Back to School: Remember FIRE’s Red Alert List

By on September 9, 2008

Students going back to school should be aware of the institutions that demonstrate a blatant disregard for their students’ rights. FIRE’s Red Alert list, recently featured in a full-page ad in the 2009 "America’s Best Colleges" edition of U.S. News and World Report, is a list of the "worst of the worst" when it comes to respect for students’ rights. These institutions egregiously violated their students’ rights and, despite having been informed of their wrongdoing, still refuse to admit and redress the harm they have caused. Below is a list of the Red Alert schools, what they did to get on the list, and what they can do to get off the list.

  • Johns Hopkins University found student Justin Park guilty of "harassment" for posting an "offensive" Halloween party invitation on Facebook.com. Hopkins President William Brody made matters worse by then implementing "Principles for Ensuring Equity, Civility and Respect for All," a new and chillingly broad "civility" code prohibiting "rude, disrespectful behavior" on campus. To lose its shameful distinction on FIRE’s Red Alert list, Hopkins must repeal its civility code.
  • Tufts University found the conservative newspaper The Primary Source (TPS) guilty of harassment for publishing two satirical and controversial articles: a satirical Christmas carol and a mock advertisement entitled "IslamArabic Translation: Submission." The first article was a parody based on race-based admissions, and the second presented facts about Islam as a response to Tufts’ "Islamic Awareness Week." The university’s Committee on Student Life determined that TPS was guilty of "harassment" even while claiming its students enjoyed full First Amendment rights. The harassment finding still stands. Tufts must admit that simply publishing facts about a religion is not "harassment" and reverse the contrary finding against TPS.
  • Former Valdosta State University President Ronald Zaccari expelled student Hayden Barnes for posting a flyer on Facebook.com criticizing the school’s proposed parking garages. While this case is currently in federal court and out of the hands of Valdosta’s current leadership, Valdosta must repeal its current free speech zone, a ridiculously unconstitutional policy restricting speech to a twelve-foot stage for two non-consecutive hours per day.
  • Brandeis University found Professor Donald Hindley guilty of racially discriminatory harassment for critiquing the term "wetbacks" in a classroom discussion. Even though Hindley was never allowed to see the evidence against him, the administration punished him by posting a monitor in his classroom. Brandeis must reverse the decision finding Hindley guilty of making "inappropriate, racial, and discriminatory" remarks.
  • Colorado College found two male students guilty of "violence" after a three-hour trial for juxtaposing "weaponry and sexuality" in a flyer satirizing another flyer posted by the Feminist and Gender Studies Program. Disciplinary letters have been placed in the students’ files. Colorado College must remove these letters from the students’ files to get off the Red Alert list.

If you are at one of these schools, be advised about the perils to free expression on campus. Students elsewhere can help keep your schools off the list by joining the Campus Freedom Network. Just in case, bookmark FIRE’s case submission page.

Schools: Johns Hopkins University Brandeis University Valdosta State University Tufts University Colorado College