Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Brunson & Aprill: Trump Tweets, Tax Law And Alleged University 'Propaganda'

The Hill op-ed:  Trump Tweets, Tax Law and Alleged University 'Propaganda', by Samuel D. Brunson (Loyola-Chicago) & Ellen P. Aprill (Loyola-L.A.):

On the morning of July 10, 2020, President Donald Trump tweeted, “Too many Universities and School Systems are about Radical Left Indoctrination, not Education. Therefore, I am telling the Treasury Department to re-examine their Tax-Exempt Status ... and/or Funding, which will be taken away if this Propaganda or Act Against Public Policy continues. Our children must be Educated, not Indoctrinated!” He tweeted in reaction to the broad opposition by the university community to the administration’s announcement that foreign students would have to take at least one in-person class or be denied permission to stay in the United States.

Trump’s tweets set off a firestorm of reactions focusing on the implicit political threat against free speech. Within a few days, what Trump had dubbed “Propaganda” resulted in his administration changing its policy. Nonetheless, identifying errors in his tweets remains important.

Trump’s misunderstanding of the applicable tax law also helps us better understand both the rules for tax-exempt colleges and universities and the important role they play in our society. ...

While in theory this prohibition on targeting for ideological beliefs could come up against the public policy doctrine — an entity might espouse an ideological belief contrary to fundamental public policy — that possibility does not arise here. The position of the Trump administration regarding visas for foreign student does not amount to fundamental public policy and, thus, opposition to it, does not violate the public policy doctrine.

The president’s tweet, however, has asked the Treasury Department to target universities based on their ideological beliefs. It is the president, not the university community, that seeks to violate applicable law by asking federal tax administrators to examine colleges and universities on the basis of the schools’ principles and beliefs.

Tax, Tax News | Permalink


TaxGal: "The reason there are more progressives in the academy is because..."

Alternatively, progressives decide who gets hired, and actively disciminates against anyone who doesn't agree.

BTW, the belief that America is thoroughly racist at all levels, and has made absolutely no racial progress in the last 50 years, and that "white" people have the original sin of slavery in their skin, all positions that woke anti-racist progressives now espouse, and the most extreme positions imaginable outside of academia.

The crazies you're defending want to deconstruct America, lock, stock, and barrel, and rebuild it from the ground up, like Mao tried to in China. Full stop.

Posted by: MM | Jul 28, 2020 7:46:00 PM

The reason there are more progressives in the academy is because the so-called "conservative" right has moved to extremist positions that seek to protect male hegemony, tends to hypocrisy, engages in ad hominem attacks against women and others who promote new views of how society functions, is unwilling to consider new ideas, and tends to be out of tune with the intellectual foundations of the academy.

Posted by: TaxGal | Jul 26, 2020 11:33:09 AM

Bravo, David.

Posted by: Michael T Petrik | Jul 25, 2020 4:07:31 AM

Five years ago, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt published an analysis in The Atlantic that detailed what was occurring in American universities. In “The Coddling of the American Mind”, they wrote: “Something strange is happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense.” The authors go on to warn:

This new climate is slowly being institutionalized, and is affecting what can be said in the classroom, even as a basis for discussion. … [T]he deans and department chairs at the 10 University of California system schools were presented by administrators at faculty leader-training sessions with examples of microaggressions. The list of offensive statements included: “America is the land of opportunity” and “I believe the most qualified person should get the job.”

Unfortunately, the “new climate” Lukianoff and Haidt predicted has come upon universities far more rapidly, and been institutionalized much more deeply, than expected. In part this is due to the power of social media. The Internet has allowed an exponentially larger and more powerful degree of collaboration among ideological groups. A number of figures who played critical roles in the technology’s development and designing the algorithms that drive Internet applications, such as Tim Berners-Lee, have lamented the abuses that have become the norm for the system they created. Rather than being a great gift to democratic societies that elevated us to a new level of wisdom and cooperation, as they anticipated, the Internet and social media has allowed organized, instantaneous, and relentless attacks against anyone unfortunate enough to become a target of “the mob”. These attacks have become the norm in politics, the media, and in universities. Their purpose is to intimidate, silence others, and gain power, and they are working.

This situation has reached the point where we are engaged in a struggle for the quality and heart of how we are allowed to conduct discourse and interact with each other. Without free, interactive, conflicting and even bitter discourse democracy cannot survive. Within the university, which is the primary but not exclusive focus of this essay, the struggle for control of language means that the institution’s long-professed culture of intellectual freedom and independence has become twisted into one of political allegiance, conformity and repression. It has also become a mechanism for mob attacks aimed at denouncing, smearing, terrorizing and misstating. While much about the Internet remains phenomenal, it has a very dark and vicious side in the hands of “holy warriors” and true believers who are convinced without exception that anything they say or do is undeniably correct or, equally ominous in a Machiavellian sense of ends justifying means, that anything they say or do—true, false or grossly distorted—is justified. In their world if you submit to their positions, you survive. If you resist, you are a target. To a dismaying extent that has become the American university.

