Academic freedom

Irvine Responds to Heckling Incident

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One of the more controversial campus speeches of the last academic year was discussed not so much for its content as for its repeated interruption. On Monday, the debates started again -- with the news that University of California at Irvine was moving to suspend the Muslim Student Union on the campus for a year as punishment for organizing heckling during a speech by Israel's ambassador to the United States.

Step Too Far on Textbook Costs?

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With students, parents and politicians all frustrated by high textbook costs, recent years have seen many innovations as well as state and federal legislation. Much of the latter has focused on requirements that involve providing information so students and professors can make sound choices.

YouTube and Context

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The headline on the YouTube video clip of Karl Walling's lecture in May says simply: "U.S. Naval War College Professor Advocates Rape."

Teaching or Preaching?

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The headline on the press release sure sounds like this is a case to be outraged over: "Ill. prof. fired for teaching about Catholic beliefs in class on Catholicism," says the announcement from the Alliance Defense Fund. Many newspapers articles ran variations of that headline -- "University of Illinois Instructor Fired Over Catholic Beliefs," read one.

The Real Scandal at Illinois?

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If you want to study Buddhist or Methodist or Jewish thought at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, there are relevant courses in religious studies -- courses where the instructors have been selected by a department of scholars, through standard academic procedures.

But if you want to study Roman Catholicism, your instructors have been through different vetting -- they will have been nominated by (and their salaries paid by) the St. John's Catholic Newman Center, a church organization independent of the university, set up to serve Catholic students at the university.

Oil Debate Spills Into Academe

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Within three days of the BP oil spill, Joe Griffit was out in the Gulf of Mexico taking water samples to begin assessing the damage. As an assistant professor of coastal sciences at the University of Southern Mississippi, Griffit says he’s been eager to assist in the restoration efforts taking shape in the region. So when lawyers representing BP came to Griffit with an offer -- help us assess the damage and find a way to restore what’s been destroyed -- Griffit says the option was “initially very attractive” to him and some of his colleagues.

Law School Tenure in Danger?

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The American Bar Association is moving ahead with changes in its accreditation system that faculty members fear could erode tenure protections for many professors and further weaken job security for clinical faculty members, many of whom don't have tenure to start with.

The New Clash of Rights

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A month ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a dispute involving the right of public universities to enforce anti-bias rules as a requirement for recognition of student organizations. The university's rules were upheld, dealing a blow to Christian student groups who argued that they should be protected by the First Amendment to receive recognition and to bar gay people.

A Separation and a Return

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The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign announced Thursday that it is ending an unusual relationship under which an independent Roman Catholic center has for decades nominated instructors to teach Catholic thought at the university and paid their salaries. Further, the university announced that a controversial adjunct who has taught under the relationship would be back for the fall semester.

You Can't Charge for Controversy

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Let's say a student group wants to invite Sarah Palin to campus, or Bill Ayers for that matter. Can a public university say that approval is contingent on the student group paying all extra security costs associated with such a visit?

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