Friday, August 19, 2022

Judge tosses NYC teachers’ union suit that tried to block charter high school

A state judge on Tuesday tossed out a lawsuit from the New York City teachers’ union that had sought to block the opening of a new charter high school in The Bronx.

The United Federation of Teachers filed suit earlier this year claiming that two K-8 charter networks were violating the state’s charter cap of 460 by striking an agreement to open a joint high school.

But Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Lyle Frank — who also is overseeing the contentious city school budget funding case — found that charter schools have the right to expand from kindergarten through 12th grade, and that therefore, the project doesn’t violate the cap.

The charter schools involved are Brilla College Prep and Public Prep, which each serve grades K-8 in Manhattan and The Bronx.

The two operators applied for a revision to their charter licenses in 2019, to propose the joint high school, the Vertex Partnership Academies, at a single site, to be run by an independent entity on their behalf.

The joint high school was approved by the State University of New York’s Board of Trustees, which licenses charter schools along with the Board of Regents.

While the union argued that the new school was violating state law, the judge ruled the project was all above-board.

He noted in his ruling that SUNY charter school officials had also approved similar applications for a combined high school to serve students from different K-8 schools.

Brilla College College Prep and Public Prep each agreed that they cannot both create the joint high school and also independently run separate K-12 programs, acknowledging that such “double dipping” is prohibited.

“The capacity of students available to these schools under their existing charters remains unchanged… Both sides agree that there is nothing in existing law that would bar charter schools from having an outside entity operate their school,” Frank said.

“Contrary to the petitioners’ [UFT’s] contentions,” he wrote, “it is clear that at issue here is the revision of existing charter schools and not the creation of a new charter school.”

Frank also said the UFT lacked standing to challenge revisions to the charter licenses. Only the city Department of Education, which was not part of the suit, has standing to claim any perceived harm to the city public school system.

SUNY officials who approved the new high charter school applauded the judge’s ruling.

“We are very pleased with the decision in this case – we believed all along that our actions were consistent with the law,” said Joseph Belluck, a trustee who chairs SUNY’s charter school committee.

A UFT spokesperson responded, “The judge’s decision does not permit the charters involved to `double-dip,’ to get around the charter law by using this ruling to create more high school seats in addition to those involved in the joint high school.”

Charter schools are publicly funded, privately managed schools that typically have a longer school day and year than traditional public schools. They are popular among parents but critics including the unions claim the mostly non-union alternative schools drain resources from regular public schools.

There are now 140,000 students who attend 275 charter schools. One of every seven students in the city now attends a publicly funded charter school.


As DC Plans to Ban 40% of Black Teens From School, Mayor Rejects DC COVID-19 Vaccine Numbers

During a Monday press conference, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser seemingly claimed her department’s own numbers surrounding the amount of black school aged children vaccinated against COVID-19 were inaccurate. Unvaccinated school children will be banned from attending Washington, D.C. public schools later this month.

In response to a question from The Daily Signal about how 40% of black school aged children were unvaccinated, Bowser responded, “I don’t think that that number is correct. We have a substantially few fewer number of kids that we have to engage with vaccination.”

While Bowser claimed the number provided by The Daily Signal is incorrect, the statistic came from the District of Columbia’s own vaccination data website.

The data shows that around 60% of black kids aged 12-17 have received a complete COVID-19 vaccine regimen, meaning 40% are unvaccinated or have not received a second shot if necessary. The numbers flip for blacks aged 18-24, as the D.C. data shows 60% of adults in that age bracket are unvaccinated or have not received their second shot if necessary.

Per D.C.’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education website, “Beginning in the 2022-23 school year, the COVID-19 vaccine is required for school enrollment and attendance in the District of Columbia for all students who are of an age for which there is a COVID-19 vaccination fully approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).”

As of right now, that means D.C. students aged 12 and up will have to be vaccinated or they will be unable to attend school in person.

The vaccine requirement makes D.C. an outlier in the nation, as many of the larger school districts recommend but do not require a COVID-19 vaccine in order to attend school in person.

The Daily Signal then asked the mayor about whether or not it was appropriate to respond to kids who aren’t vaccinated by forcing them to attend school virtually. “You’ve never heard me say that,” Bowser said.

Bowser and the D.C. city government have clashed over whether or not to return kids to classrooms amid lingering COVID-19 concerns. While Bowser has gone on record stating she would prefer kids to be in school, the 13-member D.C. Council has pushed for more exceptions to allow for remote learning.

The Daily Signal reached out to Bowser’s office for comment on the numbers and to clarify her position on remote learning, but did not receive an immediate response.


How Gender Radicalism Conquered Sacramento Schools

Sacramento City Unified School District has adopted a queer theory–based pedagogy that encourages teachers to “normalize gender exploration,” confront their “cisgender privilege,” and maintain strict secrecy when facilitating a child’s gender or sexual transition.

I have obtained a collection of publicly accessible documents from Sacramento City Unified that traces the evolution of the district’s sexual politics. The process began a decade ago, when the district invited Elizabeth Meyer, a professor of Women’s, Gender & Queer Studies at California Polytechnic State University, to conduct presentations on how the district could adopt the principles of academic queer theory and translate them into K-12 pedagogy.

The “foundational concepts” of this approach, according to Meyer’s presentation, follow the standard left-wing narrative. Western society has created a “Heterosexual Matrix,” composed of “Hegemonic Masculinity,” “Emphasized Femininity,” “Heteronormativity,” and “Heterosexism,” that underpins an oppressive system of “patriarchy,” “homophobia,” and “transphobia.”

To liberate schools from this system, administrators and districts must adopt “queer pedagogy” and “anti-oppressive pedagogy,” which will disrupt the “commonsense view of the world” and replace it with queer alternatives, emphasizing “gender non-conformity” and “gender and sexual diversity.”

During this workshop, Meyer laid out a set of recommendations for administrators and teachers. Her recommendations for administrators included promoting gender-identity lessons in the curriculum, creating collections of sexuality books in school libraries, and hosting speakers and performers who address “sex, gender, and sexual orientation.” Teachers, according to Meyer, should follow different rules of classroom speech based on their own sexual identity. “If you are heterosexual, don’t state it. Allow yourself to be an ally while allowing others to be uncertain about your sexual orientation,” the presentation stated. “If you are GLBT [sic], consider coming out to your employer, and if you get their support, your students/school.” Finally, Meyer recommended that administrators work to build teacher-driven sexuality clubs and “equity task force[s]” within individual schools to promote “queer pedagogy” and “anti-oppressive pedagogy.”