Just ask Harald Uhlig, William Jacobson, Michael Rectenwald, Gordon Klein and numerous others—faculty and students alike—who have become victims of ideological “gangs” committed to savaging, deplatforming, and canceling those they see as offenders and destroying their careers. Ask students at Louisiana State University who faced being dismissed from an instructor’s courses if she, or a supportive colleague who immediately joined her “parade” subjectively decide what a student might say anywhere is “hate speech” according to their personal definitions. Or put yourself in the place of a student at the University of North Carolina where after a classroom discussion a faculty member sent an e-mail to an entire class stating that the student did not agree with her views on homosexuality and was therefore engaging in “hate speech”. She then added he represented a clear example of white “Christian” male entitlement. Consider further the very, very strange situation described by Lukianoff and Haidt in which:

Indiana University–Purdue University at Indianapolis found a white student guilty of racial harassment for reading a book titled Notre Dame vs. the Klan. The book honored student opposition to the Ku Klux Klan when it marched on Notre Dame in 1924. Nonetheless, the picture of a Klan rally on the book’s cover offended at least one of the student’s co-workers (he was a janitor as well as a student), and that was enough for a guilty finding by the university’s Affirmative Action Office.

With such examples readily at hand, it is easy to understand why Matt Taibbi, a longtime liberal and activist as well as contributing editor of Rolling Stone felt compelled to write about what can only be described as the insanity of far too many on the left, including academics, journalists and erstwhile Social Justice Warriors. With a history of being raised in the former Soviet Union and working various times within Russia, Taibbi is familiar with the dangers of propaganda and intellectual repression. Taibbi published an article discussing the striking growth in intolerant and repressive attacks by the American left, with which he identifies. He describes the growth of a mind control culture by people being created by people with whom he has long identified. In “The American Press Is Destroying Itself”, Taibbi explains what he sees.

[T]he American left has lost its mind. It’s become a cowardly mob of upper-class social media addicts, [acting as] Twitter Robespierres who move from discipline to discipline torching reputations and jobs with breathtaking casualness. The leaders of this new movement are replacing traditional liberal beliefs about tolerance, free inquiry, and even racial harmony with ideas so toxic and unattractive that they eschew debate, moving straight to shaming, threats, and intimidation.

Over the past 30 years there has been a dramatic shift toward Left/Liberal political allegiance among university faculty. One study found a 6:1 ratio of Liberal to Conservative faculty. Another determined the ratio to be closer to 12:1. A 2016 study found liberal/left university professors vastly outnumbered conservative ones. The study also revealed a steadily widening ideological split. Appearing in the Econ Journal Watch, faculty voter registration at 40 leading universities was examined. Out of 7,243 professors for whom data were available, Democrats outnumbered Republicans 3,623 to 314, almost a 12 to 1 ratio. In History departments as of 2016, liberals outnumbered conservatives by a 33 to 1 ratio. Compare this with a 1968 study that found the Democrat-to-Republican proportion in history departments to be 2.7 to 1.

Consistent with what is described above, the authors suggest that the growing disparity in political ideology is caused to some degree by the increase of academic subcategories, including “the histories of gender, race and class, where a liberal orientation is the foundation for subsequent research.” A result is that the political and ideological schism is particularly stark in sub-disciplines such as women’s studies, gender identity, critical race theory, and similar topics. Is is not difficult to figure out why this is so. Nor am I saying that legitimate grievances do not exist that need to be surfaced. Of course they do. But, activists and academics are different in their obligations and perspectives. As these sub-disciplines expanded in the university curriculum, faculty were hired who were fully committed to conveying and challenging what they understandably saw as the undeniable, unalterable and vital core of their subject.

This very often meant that what was done through teaching and research in such sub-disciplines wasn’t simply the performance of a traditional academic teaching and research exercise, but a fault-finding process with significant evangelical overtones. At the center of its method and subject matter was commitment to a specific set of principles and conclusions. These included the ideas of victimization, identity, compensation for past misdeeds, and the need to reveal, blame and shame anyone the new wave of critical faculty considered responsible for the plight of the victimized classes with which they closely identified.

One possible result worth examining is suggested by a Washington Post report by Christopher Ingram. In “The dramatic shift among college professors that’s hurting students’ education”, Ingram explains: “In 1990, according to survey data by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA, 42 percent of professors identified as “liberal” or “far-left.” By 2014, that number had jumped to 60 percent. Over the same period, the number of academics identifying as “moderate” fell by 13 percentage points, and the share of “conservative” and “far-right” professors dropped nearly six points.”

The problem is the threat to a comprehensive and balanced educational experience for students. The group authoring the UCLA study about which Ingram reports, revealed that concern. “With relatively few right-leaning voices in the professoriate, particularly in the humanities and the social sciences where ideas matter most, many college students receive less than the intellectually rigorous education … they deserve.” This is not a good idea in the complex, dynamic, and challenging world we are facing.

Propaganda, Liberal, Left, Conservative, language suppression, political correctness, university, linguistic intimidation, Uhlig, cancel culture, deplatforming, danger to democracy, ideological split among academics, Rectenwald, Gordon Klein, hate speech
Arts and Humanities, Education, Law, Law and Politics, Life Sciences, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Political Science, American Politics, Comparative Politics, Sociology and Politics and Social Change
Publication Date
Summer June 23, 2020
Citation Information
David Barnhizer. "The University as Propaganda Instrument" (2020)
Available at:

Posted by: David Barnhizer | Jul 24, 2020 7:44:27 AM


While Trump cannot direct the revocation of their tax exempt status, he might be able to seriously threaten their federal funding, or at least cause federal investigations which, by themselves, can have a major impact.

Interestingly, organizations, students, or professors who are conservative, or who for whatever reason support his policies, or are simply concerned about protecting free speech on their campus, seem to have the power to trigger just such actions.

For more information, see:
How Trump Can Legally Crack Down on Colleges’ “Radical Left Indoctrination”

Posted by: LawProf John Banzhaf | Jul 22, 2020 2:57:35 PM