Kansas officials rack up $4M bill in defense of Kris Kobach’s baseless voter fraud law

The American Civil Liberties Union and other attorneys want to be repaid more than $4 million for their five-year legal battle with Kansas officials who fought to restrict voter registration under the false pretense of widespread voter fraud.

The proposed price tag adds a punctuation mark to the prolonged fight over former Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s signature law, which required new voters to prove their citizenship before registering to vote.

Five law faculty join first cohort of KU Public Scholars Group

Thursday, February 18, 2021

LAWRENCE — A diverse group of University of Kansas researchers from a broad range of scholarly backgrounds — and including many female and underrepresented voices — will receive training and work together to produce public scholarship that speaks to a broader audience.

The KU Public Scholars Group includes 24 faculty members from the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and the schools of Business, Education & Human Sciences, Journalism & Mass Communications, Law, Music and Professional Studies.

The initiative will be housed in the Center for Faculty Development and Mentoring, and co-led by Ani Kokobobo, associate professor and chair of Slavic and Eurasian languages & literatures, and Jennifer Raff, associate professor of anthropology.

The KU Public Scholars Group builds on several previous programs designed to encourage public scholarship at KU, furthered by a faculty network to provide peer mentoring and a sustained conversation focused on a series of workshops addressing a variety of formats for public engagement.

Chris Brown, vice provost for faculty development, articulated the importance of public scholarship in its many forms as “a way to share faculty expertise beyond our campus and our professional networks. It opens possibilities for our faculty to engage with the broader public and helps move us toward our vision to be an exceptional learning community that lifts each other and advances society.”

The initiative is made possible through partnership with and support from the Hall Center for the Humanities and the KU Center for Research. Richard Godbeer, director of the Hall Center for the Humanities, a key sponsor for the initiative, noted the importance and timeliness of this initiative.

“The need for informed public conversation has never been greater, and the work we do as academics can enrich that dialogue in so many ways,” Godbeer said. “Humanities scholars have often taken the lead in public scholarship, and I’m delighted that the Hall Center for the Humanities can support this important new program.”

The Public Scholars will undergo training in accessible communication from The OpEd Project and from local, national and international experts in writing, public speaking and media. The participants will consider a range of questions, including how to transition from academic writing to a more accessible ways of communicating; how to pitch public scholarship to major media outlets; and how to respond to media attention.

KU Public Scholars will meet regularly throughout 2021 to assist each other in producing public scholarship and placing their work in high-visibility venues. The program also aims to create a group of faculty communicators who are equipped to mentor future cohorts of Public Scholars as well as KU students.

“Insights from KU scholarship and research have their greatest value when they are shared broadly,” said Simon Atkinson, vice chancellor for research. “Public scholars have a special role in connecting our work with a broader audience in Kansas and beyond. I’m excited about what we will hear from this accomplished, diverse group of scholars in the coming months.”

Can Africa’s first WTO chief help her own continent or avert US-China cold war?

  • Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to become director general of World Trade Organization after US dropped its objection
  • But the US has been obstructive in the WTO and some analysts argue the body faces a struggle to regain its relevance

Africa is to have its first director general of the World Trade Organization, with Nigeria’s former finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala set to be confirmed as its head when members meet in the next few days. She will also make history as the first woman to lead the body.

Budget 2021: An import substitution relapse?

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. (‘The more things change, the more they stay the same.’) This epigram, coined by Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, Editor of Le Figaro, in 1848-49, is such a cliché it should be avoided. Except when it’s unavoidable.

To India’s fiscal year 2021 union budget, it’s unavoidable. This budget confirms India’s relapse to import substitution. Modiji’s foreign trade policy looks ever more like that of Panditji and his daughter, Indira, from Independence to the early 1990s.

Law professor to serve as virtual visiting scholar at Emory

Thursday, January 28, 2021

LAWRENCE — University of Kansas School of Law Professor Lua Kamál Yuille will serve as the inaugural virtual visiting scholar at the Vulnerability and the Human Condition Initiative, which is based at Emory University in Atlanta.

The Vulnerability and the Human Condition Initiative is an academic space for scholars to research the vulnerability of human beings and their reliance on social relationships and institutions.

