But to restore public confidence, and spread the success of the charter model to every region in the nation, those states who haven’t yet done so should move quickly to create the conditions under which it has been proven most effective.


Anti-political correctness professor to speak at University of Regina

Gad Saad says political correctness is killing freedom of speech on school campuses

A visiting professor who believes that political correctness is killing the free exchange of ideas on campuses will be speaking at the University of Regina on Monday.

Dr. Gad Saad is a Concordia University marketing professor and creator of the popular YouTube channel, 'The Saad Truth,' where he explains his stances on evolutionary biology and concerns that freedom of speech is becoming increasingly restricted by so-called lunacy on campuses.

His arguments have been met with controversy. For example, he believes that while trans people should not face discrimination, people should not be forced to refer to them by preferred genderless pronouns like ze and zir.

Saad was part of the recently cancelled panel discussion titled, The Stifling of Free Speech on University Campuses, at Ryerson University, which also featured former Rebel Media personality Faith Goldy and University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson, who made headlines for refusing to use gender neutral pronouns.

"I guess the irony is lost on those folks," Saad told CBC Radio's The Morning Edition, calling those who rallied to shut down the event "domestic terrorists."

"If we think of terrorism as people flying planes into buildings and we restrict it to something as grand as that, then yes it is hyperbole. But if we recognize that the intrusion on our rights, our most fundamental right as citizens of Canada is to have the right to speak freely and once someone actually shuts that down, I mean it almost can't be a greater societal crime than that."

He's appearing at the school as part of the president's deliberation and debate speaker series.

School president Vianne Timmons said she knows some of Saad's views are controversial, but said a committee of six faculty members recommended him for the speaker series because his thoughts will stir debate, which is the point of the event.

"He may have views that are not shared by everyone on campus, but the whole idea of a university is to present views that are unique and different and have people think and contemplate and critique and learn."

Timmons said two people — one faculty member and one student — have voiced concerns that some of Saad's views may be offensive, but she doesn't know of any planned demonstrations.

Regardless, she said security has been put on alert for the event.


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