Free Speech at Florida Atlantic University 27

Updated April 6, 2013

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The First Amendment / Congress Shall Make No Law sculpture takes up a northwest corner of the Culture & Society Building on Florida Atlantic University’s Boca Raton campus overlooking the Free Speech Mall. The artwork reminds the FAU community of the relatedness of free speech and association to a free society. The Culture & Society Building is home to the Departments of English, Languages and Linguistics, and Sociology, the School of Communication and Multimedia Studies, and the Living Room Theater complex.

The First Amendment is the creation of Ryon Rich, a Florida Atlantic graduate who holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and is now pursuing a graduate degree in architecture. Rich divides his time between his foundry in Santa Fe, New Mexico and FAU.

The idea behind The First Amendment came from FAU journalism professor Bob Bailyn and marks a conceptual collaboration between Rich and Bailyn.

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While the First Amendment restrains the federal government from inhibiting free speech and association, the Fourteenth Amendment extends the First Amendment’s guarantees to all of the states. The Florida Constitution further declares: “Every person may speak, write and publish sentiments on all subjects but shall be responsible for the abuse of  that right. No law shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech or of the press.” Intellectuals have an inherent responsibility to publicly address issues of significant public concern.

The First Amendment sculpture’s spirit and presence at FAU is contradicted by the university administration’s recent attempts to coerce faculty and students from publicly addressing controversial subject matter of tremendous public interest and concern.

In March a classroom incident involving an African American faculty member received extensive press coverage and prompted a violent public backlash with clear racial undertones. Administrators failed to defend the professor and instead instituted a gag order preventing him from publicly commenting on the misunderstood event. FAU has one of the largest African American and Hispanic student enrollments and alumni bases in the United States. The educator was relieved of his teaching duties and placed on administrative leave against his wishes.

In January FAU administrators sought to intimidate a professor from publicly addressing inconsistencies in the official investigation and journalistic reportage of the December 14 Sandy Hook School shooting in Newtown Connecticut. The administration is now taking formal disciplinary action against that faculty member.

The American Civil Liberties Union is now defending FAU students who face disciplinary measures from administrators related to an incident involving a student protest of FAU’s then-pending affiliation with private prison transnational GEO Group. After a March 22 event on FAU’s Jupiter campus one of the protesting students sustained minor injuries after FAU President Mary Jane Saunders struck the student with her Lexus sedan and fled the scene. ACLU attorney Julie Evenstein contends the students are being unreasonably attacked because they went through the proper procedure of reporting the incident to campus police. “It has a chilling effect on speech and provides a disincentive for students to file a police report when they believe they’ve been a victim of  administrators’ conduct,” Evenstein said.

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Photos by James F. Tracy

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27 comments

  1. Sadly, it is like that in America today. There is a symbolic, lip service paid to our organic rights but when individuals step out of the mainstream to exercise them, negative consequences ensue.

    We know what the oppressors want: No investigation, no dissent, no accountability. But what about the vast numbers who aren’t trying to cover up? Why don’t they understand that their silent acquiescence in permitting the muting of honest, open and truthful exchange is poison to our traditional values.

    What is being done to gag legitimate questions is the parallel of vandals chipping away each day at this wonderful art. How long would people permit the defacing of it before they demanded protection and punishment for the offenders?

    The sad but obvious truth is we are more likely to punish those who deface a tribute to our rights than to punish those actually engaged in that effort.

    • Yes, exactly right. Again I point out Op-Ed News as being engaged in this phenomenon. A goodly number of people, including myself were just recently banned there for ‘unruly and unprincipled behavior’. This happens on all the major sites and most of the minor ones as well. People are routinely disbursed from a website, for attempting to engage in free speech. Articles and comments are censored and commenters and contributors alike are banned for being vocal and representing some ‘minority’ view. Ownership (and privilege) of the site owner (whether individual or collective) is always used to declare the right to disburse and abuse anyone who exercises free speech, ie., advocates ideas or thoughts or attempts to share material that is not in strict enough keeping with prejudices (monied and financed) in place on that site.

      Ownership guarantees privilege. The more you can own, the more privilege and power you possess. Everyone follows this rule. There is no free speech, there is only monied and privileged forms of speech and routine punishment for violators.

      This country and this world are bedlam and rape.

      And getting worse, not better.

