Jump to content

Recommended Posts

This came up on another thread and I thought it was a fascinating topic so I decided to start a new thread about it. I would love to hear your opinions. The poster said that federally funded public graduate schools/programs may be violating the free speech/first amendment rights of applicants if they require an interview as part of the admissions process. The argument was that if the school is a federally funded public university then they should not be interviewing applicants to determine whether the applicant is a "good fit" for the program since there is no way to do so without violating the free speech/first amendment rights of applicants. Essentially, the school is monitoring the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, etc of students to determine "good fit" which is unconstitutional. 

Do you believe that federally funded public universities are violating the first amendment rights of applicants by conducting the interview and/or asking for writing samples? Do you think that there is such a thing as "good fit" when it comes to federally funded public universities? Should the interview be eliminated altogether? Why or why not?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Are they also going to eliminate interviews for public-sector work positions? Interviews are about more than just "good fit"; they allow the hiring/admissions committee to assess competency, ability to think on the spot, verbal and social communication skills, much more, and yes -- fit between the program/employer and potential student/employee. 

Edit to add: Also, I think interviews can be just as beneficial for the students/person being hired as for the school/employer. I've withdrawn my name from consideration for work positions after doing an interview when I got a weird vibe or felt like I didn't really mesh with their personalities or the work responsibilities. Other times I've gone from feeling so-so about a position to being really hopeful and excited after an interview. Some things can't be judged by GPA, test scores, and 3rd party reference letters.

Edited by CBclone

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, CBclone said:

Are they also going to eliminate interviews for public-sector work positions? Interviews are about more than just "good fit"; they allow the hiring/admissions committee to assess competency, ability to think on the spot, verbal and social communication skills, much more, and yes -- fit between the program/employer and potential student/employee. 

Edit to add: Also, I think interviews can be just as beneficial for the students/person being hired as for the school/employer. I've withdrawn my name from consideration for work positions after doing an interview when I got a weird vibe or felt like I didn't really mesh with their personalities or the work responsibilities. Other times I've gone from feeling so-so about a position to being really hopeful and excited after an interview. Some things can't be judged by GPA, test scores, and 3rd party reference letters.

It is very interesting that you mention jobs because the original poster said that for a job the company/agency would want to know more about the skills, experiences, competency, ability to do the job, etc. Companies/Agencies will also do background checks, fingerprinting, drug tests, etc depending on the nature of the company/agency. For govt jobs, applicants would take a civil exam to qualify for the job and then have to go through a background check and other things as well. But in this case, applicants are simply trying to get an education in order to be competent when they are ready to apply to real jobs so the thoughts, opinions, feelings, etc of applicants is irrelevant and shouldn't come into play at all. Public universities,  that only accept certain people (under the guise of "good fit"--what does it mean anyway if it is a public university designed to educate the public so how can someone not be a good fit) are discriminating against all applicants and are violating their first amendments rights as well.  I mean, is someone really not entitled to an public university education because the interviewer didn't like what was said in the interview? 

As to your second point, I do think there should be some kind of meet and greet but only after the admissions process is over and the school cannot rescind an acceptance anymore. Before then, there are informational sessions that students can attend but beyond that there is no reason why a public university should interview applicants because it is unconstitutional since it violates the free speech/first amendment rights of students. 

Edited by iamswwg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wouldn't the public university in question need to be receiving 100% of their funding from federal dollars in order for this to be a possible argument?  I'd be shocked if there was such a university given alumni donations, private sector funds, etc.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think interviews are a violation of free speech rights. An applicant's free speech rights are not violated if they are denied a position based on what they say. Freedom of speech is not the same as freedom of all repercussions of said speech. 

I do agree with you that universities shouldn't reject/admit someone because of things related to freedom of speech like agreeing with certain political views, religious beliefs, or other opinions. However, this is not what reasonable people mean when they say graduate admissions are looking for a "good fit". When we say "good fit", we usually mean "fit" in terms of things that are relevant to the work. For example, will the school's resources and the applicant's goals match up? It doesn't make sense to admit a student who wants to use telescope data to a school that has no telescope data.

