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.
EUGENE, Oregon, August 26, 2014—The University of Oregon (UO) has filed multiple, blatantly unconstitutional conduct charges against a female student who jokingly yelled “I hit it first” from a dormitory window. The student, who wishes to remain anonymous, contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help. FIRE is calling on UO to immediately dismiss all charges against the student and reform its unconstitutional speech policies.
“The University of Oregon’s absurd overreaction is the real joke here, and it’s not very funny,” said FIRE Senior Vice President Robert Shibley. “Using an unconstitutional speech code to punish a student for [...] » Read More
Yesterday on The Torch, I introduced readers to Matthew G. Kaiser and Justin Dillon, lawyers from The Kaiser Law Firm PLLC who are members of FIRE’s Legal Network and are working hard to defend due process rights for college and university students. Today, FIRE would like to thank another standout Legal Network attorney, Arthur I. Willner.
Art is a principal and founding partner at Gladstone Michel Weisberg Willner & Sloane, ALC, a law firm in Los Angeles, California handling a wide range of legal concerns. Earlier this year, Art secured a [...] » Read More
Category: The Torch
Category: The Torch
Yale University President Peter Salovey shared an important message with the Class of 2018 as he welcomed students to the university on Saturday. Salovey’s speech at Yale’s Freshman Assembly focused on the fundamental need for free expression, particularly at colleges and universities.
Addressing the students, Salovey recounted recent instances of speakers being disinvited from campuses or shouted down so that they were unable to share their viewpoints. He also told the story of an incident at Yale back in 1974, in which a controversial speaker was prevented from speaking at the school. This inspired history professor C. Vann Woodward [...] » Read More