Auspicious Developments from NAS Conference Reported in ‘Chronicle of Higher Education’

January 12, 2009

Several FIRE staffers returned today from last weekend’s 13th General National Association of Scholars conference. As I reported last week, both Greg Lukianoff and Adam Kissel spoke on panels during the proceedings.

Greg was featured on the panel "The Changing Political Landscape of Higher Education." Greg detailed some of our more ridiculous cases and then remarked about his hopes for the incoming Obama administration. Greg also discussed FIRE’s forthcoming letter to President-elect Obama on Inauguration Day. As we reported before the election, this letter will "outline three specific areas of concern: the continued prevalence of campus speech codes, the misuse and abuse of harassment law, and routine violations of students’ and faculty members’ speech rights."

As Peter Schmidt of The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required) reports:

[Greg] added that Mr. Obama, as a constitutional scholar, would not have much patience for colleges’ policies and actions that trampled free-speech rights.

Adam’s presentation on the panel "Are the Dorms Being Politicized?" also inspired much discussion. His remarks focused on the thought-reform program at the University of Delaware which FIRE exposed last academic year.

Another exciting development from the conference came from American Association of University Professors (AAUP) President Cary Nelson during his debate with NAS President Peter Wood. After a heated back-and-forth between the two, an equally compelling question-and-answer period ensued. As Schmidt writes in The Chronicle, "Mr. Nelson seemed downright sympathetic with those present when it came to the subject of campus speech codes. Anne D. Neal, president of the trustees-and-alumni group [American Council of Trustees and Alumni], asked him whether the AAUP could move beyond its disagreements with organizations like hers and work together on areas of common ground. Mr. Nelson replied that his group would be willing to work with hers to fight speech codes, which it has long opposed."

We here at FIRE have always welcomed the support of any organization willing to face the problems of speech codes and other challenges to individual rights in higher education. We look forward to working with Cary Nelson and the AAUP in the coming months and years to combat the egregious abuses of liberty that are all too common on our nation’s campuses.