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AFCON Opposes New Regents Free Expression Policy

Posted By Todd A. Schlechte, Monday, March 19, 2018

A Statement from the Academic Freedom Coalition of Nebraska

16 March 2018

Contact AFCON President David Moshman at

The Academic Freedom Coalition of Nebraska has been increasingly concerned about Regents Policy 6.4.10 on free expression, adopted January 25 by the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.  As explained below, we are particularly concerned about (1) unconstitutional restrictions on where expression is free, (2) unconstitutional restrictions on what students may say, and (3) warnings to faculty to avoid “controversial matters” in their classes.  Since the passage of this policy, both UNL and UNO have taken actions confirming our worst fears.

At its March 10 meeting, the AFCON Board of Directors voted unanimously to oppose R.P. 6.4.10.  Although the policy includes strong statements of commitment to free expression, First Amendment rights, and academic freedom, we concluded after thorough discussion that the policy as a whole is a major infringement on intellectual freedom at the University of Nebraska and should be rescinded.

Where speech is free

The public areas of college campuses have been widely viewed since the 1960s as traditional public forums like streets and parks where anyone may proclaim anything they wish about any topic, as both ACLU Nebraska and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) have argued.  R.P. 6.4.10, in contrast, assumes that no part of any campus is a traditional public forum. Campuses are authorized to identify distinct speech zones and determine the regulations governing expression within each. First Amendment rights are fully respected only in limited areas of campus under limited circumstances, as determined by each campus.

UNO has issued draft regulations implementing the Regents policy, including limited zones for free speech and a 30-day waiting period.  UNO professor emeritus Sam Walker, who met with AFCON March 10, is planning to protest the policy.

What speech is free

Contrary to what some have suggested, the University of Nebraska has not adopted the widely acclaimed University of Chicago free expression policy.  Although the Regents have drawn on the Chicago policy in some places, the language has been altered to allow broader censorship and punishment of speech.  UNL already has a Student Code of Conduct and other policies that threaten constitutionally protected speech, as documented in letters it received from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) in August 2014 and September 2015.   The new Regents policy has not resulted in any reconsideration of UNL’s restrictive speech codes.

On the contrary, since approval of the Regents policy, UNL has extended its unconstitutional restrictions into the classroom.  In a February 22 email message to all faculty, UNL’s Executive Vice Chancellor (and chief academic officer) distributed a one-page “TipSheet” concerning “safe and civil discourse in learning spaces.”  The TipSheet made clear that the UNL Student Code of Conduct applies in classrooms and should be strictly enforced. Instructors are urged to include in the syllabus of each course “a safe and civil discourse statement” making it clear to students that their speech must always meet standards of respect and civility and that any speech deemed “abusive, harassing, intimidating, or coercive” may result in expulsion from the classroom and further disciplinary action.  UNL expects its faculty to enforce its unconstitutional speech code in all classes.

Controversy in the classroom

The Regents policy also briefly addresses academic freedom, focusing especially on avoiding “controversial matters” in the classroom.  Regents Bylaw 4.2 on Academic Freedom mandates without exception: “Members of the professional staff are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subjects.”  R.P. 6.4.10 makes no reference to this bylaw. Instead it warns, “teachers are entitled to freely discuss topics in the classroom, but they should be careful not to introduce controversial matters, which have no relation to the subject being taught.”

Although the Regents academic freedom policy claims to draw on the 1940 policy statement of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the AAUP language has been subtly altered in a manner that rules out AAUP’s 1970 interpretation.  The AAUP warns faculty to avoid matters unrelated to the curriculum, especially when such matters are controversial. The Regents policy, in contrast, warns faculty to avoid controversial matters, because such matters are not part of the curriculum.

Controversy is of course central to academic work.  The new Regents policy is utterly inconsistent with AAUP policy, with the Regents’ own Bylaws, and with any conception of academic freedom.


With R.P. 6.4.10 and subsequent campus actions, the University of Nebraska is (1) restricting free speech on campus through speech codes and speech zones that violate the First Amendment and (2) maintaining classrooms in which no one will feel disrespected or offended, even at the expense of curricular freedom for the instructor and freedom of discussion for students.  AFCON is happy to assist anyone at the University of Nebraska or elsewhere in developing policies that respect intellectual freedom for students, teachers, and researchers in all academic contexts and in resisting infringements on academic freedom. Contact AFCON President David Moshman at

Tags:  academic freedom  AFCON  current news  David Moshman  free expression  University of Nebraska 

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March 23 IF News

Posted By Todd A. Schlechte, Friday, March 25, 2016

For a while, Kristin Pekoll was sending out intellectual freedom news via email and encouraging us to spread the news. This service has not gone away, but it has changed. ALA's OIF is now sending out professional looking emails containing this information, and you may easily subscribe to these emails yourself.

