Sam Houston State University: Faculty Member Takes Box Cutter to Students' Free Speech Wall; Police Threaten Students with Misdemeanor
On September 22, 2011, the student groups SHSU Lovers of Liberty, Bearkat Democrats, Young Democratic Socialists, and College Republicans sponsored the display of a "free speech wall," on which students were invited to write any message they wanted. When SHSU Professor Joe E. Kirk saw that someone had written "FUCK OBAMA" on the wall, he demanded that the student organizers cover up the message. When they refused, Kirk returned with a box cutter and cut out the word "FUCK." On the advice of an SHSU administrator, the student groups contacted SHSU's University Police Department to report Kirk's vandalism. After SHSU police Deputy Chief James Fitch interviewed the students and Kirk, however, he ordered the students to either censor the profanity on the wall or take down the wall altogether. The students decided to take down the wall. Fitch later stated that because Kirk was "offended by the use of the profanity," its use "qualified it as disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor." FIRE has written to SHSU's president to protect students' right to free speech.
- "Letter to FIRE from Sam Houston State University President Dana Gibson, January 4, 2012," January 4, 2012
- "FIRE Letter to Sam Houston State University President Dana Gibson, December 22, 2011," December 22, 2011
- "Professor Takes Box Cutter to Students' Free Speech Wall at Sam Houston State University; Police Threaten Students with Charges over Profanity about President Obama," October 6, 2011: Two weeks ago, a professor at Sam Houston State University (SHSU) used a box cutter to cut an insult against President Obama out of a "free speech wall" promoted by four student organizations. When campus police arrived, an officer demanded that the students censor the wall or else face criminal charges for having offended the professor. The students have come to FIRE for help.
- "FIRE Email to SHSU President Dana L. Gibson, October 5, 2011," October 5, 2011
- "Letter from Sam Houston State University to FIRE, October 4, 2011," October 4, 2011
- "Response to FIRE from SHSU President Dana Gibson, September 23, 2011," September 23, 2011
- "FIRE Letter to Sam Houston State University President Dana L. Gibson, September 23, 2011," September 23, 2011
- "Sam Houston State Univ. Free Speech Wall Before and After, September 22, 2011," September 23, 2011
- "Voluntary Statement from Student to Police Regarding Free Speech Wall Vandalism by Faculty, September 22, 2011," September 23, 2011
- "SHSU Social Media Policies and Procedures Manual," September 15, 2011
- "Official Sam Houston State University Social Media Community Application," September 15, 2011
- "Robert Shibley on ‘Cam & Co.’ Tonight with Morgan Freeman!," by Gina Luttrell, October 2, 2012
- "Need More Reasons to Watch FIRE’s Latest Video?," by Peter Bonilla, October 1, 2012
- "New FIRE Video: College Professor Censors Anti-Obama Comment on Free Speech Wall," October 1, 2012: Last year, college censorship took a turn for the ridiculous when a professor at Sam Houston State University vandalized a student-sponsored “free speech wall” with a box-cutting knife to remove anti-President Obama speech he didn’t like. When the students complained about the vandalism to the campus police, the police took the professor’s side and demanded still more censorship, leading students to dismantle the wall. Morgan Freeman, the student who organized the protest, recounts this amazing and disturbing story in FIRE’s latest video. (Warning: strong language.)
- "Thomas Jefferson Center Awards "Muzzles" to Censors at Catawba Valley, Sam Houston State ," by William Creeley, April 12, 2012: The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression has awarded 2012 "Jefferson Muzzles"—an "award" that annually recognizes "egregious or ridiculous affronts to the First Amendment right of free speech"—to participants in two recent FIRE cases. Catawba Valley Community College administrators, Sam Houston State University professor Joe Kirk, and the Sam Houston State University police each earned their Muzzles by stifling student speech in shocking ways. FIRE sends congratulations on this well-earned "honor" to these deserving recipients!
- "Sam Houston State Social Media Policy One of Most Read Stories of 2011 in 'Chronicle' List," by Peter Bonilla, December 21, 2011
- "More on Sam Houston State Dropping Creepy Social Media Policy," by Lyzi Diamond, December 19, 2011
- "Sam Houston State University Throws Out Controversial Social Media Policy," by Adam Kissel, November 17, 2011
- "More on Sam Houston State's Social Media Policy from SPLC," by Joanna Brenner, October 20, 2011
- "Adam Encourages Students to Defend Free Speech Rights at SHSU," by Robert Shibley, October 20, 2011
- "Restrictive Social Media Policy at Sam Houston State U. Exposed at 'eCampus News'," by Peter Bonilla, October 7, 2011
- "Professor Takes Box Cutter to Students' Free Speech Wall at Sam Houston State University; Police Threaten Students with Charges over Profanity about President Obama," by Peter Bonilla, October 6, 2011
- "SHSU Students Protest Social Media Policy With Signs, Slogans, and 'Censored Free Speech Wall'," by Lyzi Diamond, October 3, 2011
- "At Sam Houston State University, Debate Over New Social Media Policy Rages On," by Christe Thompson, September 28, 2011
- "SHSU President Says Free Speech Wall Vandalism by Professor 'Under Investigation'," by Peter Bonilla, September 27, 2011
- "Sam Houston State University Student Newspaper on Free Speech Wall Vandalism," by Robert Shibley, September 27, 2011
- "Morgan Freeman, Student Censored in 'Box Cutter' Case, Speaks Out," by Jaclyn Hall, September 26, 2011
- "In 'Daily Caller,' Robert Rips on Sam Houston State 'Box Cutter' Case," by Azhar Majeed, September 23, 2011
- "Professor Cuts Out Insult to Obama on Students' 'Free Speech Wall' with Box Cutter; Police Threaten Students with Misdemeanor for Public Profanity," by Adam Kissel, September 23, 2011: A faculty member at Sam Houston State University reportedly used a box cutter to cut an expletive out of a "free speech wall" cosponsored by four student organizations that were protesting against a new social media policy at the university. "FUCK OBAMA" had been written on the wall, and other students had replied in kind. Following the organizers' refusal to accede to the faculty member's demand that the speech be censored, the faculty member vandalized the wall. The students called the campus police to report the vandalism, but were threatened by campus police with charges of disturbing the peace and required to remove all profanity from the wall or else take it down. FIRE has intervened.
- "Hey, Colleges: Stop Censoring Political Speech!,"
by William Creeley, The Huffington Post, October 5, 2012
- "School's Censorship Policy Doesn't Fly,"
by Robert Shibley, One News Now, October 5, 2012
- "[VIDEO] Police and Professor Censor Anti-Obama Remarks on University’s Free Speech Wall,"
by Erin Brown, Red Alert Politics, October 2, 2012
- "'Problem': Offensive speech. 'Solution': Censorship and vandalism?,"
by Robert Shibley, The Daily Caller, October 1, 2012
- "Breaking: Morgan Freeman Censored After Allowing "F*ck Obama" on a Free Speech Wall!,"
by Nick Gillespie, Reason Online, October 1, 2012
- "Controversial social media rules spark student backlash,"
by Dennis Carter, eCampus News, October 2, 2011
- "Censored Obama insult: Prof. slashes Free Speech on Texas campus with box cutter,"
by Devonia Smith, examiner.com, September 25, 2011
- "Insult Obama? Not on this campus!,"
by Robert Shibley, The Daily Caller, September 23, 2011
- "Policy protesters take down sign after use of profanity, damages,"
by Stephen Green, The Houstonian, September 22, 2011
- "Proposed social media policy draws criticism from campus community,"
by Stephen Green, The Houstonian, September 15, 2011