How Students Made a Difference for Liberty in 2009
January 6, 2010
by Luke Sheahan
For the past few days FIRE has been looking back over our list of accomplishments in 2009. That list would not be complete without mentioning the students who have worked so hard to make their campuses more free.
- At the College of William & Mary, former FIRE intern and Campus Freedom Network member Braum Katz led a reform effort from within the student government as Student Assembly Secretary of Student Rights to revise all constitutionally problematic speech codes. In October, William & Mary eliminated the last of its troublesome policies and FIRE officially gave the college's policies a green-light rating in Spotlight, our speech code database.
- Cornell University has seen its share of illiberalism regarding free speech. Fortunately, former FIRE intern and CFN member John Cetta has been faithfully working through student government and The Cornell Daily Sun, carefully articulating a cogent defense of freedom of association and freedom of speech, to defend these essential rights for all Cornell students. His work has already led to the rejection of one bad policy proposal, and more students are rallying to the defense of liberty on Cornell's campus.
- The Breeze, the student paper at James Madison University, picked up on FIRE's concerns over an absurdly broad policy prohibiting "lewd, indecent...expression" even when off campus, which earned the university a designation as our Speech Code of the Month for October. Student and current CFN member John Scott followed up with an investigatory op-ed on the policy. Pressure from FIRE and JMU students brought about the reform of the policy in late October.
- The University of North Texas eliminated its "Free Speech and Public Assembly Policy," which restricted free expression to six small areas of the campus and required reservations two days in advance plus approval from the Dean of Students. The policy change came after FIRE wrote to the university and the UNT Free Speech Coalition, a group of UNT students dedicated to securing the right to free expression on the UNT campus, met with UNT President Gretchen Bataille.
These examples show how active students, empowered with knowledge about their rights and FIRE's resources, can make a difference for liberty on campus. We invite students interested in working for liberty on their campuses in 2010 to register for the Campus Freedom Network and send us an e-mail.