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Uncensored: U of Chicago makes free speech its hallmark

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Anton Ford, a philosophy professor associated with UofC Resists, leads chants at an event featuring Corey Lewandowski. Feng Ye / The Chicago Maroon

University takes top marks on FIRE student survey on free speech issues

By CHRISTOPHER HEIMERMAN
For Illinois Press Association

CHICAGO – No American university is more committed to free speech on campus than the University of Chicago, according to a recent FIRE student survey.

Whether or not faculty and administrators are Spider-Man buffs, they subscribe to the sage advice of Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

“This is important: Our faculty are not the kind of faculty that will just invite a speaker to come and have free reign,” Dean of Students Michele Rasmussen said. “It’s usually a defined program, where it’s an atmosphere for those ideas to be challenged.”

The university scored highest out of the 55 universities that took part in the survey conducted by The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit focused on protecting free speech rights on campuses.

The survey covered universities’ openness, how willing they are to invite a speaker to address controversial issues, self-expression and administrative support.

GeoffreyStoneGeoffrey Stone (left), an Edward H. Levi distinguished law professor who’s filled various leadership positions at the university during his 47-year tenure, says the university has emphasized First Amendment rights since its inception in 1890.

In 2014, the university’s president, Robert Zimmer, addressed a nationwide trend of free speech challenges at universities by enlisting Stone and other distinguished professors to draft a statement clearly spelling out that under virtually no circumstances the university would prohibit free speech.

The “Chicago Principles” have since been adopted by 70-plus universities, including Princeton, Columbia, and multiple Big Ten universities, including the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, which ranked 42nd in the survey. The University of Wisconsin was a notch above at 41st, and the U of I-Chicago was 44th.

The universities effectively lopped off the first half of the principles, which pertained to the University of Chicago specifically, but kept the universal elements.

Stone said arrogance often gets in the way of sharing intellectual property among higher education, “so adopting another’s statement is hard to do.”

Further, he said, universities have to be prepared for students and faculty who oppose expression of free speech from opposing or extreme viewpoints.

“It takes a good deal of courage, frankly,” Stone said. “It does piss off a lot of people.”

 

Media literacy is key

The crux of the “Chicago Principles” is summarized nicely in the document’s reference to a dissenting opinion from Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in a Sedition Act case in 1918.

“... The ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas – that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the free competition of the market,” the dissent reads.

Stone said free expression was integral to desegregation, interracial marriage, and the women’s rights movements.

“They would have been flat-out rejected without hesitation at different times in the past,” he said.

He said the university was among the first to offer benefits for gay marriages.

“At a point in the past, that would have been regarded as absurd,” Stone said. “Because we have allowed the advocacy of those challenging positions, we’ve learned and changed our minds about things. We always have to be open to challenges.”

The difference today, he readily concedes, is the speed at which information, and misinformation, travels.

Five years ago, Stone began teaching a Freedom of Speech course that keyed on vetting information.

“We live in an environment where it’s more important than ever for people to be skeptical,” Stone said.

As baseless claims and conspiracy theories flood the media – both social media and broadcasts and print publications – consumers must scrutinize the content.

“Our students are living in that society. That’s the reality of the world we’re living in,” Stone said.

He said shielding students from misinformation fails to prepare them for the real world.

Three years ago, the university retooled its orientation program to emphasize media literacy to new students as soon as they arrived on campus. Not coincidentally, the university borrowed heavily from the orientation program of Purdue University – one of the first institutions to adopt and adapt the “Chicago Principles.”

MicheleRasmussen“We sort of returned the favor,” Rasmussen said, laughing.

In a large venue, faculty, students and special guests speak, do a Q&A session and role-play. Videos of such figures as Barack Obama are shown. It’s all done in an hour.

“It’s not too preachy, and it brings some abstract concepts down to a level students can understand,” Rasmussen said. “It’s not effective to have a bunch of talking-head administrators.”

It was obviously difficult to conduct orientation virtually, she said. Another challenge has been meeting students at their level, given that about two-thirds of the University of Chicago’s students are graduate students.

“One could argue they’re even more diverse than undergrads,” Rasmussen said. “They represent different age groups, some have families, and they’re from different countries.”

Rasmussen said interactive modules have been built, and much of the First Amendment work has been folded into curriculum and separate exercises. For instance, the law school had its students write a speech code.

“It ended up looking a lot like the ‘Chicago Principles,’ ” Rasmussen said.

