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By CHRISTOPHER HEIMERMAN
For Illinois Press Association
CHICAGO – No American university is more committed to free speech on campus than the University of Chicago, according to a recent FIRE student survey.
Whether or not faculty and administrators are Spider-Man buffs, they subscribe to the sage advice of Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
“This is important: Our faculty are not the kind of faculty that will just invite a speaker to come and have free reign,” Dean of Students Michele Rasmussen said. “It’s usually a defined program, where it’s an atmosphere for those ideas to be challenged.”
The university scored highest out of the 55 universities that took part in the survey conducted by The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonprofit focused on protecting free speech rights on campuses.
The survey covered universities’ openness, how willing they are to invite a speaker to address controversial issues, self-expression and administrative support.
Geoffrey Stone (left), an Edward H. Levi distinguished law professor who’s filled various leadership positions at the university during his 47-year tenure, says the university has emphasized First Amendment rights since its inception in 1890.
In 2014, the university’s president, Robert Zimmer, addressed a nationwide trend of free speech challenges at universities by enlisting Stone and other distinguished professors to draft a statement clearly spelling out that under virtually no circumstances the university would prohibit free speech.
The “Chicago Principles” have since been adopted by 70-plus universities, including Princeton, Columbia, and multiple Big Ten universities, including the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, which ranked 42nd in the survey. The University of Wisconsin was a notch above at 41st, and the U of I-Chicago was 44th.
The universities effectively lopped off the first half of the principles, which pertained to the University of Chicago specifically, but kept the universal elements.
Stone said arrogance often gets in the way of sharing intellectual property among higher education, “so adopting another’s statement is hard to do.”
Further, he said, universities have to be prepared for students and faculty who oppose expression of free speech from opposing or extreme viewpoints.
“It takes a good deal of courage, frankly,” Stone said. “It does piss off a lot of people.”
The crux of the “Chicago Principles” is summarized nicely in the document’s reference to a dissenting
opinion from Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in a Sedition Act case in 1918.
“... The ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas – that the best test of truth is the
power of the thought to get itself accepted in the free competition of the market,” the dissent reads.
Stone said free expression was integral to desegregation, interracial marriage, and the women’s rights
“They would have been flat-out rejected without hesitation at different times in the past,” he said.
He said the university was among the first to offer benefits for gay marriages.
“At a point in the past, that would have been regarded as absurd,” Stone said. “Because we have allowed the advocacy of those challenging positions, we’ve learned and changed our minds about things. We always have to be open to challenges.”
The difference today, he readily concedes, is the speed at which information, and misinformation, travels. Five years ago, Stone began teaching a Freedom of Speech course that keyed on vetting information.
“We live in an environment where it’s more important than ever for people to be skeptical,” Stone said.
As baseless claims and conspiracy theories flood the media – both social media and broadcasts and print publications – consumers must scrutinize the content.
“Our students are living in that society. That’s the reality of the world we’re living in,” Stone said.
He said shielding students from misinformation fails to prepare them for the real world.
Three years ago, the university retooled its orientation program to emphasize media literacy to new students as soon as they arrived on campus. Not coincidentally, the university borrowed heavily from the orientation program of Purdue University – one of the first institutions to adopt and adapt the “Chicago Principles.”
“We sort of returned the favor,” Rasmussen (left) said, laughing.
In a large venue, faculty, students and special guests speak, do a Q&A session and role-play. Videos of such figures as Barack Obama are shown. It’s all done in an hour.
“It’s not too preachy, and it brings some abstract concepts down to a level students can understand,” Rasmussen said. “It’s not effective to have a bunch of talking-head administrators.”
It was obviously difficult to conduct orientation virtually, she said. Another challenge has been meeting students at their level, given that about two-thirds of the University of Chicago’s students are graduate students.
“One could argue they’re even more diverse than undergrads,” Rasmussen said. “They represent different age groups, some have families, and they’re from different countries.”
