Archive for the ‘Free Speech’ Category

Celebrating Banned Books at University of Arizona

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

Well we didn’t ban any books at the Banned Books Week event at the U of A this week. We tried to come up with titles we would want to ban, but always found a reason not let them be.  For the most part, the best reason we could come up with for not censoring is that we didn’t like them.

And that really is the point of Banned Books Week. It is easy to celebrate challenged books that are wonderful literature like Lolita and Catch-22. But we aren’t a free society if we don’t also support those books we disagree with.

– Dan Lee

What Books Would You Ban?

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

I have agreed to be on a panel for a program sponsored by the local chapter of the Progressive Libarians Guild during Banned Books Week.  I’m thinking of doing something to test intuitions by getting people to think about what they might be tempted to ban, censor, or remove from the shelf. I’m looking for examples to prompt the thought.

So what books would you ban? Any ideas?

–  Dan Lee

Openness and Creativity (aka Librarians Like More Stuff)

Friday, August 28th, 2009

I was preparing a Pechua Kucha presentation for our library recently as part of a fun event before the start of a new semester that also was intended to remind us of why we do what we do. I ended up doing mine on the idea of openness, tieing it to Ranganathan’s Five Laws of Library Science and ALA’s statement of Core Values of Librarianship. I ended up talking about Open Source, Open Access, Open Data, and Open Educational Resources.  But the consistent theme that kept coming through – and I hadn’t set out with this in mind – was how openness in all these senses is the foundation for increased productivity and increased creativity. Librarians like openness because we like to have more stuff. More stuff for our communities to take and build on it to create even more stuff.

This idea is probably obvious to those who believe in the value of intellectual freedom, but it’s nice to have a reminder.

– Dan Lee

Intellectual Freedom in the News

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

The Oak Park, Illinois, public library has opened a transgender resource collection.

The ACLU has settled out of court with two Tennessee school districts that banned access to GLBT sites, but allowed access to “reparative therapy” sites.

A Federal Court has found that RealDVD, a software company that provides a means of copying DVDs and maintaining digital copies on the user’s hard drives, violates the DMCA.

The US Marines have banned social networking on the Marine Core Network.

ACRL & ARL have sent a letter to the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division stating that the lack of competition for the Google Books project “could compromise fundamental library values such as equity of access to information, patron privacy, and intellectual freedom.”

You can see FCC Chaiman Julius Genachowski’s remarks on braoadband at the eGovernment and Civic Engagement Workshop here.

The Freedom to Read Foundation is urging the Supreme Court to reject a 1999 ban that would make it a crime to create, sell or possess any photograph, film, video or sound recording in which an animal is harmed or killed — even though these materials are First Amendment protected.

An Oregon rule that could go into effect as soon as September would require all milk producers that advertise their milk as hormone-free must also include a disclaimer next to the label that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has found no significant difference between milk coming from cows treated with the hormone and those that are not. Two industry giants have filed lawsuits.

“Expert reviewers” appointed by the Texas state Board of Education have recommended the removal of César Chávez and former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall from the state’s Social Studies curriculum on the grounds that Chávez is an “unfitting role model for students” and Marshall is “not an appropriate historical figure.”
— compiled by X. Avalos

Intellectual Freedom in the News

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Judith Krug, founder of Banned Books Week and director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom since its founding in 1967, dies of stomach cancer at age 69. Go here for more blog posts remembering Judith.

Amazon’s sales ranking “glitch” is called an “embarassing cataloging error.”

Google Book settlement under “legal assault.”

Supreme court rules that speech is not constitutionally protected for public employees; the decision could “silence professors.”

Associated Press chairman “mad as hell” at websites that link to AP material, calls their profit a violation of fair use.

Rockefeller University Press freezes 2010 journal prices at 2009 rates.

– compiled by X. Avalos

Academic Freedom at College of DuPage

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

College Freedom has a recent post about a proposed policy change at College of DuPage. Last Fall the college’s Board of Trustees shared a draft of changes that included language taken from David Horowitz’s Academic Bill of Rights. The Faculty Association protested and the Board made some changes.

The Illinois AAUP has responded in detail to the new draft. Some of the remaining concern is over vague terms such as “demeaning behavior” and “ethical image” that are left undefined and thus open to abuse. The policy also grants the campus President the authority limit the place, content, and timing of speakers. Perhaps the most problematic section states “No person shall be required to listen to a speaker or participate in a program that he/she finds objectionable.” This removes faculty from the traditional role of determining curriculum and course content. The Illinois AAUP may overstate their case here and there in the response, but this last item is truly troubling.

