Echoing FIRE’s Warnings to Students and Parents, ‘Augusta Chronicle’ Decries Censorship on Campus

By August 25, 2011

FIRE has had a couple of opportunities recently to warn incoming college students and their parents of the threats to students’ rights on campus and the need to be vigilant to protect them. In addition to Robert’s column today in the New York Post, we’re glad to see that The Augusta Chronicle (Georgia) has caught wind of our warnings, publishing its own column echoing them.

The Chronicle points to the local example of Valdosta State University’s punishment of former student Hayden Barnes (among other examples of rights violations on campus):

One of the universities that received FIRE’s attention is Georgia’s own Valdosta State University. A student was expelled in 2007 after making a satirical collage concerning the school’s president and posting it on his own Facebook page. This case is among many others, such as the University of Miami’s refusal to officially acknowledge a right-wing student group on campus; the University of Chicago censoring speech on students’ online profiles; and a student who was accused of racial harassment for reading a book with a racy title at an Indiana college. [Links added.]

As you pack your kids off for college, just keep in mind their right to free speech is not always assured.

Indeed, it’s not. Unfortunately, that’s not all:

Don’t necessarily expect them to be protected by their universities in times of trouble, either. Take Stanford University, for an example. According to FIRE, a male student was determined guilty of sexual assault because the accuser was intoxicated during the encounter. Stanford also lowered its evidentiary standard right in the middle of the proceedings against the male student – all while instructing the student "jurors" that logic and being persuasive are both traits of a guilty man. [Link added.]

The Chronicle concludes with this admonition: "It is not the responsibility of the school to agree with the views of all who attend, but it is their responsibility to uphold the freedom to voice them."

Bravo to The Augusta Chronicle for this stirring defense of student rights, just in time for the new school year! I hope many (including the higher-ups in the University System of Georgia) will take it to heart as the new academic term begins.