In 2014, we celebrated 15 years of protecting individual liberties on America’s campuses. We launched an aggressive litigation program, our Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project, and have since filed lawsuits against seven universities for their unconstitutional policies. On Constitution Day, we sent a warning—via certified mail—to over 300 of the nation’s most prestigious public colleges and universities that unless they change their unconstitutional policies, they also risk a lawsuit. Not only have our lawsuits immediately started yielding results, but positive responses from administrators have been rolling in!
None of this would have been possible without your support, and for that we are extremely grateful. Thank you for making our history—and our future—possible!» Read More
Category: The Torch
The Columbus Dispatch has teamed up with the Student Press Law Center (SPLC) to take a thorough look at how colleges and universities are struggling to handle allegations of sexual assault and other violent crimes. Problems abound, and the articles published as part of the “Campus Insecurity” series are shedding light on several troubling trends on campus.» Read More
The University of Oregon (UO) has struggled recently with the concept of the First Amendment. In addition to receiving a “red light” rating in FIRE’s Spotlight database due to its restrictive speech codes, the university filed five charges against a student this past summer for jokingly yelling “I hit it first” at a couple walking underneath a dormitory window. UO thus achieved the dubious distinction of managing to accuse the student of more than one conduct violation per word of an unfortunate joke. After FIRE wrote to UO’s president, the charges were dropped.» Read More
Chris Pyle, a professor at Mount Holyoke College, recently took to the pages of Smith College’s campus newspaper, The Smith Sophian, to point out the absurdity of treating adult college students as though they were incapable of hearing certain words, such as the word “nigger.” As we have reported before, FIRE Board of Advisors member Wendy Kaminer participated in a panel on free speech earlier this semester at Smith, in which she used that word to discuss censorship (not as a slur to describe anyone), thereby igniting a controversy at the college.» Read More
Last week, Rolling Stone published the harrowing account of a University of Virginia (UVA, where I went to law school) student who claims she was brutally raped by seven men at a fraternity house party. Following the article’s publication, UVA administrators, students, faculty, alumni, and commentators across the country have responded, seeking a way to effectively combat the problem of campus sexual assault. To start, UVA has suspended all fraternities and sororities until the start of the spring semester and is soliciting feedback on a proposed new sexual misconduct policy.
But in the wake of this latest scandal, a more fundamental concern demands attention: Are universities capable of dealing with these felony crimes at all?» Read More
Last week, the Stanford University student theater organization At The Fountain Theatricals (ATF) performed a well-received cabaret of various selections of edgy and provocative musical theater selections. The program was titled “Did We Offend You?” and was aimed at celebrating theater’s role in thrusting difficult and controversial issues into the open. Having worked in theatre before coming to FIRE for a company whose mission revolved around producing works posing challenging political and social questions, I see this as something to be unreservedly celebrated.» Read More
Despite warnings from FIRE and criticism from media outlets and 40 faculty members, Lewis & Clark College (LCC) still has not rescinded its punishment against two students who were unjustly charged with, and found responsible for, “Physical or Mental Harm,” “Discrimination or Harassment,” and “Disorderly Conduct” for supposedly “racial and biased” comments. Last week, FIRE sent a letter to LCC’s Board of Trustees asking, once again, for the disciplinary action to be rescinded.» Read More
Framingham State U. Police to Student: Facebooking About Halloween Costume ‘Goes Beyond … Freedom of Speech’
According to Framingham State University’s (FSU’s) student newspaper The Gatepost, campus police officers questioned several FSU students over their public comments about two of their peers’ Halloween costumes depicting domestic violence. Gatepost editors aptly pointed out that such questioning is not acceptable at FSU, a public university in Massachusetts bound by the First Amendment.» Read More
Fresh from being accused of committing “an explicit act of racial violence” by openly discussing the word “nigger” during a panel discussion on free speech at Smith College, lawyer and FIRE Board of Advisors member Wendy Kaminer examines the mindset of her critics (and too many students like them) in an article for WBUR’s Cognoscenti blog today.» Read More
Category: The Torch
As colleges and universities face ever-growing pressure to show that they take the issue of sexual assault seriously, a number of accused students have found themselves steamrolled by unfair and frequently incompetently-run, ends-driven disciplinary proceedings that disregard the procedural protections owed to anyone facing such serious allegations. Over the past year, those students have increasingly taken to the courthouse steps in order to vindicate their rights and expose the flaws in the disciplinary processes they faced.» Read More