In another training document titled “How to Be a Transgender Ally,” the district provided teachers and administrators with the entire range of queer theory terminology, promoting concepts and sexual identities such as “bi-gender,” “genderqueer,” “two-spirit,” “polysexual,” “pansexual,” “drag queens,” and “transsexuals.” The document instructed school staff to “normalize gender exploration and gender variance” and to “encourage exploration of options” for transgender students, who “may turn to hormones and/or surgery as validation of their emerging identity.”

Other rules in the handbook presented a form of queer theory etiquette: “don’t ask a trans person what their ‘real name’ is”; “don’t ask about a trans person’s genitals”; “don’t police public restrooms”; and “don’t just add the ‘T’ without doing work,” meaning that “to be an ally to trans people, gays, lesbians and bisexuals need to examine their own gender stereotypes, their own prejudices and fears about trans people, and be willing to defend and celebrate trans lives.” Heterosexual teachers, on the other hand, are told that they must confront their “cisgender privilege” and complete a questionnaire designed to elicit guilt and facilitate the adoption of a “transgender ally” identity. The questions include: “Does the state of your genitals cause you to fear violence should they be discovered?”; “Does the government require proof of the state of your genitals in order to change information on your personal identification?”; and “Can you wait at a bus stop at noon without passers-by assuming that you are loitering for sex?”

Ten years later, Sacramento City Unified has adopted all these recommendations and turned academic queer theory into pedagogy. The district’s schools, including many elementary schools, have put gender-identity theory into the curriculum and created teacher-driven “Gender & Sexuality Alliance” clubs. This ideology has also influenced districtwide policy on gender transitions, bathrooms, and athletics. According to the district’s official guidelines, school employees must provide “gender transition support” to students, recognize their “lived name and/or gender marker and/or gender pronouns,” allow them to use bathrooms and participate in athletics according to their “gender identity,” and follow a strict nondisclosure policy, which includes withholding information from students’ families. “Transgender and gender non-conforming students have a right to privacy, including keeping their sexual orientation, gender identity, transgender status or gender non-conforming presentation at school private,” the policy reads. “School personnel should not discuss information that may disclose a student’s transgender or gender non-conforming status to others, including parents/legal guardians and other school personnel, unless legally required to do so or unless the student has authorized such disclosure.” In other words, teachers and administrators can facilitate a child’s gender or sexual transition without notifying that child’s parents; in fact, the default is to conduct this process in secrecy.

The sexual ideology that has captured school districts such as Sacramento City Unified is a form of radicalism cloaked in therapeutic language. Most parents initially interpret words such as “affirming,” “privacy,” “trans-friendly,” “anti-bullying,” and “safe space” as extensions of basic empathy between institution and child. But as parents discover the true nature of the ideology, they will recoil and mobilize against it. For most families, the idea that a school can promote synthetic sexual identities to young children while keeping parents in the dark is a terrifying overreach. These districts are driving a wedge between parent and child. Parents must reject this usurpation of authority.




Thursday, August 18, 2022

UK: Now universities are more likely to reject you if you're better off in bid to 'widen participation' across social scale

The usual Leftist bigotry

Universities have been accused of social engineering after it emerged that poor students enjoyed a better rate of offers for places than their richer peers.

Ahead of A-level results day, Ucas, the admissions body, said deprived youngsters had been put first this year to try to 'widen participation'.

For the first time ever, universities have been provided with data on free school meals to help them select the poorest applicants, it was revealed yesterday.

And new figures show the offer rate for the most disadvantaged students was 75 per cent, against 73 per cent for the most advantaged.

Rates for both groups were 78 per cent last year, meaning the well-off suffered a bigger drop than the poor.

Universities are prioritising low-income students following heavy pressure to appear less elitist.

Some are giving students offers up to two grades below their standard requirement, meaning they can snap a place with a lower level of achievement.

But critics said it was unfair to penalise students because of family background. Chris McGovern, of the Campaign for Real Education, said: 'Free-school meals is an unfair and discriminatory system for identifying children from under-privileged backgrounds.

'Lowering entrance qualifications for children on free-school meals is a form of social engineering and amounts to an admission that our schools cannot get them up to the required standard.

'We need to ensure that all children achieve their full potential, regardless of background.'

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said: 'I do wish regulators would respect the autonomy of universities and leave them free to make their best judgements as to the potential of students.

'Prioritising people on social background to the detriment of those who have greater achievement will be bad for those admitted who can't keep up.

'To prioritise equality over merit, in my view, is not right.

'Socially engineering in this way is wholly bad. Universities should be left to select on merit to the benefit of the students, to the benefit of the universities and to the benefit of the country.'

The trend was revealed yesterday by Clare Marchant, Ucas chief executive, who said many universities are keen on making 'contextual offers'.

This means taking into account the barriers a student has overcome to get grades, and whether they deserve a place over someone who did not face barriers.

This year, the overall offer rate decreased because of a squeeze on places – but advantaged students missed out the most.

It comes after the Daily Mail reported yesterday that school-leavers face double heartbreak this week as tens of thousands are expected to lose their university places and then struggle to find a replacement due to unusually fierce demand for clearing courses.

Mrs Marchant said: 'We know proportionately the most disadvantaged students have effectively been put first in this whole offer-making piece.

'So that offer-making rate has dropped less proportionately for those disadvantaged students, as opposed to advantaged students.

'That's in the context of this year being the first real summer that we've seen the use of that individual free school meals data that we made available.'

Free school meal figures from the Department for Education were provided to universities with students' permission.

Next year, Ucas will help students provide information such as being estranged from parents.

An Institute for Fiscal Studies report yesterday found the gap between disadvantaged children and their peers has seen virtually no change in two decades and the pandemic has 'significantly worsened overall outcomes'.

Failure is baked in from an early age, research economist and report author Imran Tahir said.


Yes they enrich campus life, but it's time for a cap on foreign students in our universities, writes law professor Andrew Tettenborn

My day job is teaching international maritime law at the University of Swansea, so largely a non-political world.

But I also have a second career as a commentator, posting on social media and writing columns like this.

And to that end, I've sometimes had cause to mention China's repression — its genocide, even — of its Muslim Uighur minority, its actions in Taiwan, and the rest of Beijing's ugly catalogue of human-rights abuses.

Normally, my work as a law professor and as a polemicist are worlds apart. But not always.

A couple of years ago, an acquaintance told me that she had learnt that a local representative of the Chinese Communist Party in Dalian, a city of 7.5 million people in eastern China, regarded me as not entirely trustworthy.


At the time, I was due to deliver a series of lectures on Zoom — my audience including many students in China.

