Northern Illinois University’s (NIU’s) student newspaper the Northern Star reported last week that after significant media criticism, the university will revise and clarify its Acceptable Use Policy for information technology resources.
As FIRE reported here on The Torch, the policy states that members of the NIU community may not use the network for “political activities,” and students reported being unable to access social media websites. Additionally, one student posed a screenshot of a warning from NIU stating that it was “highly probable” that accessing the Wikipedia page about the Westboro Baptist [...] » Read More
PHILADELPHIA, September 2, 2014—As millions of college students arrive on campus this fall—many for the first time—few of them realize that nearly 59 percent of our nation’s colleges maintain policies that clearly and substantially restrict speech protected by the First Amendment. Too many students will realize that the rights they took for granted as Americans have been denied to them only after they face charges and disciplinary action for speaking their minds. But this year, campus censorship faces a new deterrent: FIRE’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project, which aims to finally bring an end to [...] » Read More
Category: Press Releases
Schools: Citrus College
University of Hawaii at Hilo
Northern Illinois University
University of Oregon
Iowa State University
Cases: University of Oregon: Student’s Four-Word Joke Results in Five Unconstitutional Disciplinary Charges FIRE’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project Citrus College – Stand Up For Speech Iowa State University – Stand Up For Speech Ohio University – Stand Up For Speech University of Hawaii at Hilo – Speech Code Litigation
The Student Press Law Center reports that on August 28, more than 1,000 copies of The Auburn Plainsman were stolen, costing Auburn University’s student newspaper nearly $800. The newspapers disappeared from seven locations throughout Auburn’s campus. So far no one has claimed responsibility for the theft, but the paper’s editors believe that one of its stories may have been the cause.
The Plainsman’s potentially controversial stories included an editorial criticizing Auburn’s Student Government Association, a story on a council member who blamed his election loss on voter fraud, and the content of the regular Crime Reports feature, which often [...] » Read More
Craig Keefe, a former student at Central Lakes College (CLC) in Minnesota, is appealing a U.S. district court’s dismissal of his claims that the college violated his First Amendment and due process rights when it expelled him in December 2012 for remarks he had made on Facebook.
Keefe, then a nursing student, posted some comments on Facebook that expressed negative feelings towards his classmates and included profanity. All of his comments fell far outside the narrowly defined categories of speech unprotected by the First Amendment, such as “true threats.” Nevertheless, the public institution expelled Keefe [...] » Read More
The University of South Alabama (USA) student group Students for Life USA filed suit against the university in federal court in April, alleging that by restricting the group’s speech to a tiny “speech zone” on campus, the university violated members’ First Amendment right to freedom of expression, as well as their Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection. Earlier this month, USA revised a solicitation policy at issue in the lawsuit, but according to Students for Life USA and the group’s counsel, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the second policy identified in the suit still infringes on [...] » Read More
EUGENE, Oregon, August 28, 2014—In a victory for free speech, the University of Oregon (UO) dropped the unconstitutional conduct charges it filed against a student based on a four-word joke wholly protected by the First Amendment. UO’s reversal comes barely 24 hours after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE’s) press release drew national attention to the university’s embarrassing treatment of the student.
“We’re pleased that the student is no longer weighed down by these chilling disciplinary charges and can focus on her education,” said Peter Bonilla, Director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program. “UO’s quick action here [...] » Read More
This week, members of a fraternity at the University of Missouri (MU) found themselves in front of the university’s Title IX coordinator after one of them dressed up as a Teletubby and danced across the street from women rushing a sorority, as shown in a video posted online. Thankfully, the Title IX coordinator quickly and correctly determined that this did not constitute sexual harassment. But it is remarkable that this was even raised as an issue and that someone tasked with assessing actions as serious as sexual assault and rape had to spend time—even a short [...] » Read More
Last summer, FIRE sounded the alarm about a shockingly broad definition of sexual harassment being pushed by the Departments of Education (ED) and Justice (DOJ) as a “blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country.” Announced at the conclusion of a year-long investigation into the University of Montana’s sexual assault policies and practices, the resolution agreement and findings letter the feds labeled a “blueprint” defined sexual harassment as “any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” including “verbal conduct” (i.e., speech). And this all-encompassing definition wasn’t just a general characterization of sexual harassment; [...] » Read More
Category: The Torch
Schools: Georgia Southern University
University of Alaska Fairbanks
University of Montana
University of Missouri – Columbia
University of Colorado at Boulder
Cases: University of Alaska Fairbanks: Complaint Over Student Newspaper’s Articles Results in Months-Long Harassment Investigation University of Colorado at Boulder: Professor Threatened with Harassment Investigation, Forced Retirement Over Classroom Presentation Departments of Education and Justice: National Requirement for Unconstitutional Speech Codes
Tish Harrison Warren, a former religious student group leader at Vanderbilt University, has authored a poignant article in Christianity Today about the effect on her life of a policy decision Vanderbilt made two years ago.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, Vanderbilt prohibited belief-based student organizations such as religious and political groups from making belief-based choices about their leadership and membership. The all-too-appropriate title of her article is “The Wrong Kind of Christian,” since the result of Vanderbilt’s so-called “all-comers” policy (“so-called” because it [...] » Read More
Last week, we reported on the unacceptably broad network use policy adopted by Northern Illinois University (NIU) and implemented via heavy-handed filtering that was reportedly tripped even by certain Wikipedia pages, including the entry on the Westboro Baptist Church. The displayed warning message, which referenced the network use policy’s prohibition on visiting “unethical” websites, was fairly unambiguous in conveying that the restrictions were based on the content of those websites, and ominously warned that the “violation” would be logged and reviewed.