Rasmussen said interactive modules have been built, and much of the First Amendment work has been folded into curriculum and separate exercises. For instance, the law school had its students write a speech code.
“It ended up looking a lot like the ‘Chicago Principles,’ ” Rasmussen said.
Controversial figures are more than welcome to speak at a campus event – as long as they’re willing to be rebutted.
Many such events at the University of Chicago have failed to materialize, because speakers have refused to take part in a debate or a Q&A session.
“It wasn’t because of the political views,” Rasmussen said. “They weren’t willing to have the back-and-forth discourse.”
She said the university has “hundreds, if not thousands” of speakers on campus, and that faculty and administration collaborate to know what’s on the calendar and plan each event in such a way that “it doesn’t go off the rails.”
They designate protest areas, train staff to de-escalate situations, and provide ample security. Disrupting events is not allowed, and if interrupters persist, they’re removed.
“We take events management and planning very seriously,” Rasmussen said. “When you see a lot of events on a college campus that goes off the rails, when you dig a little deeper, it’s usually because of bad planning of the event. You need to do that work up front to ensure you have the kind of event you want.”
Rasmussen said the university has “had plenty of dust-ups over the years,” but its employees will neither be gagged nor disciplined for exercising their First Amendment rights.
“That just doesn’t happen at the University of Chicago,” she said. “This is not the kind of place where you’re going to see administrative overreach.”
Stone conceded it’s challenging to tell students and faculty they will hear ideas they find offensive, even revolting.
“That’s not easy, and the reason they have to learn to do that is they cannot trust anyone in positions of authority to decide what ideas cannot be spoken,” he said.
He and Rasmussen emphasized the university provides “safe spaces”, which are spelled out in the principles as various student organizations.
“You don’t have to just sit there, take it, and feel upset,” Rasmussen said. “There are places you can take your concerns, and get support. We do have safe places, where students can step out of a controversial situation.”
‘A slightly cynical point of view’
Rasmussen said there isn’t a threshold at which the university will determine a point of view too outrageous to be allowed on campus.
That doesn’t sit well with Caroline Kubzansky, a fourth-year senior who’s worked for The Maroon student newspaper since she set foot on campus. She’s now the managing editor, and is skeptical of the university’s motivations.
“I take a slightly cynical point of view on the university’s emphasis on free speech,” she said. “The university’s efforts have struck me as a marketing scheme.”
She said a culture of curiosity is a good thing, and that universities deserve credit for thinking outside the box, and outside the domain of scholars. But she thinks the university’s policy is perhaps too tolerant.
“[The Chicago Principles] is a way of saying that people don’t immediately tar and feather conservatives for what they have to say,” she said. “Sometimes it might be too good at not tarring and feathering people with reprehensible viewpoints.”
The university does not require its professors to provide content warnings before they introduce content that’s bound to be offensive to some, if not repulsive or potentially incendiary.
Kubzansky said that while she respects the policy, she’s grateful all the professors she’s had alert their students
“Most professors who care about that stuff will put it in anyway,” she said. “In the circles I run, it’s called manners. Try not to blindside someone with something offensive.
"The world is awful enough as it is.”
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Associated Builders and Contractors of Illinois highlights diversity strategies during Construction Inclusion Week
FOR IMMEDIATE PUBLICATION
Oct. 13, 2021
Media Contact: Alicia Martin, president of ABC Illinois
SPRINGFIELD — ABC Illinois today announced how its members are creating the right conditions to embrace an inclusive and diverse workforce during Construction Inclusion Week, Oct. 18-22.
In 2017, ABC Illinois established the Community Builders Program, which gives people from diverse backgrounds who face employment barriers the chance to learn a trade and begin a career in construction. The program upskills directly in the communities where participants live, taking a holistic approach to teaching a skill, providing career mentoring, and helping with job placement. By bringing free craft education to over 200 individuals who have faced barriers to employment, ABC Illinois is expanding the talent pipeline and rehabilitating disadvantaged communities, families, and career-seekers.