I then received a chilling email. It told me with tact and menace that some people in China would like a discreet preview of my slides — people I clearly understood to be Communist Party officials.

I had nothing to hide, and so complied. Perhaps, I reasoned, one of my students came from that city — and was being watched by the authorities.

So I read yesterday's story in the Daily Mail with interest. The number of foreign-born students at British universities has exploded.

As recently as 2006, the proportion of foreign students enrolling at elite 'Russell Group' universities was 12 per cent.

By last year, this had risen to 23 per cent — meaning that, effectively, one in four students at British universities is now a foreign national.

What accounts for this huge surge? The answer is obvious. A British student pays perhaps £9,000 in annual fees to their university, but international students shell out £24,000 on average.

That's a massive sum over three or four years, especially once you add accommodation costs.

At some universities, the figures are truly eye-opening. Some 54 per cent of undergraduates at the prestigious London School of Economics and University College London are now from overseas.

St Andrews takes in more almost 40 per cent, while more than a third of undergraduates at Manchester and Edinburgh hail from abroad.

My own institution, Swansea, welcomes 4,000 of its 20,000-strong student body as foreign visitors — and they make an incomparable difference to campus life.

As at every British university, many of those international students are there on merit alone.

But it is high time that Britain addressed these extraordinary numbers.

After all, every place given to an undergraduate from far-flung climes is a space denied a British teenager who has worked hard to get top exam results but whose efforts count for nothing against a chequebook-waving international student.

The fact is that our university places, especially in our finest institutions, are increasingly being auctioned off to the highest bidders.

And that is far more likely to be a young person from Shanghai than from Sherborne, and from Beijing than Bradford.


Cancelling Student Debt Would Undermine Inflation Reduction Act

The recently-passed Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will reduce budget deficits by roughly $275 billion while pushing fiscal policy in the right direction to assist the Federal Reserve in its fight against inflation. However, a possible announcement from the White House to offer across-the-board student debt cancellation could undermine the bill’s disinflationary gains and deficit reduction.

Simply extending the current repayment pause through the end of the year would cost $20 billion – equivalent to the total deficit reduction from the first six years of the IRA, by our rough estimates. Cancelling $10,000 per person of student debt for households making below $300,000 a year would cost roughly $230 billion. Combined, these policies would consume nearly ten years of deficit reduction from the Inflation Reduction Act.

Debt cancellation would also wipe out the disinflationary benefits of the IRA. The Congressional Budget Office, Penn Wharton Budget Model, and Moody’s Analytics all found the IRA would have virtually no effect on inflation in the near term at the macroeconomic level. Our analysis is somewhat more optimistic since the bill’s micro-economic effects and side deals related to permitting and energy explorations can put downward pressure on prices.

However, debt cancellation would boost near-term inflation far more than the IRA will lower it. We previously estimated that a one-year pause could add up to 20 basis points to the Personal Consumption Expenditure (PCE) inflation rate. Using a similar analytical method, $10,000 of debt cancellation could add 15 basis points up front and create additional inflationary pressure over time.

The IRA gave Washington an opportunity to show it was finally serious about helping the Federal Reserve tackle inflation and begin to address our $24 trillion national debt.

Broad student debt cancellation – whether by extending the pause, forgiving balances, or both – would undermine the benefits of the IRA and demonstrate a lack of seriousness in addressing our nation’s economic challenges.




Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Lawmakers to Investigate Sexual Abuse in Junior R.O.T.C. Programs

Congressional investigators have opened a review of sexual misconduct in the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program of the U.S. military in the wake of reports that dozens of teenage girls had been abused at the hands of their instructors.

In a letter sent on Monday to military leaders, including Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, the lawmakers said they were seeking information on how many misconduct reports had been received, how they had been investigated and how often the military inspected school J.R.O.T.C. programs.

They said that instructors in the J.R.O.T.C. program, which provides training in leadership, marksmanship and civic responsibility in about 3,500 high schools around the country, served as trusted representatives of the military in their local communities.

“Every incident of sexual abuse or harassment committed by a J.R.O.T.C. instructor is a betrayal of that trust,” wrote Representative Carolyn Maloney, the chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Representative Stephen Lynch, who chairs the panel’s subcommittee on national security.

The New York Times reported last month that J.R.O.T.C. programs had repeatedly become a place where decorated veterans — retired as officers or noncommissioned officers — preyed on teenage students. The Times identified, over a five-year period, at least 33 J.R.O.T.C. instructors who had been criminally charged with sexual misconduct involving students, along with many others who were accused of misconduct but never charged.

Many victims said they had turned to J.R.O.T.C. in high school for stability in their lives or as a pathway to military service, only to find that instructors exploited their position to take advantage of the students.

Founded more than a century ago, J.R.O.T.C. has expanded to enroll hundreds of thousands of students each year. Cadets are provided instruction in military ranks and procedures, as well as in more general topics such as public speaking and financial planning.

J.R.O.T.C. leaders point to research indicating that the program has had a positive effect on school attendance and graduation rates, and many cadets praise the program for providing vital lessons and experiences during formative years.

But The Times found that the instructors operated with weak oversight. While they were certified by individual branches of the military to take the jobs in schools, the military overseers did little to investigate problems or monitor the conduct of instructors, leaving that to the schools. The program often operates on the fringes of school campuses, with extracurricular activities after school hours or away from campus that are difficult for school administrators to monitor.

In several cases identified by The Times, instructors who were criminally charged with misconduct had already been the subject of prior complaints.


Biden school lunch policy has wider implications for religious schools

The Biden administration’s redefinition of “sex” in Title IX leaves kids’ school lunches in jeopardy.

That was an urgent problem for Grant Park Christian Academy in Tampa, Florida.

On the school’s behalf, Alliance Defending Freedom filed a federal lawsuit against the Biden administration and the state’s commissioner of agriculture and consumer services, Nikki Fried, who administers the National School Lunch Program in Florida.

Under Title IX, participating schools agree not to discriminate based on sex. Grant Park Christian Academy, which serves low-income, minority families, fully complies with that requirement.

But the Biden administration redefined “sex” under Title IX to include sexual orientation and gender identity. This new mandate applies to all school activities, including restrooms, dress codes, hiring, and pronoun usage.

Because of the school’s religious beliefs, it simply could not comply with the mandate.

Now, thanks to Alliance Defending Freedom’s lawsuit, the Biden administration and Commissioner Fried have approved Grant Park Christian Academy’s application for funding to continue serving free meals to the school’s students. And that couldn’t have happened without the support of people like you.