 

Infrastructure keeps events ‘on the rails’

Controversial figures are more than welcome to speak at a campus event – as long as they’re willing to be rebutted.

Many such events at the University of Chicago have failed to materialize, because speakers have refused to take part in a debate or a Q&A session.

“It wasn’t because of the political views,” Rasmussen said. “They weren’t willing to have the back-and- forth discourse.”

She said the university has “hundreds, if not thousands” of speakers on campus, and that faculty and administration collaborate to know what’s on the calendar and plan each event in such a way that “it doesn’t go off the rails.”

They designate protest areas, train staff to de-escalate situations, and provide ample security.

Disrupting events is not allowed, and if interrupters persist, they’re removed.

“We take events management and planning very seriously,” Rasmussen said. “When you see a lot of events on a college campus that goes off the rails, when you dig a little deeper, it’s usually because of bad planning of the event. You need to do that work up front to ensure you have the kind of event you want.”

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After kids broke a piñata that represented Donald Trump by hitting it with a long stick, the head of the piñata hung in front of the protesters. Feng Ye / The Chicago Maroon 

Rasmussen said the university has “had plenty of dust-ups over the years,” but its employees will neither be gagged nor disciplined for exercising their First Amendment rights.

“That just doesn’t happen at the University of Chicago,” she said. “This is not the kind of place where you’re going to see administrative overreach.”

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Third-year Matthew Foldi, president of the College Republicans club at the University of Chicago, talked with The Maroon. Alex Ward / The Chicago Maroon

Stone conceded it’s challenging to tell students and faculty they will hear ideas they find offensive, even
revolting.

“That’s not easy, and the reason they have to learn to do that is they cannot trust anyone in positions of authority to decide what ideas cannot be spoken,” he said.

He and Rasmussen emphasized the university provides “safe spaces”, which are spelled out in the principles as various student organizations.

“You don’t have to just sit there, take it, and feel upset,” Rasmussen said. “There are places you can take your concerns, and get support. We do have safe places, where students can step out of a controversial situation.”

 

‘A slightly cynical point of view’

Rasmussen said there isn’t a threshold at which the university will determine a point of view too outrageous to be allowed on campus.

That doesn’t sit well with Caroline Kubzansky (left), a fourth-year senior who’s worked for The Maroon student newspaper since she set foot on campus. She’s now the managing editor, and is skeptical of the university’s motivations.

image0“I take a slightly cynical point of view on the university’s emphasis on free speech,” she said. “The university’s efforts have struck me as a marketing scheme.”

She said a culture of curiosity is a good thing, and that universities deserve credit for thinking outside the box, and outside the domain of scholars. But she thinks the university’s policy is perhaps too tolerant.

“[The Chicago Principles] is a way of saying that people don’t immediately tar and feather conservatives for what they have to say,” she said. “Sometimes it might be too good at not tarring and feathering people with reprehensible viewpoints.”

The university does not require its professors to provide content warnings before they introduce content that’s bound to be offensive to some, if not repulsive or potentially incendiary.

Kubzansky said that while she respects the policy, she’s grateful all the professors she’s had alert their students.

“Most professors who care about that stuff will put it in anyway,” she said. “In the circles I run in, it’s called manners. Try not to blindside someone with something offensive.

“The world is awful enough as it is.”

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Press Releases

 

Americans have been preparing
for the impact of a pandemic for over 75 years!

From home economics to the modern family and consumer sciences classes, the foundation of basic life skills helped bring families through 2020 and beyond.  


Feb. 9, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Marissa Kunerth, communications & public relations manager
Family, Career and Community Leaders of America
mkunerth@fcclainc.org

703-716-1308


RESTON, VA For many, it has taken a global pandemic to motivate them to refine and reuse many basic life skills. With restaurants closed and stay-at-home mandates in place, a growing number of adults have turned to online tutorials, social media recipes, and family and friends to learn basic life skills. Admittedly, more than a fourth of Americans admit they cannot cook and claim this skill is something they now realize is an essential skill that should be taught in every school in the United States.

75 years ago, when Future Homemakers of America (FHA), presently known as Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), was founded, no one thought the skills gained through Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) classes would get families through a pandemic. The country was digging out of the Great Depression and using skills taught at home and in Home Economics to rebuild the economy of our country. In education, Home Economics transitioned to Family and Consumer Sciences in 1994 and some felt these classes were no longer essential. Since 2012, there has been an estimated 40% decline in FCS classes, but the coronavirus pandemic has led to an outcry to bring “Home Ec” back and reinforced how important basic life skills are to not only be successful at home but holistically as humans impacting careers and communities.

