SIUC ‘Daily Egyptian’ on FIRE’s Press Release
January 15, 2009
The Daily Egyptian, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale's (SIUC's) student newspaper, ran an article Tuesday night covering FIRE's press release on the ongoing free speech controversy at SIUC. Overall, the article was a comprehensive and fair treatment of the issues—a pleasant surprise in the wake of the Egyptian's editorial earlier Tuesday blasting FIRE and defending the now-revised free speech zone policy as "reasonable and necessary for learning."
Last night's article addresses the fact that at the same time Chancellor Samuel Goldman was defending the free speech zone policy, the university was quietly changing the policy to eliminate the objectionable section on "free speech facilities," which had limited student expressive activity to just one area of campus and provided that "other campus areas will not be used as open forums." The article also discusses FIRE's concerns with other restrictive speech codes in force at SIUC.
The article is definitely worth a read. However, we do want to draw readers' attention to several points in the article that require correction. First, I am quoted in the article as saying that "the university has complied with FIRE on the issue of free speech," and that "the free speech has been resolved." What I actually said, however, was that the university has complied on the issue of the free speech zone, and that the free speech zone has been resolved. Unfortunately, the issue of free speech in general is far from resolved at SIUC, since other SIUC policies continue to prohibit speech and expression protected by the First Amendment. Second, I am also quoted as saying that "legal action" is a possible next step in the case against SIUC. While any unconstitutional speech code in force at a public university is certainly vulnerable to legal challenge by affected students or faculty, FIRE does not engage in litigation and I did not state that legal action was an option on the table at this time. Finally, the article contains a list of SIUC policies with which FIRE takes issue, including an "advertised commitments to freedom of speech policy." While FIRE's Spotlight entry for SIUC does contain information on the university's advertised commitments to free speech, that information is not there as a criticism; it is there so that individuals can be aware of the commitments the university has made to free expression, since in addition to being bound by the First Amendment, the university must abide by the promises it makes to its students and faculty.