Brett Barbin: Why mandatory student fees funding abortion violates free speech

As I walked across the quad recently on my way to a final exam, a fellow student called out to me, cursing at me. It’s a greeting I’ve become accustomed to hearing even weeks after I introduced a bill in the University of Chicago's Student Government to restrict our mandatory student fees from funding abortions.

All students at the University of Chicago are required to pay a mandatory Student Life Fee as a part of our tuition. These funds are intended for educational, social, cultural and recreational activities. But in May 2017, the Student Government established a new committee as a grant program called The Emergency Fund. This committee is partly funded by the Student Life Fee. And for the 2018-2019 grant application, "all emergencies related to reproductive health (were) automatically considered first priority."

This new mandate initially went unnoticed. Then, about a month ago, a group of students were alerted to this funding reinterpretation and asked me, a Student Government representative, to draft legislation that would keep their Student Life Fees from being used against them in violation of their consciences.

[RELATED: Student proposes not funding abortions with student fees...and faces brutal backlash]

My bill, which failed to pass, is hardly radical. Although Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden caved under pressure last weekover his past support for the measure, the Hyde Amendment — which prohibits the use of tax money to pay for abortions with three exceptions — served as a model for my bill and has been federal law for 43 years. It was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1980 and protects the First Amendment rights of the majority of Americans who morally object to financially participating in ending another’s life.

The Constitution’s protection of free speech is about more than just words. It includes protections for a variety of expressive acts, from religious beliefs to financial contributions. When the powers that be coerce people into acts that infringe on their sincerely-held beliefs, this is a serious abuse of authority and a violation of free speech principles. It is the equivalent of being forced to swear an oath or read a statement against your will.

First Amendment violations have sprung up across our nation’s college campuses, but the foc

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EXCLUSIVE: PSU poised to punish prof who proved point with hoax 'dog rape' article, despite receiving global praise for prof

Hundreds of academics, students, and other individuals have sent letters in support of the Portland State University professor who, along with two other academics, used “hoax papers” to expose faulty publishing in several academic journals.

In 2018, three academics decided to challenge esteemed “peer-reviewed” academic journals by producing and submitting false articles with what they thought were ridiculous theses. 

Articles on rape culture being perpetuated in dog parks, fat bodybuilding, and the presence of toxic masculinity in “breastaurants” such as Hooters were all submitted, reviewed, and published by esteemed journals without a shred of fact or verifiable support.

Of the 20 “intentionally broken academic papers” written by the trio, seven were accepted and published in academic journals -- the same journals that students are encouraged to consult when writing papers of their own. Another seven of the 20 were rejected, with the rest pending review before the ruse was uncovered.

Helen Pluckrose, James Lindsay, and Portland State University professor Peter Boghossian documented and announced their hoax project in an interview with The New York Times in October 2018. 

Since then, their work uncovering the errs of academic research has garnered praise and support from thousands of students, academics, and other individuals across the world.

[RELATED: Academic journal duped by author of ‘dog rape culture’ article]

The trio refers to their project as an analysis of “grievance studies,” which encompasses a variety of fields within the humanities, such as LGBT, women, and gender studies. The group’s suspicion going into the project was that certain fields in academia have become more focused on “ideologically-motivated scholarship” rather than the pursuit of fact.

“Scholarship based less upon finding truth and more upon attending to social grievances has become firmly established, if not fully dominant, within these fields, and their scholars increasingly bully students, administrators, and other departments into adhering to their worldview,” the trio explained in an essay announcing their project. “This worldview is not scientific, and it is not rigorous.” 

“For many, this problem has been growing increasingly obvious, but strong evidence has been lacking. For this re

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Prof taps into students' cell phone GPS to take attendance

A professor at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo has developed an app that tracks his students’ locations by accessing their cell phone GPS.

Tom Bensky, a physics professor at the institution, used his passion for linking “tinkering with teaching” to develop the app Youhere, an electronic attendance service that harnesses GPS location technology, as reported by Inside Higher Ed.

Youhere allows the user to create a geofence, or a virtual fence. Once students enter the fence, they push a button on the app noting that they have arrived for class. If the student is outside the radius of the fence, the app does not allow them to check in. As Bensky notes, this is mostly used for professors to set a geofence around their classroom but can also be used for coaches to set a fence around a field or a gym. 

[RELATED: UCCS secretly took photos of hundreds of students in facial recognition study]

“Attendance has always been frustrating for me, and in 18 years of teaching, I've never found a good way of taking attendance,” Bensky told Campus Reform. “I thought long and hard about using tech to do it and writing Youhere as a custom job was my solution.”