“Vulnerability is a part of my daily work,” Yuille said. “I'm really excited to get to spend a sustained amount of time focusing on that and turning around some of my own scholarship on vulnerability theory.”

Yuille is an interdisciplinary scholar whose work connects property theory, economics, business law, critical pedagogy and group identity. As a visiting scholar at the Vulnerability and the Human Condition Initiative, Yuille will examine how a vulnerability framework can be applied to the concepts of property and business enterprises.

In her scholarship, Yuille aims to address how property shapes identity and community at a structural level. 

“I believe that our political system has made the institution of private property the default way we expect people to respond to their innate vulnerability,” Yuille said. “I’m really excited about laying that out.”

Additionally, Yuille will research the role of the corporation in resilience. 

“I am really interested in understanding the role that the corporation plays in protecting us and informing our identity,” Yuille said.

Yuille began her role as a visiting scholar Jan. 11 and will continue in the position until August. In addition to her research on vulnerability theory, Yuille will participate in workshops and conferences with academics from a variety of fields.

The virtual aspect of the visiting scholar position appealed to Yuille because it gave her an avenue to explore scholarship without having to move her family across the country.

“It allowed me to maintain my life at KU while still pursuing this exciting opportunity,” Yuille said.

Yuille will continue to teach at KU Law during the spring 2021 semester and incorporate her vulnerability theory research into the material she teaches law students.

Yuille joined the KU faculty as an associate professor of law and an affiliate faculty member of the Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies in 2013. She was promoted to tenured law professor in 2019.

Black parents protect children's privacy through home schooling, research shows

Tuesday, January 26, 2021


LAWRENCE — Privacy is among the most cherished of American rights. Yet, one of society’s most vulnerable populations — Black children — are denied the benefits of the right to privacy through discriminatory educational practices, and a growing number of Black parents are turning to home education to protect that right, according to a University of Kansas privacy law scholar. 

In a landmark 1890 article, Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis outlined the right to privacy, in essence, as the right to be left alone. Privacy law and jurisprudence have followed from that inspiration, codifying in law the right for individuals to have privacy in body, property and mind. However, discriminatory practices in U.S. education have continued to deny Black children the right to be let alone and to fully reach their potential without excessive discipline, underrepresentation in gifted and talented programs, placement in the school-to-prison pipeline and more, according to Najarian Peters, associate professor of law, who recently published “The Right to Be and Become: Black Home-educators as Child Privacy Protectors” in the Michigan Journal of Race and Law.

Peters' research details the growing number of Black parents protecting their children’s privacy by home-schooling their children to shield them from racial preconceptions and provide their children the opportunity to achieve self-actualization.

Peters became aware of the increasing numbers of Black parents home-educating and their reasons for doing so starting in 2018.

“I recognized the connection between privacy law foundations and home educating by hearing these parents talk about why they had to home-educate their children, their motivations and reading social science research about home education, especially Black home education. As I was reading the research, I began to see direct comparisons between what I read and heard from Black parents who are home-educating their children and privacy theory and law. Black parents see home education as a means of protecting and preserving their children’s childhood,” Peters said. “And those motivations are aligned with the purpose of privacy and privacy theory as initially shaped by Warren and Brandeis in their article, 'The Right to Privacy,' as well as many privacy studies that followed.” 

Peters interviewed families in New Jersey and Georgia, states with some of the most conducive laws to home schooling, about their motivations and experiences. The main motivation the families shared was “racial protection,” or shielding their children from negative distortion/mischaracterization that leads to excessive discipline, unequal punishment and denial of educational opportunities.

“Their motivations matched what the right to privacy, as a social good, is supposed to protect, self-actualization — and in childhood that means finding and becoming yourself at the most vulnerable stage in human development,” Peters said.

Research cited in Peters' article shows that Black students are criminalized in schools with more police officers present, fewer guidance counselors, enhanced security and other measures. Data has also shown that when Black students attend predominantly white schools, they are subject to more exclusionary discipline and are excluded from gifted and talented educational opportunities. Despite lower representation in the overall student population, Black students receive harsher punishment for the same offenses as white children. Some parents have experienced those disparities in their own educations and chose to withdraw their children from formal education or never enter them as a means of protecting their educational experience.