The Biden administration also granted the school’s request for a religious exemption to the mandate. And on Friday, the administration said it would automatically respect exemptions for all religious schools if the schools’ beliefs conflicted with the new Title IX mandate.

“While it shouldn’t have taken a federal lawsuit,” says ADF Legal Counsel Erica Steinmiller-Perdomo, who represents the school, “at least now, all religious schools like Grant Park Christian Academy who rely on the USDA’s funding to serve nutritious meals to kids in need can continue this vital service in their communities.”

This is a victory for Grant Park Christian Academy and all religious schools. But the Biden administration’s attacks on freedom are far from over.

The Biden administration says this mandate applies to all schools that participate in the national school lunch program. In other words, schools cannot receive money to feed needy children unless they embrace the Biden administration’s extreme ideology about gender.

All secular schools, including charter, public, and private schools, are subject to the mandate and are being hurt by the Biden administration’s unlawful rewriting of Title IX.


CA School Will Cost $250M to Rebuild After Partial Collapse

California govt. corruption behind this?

Part of a 20-year-old California high school building collapsed and now the state must pay $250 million to rebuild it.

Thankfully, students were at home from pandemic school closures on June 16, 2020, when “8 tons of concrete and metal roofing came crashing down without warning onto the concourse leading into the main classroom building at Lynwood High School,” The Los Angeles Times reported.

The collapse came without warning and the school district found that the main three-story building, with 110 classrooms, wasn’t salvageable and must be demolished.

A new classroom building and other necessary repairs will cost $250 million, the newspaper reported. On top of the state funds, the school district spent about $16.2 million on relocating students and on a structural investigation.

How could a building that’s only 20 years old collapse out of nowhere? “The review showed that the shoddy workmanship that led to the collapse of the ceiling above the concourse was pervasive,” The LA times reported.

Covered outdoor hallways had the same flaws, with any section having the potential to collapse at any time. Instead of having firm bracing every 10 feet, the entire 30-foot span concourse roofing had only one brace.

And the unsupported sections didn’t have a continuous beam going across the entire span but two beams that met in the middle and were connected together without bracing at the connection point. “The contractor that built the school — this is the first school they built and the last one they built from the information that we’ve gotten,” said Gregory Fromm, assistant superintendent of business services, who added that the contractor has long been out of business, the newspaper reported.

The obvious question: Why did school officials award the school-building contract to a company that had never built a school?

In addition, in a legal settlement about 20 years ago, the district agreed to accept the school as-is and not pursue any future claims against the contractor.




Tuesday, August 16, 2022

NYC parents want to oust principal they say ‘sullied’ school’s reputation

More than 100 parents signed onto a letter this summer to replace embattled Manhattan School for Children principal Claire Lowenstein, who The Post reported in November was hit with her second no-confidence vote in just two years.

“We are a large coalition of concerned P.S. 333/MSC parents who are working to make sure our school is once again a warm, supportive environment,” reads the letter, obtained by The Post.

“We do not think this is possible with the current principal.”

The families allege that Lowenstein has “sullied” the school’s reputation in the neighborhood and among prospective staff. They accuse her administration of “actively hostile” relationships with parents of special education students, and of “documented racism.”

Dozens of teachers have left the school, serving grades K-8, since the principal’s arrival in fall 2014, according to the parents’ letter. The Department of Education ignored multiple requests for the precise figure.

Student enrollment has also dropped by the hundreds — from 760 students in 2014-15, the under-fire principal’s first year, to 501, according to city data. The DOE projects it will lose another 94 students next school year.

Mom Kate Dominus, who signed the letter, told The Post she transferred one of her children out of PS 333 for middle school, and wishes she moved the other kid, too. Dominus said her son was bullied and received little support from Lowenstein.

“This is a woman who told me this was a public education — and what was I expecting?” said Dominus, who noted, “I’m a product of a New York City public education!”

Fellow parent Jonathan Goldman said a suspected conflict with the principal led his child’s first-grade teacher to quit with just 24-hours notice.

Students in his kid’s class were moved to other homerooms, which ballooned to rosters of around 30 students each, angering parents, he recalled.

“The first grade parents were on fire this year,” Goldman said. “As a group, they are furious.”

Adams Pinckney, another of the letter’s signatories, said his son’s special education teacher was suddenly pulled from the classroom in September with no more than a weekend’s notice.

“That was the start of one bombshell after another, when there was no opportunity for response or dialogue,” Pinckney said. “The ‘conversation’ was either so unresponsive, or so cursory to be almost insulting. Like come on, we don’t need a platitude.”

Pinckney’s son has an individualized education plan (IEP) for classes that were co-taught by general and special education teachers. The rising second grader — nicknamed the “mayor of the school,” because he often shakes hands — loves going to class but started to fall nearly a year behind in math, the dad said.

“We tried to be patient and understanding — we’re coming out of the pandemic,” Pinckney said. But after waiting almost a full school year to replace the special education teacher, “We decided we’ve been too patient for too long.”

Another father, who asked for anonymity as he navigates a contentious custody battle, accused the school of switching his son’s address in its records at the mother’s request.

But the change, which placed the son as living in New Jersey, temporarily shut him out of the city’s Summer Rising program that the parents were relying on for child care.

“I was begging her just to make things fair,” he said of the principal. “I wasn’t asking for more — just follow the rules until this is done.”

“I’m not some deadbeat dad who’s not part of his life,” said the parent, who is black and Hispanic, and believes the incident was racially tinged. “She was treating me like I had no rights as a father.”

Lowenstein’s union denied the allegations made in the letter.

“As we have stated in the past, Principal Lowenstein is a highly effective and dedicated school leader, and PS 333 has performed well under her tenure,” said Craig DiFalco, a spokesperson for the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators.

Chyann Tull, a spokesperson for the DOE, said in a statement that the department is working with families and school staff.

“Our new district superintendent actively engages with families and the rest of the school community to implement interventions that best serve everyone,” she said. “We will continue to collaborate with staff and families to ensure that all students are receiving the high quality care and education that they deserve, while keeping them at the center of planning.

“Every student deserves a supportive and trustworthy learning environment,” the statement added.

Lowenstein could not be reached for comment.


America’s kids unmasked two years later: Examining COVID mandate consequences as students return to class

As a new school year starts ramping up, many children nationwide will experience their first day back to school without mask requirements or other COVID-related mandates for the first time in more than two years.

At the start of the new school year in 2021, around 75% of U.S. schools required masking for students or teachers, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Now, only a handful of schools are requiring masks.

But for many, the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic remains. That is especially true in California, where schools implemented some of the strictest COVID policies in the country. The state was also among the last to reopen its schools.