This information is now also included in their blog. Now that those items are in place, we will simply send out an occasional email with a link to their blog post, rather than creating a blog post with the same information.

Tags:  ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom  current news  intellectual freedom  kristen pekoll 

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Choose Privacy Week: Free Webinar

Posted By Todd A. Schlechte, Tuesday, March 8, 2016

 Is your library preparing to observe Choose Privacy Week 2016?   Join the ALA's IFC Privacy Subcommittee and the Office for Intellectual Freedom for a free webinar that will offer solid guidance on developing privacy programming that will educate and engage your library users and provide an update on current privacy issues confronting libraries today. 

The webinar will take place at noon Eastern/11 a.m. Central/10 a.m. Mountain/9 a.m. Pacific on Thursday, March 24, 2016.

It will feature three speakers:

·         Erin Berman of the San Jose Public Library will discuss the process of transforming a broad, intimidating topic like online privacy into a learning opportunity that is personal, approachable, actionable and reusable. Learn about SJPL's Virtual Privacy Lab and how this free online resource can help you and your patrons build personalized toolkits for optimizing online privacy.

·         Michael Zimmer, Ph.D. of the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee will discuss how to use films and documentaries on privacy and surveillance to increase awareness among patrons and spark conversations on controversial technologies and practices. He’ll also provide ideas on finding guest speakers in your community to help guide discussions for your patrons.

·         Jamie LaRue, the new director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom, will discuss his perspective on privacy and libraries and provide a scan of the most pressing privacy issues confronting libraries today. 

The webinar will also offer brief introductions to resources on students' and minors' privacy and a guide to free and low-cost print and online resources that can support your library's observance of Choose Privacy Week.  Online registration is available via this link:

Choose Privacy Week is the American Library Association's annual, week-long event that promotes the importance of individual privacy rights.   Choose Privacy Week, May 1 – 7, 2016, also celebrates libraries and librarians' unique role in protecting privacy in the library and in society as a whole.  For more information on Choose Privacy Week, visit

Tags:  ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom  privacy 

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March 4 IF News

Posted By Administration, Friday, March 4, 2016

Intellectual Freedom News

March 4, 2016

Office for Intellectual Freedom


Libraries and Intellectual Freedom



Around the Web


Read the Intellectual Freedom Blog
Recorded Webinars


--Provided by ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom

Tags:  ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom  current news  intellectual freedom 

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Late February IF News

Posted By Todd A. Schlechte, Monday, February 29, 2016

Here is the latest IF news from Kristin Pekoll of ALA's OIF office:

·        Report your challenges! OIF is working to finalize numbers for 2015 challenges and our annual list of most frequently challenged books. The deadline is Friday, February 26,

·        Intellectual Freedom & Thomas Paine at your library. OIF and Ian Ruskin offer libraries an opportunity to provide advance screenings of To Begin the World Over Again: the Life of Thomas Paine as a program for their communities before it’s aired on public television. In addition to the film license, libraries are supplied with the DVD format to circulate in their collection and resources to promote and structure the library program. This is a great opportunity for libraries to support ALA and Intellectual Freedom.

·        Webinar: Finding Intellectual Freedom Friends. March 7, 1:00pm CST. As librarians, we are often cocooned in library voices. But there are other industries and professionals whose principles and values often align with ours; especially intellectual freedom. This webinar will share examples of potential partners and how collaborating with non-library organizations can strengthen your message and increase your reach. Collaboration with like-minded organizations can create renewed enthusiasm and new library supporters. Whether you're designing programs and curriculum or looking for writers and speakers, you may want to consider friends who share your values but can offer different perspectives. Speakers: Charles Brownstein and Emily Brock

·        Call for students: Do you have a teenage student, or access to them? Dr. Laura Crysel at Stetson University is doing an interesting IRB approved study: does what we read affect us, particularly controversial books? Dr. Crysel seeks your assistance in finding parents or teachers who can help identify students willing to read one of 8 books. Four of them are “controversial,” and four are not. The books are: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone; The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe; The Golden Compass;  The Hobbit; The Catcher in the Rye; 1984; The Color Purple; and Jane Eyre. Participating students will then be asked to fill out a short questionnaire whose answers will be private and confidential. Naturally, parents have to approve of participation, as well as teachers, and the students really have to read the books, not just see the movie. If you have any questions about the research, please feel free to contact Dr. Laura Crysel at, or call at 386-822-7396. But do help if you can: we need research like this. And feel free to forward this call to other, relevant email lists.



