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Lecturer Reassigned for Student Confrontation Loses in Court

The University of Nebraska at Lincoln did not violate the rights of lecturer and graduate student Courtney Lawton when it ended her teaching appointment in 2017 following her participation in a confrontational protest against a conservative student group on campus, a judge ruled last week.

Lawton, who argued that her First Amendment rights had been violated, set off a storm of controversy in the Cornhusker State when she clashed with and flipped off an undergraduate student, which led to political pressure on university leadership from state Republicans as a video of the event went viral, leading to claims that UNL was hostile to conservative students.

UNL removed Lawton from the classroom as pressure mounted, leading the American Association of University Professors to censure the university over academic freedom issues. AAUP removed UNL from its censure list in November 2021 following changes to disciplinary proceedings.

A judge, however, did not see things Lawton’s way, The Lincoln-Journal Star reported. According to the newspaper, U.S. District Court Judge Brian Buescher ruled that sovereign immunity barred the claims Lawton filed against the Nebraska Board of Regents and other officials.

Lawton, who was less than two weeks into her lecturer position at the time of the firing, told the paper she was “denied justice” and still believes her First Amendment rights were violated.

Lawton does not plan to appeal the outcome of the case, The Lincoln Journal-Star reported.

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Professor Sues Grad Student for Defamation

Following allegations that he asked a Ph.D. student to omit data in order to manipulate research, Gregory Guisbiers, a professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, has filed a defamation lawsuit against former advisee Matthew Kusper, arguing the accusations against him are false.

In April Kusper told local TV station KATV that Guisbiers asked him to “hide data” or use inappropriate samples as part of unspecified materials science research. Subsequently, Kusper said he confronted his adviser, severed ties and filed a complaint against him. An attorney for Kusper told the TV station at the time that both the university and several federal agencies had launched investigations against Guisbiers.

Now Guisbiers is fighting back with a defamation suit, KATV reported this week.

Guisbiers disputes the allegations Kusper made, arguing that he was a “problematic student” and a “very rude person” who was difficult to work with. Guisbiers said he never told any student to manipulate research data and that Kusper threatened legal action against him in 2020.

An attorney for Guisbiers told the TV station that Kusper has a vendetta against his client and has filed unfounded complaints with the Arkansas Ethics Commission and scientific journals, noting the complaint filed with the ethics commission against Guisbiers has been dismissed.

KATV reported that a hearing for the defamation suit has not yet been scheduled.

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Ilya Shapiro Resigns Days After Suspension Is Lifted

Ilya Shapiro is officially out at the Georgetown University Law Center. Shapiro announced his resignation Monday, after he was cleared in an investigation into a controversial tweet.

Shapiro was suspended in February, days after he tweeted that President Biden’s next pick for the Supreme Court would likely be a “lesser” Black woman because the candidates that Shapiro considered most qualified didn’t “fit into the latest intersectionality hierarchy.”

The suspension came before Shapiro even began his role as a senior lecturer and executive director of the Georgetown Center for the Constitution. Shapiro wrote in The Wall Street Journal that Georgetown cleared him on a technicality—he wasn’t yet an official employee when he made the offensive tweet—but he decided to resign rather than participate in a “slow-motion firing” should he court further controversy.

“After a four-month investigation into a tweet, the Georgetown University Law Center reinstated me last Thursday. But after full consideration of the report I received later that afternoon from the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action, or IDEAA, and on consultation with counsel and trusted advisers, I concluded that remaining in my job was untenable,” he wrote. “Dean William Treanor cleared me on the technicality that I wasn’t an employee when I tweeted, but the IDEAA implicitly repealed Georgetown’s Speech and Expression Policy and set me up for discipline the next time I transgress progressive orthodoxy. Instead of participating in that slow-motion firing, I’m resigning.”

Treanor, the dean of Georgetown Law, posted a statement last week when Shapiro was reinstated, noting the pain his tweet caused the community, particularly Black female students, and promising that Shapiro would “participate in programming on implicit bias, cultural competence, and non-discrimination, which the Law Center is requiring senior staff to attend.”

Treanor added that he also requested that Shapiro “make himself available to meet with student leaders concerned about his ability to treat students fairly.”

Shapiro had faced calls for his termination before he ever started at Georgetown Law. Controversy has also followed him elsewhere; he was shouted down at a scheduled event at the University of California Hastings College of the Law in March, when student protesters prevented him from speaking about Justice Stephen Breyer’s retirement this summer.

Biden nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson, who is a Black woman, to replace Breyer, and she was confirmed by the Senate in April.

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Judge blocks release of research committee's names to PETA

A judge has prohibited the University of Washington from releasing the names of an animal research committee to PETA. The animal-rights organization is appealing, alleging mistreatment of primates.

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Protesters hold signs that read “Security threat: labs that destroy public records” and “Public health threat is inside the UW monkey lab.” One of the protesters is dressed as a monkey.

Liberty University Partially Settles Title IX Lawsuit

Liberty University has reportedly reached a settlement with various plaintiffs—a mix of former students and employees—who sued the evangelical college in Virginia for allegedly mishandling Title IX issues for years. The settlement was made official Wednesday, according to court documents.

