American college campuses are becoming the main battleground for the First Amendment, usually because faculty or administrators don’t respect the free speech rights of students. In November I wrote about such a case at Iowa State.
Another case showing the authoritarianism that increasingly characterizes the professoriate involves the master’s program in social work at Rhode Island College (RIC). A student who did not believe that lobbying the state legislature for “progressive” causes was properly a part of his education and suffered for it filed suit against the school in state court.
This remarkable case started way back in 2004, when William Felkner, a graduate student in the college’s social work program, objected to its internship requirement that called for all students to work to “advance social change.” To the faculty, that meant advocating the sorts of “progressive” policies they favor, but the conservative Felkner did not care to advocate policies that he found philosophically repugnant. He therefore accepted instead an internship in the administration of then-governor Donald Carcieri, a Republican.
hat bit of independence was too much for the Professor James Ryczek who reported his defiance to the chair of the Master’s in Social Work Program, Lenore Olsen. She then informed Felkner that he could no longer pursue his degree at RIC.
Writing here in 2005, Greg Lukianoff, then the Director of Legal and Public Advocacy at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), said “Forcing a person to publicly state one thing when he or she privately believes something else is one of the hallmarks of a totalitarian state. It is shocking that (RIC) President Nazarian would allow this.”...