educationtechnews.comCollege profs: Blog at your own risk!

College profs: Blog at your own risk!

March 15, 2012 by Jake Simms
Posted in: In this week's e-newsletter, Latest News & Views

Universities say they value free speech – but do they walk the talk at the University of Rochester?

Case in point: Economics professor Steven Landsburg writes a blog called The Big Questions.

He recently defended Rush Limbaugh, who blasted Georgetown law student/contraception activist Sandra Fluke on his radio program. The professor wrote:

“While Ms. Fluke herself deserves the same basic respect we owe any human being, her position — which is what’s at issue here — deserves none whatsoever. … I expect there are respectable arguments for subsidizing contraception … but Ms. Fluke made no such argument. All she said, in effect, was that she and others want contraception and they don’t want to pay for it.”

Four days later, University of Rochester president Joel Seligman posted this statement on the university’s website:

“I am outraged that any professor would demean a student in this fashion. … Landsburg now has made himself newsworthy as one of Limbaugh’s few defenders. … I wish he had focused instead on the ideal of a university as an institution that promotes the free exchange of ideas and lively debate at its best in an atmosphere of civil discourse in which the dignity of every individual is respected.”

Shut up, they explained

The day after the president criticized Landsburg, some offended students took action.

About thirty of them marched into his class and formed a line between him and his students – while Landsburg was teaching the class!

The protestors handed out leaflets accusing Landsburg of “smear[ing] a gender with derogatory terms.” They stood in front of the class for 15 minutes before leaving, but then came back in at the end of his class.

Landsburg kept teaching before dismissing the class five minutes early.

No word yet on whether President Seligman, who says he values free speech and the educational process, will censure the protestors, and defend the professor’s and his students’ rights.

Is free speech alive and well on college campuses? Share your opinion below.

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  • Ken Caviness

    Students pay to acquire a college education. It seems to me that the protestors should pay damages to the students of the class they disrupted. Let the protestors protest outside of class, when they are not themselves infringing on the rights of others.

  • ZX12R

    Mr. Landsburg is correct, of course. And Mr. Seligman is just another liberal idiot, in an ocean of academic liberal idiots, who want to squash any free speech by anyone not a liberal idiot.

  • MarkG

    There is a disconnect for me here. Perhaps I could follow up on the source material. I see that the university president is quoted as having posted:
    “I am outraged that any professor would demean a student in this fashion. … ”
    I don’t see anything in the excerpt from Professor Landsburg’s blog posting that fits the description “demean a student”. And yet in addition to the president’s response, there was the student protest.
    There must have been more statements in his blog that are relevant (?)

  • john

    Mark G is correct -the article above removed the inflammatory language of Professor Landsburg. heres some of what the article above ellipsed out –

    “But while Ms. Fluke herself deserves the same basic respect we owe to any human being, her position — which is what’s at issue here — deserves none whatseover. It deserves only to be ridiculed, mocked and jeered. To treat it with respect would be a travesty. I expect there are respectable arguments for subsidizing contraception (though I am skeptical that there are arguments sufficiently respectable to win me over), but Ms. Fluke made no such argument. All she said, in effect, was that she and others want contraception and they don’t want to pay for it.”

    President Seligman does not take a position on the issue of contraceptive coverage. He objects to a professor ridiculing, mocking or jeering the position of a student as antithetical to being a professor. President Seligman does not ridicule, mock or jeer at Professor Lansburg, he does not call him an idiot, a slut, a sponge. He does not tell him to shut up. He criticizes those professors who think they should ridicule, mock and jeer at those who disagree.

    I encourage everyone to google and read the statements of Ms Fluke (which are not what her critics say they are), the complete text of Profesor Lansburgh’s 3 posts (which is neither what his critics say it is or the edited version here) as well as Dr Seligman’s remarks. I did, and I concluded that I was unconvinced by Ms Fluke, that Lansburg crossed the line between shock entertainer and professor, and that President Seligman provided a model of how to disagree cvily.

  • MS

    Seems to me that both the professor and the students were exercising their free speech rights.

  • PT

    I am an alum of the University of Rochester, and I am rather concerned by the implications of the first paragraph of this article. In no way has President Seligman encroached on the professor’s right to free speech. There was no threatening of the professor, there was no “cease and desist” notice for his blog, there was no demand by the university to remove the post in question. Professor Lansburg has the right to free speech, and President Joel Seligman has the right to call him out when what he says is rude or inappropriate.

  • Erik Jensen

    Is this Fox News? We have a deceptive and inflammatory headline and there are key pieces of the story missing. Seligman did not threaten Landsburg with anything. He also explicitly stated his support of academic freedom. Landsburg compared Ms. Fluke to a prostitute and specifically called her an extortionist, so I can see why Seligman would want to call him out.

    I do not think students should be disrupting Landsburg’s classes, however.

  • Tom

    The story did not match the headline. I have nver opened an “EducationTechNews” e-mail before, and I never will again. I hope it will be easy to find the unsubscribe button.


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