Rogers State Official Out after FIRE Intervenes in Controversy
October 26, 2010
Both The Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, Okla.) and the Claremore Daily Progress (Okla.) are reporting that Rogers State University (RSU) Coordinator of Student Activities Lynn Brown is no longer employed at Rogers State. The articles connect the end of her employment with the fact that FIRE recently intervened in a students' rights controversy at RSU in which Brown played a prominent part. The article in the Claremore Daily Progress, RSU's hometown paper, begins this way:
CLAREMORE - A Rogers State University administrator has lost her job following a student rights dispute that grabbed the attention of a national advocacy group.
The New York-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education accused Student Activities Coordinator Lynn Brown of violating students' speech rights consistently after she was hired in June. A university official confirmed Friday that Brown left RSU Tuesday.
"All I can say is that she no longer works for the university," said Tobie Titsworth, vice president for student affairs. "We can't comment on personnel matters."
FIRE's Peter Bonilla reported at length on the controversy at RSU here on The Torch back on October 12. In short, a group called Organization for Advocating the Rights of Students (OARS) had been struggling to gain recognition on the RSU campus despite, as far as anyone could tell, following all the rules in order to apply for recognition. It was Brown's statements in her letters to RSU student and OARS founder Renee Morse-Heenan that constituted the bulk of the evidence for RSU's abuse of the First Amendment. In our letter, FIRE said that Brown's statements—for instance, her erroneous assertion that flyers had to be approved through Student Affairs should students wish to distribute them—"are significant threats to the First Amendment on campus."
Was Brown fired because of FIRE's intervention on behalf of the student rights she was denying? We don't know for sure. Indeed, RSU refuses to confirm whether she was fired or is no longer employed for some other reason. But it is telling that two local newspapers picked up the story and made the connection (without FIRE's prompting, by the way). It seems that for Lynn Brown, ignoring the rights of students may well have proven to be a poor choice.
Still, as in most of FIRE's cases, it should never have come to this. Most of us learned from our parents or in school that rules are usually there for a reason—and the same goes for laws like the First Amendment. Sometimes rules and laws can be unjust or problematic, but the solution is not to ignore them but to challenge them. University administrators who ignore the Constitution or their institution's own rules should face the same consequences that anyone else in any other job would face. The fact that they usually don't is a big part of the problem on America's campuses.