Auburn University: Ban on Ron Paul Window Hanging Exposes Double Standard

Category: Cases, Free Speech
Schools: Auburn University

In November 2011, Auburn University student Eric Philips was required to remove a banner supporting Ron Paul’s presidential campaign from the inside of his dormitory window. Despite Auburn’s policy prohibiting all window decorations in its residence halls, Philips documented numerous examples of the policy not being enforced against other students. Following a letter from FIRE on December 9, 2011, Auburn responded that it was committed to a “total ban” on this form of student expression. When FIRE presented Auburn with continued photographic evidence of its selective enforcement, however, Auburn then claimed that the policy existed for the “safety, health, and wellbeing” of Auburn students. Philips and FIRE, however, have continued to document Auburn’s lax enforcement of the policy, calling into question the legitimacy of the “safety” rationale.

  • Who’s afraid of Ron Paul? Apparently, Auburn University

    August 6, 2013

    by Peter Bonilla The Daily Caller   When someone complained about a student’s Ron Paul poster in his dorm room window this fall, Auburn University in Alabama had the opportunity to take a principled stand for free speech. Of course, since we’re dealing with a university, you can probably guess that it instead chose to double down on an unwise, needlessly restrictive, and unfairly enforced policy at odds with the spirit of the First Amendment. Auburn undergrad Eric Philips probably thought he wasn’t doing anything particularly noteworthy when he hung a banner supporting Representative Ron Paul’s presidential candidacy in his […]

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  • Unlearning liberty: Auburn’s censorship of Ron Paul poster is part of larger problem

    August 6, 2013

    by Greg Lukianoff The Daily Caller   While election season may seem especially surreal this time around — or maybe it just seems that way every four years — nowhere is it stranger than in the weird parallel dimension known as our college campuses. Every presidential election that I’ve experienced since I’ve been president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has without exception been marred by some ridiculous attempt by university lawyers and administrators to limit political debate and discussion. While some of the censorship clearly arises from a stunning lack of understanding of basic principles of law, others seem to […]

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  • Auburn student ordered to take down Ron Paul sign shares his story

    December 22, 2011

      Eric Philips, the Auburn University undergraduate who was forced by the school to remove a campaign sign for Texas Congressman Ron Paul from his dorm room window, says that when it comes to political expression, a double standard exists at his school. “I just wish I’d been able to express myself,” Philips, the president of Auburn for Ron Paul 2012, told The Daily Caller. “I’d just like to advertise for my organization just like all the other organizations can.” A new rule at Auburn states that “hanging or displaying items such as flags, banners, decals, or signs out of or obstructing […]

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  • Greg Lukianoff in ‘Daily Caller’: Students Have Gotten Used to Censorship

    September 21, 2012

    When Auburn University student Eric Philips hung a Ron Paul poster in his dormitory window, he was ordered to take it down just three hours later. The university cited a school-wide ban on window hangings as the reason for the censorship, saying that it was instituted for “safety” reasons. Auburn must not care very much about the safety of its students, though, because Philips took to campus with his iPad and easily showed that this policy wasn’t being evenly enforced. Fraternity banners, Halloween decorations, and Christmas lights were all allowed in windows, but a Ron Paul banner was not. National media outlets […]

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  • On Graduation Day, Remedial Lessons on Free Speech Needed at Auburn

    May 7, 2012

    Auburn University senior Eric Philips is one of the more than 3,300 Auburn students being awarded their degrees today at the university’s commencement ceremonies. He has also been working with FIRE for months now to reform Auburn’s restrictive policy banning window decorations—which seems to include the Ron Paul banner he was told to remove from his window last fall, but exclude the many banners and other items fellow students have hung there without incident. As I noted recently, Auburn has recast its argument to one based on protecting the “safety, health and wellbeing” of the Auburn student population, which, if […]

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  • Greg’s Appearance on ‘Stossel’ Now Online

    April 24, 2012

    FIRE President Greg Lukianoff’s appearance on Stossel last week is now available online. The episode highlights two current FIRE cases: Auburn University’s selective banning of student window hangings and the University of Cincinnati’s threats to arrest students who wanted to gather signatures outside of the school’s free speech zone. Greg also told the Florida State University audience that FSU’s speech codes are unconstitutional. Check out the video below!  

