FIRE Board of Advisors member Christina Hoff Sommers is no stranger to speaking her mind. As the author of books such as The War Against Boys and One Nation Under Therapy, Sommers has taken firm stances on many hot button issues. But in FIRE's latest video, Sommers argues that today's students are afraid to express their own potentially controversial viewpoints. She believes students are enveloped within a cultural phenomenon she calls "the tyranny of niceness." So concerned with not offending their peers' beliefs, students are hesitant to take a stand for what they believe in.
In today's Wall Street Journal, mother and attorney Judith Grossman writes about the appalling lack of due process afforded her son when he was charged by a campus tribunal with sexual misconduct that allegedly happened years in the past. Grossman writes: "What followed was a nightmare—a fall through Alice's looking-glass into a world that I could not possibly have believed existed, least of all behind the ivy-covered walls thought to protect an ostensible dedication to enlightenment and intellectual betterment." Grossman's op-ed is a must read for anyone concerned about fundamental rights on campus. Read Full Article
In 2010, Isaac Rosenbloom complained to a fellow student after his Oral Communications class that a grade he received on an assignment was "going to f**k up [his] entire GPA." Rosenbloom’s professor at Hinds Community College in Mississippi overheard the comment, threatened him with "detention," and submitted a disciplinary complaint to the school. The school found Rosenbloom—a husband and father of two children—guilty under the university’s speech code of "flagrant disrespect" and involuntarily withdrew him from the class, causing him to lose his financial aid eligibility and threatening his paramedic training. With FIRE’s help, Rosenbloom was able to get his academic career back on track.
FIRE Legislative & Policy Director Joe Cohn takes to the pages of Newark's TheStar-Ledger this morning to rebut calls from New Jersey elected officials to pass new federal anti-bullying legislation in the wake of the Rutgers basketball scandal. Pointing out that former basketball coach Mike Rice's behavior was already prohibited by Rutgers policy and existing laws, Joe argues that broad federal anti-bullying legislation would only serve to threaten protected speech on campus. Read Full Article
FIRE is pleased to announce the publication of legal scholarship authored by former Justice Robert H. Jackson Legal Fellow Andrew Kloster. Andrew's article, "Student and Professorial Causes of Action Against Non-University Actors" (PDF), was published in the Spring 2013 issue of the George Mason University Civil Rights Law Journal. In the article, Andrew argues that when student and faculty rights are endangered as a result of third-party action—for example, the mandates announced in the April 4, 2011, "Dear Colleague" letter issued by the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights—new means of redress should be explored beyond traditional contract law. Read Full Article
FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for April 2013: Washington University in St. Louis. In the university's residence halls, harassment is defined as "any behavior or conduct that is injurious, or potentially injurious to a person's physical, emotional, or psychological well-being, as determined at the sole discretion of the University." This policy, which gives the university unfettered discretion to punish an almost unlimited amount of student expression, violates the university's stated commitments to free speech and almost certainly has a powerful chilling effect on campus expression. Read Full Article