Five Questions for the Office for Civil Rights

    By on May 31, 2013

    As detailed in yesterday’s press release, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has deigned to respond to the national criticism sparked by its May 9 “blueprint” for Title IX compliance. We’ve issued a statement pointing out that OCR’s attempt to walk back the threat to free expression presented by the blueprint doesn’t hold up under scrutiny, but I wanted to take a closer look at five serious questions raised by OCR’s statement. 1. How is the blueprint’s definition of “sexual harassment” consistent with First Amendment precedents? OCR’s statement claims that the blueprint is “entirely consistent with the First Amendment.” My question: How, exactly? […]

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    Category: The Torch


    How the Federal Blueprint Breaks New Ground

    By on May 24, 2013

    The controversial University of Montana findings letter and resolution agreement (together, the “blueprint”) issued by the Departments of Justice and Education two weeks ago have drawn criticism from commentators nationwide. The heat has come from all corners, with UCLA School of Law professor and First Amendment expert Eugene Volokh, former Department of Education attorney Hans Bader, editorialboards, columnists, bloggers, civil libertarians, and many more weighing in on the threat to free speech on campus. Given the hailstorm of criticism that has followed the feds’ high-profile roll-out for the University of Montana agreement, I’ve been struck by the lack of public support for the shockingly broad definition of “sexual harassment” that the Department of Education’s Office for Civil […]

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    Category: The Torch


    Newspaper stack, newspapers

    FIRE’s Top 3 Free Press Cases

    By on January 31, 2013

    Over the years, FIRE has repeatedly gone to bat for student newspapers and student journalists faced with censorship. That censorship came in many forms, ranging from newspaper theft, reduced support from student activity funds, and the firing of faculty advisors, to prior review and editorial control of content. Since it’s Free Press Week, here, in no particular order, are three of the most egregious examples of free press violations from FIRE’s case archives. 1. Prior Restraint at Quinnipiac University Prior restraint was the censorship tool of choice for administrators at Quinnipiac University (QU) from 2007 through much of 2008. Back […]

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    Category: The Torch Schools: Quinnipiac University East Carolina University University of Massachusetts – Amherst


    I Support FIRE Because…

    By on December 29, 2012

    Last week we asked FIRE’s Facebook fans to tell us why they support our work. The responses we got ranged from thoughtful to heartwarming to clever. See what our friends are saying about us: I support FIRE because there is nothing more important to a free democratic society than free speech, and it is outrageous that free speech is prohibited on our college campuses, and that students are being conditioned to remain silent and fearful of engaging in open debate and in voicing their thoughts and opinions. I support FIRE because students are not second-class citizens, becoming a student is […]

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    Category: The Torch


    Aim to Misbehave: Donate to FIRE Today!

    By on December 21, 2012

    A little over a year ago, I flew into Philadelphia to interview for an open position with FIRE (spoiler alert: I got the job). Sitting in the conference room with my soon-to-be coworkers, they asked me to name a few cases with which I was familiar. My calm, calculated interview demeanor dropped as I grinned and laughed like the nerd girl I am. “The Firefly case. I love Firefly.” I was, of course, referring to the case at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Professor Jim Miller posted a flyer outside his door featuring the devilishly handsome Nathan Fillion in his Firefly browncoat with the words of […]

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    Category: The Torch


    2011 A Year of Big Wins for FIRE’s Individual Rights Education Program

    By on December 23, 2011

    FIRE celebrated several significant victories with our Individual Rights Education Program in 2011. This year saw a number of important university policy changes as well as other positive developments for individual rights on campus. FIRE’s Individual Rights Education Program (IREP) encompasses our efforts to educate students, faculty, and the public about the abuses of liberty taking place on college campuses across the nation, and to inform them about what they can do to fight back. Working with these constituencies—and in many cases, directly with collegeadministratorsthemselves—IREP aims to achieve the necessary changes in university speech policies so that these policies are […]

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    Category: The Torch


    Let Valdosta State Ruling Be a Warning to University Administrators: Qualified Immunity Will Not Bail You Out

    By on September 10, 2010

    FIRE has been warning college presidents and administrators for some time that when they violate the expressive rights and due process rights of students at public universities, they do more than defy the dictates of the Constitution (and, for that matter, abandon their moral duties as leaders of our nation’s institutions of higher education). We have warned that administrators who violate students’ First Amendment and due process rights precariously ignore, at their own risk, controlling Supreme Court decisions and other longstanding federal court precedents on these matters. That’s because administrators at public colleges and universities, as public officials performing discretionary […]

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    Category: The Torch Schools: Valdosta State University


    Victory for Free Speech: Third Circuit Strikes Down University of Virgin Islands’ Speech Codes

    By on August 18, 2010

    PHILADELPHIA, August 18, 2010—In a victory for free speech on campus, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit issued an opinion today in McCauley v. University of the Virgin Islands striking down unconstitutional speech policies maintained by the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) on First Amendment grounds. The Third Circuit—whose jurisdiction includes the Virgin Islands as well as Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware—found the university’s regulations prohibiting “offensive” or “unauthorized” signs and conduct causing “emotional distress” unconstitutional. The Third Circuit also upheld the federal district court’s invalidation of a policy that forbade causing “mental harm” or demeaning or disgracing any […]

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    Category: Press Releases


    Liberty University, Free Speech, and the Private University

    By on June 3, 2009

    Since Liberty University decided recently to derecognize its chapter of the College Democrats because it believed the group’s “parent organization stands against the moral principles” of the university founded by Jerry Falwell, we’ve been getting a lot of mail and questions about our stance on the issue. Despite the fact that we’ve made our position on private universities very clear in the decade since our founding and have covered the subject both in our Guides and, most recently, in Robert’s blog post last week about Liberty, it appears that some people are not understanding us. Therefore, I am going to […]

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    Category: The Torch


    There Is No Such Thing as ‘Hate Speech’

    By on February 24, 2006

    Yes, that is correct. “Hate speech” is not a category of speech recognized under current constitutional law. It is merely a convenient way to pigeonhole speech that some people find offensive. But what is very troubling is when people begin to treat “hate speech” as unprotected speech. For example, a student leader at Penn State, a university which was recently sued for its unconstitutionally vague and overbroad speech codes, made the following comment featured in a prominent article in the student newspaper The Daily Collegian: “We support any and all university policies that prohibit intolerant actions against any student on […]

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    Category: The Torch Schools: George Mason University Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania University of Wisconsin – Madison Pennsylvania State University – University Park University of Michigan – Ann Arbor