Mar 30Liked by Berny Belvedere

I think that this is certainly the right way to frame this issue, and the argument reaches what I see as the right conclusion: academic freedom protections are essential to US higher education and need to be applied regardless of speech content (except when speech becomes action, as defined by court precedents).

One additional solution available to Penn that could be mentioned is that grading responsibilities in Professor Wax's courses could be assigned to a third party, such as another member of the Law School faculty. There is, of course, a cost, and Professor Wax would be being relieved of a burden, but I have seen this solution applied in a similar case elsewhere, and it is effective in relieving students considering enrollment of any anxiety about unfair grading.

My one point of disagreement concerns the need to approve guest speakers. So long as there is a rationale for inviting the speaker that is germane to the course subject, I don't think any professor's academic freedom rights should be curbed on that score at this point (I can imagine an even more dystopian tomorrow where I'd feel differently). Jared Taylor is a very good example to choose. Taylor is well educated, articulate, and respected beyond, I think, any other member of the intellectual alt-right. His views are as described, but he frames them in ways that make debate challenging, not least his urbane and civil manner. It seems to me you could hardly design a more effective learning exercise for law students than one that says, "Listen to this person carefully and then devise a question or brief comment that will effectively expose how one of his arguments is wrong." It is true that had Professor Wax invited a bomb-thrower like, say, Nick Fuentes or (somehow) Andrew Anglin to class, there would have been no intellectual challenge and an increased risk of counterproductive incivility. But Wax did not invite someone like that, and would, I think, be unlikely to do so because of academic norms that generally govern faculty of all political views (not to mention because of security issues involved). I don't see that the Wax case itself requires us to constrain academic freedom in the realm of guest speakers.

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The grading in traditional American law school courses differs from everything else in two ways.

First, the grade is determined entirely by only a single final exam; there are no quizzes, no midterms, etc. Even class attendance and participation are not considered.

Second, the grading is "blind" in that students are given a code (usually a number) to write on their final exam and admonished not to identify their work by any other means. Typically, the test proctor(s) are also responsible for verifying that each exam has only a code as an identifier before they are given to the professor for grading. Finally, the professor submits the coded grades and exams to the school administration; once grades are assigned and published, the exams are held for a period and then destroyed.

Under this system, which (per ABA guidelines) would likely be used for any required class, such as the one taught by Wax, it would be difficult for a professor to materially act upon their prejudices, and far more difficult to build a compelling bias case against a professor.

At least, that is how it was done at the University of Illinois school of law when I was there.

Funny sidenote: because of these grading restrictions (and the fact that courses followed the book so closely), we were able to get away with utterly laughable class attendance and preparation habits. A very close friend of mine had a class that met three times a week, for fourteen weeks. He attended a grand total of seven times. That isn't even fifteen percent. He got a B plus. (The class in question was legal ethics, but that is another story).

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