The Hedge Police: Censorship at Chicago State University

Chicago State University (CSU) administrators have sent another letter attempting to shut down or censor the CSU Faculty Voice blog. In November, AAUP VP Hank Reichman called CSU’s earlier letter to the blog “a thuggish effort to bully and frighten, with no legal or moral justification.”

This new letter is even worse, and clear evidence that the CSU administration felt no shame about its earlier attack on freedom of speech.

Donald Levine, a lawyer hired by CSU to go after the blog, writes in his Jan. 3, 2014 letter to the blog’s lawyer, “Please direct your clients to not use CSU’s,[sic] mark, name and any CSU images on the Blog…” Yes, you read that right: CSU is declaring that trademark law allows it to ban any pictures of its campus or any mention of the CSU name from any website. Needless to say, it’s a little difficult to criticize the CSU administration if the term “CSU” is banned.

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Chicago State administration puts foot in it again

First of all, let me thank the administration of Chicago State University for calling my attention — and the attention of thousands of others — to the informative and entertaining blog maintained by Chicago State faculty as a forum for “the faculty’s uncensored voice.”  As the Chicago Tribune, insidehighered, and the Chronicle of Higher Education all reported this morning, the university on November 11 sent Political Science Professor Phillip Beverly, an Academic Senate officer and founder of the CSU Faculty Voice blog, a “cease and desist” letter demanding that site administrators “immediately disable” the blog and provide written confirmation that they had done so by the end of the week.

In the letter, now posted on the blog site, Patrick Cage, university vice president and general counsel, said the site employed university “trade names and marks” without permission. Cage also claimed the blog “violates the University’s values and policies requiring civility and professionalism of all University faculty members.”  In response, Beverly removed a photo of a campus sign and a “CSU” hedge sculpture from the site, replacing them with a photo of a building from another university.  He also changed the name of the site to “Crony State University,” an ironic reference to an ongoing faculty concern with university administrative hiring practices.

“We had that (old) picture up since April of 2009.  I’ve actually gotten tired of it,” Beverly told the Tribune.  “It’s time for a change, and this is good enough reason to change it.”

In a March 2012 email to faculty and staff, Chicago State announced a policy that would require all employees, including faculty, to obtain prior approval to talk to any reporter, use social media, or engage in most forms of public communication. Those who violated the policy would risk losing their jobs, the email stated.  Facing widespread complaints that the policy was inappropriate and illegal (and no small amount of ridicule), the university backed down.  Apparently, the administration has now concluded that it is time for some additional negative publicity. Continue reading

Inherit the Censorship

In New Ulm, Minnesota, a small town 85 miles southwest of Minneapolis, this Friday was supposed to be the opening night for a production of “Inherit the Wind,” the classic play written more than a half-century ago depicting a fictionalized version of the 1925 Scopes Monkey trial. Instead, the play has been shut down due to opposition from professors and administrators at Martin Luther College (MLC). The play’s crime? Being pro-evolution, and thereby endangering the college’s religious identity.

The play wasn’t even being performed at MLC. It was a production of the New Ulm Actors Community Theatre. But the theater group has routinely held auditions and rehearsals at the college, and MLC student Zach Stowe was chosen as director. After seeing a poster for an audition of Inherit the Wind, MLC professors and administrators objected and banned the audition.

According to media reports, Stowe resigned as director after “a flood of e-mails and letters objecting to his association with the play from MLC professors” and community members, fearing possible punishment from the school. Following Stowe’s departure, six cast members who were also MLC students resigned from the play, forcing it to be postponed and possibly cancelled.

Jeffrey Schone, MLC’s VP of Student Life, explained: “We felt it was not compatible with what [the school] teaches the Bible says about the universe and the world. This is a ministerial school. People employing our students need confidence about their views.” Now everyone can have confidence about the views of Martin Luther College students: their views are idiotic and their professors are equally stupid and believers in censorship. 

Mitch Daniels Responds to Purdue Faculty

Mitch Daniels wrote a response (full text below) to the 90 Purdue professors who wrote to him about the controversy over Howard Zinn. Daniels claimed, “I have never made any suggestion that any university cease teaching whatever its faculty pleases, or cease using any book.” He apparently does not recall his demand in the original emails that the state stop allowing university faculty to teach Zinn’s book in professional development programs.

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The Porn Star Banned From Pasadena

Last week, porn star James Deen spoke to a class at Pasadena City College, but administrators banned a planned public event with Deen. In a press release misleadingly titled, “PCC Instructor Agrees To Cancel Public Event,” the PCC administration claimed, “Pasadena City College administrators met with instructor Hugo Schwyzer today and came to agreement to move an unauthorized scheduled public event that featured a male actor in the pornography industry. There will be no public event at PCC on Feb. 27.” On his blog, Schwyzer noted that this was not true, “I want to make clear that there were no negotiations; I was simply told that the public event was off. This was a decision unilaterally imposed rather than negotiated.”

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Chicago State: The Worst Speech Code, Ever

UPDATE: Yesterday, Chicago State reversed course and eliminated this policy.

On March 22, Chicago State University’s Office of Marketing & Communication announced a new Communications and Media Relations Policy that may be the most repressive speech code ever enacted at a university. Taken literally, it appears to ban all faculty communications, anywhere. AAUP president Cary Nelson told the Chicago Tribune, “this policy is an obscenity and absurdity and is not tolerable.”

Here are a few excerpts from the policy, posted in full by the CSU Faculty Voice Blog (which is presumably now banned):

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The Censorship Monologues

It’s Valentine’s Day, and time once again for right-wing Catholic groups to denounce academic freedom at Catholic colleges. But it’s also time for them to celebrate a victory in making The Vagina Monologues the most-censored play in America.

The far-right Cardinal Newman Society reports that nine Catholic colleges will be presenting the play this year: “While it is disturbing that any Catholic college would host such filth and present it to their students under the guise of doing it for a good cause, there is some hopeful news in that the number has dropped to nine from a high of 32” in 2003.
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The Sex Police at Yale

I can’t quite decide what I find more repulsive: Yale University’s decision to ban “Sex Week” from campus, or the Yale Daily News’ approval of this decision as defending “free speech.” In an astonishing act of repression and lack of respect for student rights, Yale president Richard Levin has banned a student group from holding “Sex Week” on campus. “Sex Week” has attracted lots of negative attention because some of the speakers are involved in the porn industry, and perhaps deservedly so. I’m not interested in defending “Sex Week,” but I am very interested in defending the right of students to hold “Sex Week” on campus.

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