Federal Judge Chastises Yale University for Suppressing Freedom of Speech

Source: Palo Alto Free Press


A federal judge is chastising Yale University for caving to the demands of hypersensitive students, and he is warning that the elite school is developing a habit of trampling on First Amendment protections..

Writing for the Yale Law & Public Public Review (via CampusReform), US Circuit Judge Jose Cabranes (who was previously Yale’s general counsel) referred to Encounter Books’ recent decision to republish copies of the Woodward Report, a Yale document affirming its commitment to freedom of expression. In 1975, the university adopted the report as official school policy.

Cabranes says that their decision to reprint the report was a response to the institution’s fading commitment to its contents. Last year, Yale students petitioned to abolish its course on “Major English Poets,” which has existed since 1920, because they found it “hostile to students of color.” In the days prior, two professors resigned amid a scandal revolving around the “cultural appropriation” of offensive Halloween costumes.

Yale students also protested Milo Yiannopoulos, whose speaking engagement was canceled over last-minute venue changes, exorbitant security fees and a variety of other restrictions that the Conservative firebrand deemed “absurd.”

The federal judge also highlighted his concern with Yale’s commitment to “civility.”

“’Civility’ sounds innocuous enough, and, indeed, we can all agree that we should strive to be civil to each other,” said Cabranes. “But problems arise when we are told that ‘uncivil’ speech has turned the campus, or parts of the campus, into a ‘hostile environment’—and, more dangerously still, when we are told that university officials have a duty to make campus ‘safe’ again by suppressing alleged incivility.”

“In the fight against incivility, university officials too easily morph into monitors of acceptable speech—and, ultimately, into the unhappy role of ‘Civility Police,’” he said.

“We can toss our hands up and say that the malaise so palpably evident at Yale is simply part of larger cultural phenomena, national and international,” said Cabranes. But, he added, Yale’s job is not to be “swept along by a national tide” but rather to lead by example.

Cabranes said that the University of Chicago reaffirmed its commitment to free expression in a 2015 report—and that it should serve as an inspiration for other institutions of higher learning, including Yale.

“What is at stake here is whether Yale will remain a great university,” he said, and added that it wasn’t too late for Yale, so long as the campus reaffirmed its commitment to the “bedrock principles of freedom of expression.”


Ian Miles Cheong

20 January 2017

Heat Street

Federal Judge Warns Yale University: You’re Killing Freedom of Speech

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