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), which begins the new school year Monday, nearly reimposed mask mandates and testing over the summer but dropped them amid major pushback.

Multiple parents who spoke with Fox News Digital said they were relieved that mask mandates have been dropped but say the impact of the past 2 ½ years of COVID policies lingers.

"Isolating children, especially in Los Angeles, socially, academically and emotionally from their peers has had detrimental effects, the likes of which we are only beginning to feel," Daniella Bloom, whose children attend school in the Los Angeles area, told Fox News Digital.

"When you isolate children away from a seven-hour school day, where there are no sports and no social curricular activities, they have no choice but to turn to their electronics," Bloom said. "And there is only darkness there, as they are already vulnerable and going through puberty and susceptible to a lot of groupthink and conformity."

Bloom said kids who are introverted and perhaps prone to anxiety have used the masks as a way to hide from the world.

The masks, she said, "have gotten them very comfortable to not being exposed to the world."

Another parent, Kristina Irvin, said her oldest son, who was in middle school when COVID hit, went from being a straight-A honors student to "getting all Fs."

"It was two years of lost time," Irvin said. "He literally wouldn’t care. And the thing that got me was the teachers didn’t care. He would show me on the Zoom videos, the teachers would be slurping up spaghetti … and then another teacher would be changing a newborn diaper – just a kid screaming in the background. So, it wasn’t conducive to learning."

Irvin said she was more hopeful for the year ahead but added, "The fight is not over."

Another parent in the Los Angeles area told Fox News Digital she watched her kids go down a "rabbit hole" of social isolation and depression during the pandemic.

"I kept getting so afraid that I’d walk into his room and he wouldn’t be with me anymore. He was so depressed. I remember him going into tears because he was so lonely," she said.

Another one of her children finished his senior year as COVID hit and began college at Chapman University in Orange County the following school year. But he spiraled into a bout of depression and heavy drug use, not making it through his first semester.

Lance Christensen, who is running for superintendent of public instruction and has five children of his own in public school, said the "hopelessness and despair" set in when children realized what they were losing.

"It wasn't until kids started having this — these long bouts of depression and despair — where they thought, 'If I'm not going to go back to school, if I can't play baseball, if I can't go to the homecoming dance, or if I can't be in the school play, finish playing my music to get that scholarship' — the hopelessness and despair were pretty dramatic," he said.

Christensen told Fox News Digital he’s seen, within his own network, "dozens and dozens of kids" whose depression and anxiety skyrocketed.

"I personally know kids who have killed themselves. I know other kids who have attempted suicide in very dramatic ways," he said.


A new contract between public schools and the teachers' union in the city of Minneapolis is causing outrage because it may see white teachers laid off at the expense of teachers of color

The stipulation is part of a new agreement starting in spring 2023 between the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Minneapolis Public Schools ending a two-week long teachers' strike.

Part of the agreement was an attempt to re-format how the school district hires and keeps teachers of color.

The new contract says that, while teachers subject to layoffs or relocations will typically be done based off seniority, they may go outside the order to avoid doing that to a teacher who is 'a member of a population underrepresented'.

This prioritizing may also apply to bring back teachers who were laid off should re-hires occur.

Teachers' unions typically support the Democratic Party, with Minnesota Federation of Teachers President Greta Callahan having posed for a photo with progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar, along with fellow squad members Rashida Tliab, Ayanna Pressley and Cori Bush while supporting Omar's nearly ill-fated primary bid last week.

The move was met with a swift backlash, with an economics professor branding it 'racism in action'.

The contract states: 'The District shall deprioritize the more senior teacher, who is not a member of an underrepresented population, in order to recall a teacher who is a member of a population underrepresented among licensed teachers'.

Both school district and teachers' union leaders say this makes the city one of the only in the country that does what's called 'seniority-disrupting'.

The agreement could prove important very soon, given that the district is likely to cut jobs because of budget reductions due to lower enrollments, according to ABC News 4.

The new contract also calls for the development of 'anti-bias anti-racist' staff advisory councils.

They are supposed to focus, according to the contract, on: 'reducing inequitable practices and behaviors in our learning places and spaces as well as supporting educators, specifically educators of color, in navigating and disrupting our district as a predominantly white institution'.

The stipulation was first hinted at back in March when an agreement was first struck, citing the fact that the most senior teachers in Minneapolis are majority white and people of color were typically the first on the chopping block when layoffs happened.

The deal that ended the Minneapolis' teachers strike in March
The contract that ended a two-week strike was initially agreed to in March, according to MPR News.

At the time, union leaders called the contract 'historic' and cited gains for education support professionals, caps on class sizes, more nurses in schools and mental health professionals.

The deal brought hourly pay to $19 per hour for the lowest paid education support professionals, a raise of about $4 per hour and $11,000 a year.

The new deal also included double the number of nurses and counselors in elementary schools as well as a social worker in every building.

Union reps told MPR News at the time that this protected about 'half' of the teachers of color in the district.

Some conservative activists were outrage, including public school reform activist Christopher Rufo.

He tweeted: 'This is the inevitable endpoint of 'equity''.

On Fox News' Hannity Monday night, contributors Leo Terrell and Clay Travis both hammered the agreement.

Terrell, a civil rights attorney who is black, said: 'It's racist. It's discriminatory, it's illegal. It should be invalidated immediately. I read what the union says. They said they want students to have teachers that look like them. Wrong. The students need teachers who will educate them. Educate. Not what they look like!'

Sportswriter Travis, who runs the website Outkick the Coverage, agreed: 'Yeah, of course it would. And I agree with everything Leo said. Look, the foundation of the Democrat party now is two things, Sean. It is everything is racist, and America is an awful place. That is basically everything that the Democrats believe, and if you drill down essentially every policy that they advocate for, that's what it is at its essence'.

Former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker also criticized the deal, tweeting: 'This is racist. This is illegal. This is another example of why government unions should be eliminated'.




Monday, August 15, 2022

NYC schools to ramp up safety protocols for new academic year

The New York City Department of Education is ramping up safety protocols for the new school year, The Post has learned.

The new measures range from new technology to more school safety staffers — and come after violence in the Big Apple put schools on lockdown in the spring.

“We’ve met with triple digit numbers of vendors around different safety enhancements and applications that they recommend that we use to fortify our safety in our schools,” Mark Rampersant, security director at the DOE, told parents this week.

Rampersant, at the Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Council, introduced an internal application for real-time emergency notifications between principals and parents.

“We heard from parents around notification, and timeframe by which you get notified by your schools when something like a lockdown, shelter-in-place or an evacuation transpires,” he said. “We heard you when you said principals need to do a better job of making notification.”

