The Need for Vigilance
April 11, 2006
by Chris Perez
FIRE’s Spotlight: The Campus Freedom Resource
restrictions on speech at colleges and universities across the country. Yet we at FIRE often see administrators stray from official policy and censor students with unwritten
policies or arbitrary actions. Therefore, students must be vigilant not only about the written policies governing speech on campus but also about their administration’s daily approach to handling controversial speech.
The latest example of the disconnect between policy and action occurred at the University of Southern California
. As FIRE reported in a press release
yesterday, Eddie Marquez, an administrator at USC, shut down both a performance and student protests because of the use of vulgar language. The Daily Trojan
, USC’s student newspaper, reported
that Marquez said, “We don’t want to offend anyone.”
Although Marquez was not following any written policy, his actions, taken in his official capacity as a USC administrator, risked impermissibly chilling speech on USC’s campus.
After FIRE wrote a letter
to USC to express our concern with Marquez’s unjustified actions, Vice President for Student Affairs Michael L. Jackson wrote an open letter
to the USC community. He wrote:
A very unfortunate mistake in judgment was made that called into question one of the most fundamental tenets of a university community; freedom of speech and its special place in promoting discussion, inquiry, and the exchange of ideas.
All members of a campus community need to remain vigilant. Whether the school is a “red light” or a “green light,” public or private, secular or religious, everyone on campus should know his rights and fight to protect those rights.