At its Council meeting on August 18, the American Bar Association (ABA) Section of Legal Education & Admissions to the Bar voted to advance a proposal to public notice and comment. This “Proposed Standard 208” would require all law schools to have written free speech policies that protect the exchange of ideas and prohibit disruptive activities on campus. Shareholder Daniel Thies is Chair of the Strategic Review Committee which was tasked with drafting the proposal. He was quoted by Reuters:
Council member Daniel Thies said on Friday that the proposal was born out of concerns over legislative efforts to restrict the teaching of subjects such as critical race theory and worries that controversial speakers may not be able to express their opinions on campus.
“Both of these trends reflect an urgent threat to the training of lawyers,” he said.
As reported by www.law.com, Mr. Thies stated during the discussion period:
“…that the current standard, standard 405(b), requires schools to have a policy with respect to academic freedom and tenure, but does not prescribe any particular content or even that it be enforced.
“There was a fairly strong sentiment coming out of that roundtable that the academic freedom and freedom of expression standards needed to be strengthened,” he said.
“Professors must be free to teach and discuss controversial topics, and students must learn how to confront offensive or controversial positions respectfully, so that they can understand the other position and advocate as to why it’s wrong,” Thies said, adding that “shouting down or avoiding such positions cannot be a good way to train lawyers.”
There is concern about the atmosphere on campuses where controversial speakers may not always be allowed to express their opinions, Thies said, plus there is concern about legislatures, boards of universities, governors or other authorities in particular parts of the country who want to outlaw the teaching of certain subjects, including critical race theory or other things, thereby impinging on the academy’s freedom to choose the curriculum.