It may be the case that some schools are using the guise of "good fit" to discriminate against applicants for their opinions/beliefs/etc. not relevant to their work. This would be very bad. There are laws against hiring discrimination (doesn't matter whether the money is federally sourced or not) that are meant to protect employees and these laws restrict the types of questions that could be asked in an interview. I know that grad student applicants aren't necessary in the same category as employees and may not always be fully protected by these laws, but there are mechanisms that are there to try to prevent schools from doing this.

((In this discussion, I am assuming you are worried about interviews being used to unfairly reject candidates for non-relevant reasons such as political or religious beliefs. If this is not what you mean, would you mind clarifying?))

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, MarineBluePsy said:

Wouldn't the public university in question need to be receiving 100% of their funding from federal dollars in order for this to be a possible argument?  I'd be shocked if there was such a university given alumni donations, private sector funds, etc.

Why would it need to be fully funded? And aren't public universities run by the state/city govt under a board and trustees appointed by the mayor who make the rules that the university has to follow and therefore obligated to protect the free speech of applicants regardless of federal funding?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, TakeruK said:

I don't think interviews are a violation of free speech rights. An applicant's free speech rights are not violated if they are denied a position based on what they say. Freedom of speech is not the same as freedom of all repercussions of said speech. 

I do agree with you that universities shouldn't reject/admit someone because of things related to freedom of speech like agreeing with certain political views, religious beliefs, or other opinions. However, this is not what reasonable people mean when they say graduate admissions are looking for a "good fit". When we say "good fit", we usually mean "fit" in terms of things that are relevant to the work. For example, will the school's resources and the applicant's goals match up? It doesn't make sense to admit a student who wants to use telescope data to a school that has no telescope data.

It may be the case that some schools are using the guise of "good fit" to discriminate against applicants for their opinions/beliefs/etc. not relevant to their work. This would be very bad. There are laws against hiring discrimination (doesn't matter whether the money is federally sourced or not) that are meant to protect employees and these laws restrict the types of questions that could be asked in an interview. I know that grad student applicants aren't necessary in the same category as employees and may not always be fully protected by these laws, but there are mechanisms that are there to try to prevent schools from doing this.

((In this discussion, I am assuming you are worried about interviews being used to unfairly reject candidates for non-relevant reasons such as political or religious beliefs. If this is not what you mean, would you mind clarifying?))

How could there be repercussions for free speech if there are not supposed to be laws for it? If someone is punished for something they say then that means that there is a law against free speech which is unconstitutional (I think there are a couple of exceptions like you can't yell fire in a crowded room but I can't imagine anyone doing that at the interview.) A public university is usually run by the state or city so it is by definition, government run which means that they are obligated to protect free speech and I would think this applies to graduate school applicants as well. 

In terms of fit, I can see that for a specific Ph.D. program you would need to be a "good fit" based on research interest (although some programs have rotations so it wouldn't be relevant) but if it is just for a masters program then why would there need to be the need for the faculty to determine "good fit" of applicants and how is that determined based on the interview?

And op is right that it is not the same as applying to a job so that isn't relevant to this discussion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Op, I think this is a very thought provoking legal and ethical question and I wonder if anyone has ever addressed it or tried to challenge it in court. How does a public university use the interview to determine "good fit" if they are a govt agency and cannot violate the free speech of students/applicants? 

In my case, I applied to 5 master programs and got accepted to two of them even though my portfolio was the same for all of the schools. The three schools that rejected me were public universities that required an interview. I'm apparently not good at interviews because I was not accepted at either of them. Or its possible that the interviewers just didn't like what I said or asked (and I suspect the latter is true). The other two schools were private with one of them being an Ivy League school and very competitive since its a small cohort but neither required an interview and I was apparently a good enough candidate for both of them. Now I wonder if what I said or asked at the interviews conducted by the public universities was the reason I was rejected? And if that is the case then was my free speech violated by the public universities? If so, then would I be able to file a complaint against these schools (that would be complaining to the govt about one of their own agencies so not sure how that would work lol) or if I would even have the right to file a civil rights lawsuit against them? This could turn into a class action lawsuit since I am presumably not the only one rejected from these public universities so other applicants had their rights violated as well.

Are there any attorneys on here who could give us some insight to this? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

IMO, this thread leads applicants away from what they can control. Specifically, face-to-face communication skills, knowing how to respond to inappropriate questions without burning bridges, and reading the fine print of an application before submitting it. 