  2. It is ironic that a professor of journalism and media has been intimated and now to be disciplined for highlighting their failures is this great society of supposed free speech. One young, bold student can tell his story to the national media, and the professionals are not allowed to speak. We, the public, had a terrible image of the university, until we heard other versions of the truth! For the first time with all these mass murderers, we are hearing the Aurora shooter had severe mental health issues, took mind altering prescribed drugs, a doctor who saw him reported him to the police and now a reporter from Fox news is threatened with jail time as she refuses to reveal her sources on how the whole planned mass murder was sent to this doctor. There was a gag order, that someone finally disobeyed, the reporter is not the criminal here! It is often difficult to take the high road, but do it with a smile on your face and the knowledge that good always wins in the end. Praying for something good to happen to enemies has worked well in my life, yours may be a very high number, as I suspect they thought they would of confiscated all of our guns by now or at least had federal laws that declared all gun owners criminals! Be strong, America needs alot of brave souls right now, who can see the truth in what is not being told to us!

  3. I’m very grateful to Dr. Tracy and this website for keeping free speech in the news. Wonderful photos of the pillars!

  4. Yes, thank you Dr. Tracy. Everyone with half a brain knows those grieving people weren’t really grieving and nothing adds up.

    But I’m confused. “The administration is now taking formal disciplinary action against that faculty member.” Is that faculty member in fact you?

    • Yes, it does apparently refer to Dr. Tracy.

      This is academic McCarthyism but I think with a far more sinister flavor. This isn’t about communism though. I’m sure he’d be fine with that.

      This is about suppressing anyone asking questions about the official account let alone anyone from the public holding public servants accountable. It’s precisely in the aftermath of a SH event that those questions should be asked and answers readily given. We haven’t seen that at all. Instead all is cloaked in secrecy. Same with Aurora.

      I don’t know if other professors are receiving similar treatment but it disturbs me greatly. To be intimidated and disciplined for doing nothing more than asking very reasonable questions concerning a government account of an important event is unacceptable. We see more and more that the citizens are treated as their servants – not the other way around. A trend that must be reversed.

      I hope Dr. Tracy gets support from students and fellow professors because this affects them too.

      Good luck Dr. Tracy.

      • Individuals are upset that the university’s name is associated with the blog because of the public statements made here concerning major events, including Sandy Hook. If one were pursuing something benign and uncontroversial, such as a cultural history of the souffle, 9/11 as a defining “postmodern” moment, or perhaps how wonderful the Obama administration’s policies of drone warfare and humanitarian intervention are, there would be little concern because in the greater scheme of things such projects directly or indirectly abet larger economic and socio-political designs.

      • I can understand the potential problem that might arise with the university but your site contains the usual disclaimer I’ve seen elsewhere. I’m not in academia, so I’m unfamiliar with SOP regarding personal blogs.

        What bothers me about this (you much more I’m sure) is that I’ve read nothing here by you that I consider irresponsible, inflammatory, prejudicial… nothing objectionable. All your work here has been well documented, detailed, and thoughtful. If only the authorities could do half as well.

        But you clearly touched a nerve that I’m still trying to understand. This attack on you strikes me as not-so-subtle intimidation for apparently asking the wrong questions. It seems politically motivated to me.

        If so, it truly saddens me. I grew up in a different America or so I thought.

        I do admire your courage and composure. I wish you the best.

      • Thank you.

        This appears to be the case. Nowhere is there concern demonstrated over the writings specifically, so one must conclude that someone deems the subjects addressed here inappropriate for academic (or journalistic) critique and scrutiny. And, as you suggest, the disclaimer is central. Upon memoryholeblog’s launch over one year ago such a disclaimer has been present. Administrators assert that it must be more prominent. Yet this would mean additional association of the university’s name with mine on my blog, which is the exact rationale for the reprimand.

  5. What legal means does the administration have in your case to punish you? All you’ve done is raise questions about an event/s. These questions are actually germane to what you teach at the school. In other words it’s part of your job to question so called received wisdom. Is the discipline you are going to receive shaped like a muzzle for your mouth and rope to tie your hands so you can’t write about this anymore?

    • In my view these are some of the most important questions. The entire affair boils down to the subject matter being addressed and its resonance in the public realm. It would therefore be difficult to mistake the disciplinary maneuvers for anything other than modestly veiled threats to constrain academic and speech-related freedoms and the pursuit of truth.

      In the context of faculty and administrators/trustees addressing such dealings under protocols established in the collective bargaining agreement there are serious questions that must be addressed concerning the moves.

    • I agree 100%. Questioning the mainstream media’s accounting of what happened at Sandy Hook is perfectly aligned with Professor Tracy’s teachings at the University. I’m sorry to see the University caving into pressure to censor and cover up rather then stand up and support one of their faculty members. I feel that the questions raised on this blog are very reasonable and it’s truly disturbing to me to see so many people judge the content of Tracy’s words based on soundbites that they heard in the media rather then going directly to the source and actually reading his words themselves.