“When we think about what the research shows happens to many Black students in traditional schooling, regardless of their family’s socioeconomic status, parents’ educational attainment, whether it’s a public, parochial or private school, Black students are consistently overrepresented in negative categories but are underrepresented in the positive categories,” Peters said.

Other research cited by Peters shows that while white students are more often disciplined for objective behaviors such as smoking, writing on walls, skipping class or other observable behaviors, Black students are more often disciplined for subjective reasons such as “being disrespectful,” “loud,” “aggressive” or “insubordinate.”

“The same behaviors in white children are often labeled as a sign of precociousness or a need for the student to be more challenged academically. Those labels are then placed in a student’s educational file and follow them throughout their educational career, in essence prohibiting them from being let alone to achieve,” Peters said.

Home-educators interviewed for the article said that when children are interfered with in such ways at a young age, they learn early on how they are treated differently because of race. That not only affects their academic performance, confidence, self-esteem and achievement mindset, it can deny them of the benefits of childhood.

“Black home-educators are saying, ‘I don’t want my child to be shaped by this, and I don’t want my child to know themselves based on the racialized/anti-Black projections of someone else,’” Peters said. “They’re saying, ‘I want my child to have the benefit of childhood to be and become without that burden,’ and the data shows that they should be concerned.”

Throughout the article, Peters cites educational research not only in unequal discipline, but in theory supporting privacy theory and law as a support for educational achievement. In future research, she hopes to continue examining privacy law and education through a wider socioeconomic lens and exploring how FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, should be enhanced to recognize negative distortions in educational records that are often placed permanently at the discretion of teachers.

“The vast majority of K-12 teachers are not trained in or assessed for racial literacy and bias. Nor are they required to have and maintain a level of competency in these areas prior to and throughout their teaching careers. Yet, they exercise broad discretion to characterize student behavior, ability and achievement, and then codify their observations in student education records,” Peters said. “The data that shows disproportionate negative impact on Black students suggests that there are unidentified deficiencies not so much in the students who are assessed, although in problematic ways, but in teachers and other school actors. In my forthcoming article, 'The Golem in The Machine: FERPA, Dirty Data, and Digital Distortion In The Education Record,' I explore some of these issues.

“We know from the data that Black children are more likely to be negatively distorted. The only way we can believe those observations are accurate representations of what is truly happening is to believe that Black children are more badly behaved and less intelligent when compared to white children. The data does not bear that out,” Peters said. “That’s why we see so much rational distrust and skepticism from Black parents who home-educate about the K-12 educational system.”

Photo credit: Earl Richardson

Reversal of transgender military ban more than 'reopening of door of opportunity,' discrimination law expert says

Monday, January 25, 2021

LAWRENCE — President Joe Biden issued an executive order Monday ending a ban on transgender individuals serving in the military. The order reverses a policy put in place by the Trump administration. Kyle Velte, associate professor of law at the University of Kansas and expert in sexual orientation and gender identity and the law, employment discrimination and related areas, is available to speak with media about the order.

The order effectively returns to the policy put in place during the Obama administration preventing discrimination against transgender individuals in military service. Velte, who has written extensively on employment discrimination and LBGTQ rights, can comment on the order, its ramifications, employment law and the military, Supreme Court rulings on LGBTQ rights and related topics.

“Today’s executive order represents much more than simply reopening the door of opportunity for transgender individuals who wish to serve in the military,” Velte said. “It is, of course, important and historic for that reason. But it is just as important for the messages that it sends — that transgender individuals are as qualified and capable to serve in the U.S. military, transgender people share in the country’s promise of equality, that they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, and that our nation is stronger when it embraces diversity.”

Velte has published research on the intersection of sexuality, gender and the law in the Yale Law & Policy Review, Cardozo Law Review and Connecticut law review and has written or co-written amicus briefs for the Supreme Court cases Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, United States v. Windsor, Obergefell v. Hodges and Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

To schedule an interview, contact Mike Krings at 785-864-8860, mkrings@ku.edu or @MikeKrings.

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