·        Virginia HB 516; “Board of Education; policy on sexually explicit instructional material”; Opinion: Bill would stifle classroom subjects | The Daily Progress



·        American Idiot; Anti-Censorship Group Addresses Enfield High School Play Controversy | Enfield Patch (Connecticut)                                     

·        This One Summer; Florida High Schools Restrict Access to “This One Summer” | School Library Journal (Florida)


Libraries and Intellectual Freedom

·        Black Lives Matter 'color-only' rule runs afoul of Nashville library | USA Today

·        Library revises public display policy after controversy | The Daily Progress



·        The iPhone Case and the Future of Civil Liberties:  We need new privacy law for the digital age | Boston Review (Op-Ed from Freedom to Read Foundation Trustee Neil Richards)

·        Why Apple is battling investigators over San Bernardino terrorists' iPhone| Los Angeles Times

·        A Letter to Our Customers  and Answers to your Questions about Apple and Security | Apple

·        Why you should side with Apple, not the FBI, in the San Bernardino iPhone case| The Washington Post

·        Apple is Selling You a Phone, Not Civil Liberties| Lawfare

·        Not a Slippery Slope, but a Jump off the Cliff | Lawfare

·        The Dangerous All Writs Act Precedent in the Apple Encryption Case| The New Yorker

·        Surveillance state: fingerprinting pupils raises safety and privacy concerns | The Guardian

·        New Hampshire bill allows public libraries to run Tor in the face of federal challenges | The Daily Dot


Around the Web

·        Beware the Bigoted Subtext of Children’s Literature| Education Week

·        ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ remains among top banned classical novels | PBS News Hour

·        ‘Mockingbird' author Harper Lee dies at 89 | Raycom

·        Bill aimed at stopping censorship of student reporters | Southeast Missourian

·        Parents outraged after students shown ‘white guilt’ cartoon for Black History Month | The Washington Post

·        Lawyer says removing Pickton book from Amazon may be tough | News 1130 (Canada)

·        Robert Pickton: Canadian serial killer book pulled from Amazon| BBC News

·        Williams College President Calls Off Speech by Controversial Conservative Writer| Chronicle of Higher Education

·        Book Bans & Tor Nodes: Libraries are our not-so-quiet free expression defenders | IFEX

Tags:  current news  intellectual freedom  kristen pekoll 

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Bloomberg News: Secret Memo Details U.S.’s Broader Strategy to Crack Phones

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Silicon Valley celebrated last fall when the White House revealed it would not seek legislation forcing technology makers to install “backdoors” in their software -- secret listening posts where investigators could pierce the veil of secrecy on users’ encrypted data, from text messages to video chats. But while the companies may have thought that was the final word, in fact the government was working on a Plan B.

In a secret meeting convened by the White House around Thanksgiving, senior national security officials ordered agencies across the U.S. government to find ways to counter encryption software and gain access to the most heavily protected user data on the most secure consumer devices, including Apple Inc.’s iPhone, the marquee product of one of America’s most valuable companies, according to two people familiar with the decision.

The approach was formalized in a confidential National Security Council “decision memo,” tasking government agencies with developing encryption workarounds, estimating additional budgets and identifying laws that may need to be changed to counter what FBI Director James Comey calls the “going dark” problem: investigators being unable to access the contents of encrypted data stored on mobile devices or traveling across the Internet. Details of the memo reveal that, in private, the government was honing a sharper edge to its relationship with Silicon Valley alongside more public signs of rapprochement.



Tags:  encryption  privacy 

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Call for Presentation Proposals – TSRT/IFRT/NMRT 2016 Spring Meeting

Posted By Todd A. Schlechte, Thursday, February 4, 2016


What: NLA Technical Services Round Table/Intellectual Freedom Round Table/New Members Round Table Spring Meeting

Theme: "It’s a Dirty Job, but Somebody’s Gotta Do It”

When: Friday, April 15, 2016

Where: Seward Memorial Library

Who: You!