The application also allows Schools Chancellor David Banks to contact families, and can be used for weather emergencies like snow days.

The DOE is also introducing a prototype so the public schools can lock their front doors, while giving first responders access to the building in case of emergency.

City officials began to seriously consider bolting the main entryways after a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, killed 19 students and two teachers this spring.

“We believe that we have a prototype that we are introducing to our schools as we write new policy regarding what it looks like to actually lock the front doors,” Rampersant said.

The DOE is also investing in personnel, including $9 million in federal stimulus funds to put volunteer violence interrupters from local nonprofits on the city’s payroll.

“We thought fitting, why would we not employ these folks and bring them into our schools to help us ensure the safety and security for our students, staff and our visitors?” said Rampersant.

Meanwhile, a second class of school safety agents under the Adams administration will graduate later this month, adding 200 staffers in time for reopening. After that, another 250 will go into the academy for 17 weeks of training, he said.

Greg Floyd, the president of Teamsters Local 237, which represents the city’s school safety agents, estimated the current class is closer to 175 agents — and does little to add more hands on deck systemwide.

“I’m sure about 175 may have retired since the school year ended,” said Floyd, who gets retiree reports on a 2-3 month delay. “You go through the math with people who don’t know the math — and it’s good that you have another class — but you don’t say how many people retired.”

Floyd gauged that there is still a 2,000-agent shortage, compared to the workforce’s numbers pre-pandemic and the height of the movement to defund police.

He added that all agents were required to take active shooter trainings in the wake of the Texas mass school shooting.

“That’s new,” Floyd said. “But what they really need is help now — not for an active shooter. They need help for everyday weapon prevention.”

Thousands of weapons were recovered in the public schools last school year, which Banks attributed to students’ concerns about their safety on their way to and from the school buildings.

Floyd also questioned the timing of the announcements and not yet looping in the school safety agents, with the first day of school just around the corner.

“All I hear is ‘we’re looking at,’ ‘we’re looking at.’ But I don’t see the results of ‘looking at,’ and school’s going to start,” he said.

The Department of Education will have more to share soon, officials said, adding that schools and families will be the first to know about new protocols.


Welcome to college — let the indoctrination begin!

It’s August, meaning millions of bright-eyed, fresh-faced kids are heading off to college to be indoctrinated.

At Northwestern University, the process begins with the student newspaper’s guide to activist groups. The Daily Northwestern’s Orientation Issue, handed out to incoming freshmen for free, helpfully lists seven groups new Wildcats might want to join. Just seven.

There’s NU Community Not Cops, which calls for the abolition of the campus police department. Students Organizing for Labor Rights, which has students pushing campus employees to unionize. NU Dissenters, which calls for the university to divest from any “war profiteers” including Boeing and Lockheed Martin. And Fossil Free NU, which “fights for climate and environmental justice, based in anti-racist and abolitionist praxis.”

Or you could tap a keg with a group dedicated to destroying Israel.

The Students for Justice in Palestine “raise awareness for violence committed against Palestinian people by Israeli forces” — skipping, we imagine, the constant rocket and terrorist attacks against Israel. SJP brags that it got 60 students to walk out of a speech by Andrew Yang, because why listen to anyone with whom you disagree? They boycotted Sabra, because why let any Israeli company do business?

In November of last year, Community Not Cops, Students for Justice in Palestine, NU Dissenters and Fossil Free NU “stormed” the field during a football game in protest (considering Northwestern went 1-8 in the Big Ten, they were probably happy for the break). What does Fossil Free NU have to do with Israel? The group “sees environmental justice work as tied to other forms of resistance.”

Sadly, Northwestern is indicative of what’s going on at many universities, which are awash in “intersectional” progressive dogma. You must believe in the Green New Deal, and defunding the police, and Palestinians’ “right to return” — code for the end of Israel as a Jewish state — and you must believe them all, no exceptions. Each gets an uncritical hearing in the student press. Anyone else gets shouted down or protested.

No surprise, then, that universities are producing the sort of young, white, illiberal, censorious urban voters whose voting bloc elects the Squad and drags the Democratic Party even further left.

So: Welcome, class of ’26. We have just one piece of advice. The most important thing to learn in college is how to think for yourself.


Colleges, Parents Fight in Court Over Tuition Charged During Pandemic Closures

Colleges and universities faced a barrage of lawsuits in the peak pandemic days of 2020 after schools shut down their campuses and moved classes online while charging students their usual tuition rates.

Two years later, the Covid-19 tuition wars are building toward a decisive phase.

A number of courts have issued rulings that provided a boost to students and parents seeking refunds, including last week in a case against a small private university in California. That decision followed a recent federal appeals court ruling that allowed claims to proceed against Loyola University Chicago. But those rulings stand in tension with other decisions for schools that said students don’t have valid claims. Pending cases from higher-level courts could bring more clarity.

The cases could turn on what specific promises schools made to students about in-person education—and whether students suffered any harm in the switch to remote classes, said Benjamin J. Hinks, a Boston-area employment and higher-education lawyer who has followed the litigation.

“We’re definitely seeing a trend towards plaintiff-friendly rulings at the pretrial stages,” Mr. Hinks said. “However, these are hard-fought cases, and the fight is not over for universities.”

Most of the cases revolve around the academic spring semester of 2020, when emergency quarantine measures in the period before vaccines forced the country’s higher-education industry to suspend in-person classes and close their physical campuses, barring access to laboratories, dormitories, libraries, student centers and athletic facilities.

At many schools, academia’s temporary move to virtual learning didn’t come with any discounts to tuition or student service fees. But it left a trail of hundreds of lawsuits in federal and state courts demanding restitution.

Legally, the battle isn’t so much about whether an online learning experience is inferior. Judges aren’t supposed to make judgments about academic quality under long-held doctrine insulating schools from lawsuits alleging “educational malpractice.”

Plaintiffs have argued that schools were contractually obligated to deliver an in-person education and unfairly kept all their money.

“Universities are wonderful places, but students are paying a lot of money. They paid for in-person access to campus, in-person education and all the amenities promised to them when they signed up, and they didn’t get that,” said Ellen Noteware, an attorney representing the plaintiffs suing Loyola.

“People just didn’t get the experience they thought they were paying for,” she said.

The litigation has turned on complex interpretations of state contract law and questions about what exactly colleges and universities promised students when they enrolled.




