• UNC, Halloween, and the ‘Professionalism’ Threat to the First Amendment

    By on October 31, 2014 Category: The Torch

    This being Halloween week, we’ve seen a few cautionary notices from universities warning of the potential for hurt feelings and emotional harm caused by culturally “insensitive” Halloween costumes. To cite one example, the University of Minnesota (UM) cautioned students to “keep in mind that certain Halloween costumes perpetuate racial, cultural, and gender stereotypes” and that such costumes “can depict identities in ways that are offensive or hurtful to others.” Many of these university statements function as reaffirmations of institutional values, such as diversity, tolerance, and inclusion, and obviously universities are more than free to issue them. UM gave some common […]

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  • Victory: College Backtracks After Punishing Professor for ‘Game of Thrones’ Picture

    By on October 28, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    NEW YORK, Oct. 28, 2014—In a victory for free speech, New Jersey’s Bergen Community College (BCC) has rescinded its punishment of an art professor it placed on leave and forced to undergo a psychiatric evaluation for posting a picture of his daughter wearing a Game of Thrones T-shirt. After learning of BCC’s outrageous actions, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) connected Professor Francis Schmidt with FIRE Legal Network member Derek Shaffer, a partner at the law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, and Gabriel Soledad, an associate at the firm. In a recent letter to Schmidt, BCC Director […]

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  • FIRE Celebrates 15 Years of Defending Rights on Campus

    By on October 23, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    NEW YORK, October 23, 2014—Today, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is joining civil liberties luminaries and supporters at the Mandarin Oriental to mark 15 years of defending student and faculty rights on America’s college and university campuses. Harvard University professor and bestselling author Steven Pinker and legendary First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams will speak at the dinner to celebrate FIRE’s 297 victories for liberty (and counting) at 206 colleges and universities across our nation, affecting nearly 4.6 million students. FIRE has released a short film highlighting our work over the past 15 years. The film serves as […]

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  • Lawsuit! Student Group Sues After Western Michigan U. Taxes Controversial Speech

    By on October 20, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    WASHINGTON, Oct. 20, 2014—A Western Michigan University (WMU) student organization has filed a First Amendment lawsuit against the university today with assistance from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). The lawsuit stems from WMU’s demand that the Kalamazoo Peace Center (KPC), a registered student organization, pay a hefty security fee before hosting rapper and social activist Boots Riley for a speech on campus last spring. The suit is the seventh First Amendment lawsuit filed as part of FIRE’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project. “Western Michigan University’s censorship relied on an old trick: Having realized that it could […]

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  • Harvard Law Faculty Members Blast New Sexual Harassment Policy; National Debate Rages Over ‘Affirmative Consent’ Law

    By on October 15, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    BOSTON, Oct. 15, 2014—Today, 28 members of the Harvard Law School faculty released a statement in The Boston Globe strongly objecting to Harvard University’s new sexual harassment policy. The Harvard faculty’s open letter reflects growing concerns among many commentators about new laws, federal guidance, and campus policies that sacrifice due process and constitutional values like “innocent until proven guilty” in order to address sexual misconduct on campus. “We are gratified to see so many Harvard Law faculty members speak out against Harvard University’s participation in what is a continued and inexcusable disregard for student and faculty due process rights,” said FIRE […]

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  • New FIRE Video: Nat Hentoff on Free Speech, Jazz, and FIRE

    By on October 8, 2014 Category: Video

    NEW YORK, October 8, 2014—Today, FIRE is proud to announce the release of our newest video, an interview with legendary critic and civil libertarian Nat Hentoff. In the interview, recorded this past April at his New York City residence, Hentoff explains the unique power of the First Amendment, discusses his lifelong love of jazz, and emphasizes the importance of FIRE’s work on our nation’s campuses. “The reason FIRE is important is no other organization—and I’ve been reporting about FIRE almost since the day it was born—focuses so entirely on making the new generation, and thereby the generations to follow, aware […]

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  • Speech Code of the Month: University of New Mexico