“The diversity of ABC Illinois helps drive business growth and profitability, and the Community Builders Program is based on our belief that inclusivity, diversity and equity will change the way we fill construction jobs here in our state,” said Alicia Martin, President of ABC Illinois. “We are breaking down the barriers that hold some people back based on factors that have nothing to do with their abilities and desires. The merit shop philosophy aligns with the principles of inclusion, diversity and equity, ensuring every individual has a chance to succeed.”
“Construction Inclusion Week is an invitation to every member of the 7.4 million-strong construction work forces to unite to advance inclusion, diversity and equity,” said ABC Director of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Tia Perry. “Achieving an inclusive, equitable and culturally competent workforce that is welcoming to all people is the essence of the merit shop philosophy. ABC Illinois is creating the conditions that appeal to an inclusive workforce.”
ABC’s diversity outreach is led by the association’s Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Committee on which both Martin and Perry serve. The committee was established in 1999 as a key component of ABC’s value proposition to develop people, win work and deliver work safely, ethically, and profitably for the betterment of the communities in which they work. Visit diversity.abc.org to learn about ABC’s IDE strategy.
About Construction Inclusion Week: Construction Inclusion Week harnesses the collective power of the construction industry to build awareness regarding the need to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in the industry. For more information, visit constructioninclusionweek.com.
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Illinois Principals Association encourages principal appreciation in October
FOR IMMEDIATE PUBLICATION
Sept. 30, 2021
Media Contact: Alison Maley, Government and Public Relations Director
SPRINGFIELD — Lifetouch and the Illinois Principals Association (IPA) encourage all communities in Illinois to celebrate Principal Appreciation Week October 24-30, 2021, and Principal Appreciation Day on Friday, October 29, 2021. This state-endorsed recognition was first approved by the Governor of Illinois in 1990 and is celebrated annually. The IPA also joins the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), and the American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA) to recognize October as National Principals Month.
Principal Appreciation Day provides learning communities an opportunity to publicly recognize the work, commitment and importance of principals, assistant principals, and deans throughout the state. Lifetouch and the IPA invite all teachers, students, parents, and community members to perform some act of appreciation on Friday, October 29th to acknowledge the leadership of building administrators in Illinois’ public and private schools.
“In these challenging times, school leaders are faced with extraordinary decisions that affect the lives of those under their care,” said Dr. Marcus Belin, IPA President and Principal of Huntley High School, Huntley, IL. “The purpose and value school leaders bring to the field of education is immeasurable. What I value most is their relentless determination to move education forward and to serve their communities in a meaningful way. Let us take a moment to recognize the hard work that principals give, day in and day out.”
The 2021-2022 school year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Illinois Principals Association. Initial conversations to create a statewide principals association began in 1966 and members formally ratified the organization in the Fall of 1971. The IPA was formed when the Illinois Elementary School Principals Association (IESPA), the Illinois Junior High School Principals Association (IJHSPA), and the Illinois Secondary School Principals Association (ISSPA) joined into one organization. The IPA has long been recognized by the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and other state and national agencies and organizations as one of the premier principals’ groups in the nation due to its large, diverse membership, legislative and policy initiatives, service to members and especially for the quality and range of its professional learning programs.
“School leadership matters, especially right now,” said Dr. Jason Leahy, IPA Executive Director. “As a former principal and having visited dozens of schools throughout Illinois, the quality of a school’s learning environment and the ability of a school to do what is best for its students comes as a direct result of the leadership provided by the school’s principal and leadership team. Courageous leadership is essential to equitably educate students and work to provide the resources and support they need to reach their potential. It is important that we recognize and encourage our schools’ leaders every day. The pandemic has heightened the need for us to intentionally share appreciation for those who do so much for our State’s young people.”