This thread is also becoming a missed opportunity for developing research and critical thinking skills. In the case of the latter, if one believes that a public university is a haven for free speech, then what is the argument for issuing grades or moderated discussions or, if one extends the logic, syllibi, qualifying exams, and oral exams? If one does have a cause of action for a class action suit, how is one going to participate in such a suit while also going to graduate school? If one wins such a suit, what does such a "victory" look like? Even if a department/program is compelled to revise its admittance processes, does that mean you're going to get in? If you do, are the academics who have been dragged into court going to want to work with you?

In the case of the former, a search using Google leads one to a 2002 article by David L. Hudson, Jr., a research attorney for the First Amendment Center. While the piece doesn't specifically touch upon the types of interview mentioned in the OP, it does outline circumstances under which public employers can regulate speech and reasons why courts are reluctant to rule against public institutions.

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Golden girl said:

How could there be repercussions for free speech if there are not supposed to be laws for it? If someone is punished for something they say then that means that there is a law against free speech which is unconstitutional (I think there are a couple of exceptions like you can't yell fire in a crowded room but I can't imagine anyone doing that at the interview.) A public university is usually run by the state or city so it is by definition, government run which means that they are obligated to protect free speech and I would think this applies to graduate school applicants as well. 

In terms of fit, I can see that for a specific Ph.D. program you would need to be a "good fit" based on research interest (although some programs have rotations so it wouldn't be relevant) but if it is just for a masters program then why would there need to be the need for the faculty to determine "good fit" of applicants and how is that determined based on the interview?

And op is right that it is not the same as applying to a job so that isn't relevant to this discussion.

This argument doesn't make sense to me. Just because there are repercussions for something you say doesn't mean someone is making it illegal for you to say it. Law and social acceptability are two different things. If you say something and another person deems it inflammatory, insensitive or hurtful, they have the right to react to you in any way they see fit. Nobody is infringing on your rights by reacting to the things you say. 

You have the right to say whatever you want--but your right to speech does not trump others' rights to speech in reaction to your speech. You can say whatever you want--but you can't force other people to put up with you for one to two years so that you can get the degree you want. We are all adults, and we have to behave in socially acceptable ways if we want other adults to spend time with us. That means knowing what to say in an interview or to potential bosses, colleagues or friends. Being an adult also means accepting that applications for jobs and graduate school isn't based solely on your portfolio--your attitude, work ethic and personality are hard to put on your CV but are easier to figure out in an interview. You don't get into a program just because you think you deserve it--it has to do with whether people want to put in the effort to work with and for you and to have your name associated with their program.

Also, who told you the state "runs" public universities? They might have some public funds, but they are not state run. State officials do not run universities--they hire their own presidents and chancellors and make their own decisions. 

 

Edited by orangeanthropologist

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I

43 minutes ago, Sigaba said:

IMO, this thread leads applicants away from what they can control. Specifically, face-to-face communication skills, knowing how to respond to inappropriate questions without burning bridges, and reading the fine print of an application before submitting it. 

This thread is also becoming a missed opportunity for developing research and critical thinking skills. In the case of the latter, if one believes that a public university is a haven for free speech, then what is the argument for issuing grades or moderated discussions or, if one extends the logic, syllibi, qualifying exams, and oral exams? If one does have a cause of action for a class action suit, how is one going to participate in such a suit while also going to graduate school? If one wins such a suit, what does such a "victory" look like? Even if a department/program is compelled to revise its admittance processes, does that mean you're going to get in? If you do, are the academics who have been dragged into court going to want to work with you?

In the case of the former, a search using Google leads one to a 2002 article by David L. Hudson, Jr., a research attorney for the First Amendment Center. While the piece doesn't specifically touch upon the types of interview mentioned in the OP, it does outline circumstances under which public employers can regulate speech and reasons why courts are reluctant to rule against public institutions.