– Dan Lee

University Research Restricted by IP Policies

Friday, February 20th, 2009

The New York Times has a story about a letter 26 university researchers sent to the EPA charging that biotechnology firms use their intellectual property rights to limit research into the effectiveness and safety of genetically modified crops. Farmers (or researchers) who use the seed sign contracts that require them to honor patent rights and from planting the seed for research. And when companies do allow researchers to test the products, they often insist on viewing the findings before they can be published.

The story makes it clear that the researchers in question are not opposed to genetically modified crops. Rather, they are interested in discovering their effectiveness in a range of contexts, including side-by-side comparison of competing products, and learning more about the impact on environmental and food quality. This sounds like worthwhile research for the companies and for the rest of us. Here’s hoping the EPA can help open things up.

— Dan Lee

Israel, Palestine, and Academic Freedom at Columbia University

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Issues in the Middle East are once again affecting the academic environment at Columbia University. Columbia and Barnard faculty have written an open letter to the University’s president, Lee C. Bollinger, asking him to speak out in favor of academic freedom for Palestinians. President Bollinger has formerly been the target of complaints alleging that under his watch, the University allowed anti-Semitism and intimidation in its Middle East studies classes. He has also previously defended the University against David Horowitz’s Academic Bill of Rights, and gained some notoriety for inviting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak at Columbia.

– X. Avalos

Legislative Interference?

Friday, February 6th, 2009

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a story today out of Alaska about a legislative budget hearing wandering towards tying university funding to the specific views of students and faculty. The source of the story, and more complete reporting, is a piece in the Juneau Empire.

Representative Anna Fairclough is highlighted for making the economic point that the oil and gas industry drive the Alaskan economy and supply most of the state revenue from which university budgets are created. She further states that university staff and students are often seen as not connecting North Slope oil field development and state revenue that supports universities.

So far so good. Sometimes we need to be principled; sometimes we need to be pragmatic. We all make these choices based on our own priorities, and we make different choices at different times. But then, Rep. Mike Kelly is quoted as saying “They come down here and rail against anything that brings in the very bucks that they come down here and tell us that we owe them.” As a statement of fact, this could be innocuous. But coming from a member of a legislative Finance Committee, it can also sound like intimidation. There is more than a hint that if Alaskan students want an education, then they ought to have different political views.

To be sure, this isn’t censorship. The state is not stopping anyone from expressing a viewpoint. But by tying funding to expression, they are proposing a limit on what can be studied on campus. As we work through these economically difficult times in all states, we need to be on the lookout for legislative limits on academic concerns.

— Dan Lee

Ethic Bites: Free Speech

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

For several years now, I have been a regular listener to Nigel Warburton’s and David Edmonds’ podcast series, Philosophy Bites. It–along with Alan Saunders’ Philosopher’s Zone from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and a few other podcasts–exemplifies what I love about the medium. Programming, whether originally aired on the radio or born digital, can reach out and find its audience unencumbered by geographic location, broadcast scheduling, or other factors. Or maybe I should say, audiences can reach out and find programming unencumbered by their locations or the vagaries of personal schedules.

In either case, having enjoyed Philosophy Bites so much, I was very pleased when Warburton and Edmonds agreed to do Ethics Bites, a series of 14 podcasts on applied ethics for the Open University.

The ethical issue most of interest to this blog is, of course, Free Speech. To establish the importance of free speech and its limits, Nigel Warburton speaks with Tim Scanlon, the Alford Professor of Natural Religion, Moral Philosophy, and Civil Polity at Harvard. The 17-minute discussion both lays out the issues entailed in free speech and gives Professor Scanlon’s position on those issues. I can’t imagine a more concise and easy to comprehend introduction to the topic.

I also think Professor Scanlon merits the attention of librarians because he moves the defense of free speech from a grounding in individual rights to “a more nuanced view — which takes into account the interests of both speaker and listener, and empirical considerations about the danger of granting powers of regulation to the state.” The dialog touches on areas of political speech, offensive speech, hate speech, and pornography, all of which easily migrate from the public square to the library.

Recordings and transcripts of Ethic Bites: Free Speech can be found here. These podcasts and a wealth of others can also be found through iTunes.

—Paul Beavers