      Thank you, Professor Tracy, for speaking up about the many inconsistencies in the Sandy Hook narrative and braving all of the backlash. May free speech prevail, always.

  6. In the past before collectivism reared its ugly head, institutions were responsible for our strength as societies. When collectivism did rear its head, the media which is the prime means of communication and the educational environment which is the prime cultural avenue of expression, were in the grab-bag up for capture by the collectivists.

    The photos you have presented show the truth that the collectivists hide their true face behind a sculpture that reflects the values and principles of free individuals who might approach the sculpture and be very unsuspecting that its presence is a farce because the underlying spirit it embodies is not adhered to, because its spirit is gradually being eroded away in the process of ‘gradualism,’ a term author William Gairdner used to explain,–‘slicing freedom up, until it is reduced to nothing over time.’

    Where is the true face of the collective impulse hid? On the administrative level which is why John Ralston Saul in his book, ‘The Unconscious Civilization’ practically hollered in a whole chapter how the managers were coming. As he so astutely documented, ‘they manage, they do not think. They are bureaucratic employees specialized in methodology. A crisis unfortunately requires thought but thought is not a management function.’

    Methodology is defined as a system of methods. A gag order is a method of shutting down discussion. Coercion is a method of forceful persuasion. Intimidation is a method of taking control away from a person. Disciplinary action is a method of correcting conduct. The goal of methodology is always to determine conduct or conformity to an idealized behavior.

    We are mired in ‘false populism’ which for the professional is to be involved in the power structure of corporatism but also to be angry at the power structure as a whole. For the professional it is alienation from him or herself as a conscious, responsible, engaged citizen, for the common man on the street, not knowlegeable about the larger forces in society, it is alienation in passivity and suffication in conformity.

    Back in 1995, John Ralston Saul clearly identified in the Massey Lectures that as society we had a general sense of corporatism accompanied by a misunderstanding. We were led to believe that corporatism was a reference to the power of private-sector corporations when really the broad philosophical concept of corporatism relates it as the intellectual foundation of authoritative and militaristic political styles and an alternate model for civilization.

    In the Professor’s writing here, Saul’s forcasts come to life–‘the contemporary populist writes and lays out an argument we can recognize. The writing is a mirror that produces ‘recognition’ to identify reality.’ The Professor uses the term ‘larger economic design’ which Saul stated was ‘a new all-powerful clockmaker god–the marketplace–and his archangel technology–economic trade is the cure for what ails us–globalization is eden–the managerial and addiction to technology the new golden calf.’

    The power structure in our society is very complex and made so by deceitful tampering because really that is all social engineering is accomplishing. I suppose of all Saul’s thoughts that saddened me was his implications that we are doing this to one another and to ourselves because we are unconscious of the fact that we are fixed firmly in a surrounding mass of obsession with management, obsession with managing others, and facing social formulas brought back to life from the earliest forms of corporatism.

    Our esteemed Professors, entrusted to guard and preserve the prime cultural avenues of expression are finding themselves in tightening struggles with the market-forces idealogues. These Professors, are the developing filters of public action and they deserve all our respect and support. Their struggles magnify the truth that life is not simple, life cannot be managed and controlled by others, problems must be thought out and solved, not managed.

    Professor I do hope you do not mind me injecting my thoughts here on my studies; the limitation of free speech is just the tip of a huge iceberg and when one becomes aware of what is hidden, there is a compelling pressure from within to address what we are blind to. Your blog allows me to keep my balance and I am most grateful for your participation to redress wrongs that now fill our societies.

    • Well said, Bev,
      Would an examination of the “Delphi Technique” be germane to this discussion?

      http://www.seanet.com/~barkonwd/school/DELPHI.HTM

      Also, the term bureaucracy might apply. The bureaucrats in any institutional setting have one goal: maintain their standing; they lose sight of their original reason to be. Institutions are developed to serve people, not the opposite. Forced service to sterile institutions causes social break down.

      • Thank you, thats a good example of methodology and as the deceit inherent in the technique is well clarified by the writer you can see the psychological manipulation and that the technique is a method of directing and steering group participants to a desired pre-determined outcome. All over the web it is touted as problem solving but as you can see from the writeup, its anything but that. Rand originally created the technique for the military so its not too hard to see why the level of deceit is so hidden from any unsuspecting participant. If its pre-determined its insidious intention and that comes from a person who is skilled in being cunning. Nasty eh!!