 

 

 

I'm not sure why people keep conflating employees and students as they are two different entities and are not comparable. Having said that, it is well known that tenure was designed to ensure the academic freedom of professors. There have also been court cases that dealt with grading, discussions in classrooms, free speech of students, free speech zones on campus, etc. so there are laws about that which could still be challenged if one would choose to do so. The question here is, do applicants have the right to free speech or can public universities limit that with the interview. If these are state/city schools which are primarily funded by tax dollars and govt cannot restrict free speech then how is the interview constitutional if applicants are denied entry based on what they said in the interview? 

If one were to file a class action against the school then the school does not have the right to retaliate so what the faculty wants is irrelevant (and they shouldn't have violated the rights of students/applicants in the first place so perhaps they are not fit to work in a public university at all).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Golden girl said:

How could there be repercussions for free speech if there are not supposed to be laws for it? If someone is punished for something they say then that means that there is a law against free speech which is unconstitutional (I think there are a couple of exceptions like you can't yell fire in a crowded room but I can't imagine anyone doing that at the interview.) A public university is usually run by the state or city so it is by definition, government run which means that they are obligated to protect free speech and I would think this applies to graduate school applicants as well. 

Two points: First, almost all universities receive federal funds, including private universities (through grants etc.) and therefore are subject to federal laws. Schools will lose their funding if they do not follow the law, and you are right about the importance of schools following the law.

Second, I don't think you have the right definition of free speech. Free speech means you can say what you want without legal repercussions but there can still be other consequences. If you apply to my department and in the interview, you tell us that the moon is made out of cheese and that all of the scientific studies on the moon is all wrong and that nothing we say can ever convince you that the moon is not made of cheese, then you will not be accepted. Your right to free speech is still protected: we do not physically stop you or restrain you from saying your belief on the moon. We do not arrest you or compel the government to throw you in jail for this speech. However, this belief (specifically, the refusal to consider future evidence and modify beliefs) is incompatible with the scientific process and there is no way you would be successful as a graduate student in our field. It shows that you are not properly prepared for scientific research and therefore, we will not accept you into the program. This is not a violation of your free speech rights.

When I first started replying, I wasn't sure if people were meaning examples like the one I just gave, or examples like a school only accepting people from a certain religion. Note that free speech is not the only law that schools have to follow. For example, Title IX does not allow schools to discriminate on the basis of sex, requires fair treatment for pregnant students, requires equal opportunities for all students, and requires the school to protect students from sexual harassment and bullying. Therefore, if you are at a school, a faculty member who says something like "I think women aren't good scientists and so I never accept any of them into my lab" will face consequences** for these words. These actions are not protected by freedom of speech. 

(**Note: I'm not saying that they will be fired, as the consequence needs to be appropriate to what they did. It could be a range of things from education to dismissal from the university).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
57 minutes ago, orangeanthropologist said:

This argument doesn't make sense to me. Just because there are repercussions for something you say doesn't mean someone is making it illegal for you to say it. Law and social acceptability are two different things. If you say something and another person deems it inflammatory, insensitive or hurtful, they have the right to react to you in any way they see fit. Nobody is infringing on your rights by reacting to the things you say. 

You have the right to say whatever you want--but your right to speech does not trump others' rights to speech in reaction to your speech. You can say whatever you want--but you can't force other people to put up with you for one to two years so that you can get the degree you want. We are all adults, and we have to behave in socially acceptable ways if we want other adults to spend time with us. That means knowing what to say in an interview or to potential bosses, colleagues or friends. Being an adult also means accepting that applications for jobs and graduate school isn't based solely on your portfolio--your attitude, work ethic and personality are hard to put on your CV but are easier to figure out in an interview. You don't get into a program just because you think you deserve it--it has to do with whether people want to put in the effort to work with and for you and to have your name associated with their program.

Also, who told you the state "runs" public universities? They might have some public funds, but they are not state run. State officials do not run universities--they hire their own presidents and chancellors and make their own decisions. 

 

What do you think a public university is? 

In my state, the mayor or governor appoints people to the board of trustees of the city/state universities and they are the ones who have authority to approve or deny policies, rules, regulations, etc. so  they are essentially entrusted to run the university on behalf of the city/state govt which makes the public university a govt run university. Additionally, all administrators, staff, faculty, etc employed by the university are paid by the state which means that they are state employees and are therefore bound by law to uphold the constitutional rights of students and applicants.