Since its inception in 1945, FCCLA has promoted the need for FCS education for every student in every state in every school. FCCLA knows the importance of FCS education, which provides students with lifelong skills such as nutrition, menu planning, food preparation, clothing care and construction, money management, child development, and workforce readiness. Many students move from learning basic skills in an apron to preparing hopefully to someday wear a chef’s coat.

Illinois State Adviser Marta Lockwood shares, “The Illinois Association of FCCLA is proud to be a part of the long-standing legacy of helping students become great leaders. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing young people making a difference in their personal lives, their homes, schools, and communities!”

Through FCS education, FCCLA provides opportunities for members to develop 21st century skills that enhance students’ understanding of community, work, family, and their interpersonal relationships. This year, FCCLA celebrates its 75th anniversary by commemorating all 50 state associations who have contributed to student’s success through character development, creative and critical thinking, interpersonal communication, practical knowledge, and career preparation.

Since chartering with the national organization in January 1946, thousands upon thousands of Illinois students have taken advantage of this incredible organization and all it has to offer. As a youth led organization, Illinois FCCLA has teams of student officers who serve at every level of the organization from the local high schools to the state and national levels. These youth leaders plan and assist with all the community service projects, leadership training, and conferences that are held. Illinois State Adviser Marta Lockwood adds “one of the greatest things about FCCLA is that it has so many different programs and opportunities for the students to find success in. From community service projects to competitive events, FCCLA gives students the opportunity to combine their education and leadership skills to make a difference and receive recognition for their accomplishments”.

FCCLA’s 75thanniversary is a major milestone for the organization and FCS education. Whether one is looking to feel confident in the kitchen, make a difference in their community, or prepare for career success, FCCLA and FCS is the secret ingredient to succeed in the home and workplace.

Research Sources:

Tufts University: https://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/general-nutrition/28-of-americans-cant-cook

WZDX Fox: https://www.rocketcitynow.com/article/news/what-ever-happened-to-home-ec-millennials-struggling-with-home-and-nutrition-skills/525-7f8fd87d-2134-408f-909b-4687ba46b496

About FCCLA

Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) is a dynamic and effective national student organization that helps young men and women become leaders and address important personal, family, work, and societal issues through Family and Consumer Sciences education. FCCLA has more than182,000 members and 5,253 chapters from 48 state associations, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.


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Illinois Principals Association to host first virtual Education Leaders Conference in February  

Feb. 1, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Dr. Jason Leahy, executive director
Illinois Principals Association
jason@ilprincipals.org

217-525-1383

SPRINGFIELD – In a first for the Illinois Principals Association, we are hosting our Annual Education Leaders Conference virtually. The 49th annual Education Leaders Conference and Exhibition, “L.E.A.D.” Conference (Learning – Equity – Advocacy – Diversity) will take place online February 22-23, 2021. The annual conference provides an opportunity for principals and other administrators to learn from leaders in the education field and participate in sessions to better serve their schools. 
 
“School leaders have been there to support teachers, guide parents, and serve our students through the multitude of challenges this school year,” said Dr. Amy Dixon, IPA President. “With the aid of the Illinois Principals Association, principals have not only overcome the challenges, but shown tremendous personal growth and flexibility.  Now it is time for school leaders to take time to recharge and renew their purpose, passion, and leadership. The IPA Education Leaders Conference is the premiere event of the year that will allow them to do that and so much more!”
 
The conference will include presentations from keynote speakers Adam Welcome, Illinois State Superintendent Dr. Carmen Ayala, and Beth Houf.  Monday’s first general session will feature Adam Welcome, a Principal and Director of Innovation for a large school district in the Bay Area of California, and his presentation “Kids Deserve It!” Mr. Welcome has been honored as Principal of the Year for his region, a “20 to Watch” for the National School Board Association, guest blogger for EdWeek, NAESP magazine, and other publications. His presentation is a simple, yet profound message to become more engaged with your school community.
 
Speakers at the second general session on Monday afternoon include Dr. Carmen Ayala, Illinois State Superintendent of Schools, and Dr. Amy Dixon, principal of Jefferson and Lincoln Elementary Schools in Carmi, IL and IPA President. IPA Principal of the Year awards, the Reaching Out & Building Bridges Award, and the Mr. John Ourth & Dr. Fred W. Singleton Professional Development Scholarships will also be presented at this session.
 