Sunday, August 14, 2022

Fascism in an American university

In a stirring recent address to the students of the startup University of Austin, Bari Weiss described the ideology that has taken over America’s institutions of higher education: “Forgiveness is replaced with punishment. Debate is replaced with dis-invitation and de-platforming. Diversity is replaced with homogeneity of thought. Inclusion with exclusion. Excellence with equity.” To change this calamitous development requires nothing less than a revolution.

All successful revolutions start with local rebellions, and one has been taking place over the last year at Princeton University—the prestigious institution where I have taught mathematics and made my home for the last 35 years, but which is being destroyed from within by an administration committed to the ideology that Weiss accurately identified.

The saga has been well documented in these pages: In July 2020, tenured classics professor Joshua Katz published an article criticizing several illiberal demands made by a large number of Princeton faculty members to correct the university’s alleged “systemic racism,” including the creation of a “committee composed entirely of faculty that would oversee the investigation and discipline of racist behaviors, incidents, research, and publication on the part of faculty ...”

For his criticism of these demands, and for referring to a by-then-defunct student organization, the Black Justice League (BJL), as “a small local terrorist organization that made life miserable for the students (including the many Black students) who did not agree with its members’ demands,” Katz was smeared as a racist by the university in its own freshman orientation program, then fired earlier this year on what is recognized by every sane observer as a pretext: a disputed accusation from a former student with whom Katz had a consensual sexual affair in 2006-07—for which he was already punished in 2018—that Katz had discouraged her from seeking mental health care.

The university maintains that the decision to fire Katz had nothing to do with his criticism of illiberal faculty and students in 2020, nor anything to do with the student affair for which he’d already been suspended without pay for a year. Despite the obvious appearance of cracking down on the protected speech of a tenured faculty member and subjecting him to double jeopardy, Princeton claims that Katz’s firing had only to do with an unproven allegation from a recently aggrieved former lover.

Even the most generous and sympathetic interpretation of the university’s actions can no longer avoid the conclusion that it is, quite simply, lying through its teeth. And so, in the interest of shedding more light on the character of this administration, and of bolstering the principles of free speech, transparency, and academic integrity which have been compromised at Princeton under the watch of President Christopher Eisgruber, I have decided to publish the email correspondence I conducted with him between October 2021 and July 2022. The full exchange, which is too long to reprint here, can be viewed on the website of Princetonians for Free Speech. But I will draw the attention of interested readers to a few key points:

When seven colleagues and I filed a formal complaint with the university’s grievance system about the defamation of Katz in last fall’s freshman orientation program, “To Be Known and Heard: Systemic Racism and Princeton University,” it was dismissed in a report by Vice Provost for Institutional Equity and Diversity Michele Minter and Vice President of Human Resources Lianne Sullivan-Crowley on grounds that, to take one grotesque example, Katz’s speech was not a “protected characteristic” such as “race, creed, color, sex, gender identity.” When we requested reconsideration from Eisgruber, he referred the matter to the new dean of the faculty, Gene Jarrett, who declined to question the judgments of Minter and Sullivan-Crowley, but noted our right to appeal the matter to the Committee on Conference and Faculty Appeal (CCFA).

We did just that, and on April 19, 2022, the CCFA issued a judgment: first, agreeing that our complaint should not have been dismissed; second, ruling unanimously against Minter and Sullivan-Crowley on the points we raised; and third, recommending a full, independent investigation into the smearing of Katz—which we believed to be a case of deliberate, targeted harassment by the administration to retaliate against his use of protected speech. In the words of the ruling:

The CCFA unanimously recommends that Prof. Klainerman’s complaint receive a full investigation. We are sending the complaint back to the Vice Provost Minter for further consideration. In light of Prof. Klainerman’s concerns about potential conflict of interest, we believe it would strengthen any final determinations of the investigation if an office or offices outside of Vice Provost Minter’s participates in further deliberations of this complaint ...

Immediately after I received the CCFA judgment, I wrote to Eisgruber reiterating our demand for the appointment of an independent investigator. He replied on April 22: “As always, the University will carefully evaluate and consider the CCFA’s advisory opinion and will engage with the committee on the matter if and as appropriate.” After more than two months, on July 8, and after many fruitless personal attempts to find out what action, if any, would be taken on the CCFA report (I had, for example, written to members of Princeton’s Board of Trustees), I received the following in an email from Eisgruber:

I am writing with regard to the University’s response to the CCFA’s report of April 19, 2022, concerning your appeal related to some of the reference and teaching materials included in the To Be Known and Heard virtual gallery. As I recently advised the CCFA, the University, after receiving the committee’s advisory opinion, conducted another review of this matter that included additional fact-finding. This additional review confirmed that none of the exceptions enumerated in the Statement on Freedom of Expression apply to the materials at issue. Because the website and its authors enjoy the full protection of that statement, no disciplinary action against the staff involved in the website’s creation is warranted or permissible under University policy.

I replied on July 10 asking for a copy of the review on which Eisgruber had based his decision. I also requested that we, the group of eight complainants, be given an opportunity to present our case in person to the Board of Trustees or the appropriate committee of the board at its next meeting. In his response four days later, Eisgruber dismissed my requests with the claim that “we generally do not disclose details about internal matters involving University employees absent a compelling need to do so.” He also wrote: “The Board’s role, however, does not include hearing appeals from individual faculty members who are disappointed in the University’s decision not to pursue discipline against other employees.” In conclusion, he said, “this matter has been adjudicated by the University and is now closed.”

There are two points to note in this exchange. First, Eisgruber came to the extraordinary conclusion that the free speech protections denied to a faculty member nevertheless extended to administrators who used university resources to smear and harass a member of the academic community to a captive audience of incoming students with no possibility of rebuttal. These smears, it’s worth noting, included the deliberate doctoring of a quotation from Katz’s 2020 article and statements such as, “[Katz] seems not to regard people like me [a Black professor] as essential features, or persons, of Princeton” and “[Katz’s views are] fundamentally incompatible with our mission and values as educators.” I believe that Eisgruber is the first university president in America to impose what might be called the Joseph McCarthy interpretation of the First Amendment.

Second, Eisgruber’s claim that he has the ability and indeed the obligation to deny the official complainants the right to know how the university reached its decision to ignore the CCFA judgment has no justification in Princeton’s rules and regulations, and raises suspicions of a possible cover-up—an unavoidable impression Eisgruber evidently felt comfortable conveying. The unsupported claim of “additional fact-finding” is likewise impossible to understand. If additional facts were found, why is no one—neither the complainants nor the CCFA—permitted to see them or even know what they are?

