University of Idaho: Student Charged With Discrimination and Harassment for ‘Offensive’ Speech

Category: Due Process, Free Speech
Schools: University of Idaho

On April 5, 2010, University of Idaho student Alex Rowson was charged with “discrimination” for saying that “illegal immigration destroyed my home state of California” when he interrupted a break in a musical concert celebrating César Chávez Day. In an unrelated incident, he was charged on April 23, 2010, with “harassing” other students by shouting that “liberalism is destroying America” during a “Take Back the Night” march. After FIRE wrote President Duane Nellis and demonstrated why the charges of “discrimination” and “harassment” were unfounded, the university eventually dropped all charges against Rowson relating to discrimination and harassment.

  • Rowson still shakes things up

    August 23, 2010

    Alexander Rowson is no less passionate about political topics since the events of last spring, but said he has learned better outlets for it. “I want to shake things up in the area, but there are better ways to do that and that is what I am going to try to do,” Rowson said. Rowson made political comments at the Cesar Chavez and “Take Back the Night” events last spring and was initially charged with harassment and discrimination by the university. The university dropped those charges after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education wrote the dean and argued that […]

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  • University of Idaho Revises Former ‘Speech Code of the Month’ Policy

    August 12, 2010

    Good news out of the University of Idaho: the administration has revised a residence hall harassment policy that FIRE named our Speech Code of the Month in September 2009. Before it was revised, the policy provided that “Actions and/or communication that are discriminatory, harassing or insensitive are not permitted.” We wrote at the time that This policy prohibits a staggering amount of constitutionally protected speech. In fact, this policy prohibits precisely the speech that the First Amendment exists to protect, since people typically do not seek to censor sensitive, respectful expression. Moving beyond the legal issues, speech codes like this […]

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  • University of Idaho ‘Argonaut’ Covers FIRE Free Speech Case; UI Won’t Reveal Name of Secret Accuser

    June 3, 2010

    Tuesday’s Argonaut, the student newspaper of the University of Idaho (UI), covers FIRE’s case involving a student who was charged with discrimination and harassment because of political comments he made during two events. Peter wrote about the events relating to these charges last week: On or about March 30, during César Chávez Day at UI, there was a musical performance in the food court in UI’s student union building. The music was loud enough that, in Rowson’s opinion, it was disrupting his class nearby. Between songs, Rowson went to the microphone and made a political statement about “how illegal immigration […]

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  • Victory: University of Idaho Drops Charges of Harassment and Discrimination for ‘Offensive’ Speech

    May 24, 2010

    After FIRE intervened, the University of Idaho (UI) abandoned disciplinary charges of “harass[ment]” and “discrimination” against student Alexander Rowson relating to political statements he made at two campus events. On or about March 30, during César Chávez Day at UI, there was a musical performance in the food court in UI’s student union building. The music was loud enough that, in Rowson’s opinion, it was disrupting his class nearby. Between songs, Rowson went to the microphone and made a political statement about “how illegal immigration destroyed my home state of California.” His impromptu protest lasted roughly thirty seconds, he says, […]

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