“The terms of the settlement are confidential in nature, and there’s really nothing I can say about it beyond that the parties to the suit have resolved their differences and the matter is settled,” Jack Larkin, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, told local TV station WDBJ.

The original lawsuit, filed by a group of 12 Jane Does, was brought against Liberty in July. Additional plaintiffs later joined the case. Plaintiffs claimed in court filings that Liberty discouraged them from reporting incidents of sexual assault or punished complainants for various code of conduct violations, such as drinking or premarital sex, when they did come forward.

However, The Roys Report, an independent news website covering the evangelical community, recently reported that at least two Jane Does in the case have refused to settle with Liberty. One plaintiff claims that she was offered an initial settlement of $5,000, which was later upped to $35,000. She has accused Liberty of insulting and retraumatizing her in the settlement dispute.

“Liberty University can confirm that the institution reached settlement agreements with all the Jane Doe plaintiffs, as well as all but two of the additional Jane Does that attorney Larkin represented. As a result, Mr. Larkin dismissed with prejudice the lawsuit that he had previously filed on the Jane Does’ behalf,” an emailed statement from the university said.

The statement, which did not address the ongoing investigation, notes that Liberty is investing $8.5 million in security upgrades, which will add more cameras, emergency call boxes and a mobile application for reporting emergencies. The statement adds that Liberty has launched a review of its Title IX processes and department to strengthen its policies and procedures on sexual assault issues.

Beyond the settled case, two additional lawsuits regarding Title IX issues at Liberty have been filed, the most recent in April. Both make claims that are similar to the lawsuit brought by the 12 Jane Does. The Department of Education recently opened a Clery Act compliance review at Liberty, and the Office for Civil Rights is also investigating allegations of discrimination based on sexual orientation.

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Va. College Bars Incoming Athletes Disciplined for Sex Acts

College athletes found responsible for committing sexual misconduct often continue to compete simply by transferring elsewhere. But a new rule adopted at the University of Virginia’s College of Wise aims to close that revolving door by barring those found responsible for sexual violence from participating in athletics.

UVA Wise formally adopted the policy, known as the Tracy Rule, this week. In doing so, UVA Wise becomes only the second institution to adopt such a rule, according to USA Today.

The Tracy Rule—named for Brenda Tracy, who was sexually assaulted by football players at Oregon State University in 1998—was developed by an organization established by Tracy called Set the Expectation. Institutions that adopt the policy agree to conduct background checks for college athletes and bar those who have been found responsible in Title IX hearings or found guilty in court of sexual violence.

The University of Texas at San Antonio was the first to adopt the policy, in 2019, per USA Today.

One key component of the policy is that it requires Title IX coordinators from an athlete’s prior institution to disclose to the transfer destination whether students were involved in Title IX investigations. The rule aims to put an end to athletes transferring to other colleges after committing sexual violence, ultimately disqualifying them from competing at a new university.

Disqualified athletes, however, can appeal their ineligibility to a university review panel. Following that assessment, the decision on eligibility is in the hands of the president and athletics director.

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Southern Poverty Law Center's divisive tactics (letter)

To the editor:

In today’s fast-moving media environment, it’s easy to see how well-meaning reporters and editors can overlook a detail or assume the validity of a well-traveled claim.

This was the case in a March 23 article published at Inside Higher Ed. In an otherwise solid and factual report entitled “Law Students Shout Down Controversial Speakers,” reporter Josh Moody detailed the disgraceful scene of Yale Law School students imposing an unseemly heckler’s veto on my colleague at Alliance Defending Freedom, Kristen Waggoner, and her co-panelist, Monica Miller of the American Humanist Association.

I won’t belabor the details of this unsettling event, as Mr. Moody does an excellent job in his coverage. But I will point out to readers that Mr. Moody makes one foundational error regarding ADF and the public smear campaign currently waged against us by the thoroughly discredited, internally corrupt, and deeply partisan Southern Poverty Law Center.

For decades, many prominent voices have been warning that SPLC has become “more of a partisan progressive hit operation than a civil rights watchdog.” Current Affairs’ editor Nathan J. Robinson described SPLC’s “Hate Map” as an “outright fraud” and “willful deception” and SPLC itself as “everything that’s wrong with liberalism.” Shikha Dalmia has said that SPLC is wrongly focused on “enforcing liberal orthodoxy against its intellectual opponents.” SPLC was even forced to pay over $3 million to settle a threatened defamation lawsuit over its slander.

Yet, despite this, Mr. Moody writes that ADF has “earned” the spurious “hate group” designation from the SPLC and that ADF “has long been criticized for social views that demonize the LGBTQ+ community.”

The opposite is true. It is the SPLC that seeks to demonize those who hold views about marriage and human sexuality with which they disagree. That is why they place such groups and individuals on their “Hate Map.” ADF supports orthodox Christian teaching on marriage, sexuality, and the nature of the human person. Our beliefs are consistent with Biblical, historical understandings of Christianity, held by all major denominations including Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant and adhered to by billions worldwide. Accordingly, we support laws and policy positions in line with these beliefs. Over the years – in keeping with the shrill cancel culture that has taken hold in the U.S. – those who disagree with our policy positions have deliberately sought to mischaracterize, smear, and outright lie about our work in order to silence debate on these issues. SPLC is the most prominent example.

