In FIRE's latest video, the second in our two-part series documenting Syracuse University's student rights violations, we revisit the case of Len Audaer, a student at Syracuse University College of Law (SUCOL). Audaer was the subject of a lengthy school investigation into his alleged involvement with SUCOLitis, an anonymous, satirical blog about life in law school meant to emulate The Onion. Despite the protected nature of the speech in question and a lack of clear evidence of Audaer's involvement with the site, the school hung charges of "harassment" and threats of expulsion over Audaer's head throughout the course of the 120-day investigation. It was only after Audaer got in contact with FIRE that the university began to back down. "Because of FIRE," says Audaer, "Syracuse University College of Law stopped prosecuting me for exercising my right to free speech." Read Full Article
The University of Central Florida (UCF) has reinstated Professor Hyung-il Jung three weeks after unconstitutionally suspending him on the basis of an in-class joke. FIRE wrote to UCF President John C. Hitt in April, urging this result and reminding UCF of its First Amendment obligations. Read Full Article
In a shocking affront to the United States Constitution, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education have joined together to order that nearly every college and university in the United States, public and private, establish unconstitutional speech codes that violate the First Amendment and decades of legal precedent. UPDATE 5/17/13: FIRE President Greg Lukianoff, in The Wall Street Journal's lead op-ed space, discusses how the government has mandated a breathtakingly broad definition of sexual harassment that makes virtually every student in the United States a harasser, completely ignoring the First Amendment.
With three FIRE cases in the last three years, Syracuse University has been on FIRE's list of serial violators of student and faculty free speech rights for some time now. In fact, in 2011 and 2012, the school was featured prominently on our annual Huffington Post "Worst Colleges for Free Speech" list. FIRE's next few videos will chronicle Syracuse's abysmal record protecting rights on campus by revisiting two of the school's most headline-grabbing cases. We start this week with the case of Matthew Werenczak, a School of Education student who was expelled over comments he posted on Facebook:
FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for May 2013: Troy University in Alabama. Troy's harassment policy prohibits "any comments or conduct consisting of words or actions that are unwelcome or offensive to a person in relation to sex, race, age, religion, national origin, color, marital status, pregnancy, or disability or veteran's status"-a definition so broad that it renders almost any political speech a punishable offense. After all, who among us does not routinely encounter political opinions that are "offensive" to us in relation to our sex, race, religion, age, and so forth? Troy is a public university bound by the First Amendment, and this policy completely betrays that obligation. Read Full Article
In a surprise announcement via email yesterday, Trinity College President James Jones announced his intention to step down from his post in June 2014, one year before the end of his contract. Jones reported in the same email that Board of Trustees Chair Paul E. Raether will also leave the Trustees' top position. Trinity's two top leaders signaled their departures as student and alumni dissatisfaction is increasing over a new social codethat violates Trinity's promises of freedom of association and effectively bans fraternities and sororities through gender quotas and other measures. Read Full Article
Today, FIRE sent a letter to the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System urging reform of a policy that contains language explicitly declared unconstitutional by a federal court. Language contained in Board of Regents' Policy 14-6, the "Racist and Other Discriminatory Conduct Policy," was adopted as a systemwide rule in 1989, but it was quickly ruled unconstitutional in The UWM Post, Inc. v. Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, 774 F. Supp. 1163 (E.D. Wis. 1991). Nonetheless, Policy 14-6 still suggests that UW institutions adopt the very language that was struck down systemwide in UWM Post - and a number of them have done just that. FIRE is joined in its efforts today by two groups of UW faculty, who sent their ownlettersechoing FIRE's concerns. Read Full Article
Today over at the Manhattan Institute's Minding the Campus, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff and Senior Vice President Robert Shibley discuss "6 Ways to Defeat Campus Censors." They suggest that possible solutions may include forcing all colleges accepting federal funding to enact policies promising free speech, targeting prime constituencies like alumni and high school students, or even launching an aggressive litigation campaign against those schools maintaining unconstitutional speech policies. Read Full Article