    By on October 1, 2014 Category: Speech Code of the Month

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for October 2014: the University of New Mexico. The University of New Mexico’s (UNM’s) Sexual Harassment Policy (PDF) states that “[e]xamples of sexual harassment which shall not be tolerated” include “suggestive” letters, notes, or invitations. The policy also prohibits “displaying sexually suggestive or derogatory objects, pictures, cartoons, or posters,” albeit with the vague disclaimer that such displays will be “evaluated for appropriateness such as art displayed in museums … .” This policy prohibits far more than the type of severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive conduct that actually constitutes sexual harassment in the […]

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  • After Denial, Group Opposing Same-Sex Marriage Approved at Notre Dame

    By on September 30, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    NOTRE DAME, Ind., September 30, 2014—Months after being rejected on the grounds that it was considered “redundant,” the University of Notre Dame student group Students for Child-Oriented Policy (SCOP) has finally won official recognition. Notre Dame denied the group recognition earlier this year following student opposition to SCOP due to its stance against same-sex marriage. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) called on Notre Dame to abandon its dubious rationale for SCOP’s rejection. “We commend Notre Dame for finally getting things right and allowing SCOP its rightful place among Notre Dame’s recognized student organizations,” said Robert Shibley, FIRE’s […]

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  • FIRE Urges UC Berkeley to Honor ‘Free Speech Movement’; FIRE President to Speak at 50th Anniversary Event

    By on September 26, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    BERKELEY, Calif., September 26, 2014—As the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) celebrates the 50th anniversary of the historic Free Speech Movement this fall, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) sent the university a letter today urging it to revise its six speech codes to comply with the First Amendment. FIRE President Greg Lukianoff will also be speaking at a campus event commemorating the Free Speech Movement on Saturday, September 27. “The University of California, Berkeley should be proud of the Free Speech Movement’s legacy and happy to celebrate this momentous occasion 50 years later,” said Lukianoff. “However, […]

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  • VIDEO: Students Pass Out Constitutions on Constitution Day, Campus Does Not Implode

    By on September 18, 2014 Category: Video

    Citrus College in California, like many other colleges and universities around the country, enacted policies to quarantine student speech to a tiny—and unconstitutional—“free speech area.” Last year, student Vincenzo Sinapi-Riddle was even threatened with removal from campus by an administrator for asking a fellow student to sign a petition protesting NSA surveillance of American citizens outside the college’s “free speech area.” That’s why FIRE announced a lawsuit against Citrus College this July, challenging this policy and others that limited free speech on campus. The college has put enforcement of its unconstitutional speech codes on hold while litigation is in process. […]

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  • On Constitution Day, FIRE Mails First Amendment Warning to More Than 300 Colleges

    By on September 17, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 17, 2014—In a national certified mailing sent today, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) warns the leaders of more than 300 of our nation’s largest and most prestigious public colleges and universities that they risk First Amendment lawsuits by continuing to maintain speech codes that violate student and faculty rights. The letters are being mailed from the main post office near Independence Hall in Philadelphia today to mark the 227th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. “58 percent of our nation’s public colleges and universities restrict student and faculty speech with blatantly unconstitutional policies, […]

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  • Plymouth State University Earns FIRE’s Highest Rating for Free Speech

    By on September 12, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    PLYMOUTH, N.H., September 12, 2014—Plymouth State University (PSU) has eliminated all of its speech codes, earning the highest, “green light” rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). After working with FIRE to ensure its policies comply with the First Amendment, PSU has become the 20th institution nationwide—and the second institution in just two months—to earn FIRE’s most favorable rating for free speech on campus. “Plymouth State is to be commended for its commitment to free speech,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “As one of only 20 schools to earn a green light rating from FIRE, Plymouth State is […]

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  • Speech Code of the Month: Boise State University

    By on September 10, 2014 Category: Speech Code of the Month

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for September 2014: Boise State University.
    Boise State’s Information Technology Resource Use policy (PDF) prohibits the use of university IT resources for “displaying, transmitting, retrieving, or storing inappropriate or offensive material,” unless “identified and pre-approved in writing by the [Vice President for] Academic Affairs and Provost as part of legitimate research, teaching, or academic pursuits.”