In terms of free speech rights of applicants at an interview, suppose an applicant is a republican and says something that would make the interviewer angry because s/he is a democrat, does that mean that the applicant is no longer a "good fit" for the program? Or if the applicant says something about his religious beliefs and the interviewer is an atheist and scores the applicant negatively resulting in the applicant being rejected as a result, then is the interviewer violating the free speech of the applicant? And does the faculty and/or staff at public universities have the right to do this without penalty?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
29 minutes ago, Golden girl said:

In terms of free speech rights of applicants at an interview, suppose an applicant is a republican and says something that would make the interviewer angry because s/he is a democrat, does that mean that the applicant is no longer a "good fit" for the program? Or if the applicant says something about his religious beliefs and the interviewer is an atheist and scores the applicant negatively resulting in the applicant being rejected as a result, then is the interviewer violating the free speech of the applicant? And does the faculty and/or staff at public universities have the right to do this without penalty?

All of these things are bad things that should not be going on at an interview. Faculty and staff at public and private universities should not be able to ask these questions or make admissions decisions based on these factors. When the term "good fit" is used in the context of admissions though, most people do not mean good fit as in a compatible religious or political belief. I think there should be consequences for schools that engage in this bad admissions practice, but I don't think preventing interviews at all is a good solution. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
57 minutes ago, TakeruK said:

Two points: First, almost all universities receive federal funds, including private universities (through grants etc.) and therefore are subject to federal laws. Schools will lose their funding if they do not follow the law, and you are right about the importance of schools following the law.

Second, I don't think you have the right definition of free speech. Free speech means you can say what you want without legal repercussions but there can still be other consequences. If you apply to my department and in the interview, you tell us that the moon is made out of cheese and that all of the scientific studies on the moon is all wrong and that nothing we say can ever convince you that the moon is not made of cheese, then you will not be accepted. Your right to free speech is still protected: we do not physically stop you or restrain you from saying your belief on the moon. We do not arrest you or compel the government to throw you in jail for this speech. However, this belief (specifically, the refusal to consider future evidence and modify beliefs) is incompatible with the scientific process and there is no way you would be successful as a graduate student in our field. It shows that you are not properly prepared for scientific research and therefore, we will not accept you into the program. This is not a violation of your free speech rights.

When I first started replying, I wasn't sure if people were meaning examples like the one I just gave, or examples like a school only accepting people from a certain religion. Note that free speech is not the only law that schools have to follow. For example, Title IX does not allow schools to discriminate on the basis of sex, requires fair treatment for pregnant students, requires equal opportunities for all students, and requires the school to protect students from sexual harassment and bullying. Therefore, if you are at a school, a faculty member who says something like "I think women aren't good scientists and so I never accept any of them into my lab" will face consequences** for these words. These actions are not protected by freedom of speech. 

(**Note: I'm not saying that they will be fired, as the consequence needs to be appropriate to what they did. It could be a range of things from education to dismissal from the university).

Ok, so I think everyone knows and agrees that there are discrimination laws that schools have to follow so that is not relevant to this conversation. And professors/employees are in a different category than students so it's not relevant either. 

So let's talk about the applicant that comes to the interview and states that the moon is composed of cheese. We both agree that he has the right to say it but you say that he won't be accepted to your program because he is also denying all scientific evidence that the moon is not cheese and will continue to deny it in the future as well. Are you violating his freedom of speech by not accepting him to the program? It's tricky and depends on what you think university is all about. If it's about the exchange of ideas and challenging each other to think differently, then what gives you the authority to deny his point of view that the moon is made of cheese? Maybe he has scientific evidence to back up his claim? Or he may do research for a while and realize he was wrong and change his mind about it because he wasn't able to prove it. But if you shut him down and reject him then you are saying it's your way or the highway and you are not open to different ideas or opinions which means that you may not only be violating his freedom of speech but you may also be violating school policy as well (exchanging ideas and challenging each other to think differently). 

