Last month, I wrote about a report by the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure (CAFT) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), which recommended the university reconsider its decision not to hire professor Steven Salaita following a series of controversial tweets on his personal Twitter account last summer. The report emphasized that the university’s desire for faculty to maintain a standard of “civility” cannot trump principles of freedom of speech and academic freedom. CAFT also found that Chancellor Phyllis Wise disregarded principles of shared governance in blocking Salaita’s appointment without consulting other administrators and faculty.
Despite these findings, the University of Illinois Board of Trustees announced yesterday that it would not reconsider its decision.» Read More
In the coming months, federal appellate courts are set to decide two important cases about the extent to which colleges can use vague, broad “professional codes” to punish student speech. FIRE’s Will Creeley has the scoop on both of the cases, and he explained why they’re worth watching in The Huffington Post yesterday.» Read More
Last week, the University of Chicago’s (UC’s) Committee on Freedom of Expression published a free speech policy statement, which “guarantees all members of the University community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn.” FIRE proudly endorsed the statement and recommends that other universities adopt a similar statement.
However, the statement failed to impress those who should understand the necessity of free speech on UC’s campus the most: the editorial board of UC’s student newspaper, The Chicago Maroon.» Read More
Last January, we reported on the story of Tim McGettigan, a sociology professor at Colorado State University–Pueblo (CSU-Pueblo) who was an outspoken critic of the administration’s financial management. After CSU-Pueblo President Lesley DiMare informed faculty and staff in December 2013 that “as many as 50 positions at CSU Pueblo” could be eliminated to compensate for a $3.3 million budgetary shortfall, McGettigan sent out a series of mass emails to the CSU-Pueblo community passionately expressing his concerns and encouraging students and faculty to peacefully protest the planned layoffs.» Read More
Late Tuesday, a federal judge completely rejected Chicago State University’s (CSU’s) argument that Stand Up For Speech plaintiffs Phil Beverly and Robert Bionaz may not bring a First Amendment claim against the university. Professors Beverly and Bionaz run a popular blog, the CSU Faculty Voice, which is highly critical of the CSU administration. CSU tried to convince the judge that Beverly and Bionaz had no case because they had no reasonable basis upon which to think that CSU would punish them for criticizing the university. As Torch readers who are familiar with this case know, this argument could not pass the laugh test.» Read More
With SB 2150, North Dakota has the chance to become the second state in the country to grant students at its public colleges and universities the right to hire attorneys for suspension or expulsion hearings. The Grand Forks Herald wastes no time in driving home why the bill is necessary.» Read More
Category: The Torch
In 2014, many colleges and universities took significant steps toward protecting students’ and professors’ freedom of speech. FIRE was happy to newly bestow our highest, “green light” rating upon the University of Florida, Georgetown College in Kentucky, and Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, and we saw several other colleges revise their worst speech codes in order to better protect open debate on campus. Azhar Majeed, Director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Education Program, takes to Minding the Campus this week to urge colleges and universities across the nation to follow these institutions’ lead.» Read More
FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for January 2015: Georgia Southern University (GSU).
As we begin a new year, we want to keep the focus squarely on the incursions on free speech by the federal government—specifically, by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).» Read More
Today, FIRE presents a timely new video featuring Brookings Institution senior fellow Jonathan Rauch. In the wake of last week’s horrifying attack on Charlie Hebdo in France, Americans and Europeans are rediscovering the importance of unfettered expression. In the interview, which was taped last year but not released until now, Rauch explains how the Salman Rushdie affair of the 1980s and the West’s “watery, weak” response to it inspired him to write his landmark book, Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought. Rauch also sheds light on the damage hate speech laws (which are common in Europe, including in France) can do to minorities, and he argues that free speech is their best weapon against oppression.» Read More
The many problems with the way Harvard University and other institutions nationwide are handling allegations of sexual assault aren’t new to Torch readers. Campus hearings often fail to provide the accused important procedural safeguards like an opportunity to present evidence on one’s behalf or cross-examine witnesses, and universities don’t have the authority to get guilty students off the street and into jail. In short, the status quo fails everybody. Amidst increasing media attention to these problems, Harvard Law School Professor Nancy Gertner—one of the 28 Harvard Law professors who signed a letter strongly objecting to the university’s new sexual harassment policy—adds her unique perspective as a former federal judge and a former criminal defense attorney in the Winter 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine.» Read More