University of Idaho: Student Charged With Discrimination and Harassment for 'Offensive' Speech
On April 5, 2010, University of Idaho student Alex Rowson was charged with "discrimination" for saying that "illegal immigration destroyed my home state of California" when he interrupted a break in a musical concert celebrating César Chávez Day. In an unrelated incident, he was charged on April 23, 2010, with "harassing" other students by shouting that "liberalism is destroying America" during a "Take Back the Night" march. After FIRE wrote President Duane Nellis and demonstrated why the charges of "discrimination" and "harassment" were unfounded, the university eventually dropped all charges against Rowson relating to discrimination and harassment.
- "Letter to FIRE from University of Idaho Counsel Charles Graham," May 13, 2010
- "Amended Charges Against Alex Rowson," May 12, 2010
- "FIRE Letter to University of Idaho President Duane Nellis," May 5, 2010
- "Second Set of Charges Against Alex Rowson," April 23, 2010
- "Charges Against Alex Rowson," April 5, 2010
- "University of Idaho Revises Former 'Speech Code of the Month' Policy," by Samantha Harris, August 12, 2010: The University of Idaho has revised a residence hall harassment policy that FIRE named our Speech Code of the Month in September 2009. Before it was revised, the policy provided that "Actions and/or communication that are discriminatory, harassing or insensitive are not permitted." The 2010-2011 version of Idaho's Residence Hall Handbook contains a revised harassment policy which now provides that "Actions and/or communication that are discriminatory or harassing are not permitted." Insensitivity is no longer a punishable offense at the University of Idaho, and that is a very good thing. We commend the university's administration for making this necessary and important change.
- "University of Idaho ‘Argonaut’ Covers FIRE Free Speech Case; UI Won’t Reveal Name of Secret Accuser," by Adam Kissel, June 3, 2010
- "Victory: University of Idaho Drops Charges of Harassment and Discrimination for 'Offensive' Speech," by Peter Bonilla, May 24, 2010: After FIRE intervened, the University of Idaho (UI) abandoned disciplinary charges of "harass[ment]" and "discrimination" for political statements a student made at two campus events. In separate incidents in March and April, student Alexander Rowson had made impassioned political statements about topics such as "illegal immigration." After FIRE reminded UI that it may not punish students for speech simply because it offends certain individuals or groups, UI rescinded all charges relating to discrimination and harassment. FIRE remains concerned about threats to due process in this case, however, since UI has maintained other charges but has failed to reveal the identity of Rowson's accuser.