Now my question is, let's say that the applicant really believes that the moon is made up of cheese and he rejects all scientific evidence stating otherwise but doesn't say anything at the interview since he really wants to get into the program. He says everything you want to hear and comes across as the perfect candidate so you accept him. All goes well at first but after a few months he reveals that he believes that the moon is composed of cheese and that he rejects all scientific evidence stating otherwise. What do you do at that point? And was the interview really effective if applicants censor themselves just to be accepted at programs? And wouldn't that demonstrate that there is a major free speech problem when it comes to graduate school admissions?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Essentially, the school is monitoring the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, etc of students to determine "good fit" which is unconstitutional. 

I don't get it. All of this stuff is also asked for in grad schools' written application materials. So why is talking about this unconstitutional, but writing, no? I mean, it's not literally free speech, is it?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll be quick because I have to go run a errand, while the conversation is sort of interesting, from a legal perceptive its a non starter. The first amendment does not say you can't be punished for your speech, it does say that congress cannot make laws " bridging the freedom of speech ". Colleges are not congress and they don't make laws, the first amendment doesn't really apply here. State constitutions might have something to say but that will depend on the state. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, mbfox125 said:

I'll be quick because I have to go run a errand, while the conversation is sort of interesting, from a legal perceptive its a non starter. The first amendment does not say you can't be punished for your speech, it does say that congress cannot make laws " bridging the freedom of speech ". Colleges are not congress and they don't make laws, the first amendment doesn't really apply here. State constitutions might have something to say but that will depend on the state. 

Free speech applies to all government bodies (not just congress) as well public universities by extension. The US courts have generally upheld freedom of speech on public universities. There may be some minor limitations but I don't know them offhand. There is an organization called Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) that deals with free speech on campuses, feel free to look them up to learn more about free speech on college campuses.

Edited by iamswwg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In any graduate program, resources are limited. The question for admissions to any graduate program, then, is what students will make best use of that program's resources?

Interviews—no less than essays, to which none of you have objected—are a way for universities to judge which students will gain the most from their program. Any student who claims, without proof, that the moon is made of cheese, and denies all proof to the contrary, will not gain the most from any astronomy program.

I am not a lawyer; perhaps you would have an argument if interviews were required for any state-run, "open-enrollment" graduate degree that actually rejected students based on the interviews. However, since no graduate programs are open-enrollment, and all are choosing how to educate a body of students given scarce resources, this is not only a legal non-starter, but should be a legal non-starter. As far as I can tell, the logical conclusion of your argument is that any time a state-funded educational program required a one-sentence essay—or perhaps even filling out one line of one form?—for admission, that violates the applicant's right to free speech. After all, what if the applicant reveals through her speech (whether written or spoken) that she is simply less qualified for admission than other applicants? If you choose not to admit her because of the lack of qualifications she revealed, that's discrimination!

Would you also argue that any grade in any class in a state-sponsored universities is a violation of free speech? After all, if a student submits a final paper responding to a prompt that asks students to write about archaeological evidence of early hominid evolution, drawing on at least three peer-reviewed articles from the journals X, Y, and/or Z, with an essay that argues for creationism based only on Biblical quotes, that should be illegal! It's a violation of the student's free speech! The student didn't follow the assignment at all, but no non-dangerous speech should ever have any consequence of any kind.

This is both a standard that is completely unworkable and one that goes against any interpretation of the first amendment that has, to my knowledge, ever held sway in legal circles. As mbfox said, the first amendment protects people from legal (especially criminal) consequences for their speech. It does not protect a single person from SOCIAL, PROFESSIONAL, OR ACADEMIC CONSEQUENCES OF THAT SPEECH.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, knp said:

In any graduate program, resources are limited. The question for admissions to any graduate program, then, is what students will make best use of that program's resources?

Interviews—no less than essays, to which none of you have objected—are a way for universities to judge which students will gain the most from their program. Any student who claims, without proof, that the moon is made of cheese, and denies all proof to the contrary, will not gain the most from any astronomy program.

I am not a lawyer; perhaps you would have an argument if interviews were required for any state-run, "open-enrollment" graduate degree that actually rejected students based on the interviews. However, since no graduate programs are open-enrollment, and all are choosing how to educate a body of students given scarce resources, this is not only a legal non-starter, but should be a legal non-starter. As far as I can tell, the logical conclusion of your argument is that any time a state-funded educational program required a one-sentence essay—or perhaps even filling out one line of one form?—for admission, that violates the applicant's right to free speech. After all, what if the applicant reveals through her speech (whether written or spoken) that she is simply less qualified for admission than other applicants? If you choose not to admit her because of the lack of qualifications she revealed, that's discrimination!