  7. U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Steven Pieczenik, MD, PhD (former) and advisor to four U.S. Presidents has publicly stated last week on air that Sandy Hook was a complete hoax.

    What’s FAU’s problem?

    “Thank goodness we have James Tracy on our team to see through all this nonsense.”

    That’s what FAU should be saying right now.

    Man up Gentlemen.

  8. One would pray that universities in a supposedly democratic society would embrace the ideals of academic freedom, freedom of the press and free speech. This would be the perfect moment to do so, to allow that its faculty members may well have controversial views, yet that we all pursue the truth in good faith and are big enough to handle the difficulties inherent in all freedoms. To remind each other that our country was founded on this premise would seem heroic. In fact, it is simply sweet liberty. Imagine what would happen if someone stepped up to defend the right of another to openly question anything in our society. That revered and ancient bell in Philadelphia might just ring again at the sheer joy of it.

  9. So, let me get this straight.

    A professor is facing disciplinary action by the FAU for simply exercising his first amendment rights …and all the while the President of same University runs over a student during a protest, then leaves the scene of the accident?

    Apparently it is easier to throw several professors under the bus than face public scrutiny.

    BTW. Isn’t hit and run considered a felony in Florida?

  10. In Germany today it is against the law to question the official story of historical events that took place before and during WWII. In many cases those events lack sufficient evidence to prove the official story that was passed off as being truth, while there is evidence to the contrary. Instead of allowing free and open debate on these subjects, those who question official stories are subjected to imprisonment and hefty fines. Perhaps the same type of thing is occurring in this country. Perhaps not only free speech, but free thought, as well, is being suppressed here also to keep people from questioning “official” stories. For someone like Professor Tracy, who asks legitimate questions, they are threatened with professional ruin. Will it become criminal in the US to question what is passed off as the truth?

  11. Ezra Pound, a poet, took a stance against Jewry, usury, the banking cartels and in speeches broadcast over Italian radio, US involvement in WWII. For this he was charged with treason, called insane and committed to St. Elizabeth’s mental hospital in Washington D.C. for more than twelve years. The Establishment successfully discredited Pound as crazy, racist and backward. He was diagnosed ultimately as narcissistic for believing he could correct the economic ills of the world. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGmWfF0IHzg

  12. One of the most tragic stories of a life interrupted for failing to consent is actress Frances Farmer’s story. It is alleged her downfall began after she complained that she was surrounded by communists. She was censored by means of psychiatry. Here she is on a 1958 episode of the TV program “This is Your Life” – where she refers to her involuntary commitment in her own words, (Part 2 of 2): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqhLOhLruQI Jody Foster, friend of Mel Gibson, was awarded a life time achievement award age 50.

  13. Those five pillars–and the First Amendment–rest on property rights. That is, the right of an individual to dispose of his property as he sees fit, his property beginning with his mind and his body and extending to the products of either.

    And that rests on only one basic right: the right of each individual to the *absolute* ownership of his life, from which the right to liberty and the ownership of property derive (which is why, oh by-the-way–take note, professoriat–that economic freedom is indispensable in achieving political liberty).

    “Many have derided America’s attitude of “business as usual.” But without “business as usual,” the Bill of Rights would find no market. Without the freedom to support one’s life as one sees fit, a man would have no right to speak out as he sees fit; no freedom to write what he sees fit; no right to worship as he sees fit. There would be no contractual—i.e., legal—requirement that governmental force be restrained by individual rights; there would be no such awareness that such rights are owned by the individual.

    “John Adams called this “the property of rights.” (writeby; “Power vs. Rights” 2003)

    “A ‘right’ is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man’s right to his own life. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action—which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.)

    “The concept of a “right” pertains only to action—specifically, to freedom of action. It means freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men.

    “Thus, for every individual, a right is the moral sanction of a positive—of his freedom to act on his own judgment, for his own goals, by his own voluntary, uncoerced choice. As to his neighbors, his rights impose no obligations on them except of a negative kind: to abstain from violating his rights.

    “The right to life [of actual living human beings] is the source of all rights—and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.

    “Bear in mind that the right to property is a right to action, like all the others: it is not the right to an object, but to the action and the consequences of producing or earning that object. It is not a guarantee that a man will earn any property, but only a guarantee that he will own it if he earns it. It is the right to gain, to keep, to use and to dispose of material values” (Ayn Rand; “Man’s Rights,”
    The Virtue of Selfishness, 93).

    http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/individual_rights.html

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