We're looking for presentations centered on the theme "It’s a Dirty Job, but Somebody’s Gotta Do It." We're hoping to offer multiple 50-minute sessions, as well as a lightning round of short presentations.


We are open to all interpretations of the theme; tell us about the “dirty jobs” you’re doing at your library! Are you involved with cleaning up metadata for digital projects, or tidying your MARC records in anticipation of an ILS migration? Do you have tips to offer about disaster planning and emergency management in libraries, for cleaning up (or preventing) those physical messes? Have you developed ingenious ways of dealing with project management, book challenges by patrons, reference desk scheduling, or any other messy situations in your library? Now is your chance to share your great ideas with your colleagues!


To submit a proposal, use the online proposal form at:


The deadline for submissions is February 15, 2016. Any questions about submitting a proposal can be directed to Emily Dust Nimsakont, TSRT Chair, at


We’re looking forward to seeing your great ideas!

Tags:  intellectual freedom  spring meeting 

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University of Chicago Free Speech Statement

Posted By Todd A. Schlechte, Thursday, February 4, 2016
UNL Professor Emeritus David Moshman recently wrote about the University of Chicago statement on free expression. Also, The Economist recently carried an article about this statement.

Tags:  academic freedom  David Moshman  free expression  intellectual freedom  The Economist 

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Late January National IF News

Posted By Todd A. Schlechte, Saturday, January 30, 2016

Intellectual Freedom News

January 29, 2016


Important Reminder

Report your challenges! OIF is working to finalize numbers for 2015 challenges and our annual list of most frequently challenged books. We collect information for our challenge database from both media reports and those submitted by individuals and, while we know that many challenges are never reported, we strive to be as comprehensive as possible. We would greatly appreciate if you could send us any information on challenges in your state or region that you are aware of from 2015. The final deadline for reporting 2015 challenges to OIF is Friday, February 26, 2016.



·        Scholastic withdraws A Birthday Cake for George Washington because of complaints.

o   Book About George Washington’s ‘Happy’ Slaves Shelved | Think Progress;

o   Scholastic pulls controversial George Washington slave book | USA Today;

o   Teaching Kids About Slavery: Picture Books Struggle With The Task | NPR;

o   Take the Cake | Intellectual Freedom Blog

·        Participate in NCTE’s 27th National African American Read-In with these resources that include challenged authors; Jacqueline Woodson, Nikki Giovanni, Nikki Grimes, Langston Hughes, Walter Dean Myers, and Alice Walker. Analysis of the 2014 Banned Books Week lists discovered that authors of color, and books with themes about issues concerning the LGBT, minority, and the disability community are disproportionately challenged and banned.  Help promote and protect diversity in books.

·        Behind the Scenes of Publishing’s First Diversity Baseline Survey On Tuesday, January 26, 2016 we will release the results of the Diversity Baseline Survey, the first major study to look at diversity among publishing industry staff. The Diversity Baseline Survey (DBS) focuses on four different aspects of diversity: race, gender, sexual orientation, and disability. The goal is to establish a baseline that shows where we are now as an industry, and that will help us measure progress moving forward.

The results of the Diversity in Publishing Baseline Survey.

·        Virginia Legislation | House bill would allow parents to veto sexually explicit materials in classroom



·        World History Ancient Civilizations; Retired educator addresses Islam in textbook concerns | Highlands Today

·        Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; 'Indecent' Snow White book removed from Qatar school | Deccan Chronicle

·        American Idiot; Green Day Call 'Censorship' Over High School 'American Idiot' Cancellation | Rolling Stone



·        Google Will Soon Shame All Websites That Are Unencrypted |Vice Motherboard

·        Virginia Legislation| Public Access to the Library Records of Minors |Virginia Legislative Information System

·        Wisconsin Legislation | Committee Oks Bill Expanding Library Powers | Associated Press; Bill gives Wisconsin public libraries power to report delinquent borrowers | Badger Herald

·        How an Overreaction to Terrorism Can Hurt Cybersecurity |MIT Technology Review

·        Opinion: Schools fail to recognize privacy consequences of social media |Christian Science Monitor


Around the Web

·        What World Are We Building?  | Medium / Data & Society

·        Content Filtering Would Hurt Free Speech and Innovation | Huffington Post


If you see a news article about privacy, access, filtering or book challenges in a library or school, please email it to me.

