PHILADELPHIA, July 30, 2009—Dave Barry, Pulitzer Prize-winning humor columnist and author of more than 30 books, is no stranger to critics trying to censor his writing. The nationally syndicated humorist has written some of our nation’s funniest columns—and with the First Amendment on his side, he’s been winning the battle for free speech for over 25 years. Today, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) releases a new video that features Barry discussing why freedom of expression is important to him and how today’s politically correct college campuses are creating a culture of censorship that stifles humor writing and the opinions of millions of students across the country.
“Dave Barry is a great champion of free speech and the rights of satirists and journalists everywhere,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “We were thrilled to meet Dave in Miami to discuss his thoughts on campus censorship and the infamous Marquette University case.”
Barry found his writing at the center of a FIRE case in 2006 when a Ph.D. student at Marquette University posted a quote from one of Barry’s columns on his office door that the administration deemed “patently offensive”—a legal term of art usually used to describe hardcore pornography. The quote read, “As Americans we must always remember that we all have a common enemy, an enemy that is dangerous, powerful, and relentless. I refer, of course, to the federal government.” As Barry describes in the video, these days a claim of “offense” is often enough to justify censoring students, and that is precisely what happened at Marquette. Despite repeated letters from FIRE and public pressure from Barry himself, the national media, and angry alumni, Marquette failed to acknowledge any wrongdoing.
FIRE’s video with Dave Barry offers an entertaining look at what is considered “free speech” on college campuses today, where the culture of censorship came from, and how it has changed since the 1960s, when Barry was a student. Barry also offers advice to young writers, telling them to fight back when they feel they have been unfairly silenced.
“The whole point of learning about journalism, learning about writing is putting [your opinion] out there and then dealing with the reaction you get from it. … There shouldn’t be a referee declaring what’s acceptable speech and what’s not,” Barry says.
FIRE is honored that Dave Barry has agreed to serve as an honorary Vice Chairman for our ten-year anniversary celebration in New York City on October 22.
This latest video joins the growing collection of documentaries produced by FIRE that capture the all-too-familiar problem of censorship on campus. At Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), a student-employee was found guilty of racial harassment for silently reading the book Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish Defeated the Ku Klux Klan during his work breaks. At Valdosta State University, a student was expelled for posting a collage on his Facebook profile, peacefully protesting the construction of a multi-million dollar parking garage on campus. And at the University of Delaware, the Office of Residence Life employed mandatory dormitory activities to coerce students to change their thoughts, habits, and values to conform to a highly specified ideological agenda. You can watch these videos and more at FIRE’s multimedia page.
FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, due process, freedom of expression, academic freedom, and rights of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty on campuses across America are described at thefire.org.
Greg Lukianoff, President, FIRE: 215-717-3473; firstname.lastname@example.org
Schools: Marquette University