Amazon.com is currently offering pre-orders for the paperback edition of Unlearning Liberty—at a steep discount. The new edition will be released on Tuesday, March 11, and will feature new content not found in the hardcover edition, including a picture section and an afterword from Greg. Order your copy today to take advantage of Amazon’s amazing deal!
The 20th anniversary of another book dedicated to free inquiry was an opportune time for Greg to write in The Huffington Post about how Jonathan Rauch’s Kindly Inquisitors was instrumental in Greg’s own book, Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate. Greg recounts how what Rauch dubs the “Offendedness Sweeptakes” is a game we all inevitably lose:
Of the many side effects of this retreat from free speech that Rauch predicted 20 years ago, one was that if we privilege feelings over free speech and allow claims of offense to slow or stop meaningful discussion, people will naturally abuse this ultimate trump card. In the end, the societal bar for what is “offensive” will simply get lower and lower. This “offendedness sweepstakes,” as Rauch has called it, does not take long to produce terrible or, often, absurd results.
Greg goes on to show and provide examples how the “right not to be offended” carries devastating consequences not only on campus, but also around the world. Read the whole article here.
Halloween on college campuses is becoming risky business. Over at Ricochet, Greg details how every year, like clockwork, administrators in higher education take it upon themselves to police the sensitivities (read: restrict the expressive activity) of their students during Halloween. Greg demonstrates how colleges’ attempts to prevent “offensive costumes” (often with threats of punitive action) are actually teaching students the wrong lessons about their rights. With tongue in cheek, Greg recalls his favorite example from over the years:
At the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), we’ve become accustomed to yearly campus kerfuffles over “insensitive” Halloween costumes. My favorite over the years comes from Syracuse University, which has twice topped our list of worst schools for freedom of speech. In 2010, Department of Public Safety Chief Anthony Callisto warned students, “If we detect that there’s a person with an offensive costume, we’d likely require them to remove it, and we would file a judicial complaint…There are costumes that could be very offensive to members of protected class communities.” There are so many things wrong—and creepy—about the thought of campus police demanding that students immediately remove their sexy Pocahontas costumes, but only some of them are related to free speech.
In The Huffington Post today, Greg highlights a recent article by fellow FIRE colleague Nico Perrino in The Guardian about the parallels between the NSA and the modern American campus:
One issue I did not heavily focus on [in Unlearning Liberty], however, is the issue of privacy on college campuses and how some campuses seem to be preparing a generation of students for life in a surveillance state. Thankfully, that topic has been excellently addressed by my colleague Nico Perrino in The Guardian today. In the column, Perrino covers the recent privacy outrage at Harvard University in which it became apparent that the administration accessed faculty emails after they realized an unflattering fact relating to a cheating scandal had been “leaked” to the press. He also points to shocking cases of surveillance involving Valdosta State University, Occidental College, St. Augustine College, and the University of Montana. In explaining all this, Perrino draws eerie parallels to the NSA and the growing culture of surveillance.
Greg points out this is just another example how modern college students are learning all the wrong lessons about what it means to live in a free society. Be sure to read Greg’s piece here and Perrino’s article here.
Greg addresses the latest (and perhaps most outrageous) example of unlearning liberty in The Huffington Post today. A student at Modesto Junior College in California was forced to stop handing out Constitutions on campus—on Constitution Day! He was told by campus security officers and student life administrators that because of “time, place, and manner” restrictions, he must go “in front of the student center, in that little cement area over there” in order to pass out his materials. Greg writes:
Yes, it is true that campuses can impose what are known as “reasonable time, place, and manner” restrictions on speech. But under the law, these need to be reasonable, tied to the pedagogical interest of the college, narrowly tailored, and leave open ample avenues to engage in free speech. Modesto’s all-too-typical behavior here does not pass this test or conform with basic common sense. It almost seems like something Mark Twain would say; “This college is so daffy, I bet you they wouldn’t even let you pass out constitutions on Constitution day.” And amazingly, he would win that bet.