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  • ‘Safety’ Defense Only Makes Auburn Look Foolish

    April 23, 2012

    For months now, as shown last week on Stossel, FIRE has been fighting alongside Auburn University student Eric Philips for the reform of an unnecessarily restrictive policy on window decorations at Auburn. As we’ve argued, the policy needlessly curtails a traditional form of student expression. What’s more, as FIRE and Philips have repeatedly shown, the policy has been unevenly enforced, with Philips being ordered to remove his banner supporting Ron Paul’s presidential candidacy while other students have faced no such censorship. Here’s the timeline: FIRE first wrote to Auburn about the policy in December 2011; Auburn responded that it was indeed committed to a “total ban” on such decorations. […]

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  • Censored Auburn Student Shares Story with ‘Plainsman’

    January 24, 2012

    For weeks now, FIRE has been fighting for free speech at Auburn University, which continues to maintain an unwise and illiberal ban on window hangings in its dorms despite ample evidence pointing to its uneven enforcement of the policy. Now student Eric Philips—who came to FIRE after being forced to remove a banner supporting Ron Paul’s presidential candidacy from his window—has told his story to Auburn’s student newspaper, The Auburn Plainsman. As Philips relates to the Plainsman: “Well, I noticed everybody else hanging banners, at least in the sororities and some people inside my dorm with Auburn banners in their window,” Philips said. “There’s […]

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  • Double Standard at Auburn: Ron Paul Banner Banned from Dorm Room Window While ‘Total Ban’ Goes Unenforced

    January 16, 2012

    Auburn University has discriminated against a student by ordering him to remove a Ron Paul banner from his dormitory window. Although the university has nominally instituted a “total ban” on window decorations, a dozen or more other window decorations have been permitted. Moreover, the university has failed to provide any evidence that such a total ban is necessary.  FIRE has asked Auburn to justify its both lax and discriminatory enforcement of the “total ban” on this form of student expression. On November 7, Auburn University ordered a Ron Paul for President campaign banner removed from the inside of undergraduate Eric Philips’ dorm room window. […]

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  • Auburn Student Blasts University’s Window Policy

    January 13, 2012

    Auburn University doctoral student Allen Mendenhall has written an op-ed for today’s Montgomery Advertiser criticizing Auburn’s decision to censor a Ron Paul banner in the dormitory window of student Eric Philips. Allen, a FIRE Campus Freedom Network member, explains that Philips’ case is of particular concern to him because of his extensive family connections to Auburn and his love of the school—he describes himself as “bleeding orange and blue.” Allen expresses his frustration at Auburn’s seemingly flippant attitude towards the First Amendment and student rights, writing: President Gogue and the Auburn administration ought to revise these strict policies. The prohibition of all window displays is unreasonable and, when […]

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  • FIRE’s Bonilla in ‘Daily Caller’ on Auburn’s Ban on a Ron Paul Poster

    December 23, 2011

    FIRE’s Peter Bonilla has an op-ed in the Daily Caller about Auburn University’s choice to engage in viewpoint censorship when it told student Eric Philips that he had to take down the Ron Paul poster in his window while allowing all kinds of other window hangings. This despite its claim that it has a “total ban” (Auburn’s words) on window hangings. Peter writes: One might describe this policy as restrictive and unnecessary, but at least it’s fair. Everyone gets silenced equally, right? Yet FIRE has photos (provided by Philips) which convincingly show that Auburn generally made little effort to enforce […]

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  • Auburn University Bans Ron Paul Banner from Dorm Room Window

    December 22, 2011

    As we said in today’s press release, Auburn University has ordered a Ron Paul for President campaign banner removed from the inside of a dorm room window while allowing students to display numerous other banners, stickers, and flags. Student Eric Philips, who was ordered to remove his sign last month, used his cell phone to gather photographic evidence of the double standard and came to FIRE for help. “An unreasonable and pointless ban on all window displays is bad enough,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “Yet it’s obvious from the photos that Auburn has actually singled out Eric Philips’ Ron […]

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