Rhode Island College: Violation of Student’s Freedom of Conscience
At Rhode Island College, graduate student Bill Felkner was asked to publicly advocate "progressive" social changes that he did not believe in. Social work professor Jim Ryczek suggested to Felkner in an e-mail that if he did not agree with the school's political philosophy, he should consider leaving or finding another line of work. Shortly afterwards, Felkner learned that RIC's School of Social Work not only recommended that he adopt a particular ideology but also mandated that he lobby the Rhode Island Legislature for one of several policy positions that he did not support. FIRE wrote to the school, and was assured from RIC President John Nazarian that no student would be made to subscribe to a particular cause. However, Felkner reported that Professor Sue Pearlmutter told him that his grade would be affected if he chose to lobby for an alternative policy position. When Felkner refused to accept an internship that would force him to promote policies he opposed, Lenore Olsen, the chair of the Master's of Social Work Program, informed him in a letter that he could no longer pursue a master's degree in social work policy. Felkner filed suit for denying him a master's degree, and his case is still pending.
- "Rhode Island College Continues Campaign Against Conservative Social Work Student," May 26, 2005: Rhode Island College’s School of Social Work is requiring a conservative master’s student to publicly advocate for “progressive” social changes if he wants to continue pursuing a degree in social work policy. The school’s appalling disregard for student Bill Felkner’s freedom of conscience is the latest in an ongoing string of abuses by RIC administrators and faculty members that violate the right to fundamental freedoms protected by the U.S. Constitution.
- "Rhode Island College School of Social Work’s Policy and Organization Internship Requirements," May 26, 2005
- "Letter from Rhode Island College Master's of Social Work Program Chair Lenore Olsen to Bill Felkner, May 11, 2005," May 11, 2005
- "Rhode Island College Violates Freedom of Conscience," February 23, 2005: The School of Social Work at Rhode Island College has threatened to reduce a master’s student’s grades if he chooses not to lobby the Rhode Island legislature for policies with which he disagrees. The student received a failing grade after protesting a professor’s admitted bias in class and after writing an essay in connection with a lobbying assignment that dissented from that professor’s approved perspective.
- "Letter from Rhode Island College President John Nazarian to FIRE, February 15, 2005," February 15, 2005
- "FIRE Letter to Rhode Island College President John Nazarian, January 28, 2005," January 28, 2005
- "Letter Indicating Rhode Island College Professor Sue Pearlmutter’s Refusal to Communicate with Bill Felkner over E-mail," December 14, 2004
- "E-mail from Rhode Island College Professor James Ryczek to Bill Felkner, October 15, 2004," October 15, 2004
- "FOX News Reports on FIRE Case at Rhode Island College," by Luke Sheahan, December 17, 2008
- "Campus Alert: Think like us--or else,"
New York Post, June 4, 2007
- "Course Requirement or Loyalty Test?,"
by Robin Wilson, The Chronicle of Higher Education, December 16, 2005
- "Providence speech patrol,"
by Joel Belz, World Magazine, March 19, 2005
- "Grad Student Allegedly Downgraded for Conservative Stance,"
by Jim Brown, Agape Press, February 28, 2005