Students have voiced privacy concerns over the app's comprehensive data collection, as they are not allowed to opt out of using the attendance app if they are enrolled in one of Bensky’s courses. Class attendance is worth ten percent of a student’s final grade in Bensky’s classes, the professor pointed out in an essay obtained by Campus Reform. Bensky also told Campus Reform that he has not yet had a student refuse to use the app. 

The app has the ability to track and store data on the student’s name, the number of times checked in, and location on campus. Although Bensky has the tools to research where students are on campus when they are absent, he chooses not to do so, explaining that “it would be too creepy.”

“I don’t know that,” Bensky said to Inside Higher Ed, regarding individual student locations. “It would be interesting to study, interesting to see where they are when they are absent, but no.”

[RELATED: Penn State profs warn of 'racial bias' in Google Arts app]

Bensky does not personally store data on personal locations, but he said that he does not control what other instructors do with their collected informat

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Incoming Texas freshmen threatened with doxxing if they join conservative campus groups

The Autonomous Student Network in Austin, Texas, a group that was previously suspended from Twitter after posting private information belonging to supporters of then-Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh, is now threatening to do the same to incoming University of Texas-Austin freshmen who join conservative student organizations. 

"Hey #UT23! Do you wanna be famous? If you join YCT [Young Conservatives of Texas] or Turning Point USA, you just might be. Your name and more could end up on an article like one of these," the group tweeted earlier in June, linking to a page on its website, on which it previously posted the private information, including emails and phone numbers, of Kavanaugh supporters.

"So be sure to make smart choices at #UTOrientation," the group added. 

A separate tweet read, "the best #LonghornStateOfMind is an antifascist one. If you begin to spot the young racists trying to join YCT or TPUSA, send us a tip so we can keep our reports up to date #UT23. Also, if you’re an antifascist/anarchist/autonomy inclined Longhorn, reach out & let’s link up!"

[RELATED: Communism sympathizers post numbers, jobs of pro-Kavanaugh protesters]

The same Twitter account that threatened to release the personal information of students who join conservative groups also marked the 15th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan's death by tweeting a picture of the Republican president's grave, along with the words, "Reagan died today [retweet] to piss on his grave." 

Additionally, the group used its Twitter account to solicit donations for legal fees to support the four Texas State University students arrested in connection with an incident in which a conservative student's Make America Great Again hat was knocked off his head and stolen. 

Sebastian Quaid, chairman of the Young Conservatives of Texas chapter at Texas State University, called the group's threats "completely ridiculous!"  

"This is the same thug mentality we have to deal with at Texas State," Quaid told Campus Reform. "The irony of this is, when they were trying to ban conservative organizations at Texas State, they said it was because conservatives stalk, harass, and dox the liberal students." 

[RELATED: Texas State releases more details about MAGA hat arrests]

"Is this proof enough that these liberal students, who think this is ok, are mindless bullies?  They give our schoo

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Feminist TA suggests men are not women and UCSB students are NOT happy

Students and faculty at the University of California, Santa Barbara are attacking a lesbian Feminist Studies Teacher’s Assistant (TA) for voicing the claim that“No [man] will ever be a [woman].”

Laura Tanner, a TA in the feminist studies department at UCSB, is being accused of engaging in “transphobia” while teaching her class and on social media, as initially reported by Feminist Current.

“Woman = adult human female. Surgeries/hormones ≠ change sex or gender. No [man] can ever be a [woman]," Tanner tweeted in early June, using the sex symbols for "man" and "woman."

“UCSB STUDENTS, there is a feminist instructor on our campus named Laura Tanner who has repeatedly demonstrated hatred and transphobia both in her classes and aggressively on her social media,” a Twitter user named Casey, who appears to be a UCSB student, tweeted later that same day. “I am working with a professor from the feminist department to gather students about the disgusting lies she is spreading.”

[RELATED: MSU to Natural Science students: ‘No science is needed to support transgender and non-binary identities’]

Tanner previously received criticism for a tweet responding to the news of a transgender activist who was indicted for stealing thousands of dollars from the Portland Women’s march.

“Well I’m sure he only did it because he is so oppressed,” the UCSB TA tweeted. “I bet he bought himself a gold lamé pocketbook and some red lipstick so he could be a real girl.”

Multiple students organized an on-site protest on June 13, creating signs that displayed Tanner’s tweets and calling her a “terf,” an acronym which means “trans-exclusionary radical feminist.” The student who tweeted about it claimed that professors and TAs also attended the protest.

One student tweeted directly at Ms. Tanner, calling her a “dumb b*tch” and saying “f*ck u [sic] and ur [sic] transphobia.”

[RELATED: Only women, transgenders are allowed in GW debate tournament]

The same student later suggested that she was banned from Twitter for 12 hours because she declared that “terfs” should die for “being dumb b*tches.”

"If y’all see Lau

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