ADF’s 13 wins at the U.S. Supreme Court just since 2011 should be proof enough to any skeptic that our views are well within the mainstream. We have another important free speech case before the Court in the coming term, and Ms. Waggoner was invited to the Yale Law School event because she successfully argued a recent campus free speech case before the Court—one in which the American Humanist Association filed a brief supporting ADF’s client.

Strikingly, none of this context was included in Mr. Moody’s reporting. Neither was the concerning connection between SPLC’s rhetoric and threatening and violent behavior on college campuses and beyond. In just the last decade, students at Yale and Middlebury College have cited SPLC statements as a reason for boisterous and violent shout downs of campus speakers and Floyd Corkins cited SPLC claims as motivation for his attempted mass murder at Family Research Council. These are major omissions to an otherwise thorough report. Inside Higher Ed’s readers deserve the full context so they can come to their own conclusions about the conduct and motivation of the student disruptors at Yale.

--Jeremy Tedesco
Senior counsel and senior vice president of corporate engagement

Alliance Defending Freedom.

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Arizona Grads Blast NCAA for Letting Trans Swimmer Compete

A group of former collegiate swimmers sent a letter to the NCAA Board of Governors last week arguing that it “failed everyone” by allowing transgender University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas to compete.

Thomas officially capped her collegiate career with an NCAA championship victory in the 500-yard freestyle event earlier this month.

The letter is signed by multiple University of Arizona graduates but no current members of its swim team. The letter is also signed by former Arizona head coach Frank Busch, who also served as the national team director for USA Swimming, which is the national governing body for swimming in the U.S.

“The decisions of the NCAA this year hoped to appease everyone by allowing Lia Thomas to compete directly with women. Instead, the NCAA has successfully failed everyone. A target was placed on the back of a trans athlete subjecting this person to devastating national outcry and humiliation. This swimmer’s lone points for Penn this March catapulted a team to a top-20 program in the country after failing to score a single point last year. Additionally, women athletes competing in the meet were forced to swim in unfair direct competition therefore eliminating all integrity of the entire championship meet,” reads the letter, signed The Women of Arizona Swimming & Diving.

The letter echoes prior criticism of Thomas leveled by some teammates who protested her participation in anonymous letters and interviews throughout the season.

Thomas competed for three years on the men’s team at Penn before joining the women’s team—after sitting out the 2020–21 swim season and undergoing hormone suppression—and winning an NCAA championship in one of the three events in which she reached the finals.

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Car Wreck Kills 7 From University of the Southwest

A fiery wreck on a West Texas highway claimed nine lives Tuesday night, including a golf coach and six members of the men’s and women’s golf teams at the University of the Southwest.

The fatal crash occurred as the teams were traveling home to New Mexico from a golf tournament in Texas. The team’s passenger van—carrying nine people in total—was reportedly struck by a pickup that veered into its lane, leading to a collision that also killed the two occupants of the truck. Two University of the Southwest students remain in critical condition, according to a university statement.

The cause of the crash is under investigation, the statement said. Southwest has not identified the deceased beyond golf coach Tyler James, who was in his first year with the team.

“We are still learning the details about the accident, but we are devastated and deeply saddened to learn about the loss of our students’ lives and their coach,” University of the Southwest president Quint Thurman told local NBC affiliate KWES-TV of Midland, Tex. “My understanding is that two of our students have survived and have been airlifted to University hospital in [Lubbock, Tex.] with serious injuries. We would ask for prayers for their recovery and for comfort and strength for all of families and friends and students of those whose lives have been lost.”

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Disgraced Ex–Baylor Coach Out at Grambling State

Controversial football coach Art Briles, fired by Baylor University in 2016 for mishandling Title IX issues, waited nearly six full years before a college team was willing to take a chance on him. But Briles lasted less than a week as offensive coordinator at Grambling State University.

Briles’s hiring was confirmed Thursday; his abrupt resignation came Monday.

“Unfortunately, I feel that my continued presence will be a distraction to you and your team, which is the last thing that I want. I have the utmost respect [for] the university, and your players,” Briles said in a statement announcing his departure Monday, according to ESPN.

Briles, who revived a struggling Baylor team in his eight years there, has been a pariah in football circles since he was fired six years ago after a Baylor investigation found multiple incidents of sexual assault or domestic violence involving 19 members of the team under his watch. Despite his awareness of certain incidents, Briles did not report these matters, ultimately leading to his ouster.

A separate NCAA investigation found Briles not guilty of violating the organization’s bylaws but noted he failed to take appropriate actions when informed of potential criminal activity by players.

It’s unclear if Briles resigned voluntarily from Grambling State or was asked to step down. His quick exit is reminiscent of a similar incident in 2017, when he was hired as an assistant coach by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League, only to have the job offer rescinded amid backlash on the same day.

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