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
FIRE Board of Advisors member Christina Hoff Sommers is no stranger to speaking her mind. As the author of books such as The War Against Boys and One Nation Under Therapy, Sommers has taken firm stances on many hot button issues. But in FIRE's latest video, Sommers argues that today's students are afraid to express their own potentially controversial viewpoints. She believes students are enveloped within a cultural phenomenon she calls "the tyranny of niceness." So concerned with not offending their peers' beliefs, students are hesitant to take a stand for what they believe in.
In today's Wall Street Journal, mother and attorney Judith Grossman writes about the appalling lack of due process afforded her son when he was charged by a campus tribunal with sexual misconduct that allegedly happened years in the past. Grossman writes: "What followed was a nightmare—a fall through Alice's looking-glass into a world that I could not possibly have believed existed, least of all behind the ivy-covered walls thought to protect an ostensible dedication to enlightenment and intellectual betterment." Grossman's op-ed is a must read for anyone concerned about fundamental rights on campus. Read Full Article