Beth Houf will begin the conference Tuesday morning with her presentation “The Power of Appreciation,” including strategies to build rapport with students, staff, and parents. Beth Houf is the proud principal of Fulton Middle School in central Missouri.  She is the Co-Author of “Lead Like a PIRATE:  Make School Amazing for Your Students and Staff.”  Beth also serves as a facilitator for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Leadership Academy, providing monthly training to state educational leaders.  She has spoken at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference, the Association for Middle-Level Education National Conference, the National Principals Conference, and many other state and local educational venues. 
 
The conference will include popular IGNITE sessions, presented by IPA Principal of the Year Award Winners and leaders including Mandy Ellis (Principal, Dunlap Grade School), Dan Kaiser (Retired Principal, Dwight Township High School), Hattie Llewellyn (Principal, New Berlin High School), Dr. Tron Young (Principal, Joseph Arthur Middle School), Dr. Marcus Belin (Principal, Huntley High School), and Abir Othman (Associate Principal, Victor J. Andrew High School). These innovative, fast-paced sessions provide a unique way to hear from dynamic speakers who will inspire fellow leaders.
 
Small group sessions at the conference include timely topics such as: Race Relations in Schools; Practical Steps for Transforming School Culture; Trauma Informed Care; Leading through the Lens of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion; Attendance, Chronic Absence, and Equity; Building Leadership Teams; and legislative and legal updates. Conference attendees can also explore the online exhibit hall for the latest in educational products and services, and resource materials from sponsors such as AMBA (Association Member Benefits Advisors), ECRA Group, Good for Schools, Horace Mann, Illinois Principals Foundation, Lifetouch School Portraits and Southern Illinois University Carbondale. For more information about the Education Leaders Conference, please visit ipafc20.zerista.com. For more information about IPA, please visit www.ilprincipals.org.
 

The Illinois Principals Association is a leadership organization which serves over 5,800 educational leaders throughout the state of Illinois and whose mission is to develop, support, and advocate for innovative educational leaders.

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Ten $1,000 Scholarships Now Available for Midwest High School Seniors  

High school seniors from states that surround Iowa have a chance to earn one of 10 $1,000 college scholarships


Jan. 13, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Christopher Weishaar
Digital Public Relations Specialist
Iowa Student Loan
cweishaar@studentloan.org

(515) 273-7140

WEST DES MOINES, IOWA (Jan. 13, 2021) — High school seniors from Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin now have a chance to receive one of 10 college scholarships worth $1,000. Registration is open now through April 30, 2021.

High school seniors may register for the ISL Midwest Senior Scholarship at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/Midwest. Iowa Student Loan® will award $1,000 scholarships to 10 students whose names are randomly drawn after the registration period. Registered students also receive emails highlighting financial literacy tips, such as the importance of early career and college planning and ways to reduce student loan indebtedness.

“We know 2020 has been a tough year on students and families mentally and financially. We want high school seniors to have the tools and resources they need to plan and pay for college,” said Steve McCullough, president and CEO of Iowa Student Loan. “The information students receive during the program can help them make better decisions as they consider college finances, student loans and their future financial situations. We hope families also take this opportunity to explore all the free resources available on our website.”

The ISL Midwest Senior Scholarship is open to legal U.S. citizens who are seniors at a high school in one of the qualifying states during the 2020–2021 school year and who intend to attend college, either virtually or physically, in fall 2021. It is a no-purchase-required program, and full rules and details are available at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/Midwest.


Additional Resources Available 

Iowa Student Loan also has additional resources for families planning for college and for students who intend to pursue advanced degrees. The Parent Handbook consists of valuable tips to help families of students in sixth through 12th grades prepare for success in college and other postsecondary options. Parents of students in eighth through 12th grades can also sign up to receive twice-monthly emailed tips on academic, college and career planning through the Student Planning Pointers for Parents program. The College Funding Forecaster helps families understand the total cost of four years of college based on a freshman-year financial aid offer. Information about these resources is available at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/SmartBorrowing.


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About Iowa Student Loan
Established in 1979 as a private, nonprofit organization, Iowa Student Loan helps students and families obtain the resources necessary to succeed in postsecondary education. Iowa Student Loan has helped nearly 400,000 students pay for college. The organization, based in West Des Moines, Iowa, also provides an array of borrower benefits, financial literacy tools and community reinvestment programs, including support for free college planning services for students and their families. For more information about Iowa Student Loan, visit www.IowaStudentLoan.org.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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