These are not issues of “individual faculty members who are disappointed in the University’s decision not to pursue discipline against other employees,” as Eisgruber dismissively stated, but of free speech, academic freedom, fairness, and accountability. By empowering university bureaucrats to decide which members of the campus community are racist, which acts qualify as racism, what punishments are necessary, and which decisions cannot be appealed, Eisgruber appears to have one-upped the repugnant faculty letter of July 2020 demanding a committee to “oversee the investigation and discipline of racist behaviors, incidents, research, and publication on the part of faculty.” He has indeed constituted such a committee: not under the aegis of faculty itself, but under the menacing administrative Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity.

Eisgruber is the first university president in America to impose what might be called the Joseph McCarthy interpretation of the First Amendment.

It is painfully obvious by now that Katz’s only real crime was his criticism of the 2020 faculty letter, which made him the first member of the Princeton community who publicly objected to Eisgruber’s attempts to replace freedom of thought, speech, inquiry, and association with fashionable woke fanaticism. Katz had to be punished as an example to the rest of us not to interfere with the university’s plans to remake itself as a factory of partisan ideology.

In any case, the main issue is no longer the firing of Katz but rather the abuse of power and likely cover-up for which we, the small group of faculty members, complainants, and CCFA members, are powerless to redress. I therefore call on the Princeton alumni to take up their responsibility as the real trustees of their beloved university, and to help expand our little faculty mutiny into a true revolution. If alumni do not raise their voices and place conditions on their wallets, there is indeed no hope, and Princeton’s erstwhile status as the envy of the academic world will be lost forever. If, however, alumni demand reform by making clear that their continued public and financial support will be tied to the revival of real education and scholarship at the expense of the “social justice” bureaucracy, our cherished institution will have a future.


UK: Hard-left academics are accused of stifling free speech on campus with 'witch hunt' against staff over gender beliefs

Hard-left academics launched a 'witch-hunt' against colleagues over differing opinions on gender identity, it was claimed last night.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) vowed to draw up a list of university backroom staff they suspected of having 'gender-critical beliefs', according to leaked meeting minutes.

The revelation sparked outrage, with some employees accusing the group of stifling free speech on campuses.

Minutes seen by the Times reportedly show that the union was looking to email a survey on the issue to LGBT members.

This would 'get information about gender critical equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) consultants...employed in HR departments of various institutions', the paper reports.

Suggested questions included asking members if they were aware of their institution employing EDI consultants and demanding they be named.

Furthermore, it vowed to 'inform branches' if HR staff and consultants were found to be gender critical.

However, the union insists that while it surveyed LGBT members as part of its commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, it didn't ask about the views of EDI colleagues, not did it 'make or keep lists of staff with gender-critical views'.

Nevertheless, academic sources have reacted furiously to the revelations.

One told the Times: 'These minutes are compelling evidence that UCU is seeking to discriminate against and harass members who believe in sex.'

Last year, feminist philosopher Kathleen Stock has quit her job at the University of Sussex after students carried out a 'bullying and harassment' campaign to oust her from her position over a row about transgender rights.

Professor Stock, 48, an expert in gender and sexual orientation, had been branded a 'transphobe' by some outraged students who called for her to be fired.

Posters put up in the tunnel from Falmer station to the university's campus earlier this month said she 'makes trans students unsafe' and 'we're not paying £9,250 a year for transphobia'.

Banners saying 'Stock Out' had also been held alongside burning flares and scores of people were criticising her online under the Twitter hashtag #ShameOnSussexUni.

The University's Vice Chancellor Adam Tickell had strongly defended her 'untrammelled' right to 'say what she thinks', whilst more than 200 academics from other universities signed a letter calling out alleged abuse from 'trans activist bullies'.

But Professor Stock announced on Twitter that she was 'sad to announce' she was leaving her position, and added that she hoped 'other institutions can learn from this'.


Are students really too fragile for Shakespeare?

What’s the point of a university? Regrettably, that’s a genuine question. The censorship and trigger warnings that are rife on British campuses make it hard to work out what our formerly esteemed institutions of higher education are for anymore, now that free speech, intellectual challenge and the pursuit of truth have become deeply unfashionable.

Hundreds of freedom-of-information requests were sent out by the Times to officials across 140 UK universities. The responses found that trigger warnings, telling students that certain works might be upsetting or even traumatising, have been applied to more than 1,000 texts. At least ten universities have even removed books from reading lists or made them optional out of concerns they might ‘harm’ students.

Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Underground Railroad, was among the books affected. It was removed from an English course at the University of Essex over its ‘graphic description of violence and abuse of slavery’. Miss Julie, the classic play by August Strindberg, has been ‘permanently withdrawn’ from a literature module at the University of Sussex because it contains discussion of suicide.

Other texts have been made optional on account of their ‘challenging’ content. At Nottingham Trent, students of French no longer have to study Charlie Hebdo, the satirical French magazine whose staff were gunned down by Islamists seven years ago. Why? Because academics decided the magazine was ‘racist, sexist, bigoted, (and) Islamophobic’.

Some of the trigger warnings slapped on books are downright comical. Aberdeen has put one on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream for ‘classism’ and labelled Chaucer ‘emotionally challenging’. Not to be outdone, Greenwich warns students that Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four ‘contains self-injurious behaviour, suicide, animal cruelty’. But what about the whole totalitarianism thing?

Those who insist such measures are essential to looking after ‘vulnerable’ students haven’t been paying attention. Trigger warnings, as a therapeutic intervention to help those suffering genuine mental distress, are woefully misguided. There is no proper evidence that they work. And as a general tool in education, they’re a disaster: in effect they urge students not to read certain books and institutionalise the idea that students cannot deal with challenging material.

The books that are being dropped or covered in warnings are fascinating. Take the case of the University of Essex and The Underground Railroad, which was published in 2016. A contemporary book by an African-American author has been binned because his depiction of the horrors of slavery might upset some privileged English students. There is no better indication of how confused and unprogressive campus censorship is than that.

Naturally, academics are dismissing the investigation. They say that a few universities messing about with reading lists does not a free-speech crisis make, blithely ignoring the more than 1,000 trigger warnings that have been uncovered. They also turn a blind eye to official data showing a sharp rise in no-platforming on campus. Instead the backlash to these trigger warnings has been dismissed as a right-wing culture war.

This response by universities only underlines their critics’ point: that these once great seats of learning have become glorified crèches. Universities have completely lost sight of their founding principles. They now function, all but explicitly, as communities of the like-minded and as therapeutic spaces in which fragile souls can shelter from the supposed awfulness of the world. Opposing views are discouraged and students are spared the indignity of reading a ‘challenging’ book.

Without freedom of speech, without intellectual courage, you do not have a university. Those who run higher education desperately need to be reminded of that.