Would you also argue that any grade in any class in a state-sponsored universities is a violation of free speech? After all, if a student submits a final paper responding to a prompt that asks students to write about archaeological evidence of early hominid evolution, drawing on at least three peer-reviewed articles from the journals X, Y, and/or Z, with an essay that argues for creationism based only on Biblical quotes, that should be illegal! It's a violation of the student's free speech! The student didn't follow the assignment at all, but no non-dangerous speech should ever have any consequence of any kind.

This is both a standard that is completely unworkable and one that goes against any interpretation of the first amendment that has, to my knowledge, ever held sway in legal circles. As mbfox said, the first amendment protects people from legal (especially criminal) consequences for their speech. It does not protect a single person from SOCIAL, PROFESSIONAL, OR ACADEMIC CONSEQUENCES OF THAT SPEECH.

Grading criteria has already been discussed upthread--seems as though there are laws about it (as per US courts) but perhaps someone could elaborate more about that so that we can all understand how it would not violate a persons free speech.

What is the reason why a public university graduate program would need applicants to write essays about themselves? And then have an interview on top of it?  You say that the program has limited resources and is looking for qualified applicants but wouldn't it go against the mission of the university which is to educate all students?  Isn't the goal of the public university to educate the public regardless of how ignorant an applicant is? If an applicant demonstrates what you believe is ignorance about the moon or anything else for that matter, then is the applicant no longer entitled to an education at a public university funded by tax dollars?  If you are rejecting applicants based on their personal views (which you decided is ignorant) then why bother having an educational facility in the first place? Unless you are saying that the university is a place of indoctrination, then I would understand why it would be important for all applicants to have the same beliefs and opinions as the faculty at the school but if schools are about the exchange of ideas and challenging each other to think differently (as someone else mentioned upthread) then rejecting applicants who have different opinions than the faculty proves that such a facility is a place of indoctrination instead of a place of learning. Why would anyone want to attend such a program? And why should such a program be funded by taxpayers? 

 

 

 

Edited by iamswwg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, iamswwg said:

You say that the program has limited resources and is looking for qualified applicants but wouldn't it go against the mission of the university which is to educate all students?  Isn't the goal of the public university to educate the public regardless of how ignorant an applicant is? If an applicant demonstrates what you believe is ignorance about the moon or anything else for that matter, then is the applicant no longer entitled to an education at a public university funded by tax dollars?

Except that it isn't the mission of public universities to "educate all students… regardless of how ignorant an applicant is," and no one is "entitled to an education at a public university" in the United States. San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez established that there is no fundamental right to even a primary education, much less a college one, under the US constitution. Many state constitutions guarantee education to children (usually through the twelfth grade) as a right, and the Supreme Court has recognized since Meyer that students have a right to that (again, primary and secondary, not college) education unimpeded by certain state actions. State institutions of higher education are still bound by the fourteenth amendment, in that if a state is going to offer public college education it must do so equally among those students it educates (this is why, for example the use of affirmative action in college admissions is a matter of constitutional law).  But that jurisprudence has never held that public universities must accept all applicants, which is the only schema under which a process that admits some applicants but not others on the basis of merit (i.e. by rejecting "ignorant" applicants, to use your language) would be a constitutional issue. That there isn't any sort of "right" to postsecondary (i.e. university education) can be most clearly seen in the fact that students at state schools, even land-grant ones, still need to pay tuition.

Again: no one is entitled to an education at a public university, which means that in admitting students those universities are free to use academic merit and the fit of a prospective student's proposed research within the department--which is what a writing sample or interview is intended to measure--as a discrimen in admissions. It is true that they may not consider status as certain protected classes in their decisions (they can't, for example, categorically deny admission to an applicant solely because she's a woman), but that's an equal protection issue, not a first amendment one.

Edited by unræd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I also fail to see how this is a free speech issue... discriminatory action issue yes, free speech not really. 