Lifetouch is proud to be the official school photographer for the National Association of Elementary School Principals. Lifetouch is honored to support local members of the Illinois Principals Association in recognition of “Principal’s Appreciation Day.” Lifetouch is excited to have joined forces with Shutterfly to bring together two industry leaders who share a common purpose – to share life’s joy through capturing and preserving memories with the click of a camera. While we continue to deliver the quality photography and service you expect from Lifetouch, we are creating a new, innovative experience that will allow you to do more with your photos than ever before. As a part of our mission to help you share your memories, Lifetouch and Shutterfly are truly better together! Learn more at: https://schools.lifetouch.com/shutterfly/
The Illinois Principals Association is a leadership organization which serves over 6,000 educational leaders throughout the state of Illinois and whose mission is to develop, support, and advocate for innovative educational leaders. For more information about the IPA, please visit www.ilprincipals.org
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Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau
hires new tourism manager
FOR IMMEDIATE PUBLICATION
Aug. 16, 2021
Media Contact: Scott Dahl
217-789-2360, ext. 5531
SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau announces the hiring of a new Tourism Manager to lead the Springfield Visitors Center and tourism efforts for the City of Springfield.
Sarah Waggoner will assume the position, held by Jeff Berg who has been with the SCVB for nearly two decades, beginning on Monday, Aug. 23, 2021. Sarah brings an extensive résumé of tourism experience, most recently as tourism coordinator for the City of Litchfield. Most notably, she developed and oversaw the Litchfield Pickers Market, including coordination of the market, social media and marketing efforts. Additionally, her responsibilities included budget management, website functions and developing overall marketing strategies for the City of Litchfield tourism effort.
As tourism manager for Visit Springfield, Sarah will be tasked with managing the Visitors Center, serving as liaison to state and federal historical sites and institutions as well as all programming and scheduling for the History Comes Alive summer program, in its 13th year in 2022.
About Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau
The Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau (SCVB) is the official destination marketing organization for the City of Springfield, Illinois. As a department of the City of Springfield, the SCVB markets the capital city as a unique convention, meeting and leisure destination in support of our City, our community and our hospitality email@example.com
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For more information, or to schedule an interview with Scott Dahl, please call 217-789-2360, ext. 5531; 217-341-9802 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Warbirds over Greenville, Illinois
FOR IMMEDIATE PUBLICATION
Aug. 16, 2021
Craig Baumberger, member, Greenville Pilots Association
Airstravaganza 2021 will be held at the Greenville Illinois Airport on Oct. 9-10. The main attraction will be a visit by the Mitchell B-25 bomber and the Grumman TBM (torpedo bomber) of the Missouri wing of the Commemorative Air Force based at St Charles, Missouri. These aircraft will be on static display on Saturday, Oct. 9, and will be available for rides on Sunday, Oct. 10. This is a rare opportunity for the general public to purchase a trip aboard the B-25, the bomber that flew from the USS Hornet in 1942 to deliver the first retaliatory blow against the Japanese in World War II. Rides will also be available in the TBM, the largest single-engine military aircraft in World War II and the same type flown by President George H.W. Bush in the Pacific. This is a great opportunity to get a look up close at an important part of our military history.
Rides in the B-25 will cost $395. Five people at a time will ride, with the opportunity to move around the aircraft while in flight and check out the cockpit, bombardiers station, and the cramped quarters in the fuselage. TBM rides will cost $895. There will be a limited number of rides available, so they should be booked in advance. In addition to the warbirds, Waco biplane rides will be available if booked in advance. Cessna and helicopter rides will be available on Saturday, Oct. 9
For info and to reserve a flight, contact Kevin Blaney at 618-520-5362 or email@example.com. Mention "warbirds."
The event is supported by the Greenville Airport Authority and conducted by the Greenville Pilots Association/EAA Chapter 1382. For info or to volunteer, call Craig Baumberger at 618-322-3532 or the Greenville Airport at 618-664-0926. Also, check it out on Facebook or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Greenville Airport is located approximately 5 miles south of Greenville on Illinois Route 127 at 1574 Sky Lane, Greenville.
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