Tags:  ALA  current news  intellectual freedom  kristen pekoll 

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January National IF News

Posted By Todd A. Schlechte, Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Intellectual Freedom News

January 14, 2016



·        Hodges Award nominations deadline extended - The Intellectual Freedom Roundtable is now accepting nominations through March 1, 2016.

·        February 14, 2016 Deadline for Read Across America Day free books provided by Literacy Empowerment Foundation.



·        David Levithan – Freedom to Read member and past spokesperson for Banned Books Week. “In a tumultuous time of a teen’s life, David Levithan’s work is a beacon of light and hope. His stories are lead-ins to difficult conversations as well as reminders that the reader is not alone,” said Edwards Committee Chair Valerie D. Davis.

·        Pat Scales wins the ALSC Distinguished Service Award – “This year’s recipient, Pat Scales, is a former middle school and high school librarian who is an independent consultant, author, and active member of ALSC and ALA. Throughout her career, Scales has been a passionate advocate for children’s intellectual freedom. She works to educate librarians, teachers, and parents on how to talk about books and teach life lessons through sharing books.”

·        HP Kids Read – “HP Kids Read promotes academic excellence and defends the role of experts, such as teachers and librarians, to select diverse reading materials that challenge their students to think critically, teach them empathy, and prepare them for the challenges of adulthood. They have done this by collaborating with teachers and advocating for policies at the level of the individual student that prevent a small group of parents from altering the curriculum for all students. “This is the most effective parent group I have ever encountered,” said Barbara Jones, nominator and director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom. “To me, this is the ideal model of parent/student/librarian/teacher/administration collaboration to support the freedom to read. It is not an absolutist position, but one that allows for parents to choose for their own child but not for other children.”

·        Marge Ford – “Maintaining the library collection and ensuring that everyone has free access to diverse books and materials is a task countless librarians routinely perform. But it’s an essential routine that protects a student’s right to read by establishing policies that ensure challenges to materials are dealt with fairly.”



·        The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; Schools continue to grapple with 'Huckleberry Finn' | Philadelphia Inquirer; The politically correct crowd just got a great American novel banned |New York Post; Here’s Why Banning ‘Huck Finn’ Over The N-Word Sends The Wrong Message | MTV News

·        Nasreen’s Secret School; Eau Claire parents concerned about curriculum | WSBT22; Curriculum questions prompt forum | The Herald – Palladium

·        Borderlife; Novel about Jewish-Palestinian love affair is barred from Israeli curriculum | The Guardian; UPDATE: Jewish-Arab love story can still be taught in schools as part of open curriculum | The Jerusalem Post

·        When I Was the Greatest; Gun On Cover Of Children’s Book Sparks Outrage Among Anti-Violence Parents — But It’s An Anti-Violence Book | Bustle

·        Kuwait pulls out ‘inappropriate’ books from schools | Gulf News

·        Russian Authorities Burn Books Published With Soros Funds | ABC News

·        Update: For Every Child, A Better World; Marshfield Schools Keep Kermit the Frog Book |



·        Global coalition urges governments to reject encryption laws| The Hill

Both ALA and FTRF are signatories / supporters of the “Secure the Internet” campaign

·        Many Americans say they might provide personal information, depending on the deal being offered and the risk they face| Pew Research Center

·        You are not what you read: librarians purge user data to protect privacy | The Guardian

·        Spending bill a win for library funding, loss on cybersecurity | District Dispatch

·        Temporary art installation at library explores 'what it means to be watched' | Lawrence Journal-World

·        Rewriting the Social Contract to Safeguard Student Data Privacy | EdSurge


Around the Web

·        Schools’ PC censorship strangles the free mind | The Times Herald

·        Intellectual Freedom and School Librarians: Looking Back and Looking Ahead | AASL Knowledge Quest

·        Error 451 is the new Ray Bradbury-inspired HTTP code for online censorship | PCWorld

·        Streator parent questions Islamic lesson (editorial)

·        Universities must halt student censorship culture in academics | Evening Express UK

·        LaRue on Taking the Lead at the Office of Intellectual Freedom, Freedom To Read Foundation | Library Journal

·        ALA Information Policy Workshop | American Libraries

·        I Am Jazz: Community Readings | Human Rights Campaign

Tags:  current news  intellectual freedom  kristen pekoll 

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