University of Alaska: Investigation of Protected Speech

Category: Free Speech
Schools: University of Alaska Fairbanks

In a memorandum to the faculty of all campuses of the University of Alaska, President Mark R. Hamilton came to the rescue of Professor Linda McCarriston, a poet and teacher of creative writing who was subjected to administrative interference and investigation because of the content of her work. FIRE brought the details and issues of the case to the attention of the University and secured the rights of unhindered free expression for McCarriston. McCarriston was investigated for offending students with a poem she wrote titled “Indian Girls,” about the sexual abuse of children. FIRE President Alan Kors wrote President Hamilton that the threat of investigation, whether it existed or appeared to exist, was a first amendment violation because it creating a chilling effect on free speech. President Hamilton sided with Kors and deemed the matter closed.  FIRE’s victory should serve as a reminder to colleges that simply investigating speech creates a chilling effect on it, and is therefore unconstitutional.


  • Linda McCarriston’s Letter to FIRE

    April 9, 2001

    April 9, 2001 Dear Professor Kors: It has not been long since Thor Halvorssen of FIRE phoned my university office and found me alone and very frightened in a cinderblock building at the darkest time of the Alaska winter. Perhaps you can imagine my near disbelief that a voice so named, and with so much purpose, would arrive from the City of Brotherly Love (where my Irish family landed not long ago, fleeing sectarian persecution), promising help! As I wrote almost immediately, that was the first night I had slept more than fitfully since my thought, teaching, and writing had […]

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  • University of Alaska President Proclaims Full Rights of Free Speech

    March 27, 2001

    ANCHORAGE, AK—In a memorandum to the faculty of all campuses of the University of Alaska, President Mark R. Hamilton came to the rescue of Professor Linda McCarriston, a poet and teacher of creative writing subjected to administrative interference and investigation because of the content of her work. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) brought the details and issues of the case to the attention of the University and secured the rights of unhindered free expression for McCarriston. In a sternly worded one-page memorandum of March 13, 2001, Mark R. Hamilton, President of the University of Alaska, ordered that […]

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