First and foremost... if we were to consider this a free speech issue, the precedent will be set when legal issues are resolved with the campus "safe space" or "safe zone" in which freedom of speech is already abandoned through a publicly funded institution in a battle between 1st amendment rights and the OCR's declaration of institutional responsibility to provide an nondiscriminatory educational environment. If "safe spaces" devoid of free speech are permitted by the public institution, then the idea that free speech is fundamental to every aspect of the university's running is null. 

As a discriminatory issue, it is already illegal to discriminate based on race, gender, disability, etc. Which conveniently are all things that are included in my application, and nothing that would have been suddenly revealed in an interview.  And my SOP would have clearly revealed my lack of compliance with every mainstream religion that I know of... just based on my research interests. 

So in reality, what is the interview infringing on that the rest of the application process isn't? Why apply at all? No more SOP's. No more essays. No more letters of recommendation. Just test scores, a transcript, and a name. Better yet... just a form number, because your name might reveal your ethnicity or gender. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To go along with unraed's lucid explanation, I've annotated a bit of your post to answer your questions directly.

2 hours ago, iamswwg said:

You say that the program has limited resources and is looking for qualified applicants but wouldn't it go against the mission of the university which is to educate all students? No. No American university has the education of all students as their mission. Isn't the goal of the public university to educate the public regardless of how ignorant an applicant is? No. That is not their goal. If an applicant demonstrates what you believe is ignorance about the moon or anything else for that matter, then is the applicant no longer entitled to an education at a public university funded by tax dollars? Yes, you've got it exactly right! Well done. Nobody in this country is entitled to any form of higher education. See unraed's comments for the legal precedent.

Edited by knp

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
29 minutes ago, sjoh197 said:

I also fail to see how this is a free speech issue... discriminatory action issue yes, free speech not really. 

First and foremost... if we were to consider this a free speech issue, the precedent will be set when legal issues are resolved with the campus "safe space" or "safe zone" in which freedom of speech is already abandoned through a publicly funded institution in a battle between 1st amendment rights and the OCR's declaration of institutional responsibility to provide an nondiscriminatory educational environment. If "safe spaces" devoid of free speech are permitted by the public institution, then the idea that free speech is fundamental to every aspect of the university's running is null. 

As a discriminatory issue, it is already illegal to discriminate based on race, gender, disability, etc. Which conveniently are all things that are included in my application, and nothing that would have been suddenly revealed in an interview.  And my SOP would have clearly revealed my lack of compliance with every mainstream religion that I know of... just based on my research interests. 

So in reality, what is the interview infringing on that the rest of the application process isn't? Why apply at all? No more SOP's. No more essays. No more letters of recommendation. Just test scores, a transcript, and a name. Better yet... just a form number, because your name might reveal your ethnicity or gender. 

Safe spaces or rather free speech zones are not legal on public university campuses as it violates the first amendment rights of students. Any school that has a free speech zone or a so called "safe space" should not be receiving federal funding at all. But if a public university does have a so called free speech zone or safe spaces (what does that even mean at a public university with a diverse student body who have different thoughts, opinions, beliefs etc,) then it would make sense that these schools would ensure that applicants who have different opinions, are not politically correct, are conservative etc and would not admit such students since they would be deemed a "threat" to other students who want these so called safe spaces. How is that not discriminatory and/or a first amendment violation?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 minutes ago, Golden girl said:

Safe spaces or rather free speech zones are not legal on public university campuses as it violates the first amendment rights of students. Any school that has a free speech zone or a so called "safe space" should not be receiving federal funding at all. But if a public university does have a so called free speech zone or safe spaces (what does that even mean at a public university with a diverse student body who have different thoughts, opinions, beliefs etc,) then it would make sense that these schools would ensure that applicants who have different opinions, are not politically correct, are conservative etc and would not admit such students since they would be deemed a "threat" to other students who want these so called safe spaces. How is that not discriminatory and/or a first amendment violation?

I personally believe that safe spaces are stupid. And illegal. However, there are many universities who have them, and are using the OCR anti discrimination laws to support them. And until that problem is resolved... we certainly aren't going to convince anyone that those universities really care about free speech to all. 

But regardless of that, as I said above, I really don't think that student interviews and essays are in any way a free speech issue. They could become a discrimination issue if the student felt they were being discriminated against because of the interviews... but that has nothing to do with legal free speech. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.