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  • FIRE President Takes On Berkeley Chancellor in WSJ; Releases New Book, ‘Freedom From Speech’

    By on September 9, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    WASHINGTON, September 9, 2014—Today, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) announces the release of President Greg Lukianoff’s second book, Freedom From Speech, as well as his latest op-ed in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), in which he criticizes the University of California, Berkeley chancellor’s weak defense of campus free speech. In Freedom From Speech, Lukianoff describes how threats to free speech are likely to increase both in the U.S. and abroad due to the marginalization of free speech as a cultural value. Lukianoff points to censorship overseas, “trigger warnings,” and the disinvitation of controversial speakers on campus as […]

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  • Students Return to Campus Censorship, But Fight Back with FIRE

    By on September 2, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    PHILADELPHIA, September 2, 2014—As millions of college students arrive on campus this fall—many for the first time—few of them realize that nearly 59 percent of our nation’s colleges maintain policies that clearly and substantially restrict speech protected by the First Amendment. Too many students will realize that the rights they took for granted as Americans have been denied to them only after they face charges and disciplinary action for speaking their minds. But this year, campus censorship faces a new deterrent: FIRE’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project, which aims to finally bring an end to unconstitutional and illiberal speech […]

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  • Victory: University of Oregon Drops Charges Against Student for Joke

    By on August 28, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    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 illustrates […]

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  • Four-Word Joke Results in Five Conduct Charges for University of Oregon Student

    By on August 26, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    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 […]

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  • FIRE Op-Ed Part of ‘New York Times’ Debate on Campus Sexual Assault

    By on August 13, 2014 Category: The Torch

    Torch readers are well aware that FIRE has played a lead role in the national debate about how colleges and universities should properly respond to sexual assaults on campus. Yesterday, an op-ed by FIRE’s Samantha Harris was included in a series in The New York Times on this important issue, designed to present a variety of approaches to the problem.

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  • University of Florida Earns FIRE’s Highest Rating for Free Speech

    By on August 13, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    GAINESVILLE, Fla., August 13, 2014—The University of Florida (UF) has eliminated all of its speech codes, earning the highest, “green light” rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). After working with FIRE to ensure its policies comply with the First Amendment, UF has joined a select group of colleges and universities nationwide to earn FIRE’s most favorable rating for free speech on campus.

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  • Speech Code of the Month: Arkansas State University

    By on August 4, 2014 Category: Speech Code of the Month

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for August 2014: Arkansas State University.

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  • Pre-Order ‘Freedom From Speech’ Today!

    By on August 1, 2014 Category: The Torch

    Not two years after the release of Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff is releasing a new (short) book. In this “broadside,” Freedom from Speech, Greg covers several disturbing trends over the past year, from colleges punishing individuals for offensive utterances to the phenomenon of “disinvitation season.”

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  • New FIRE Video: Don’t Shut Up—Stand Up For Speech!

    By on July 8, 2014 Category: Video

    Today, we’re proud to release FIRE’s newest video, titled “Don’t Shut Up—Stand Up For Speech!,” to further introduce some of the principled and impressive students who fought back when their schools stifled their expression.

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  • Speech Code of the Month: Armstrong State University

    By on July 8, 2014 Category: Speech Code of the Month

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for July 2014: Armstrong State University, a public university in the University System of Georgia.
    Armstrong’s list of student conduct offenses (PDF) includes, among other things:
    Sexual harassment (i.e., unwelcome sexual advances or conduct, creation of a hostile environment as perceived by the complainant, or the demand for sexual favors in return for some benefit.)

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  • Gun Rights Activist’s Speech Draws Unconstitutional Security Fees at Boise State

    By on July 7, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    BOISE, Idaho, July 7, 2014—The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has intervened at Boise State University after the college charged a student group hundreds of dollars in unconstitutional security fees for hosting a speech by a gun rights activist. Boise State forced the campus chapter of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) to pay the fees or else face the last-minute cancellation of an event featuring Dick Heller, the named plaintiff in a well-known 2008 Supreme Court case regarding the possession of firearms. “You could hardly ask for a clearer violation of a student group’s First Amendment rights,” said Peter […]

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  • FIRE Brings Four Free Speech Lawsuits in One Day

    By on July 1, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    WASHINGTON, July 1, 2014—This morning, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) coordinated the filing of lawsuits against Ohio University, Chicago State University, Iowa State University, and Citrus College (Calif.). The filings launch FIRE’s new Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project, a national effort to eliminate unconstitutional speech codes through targeted First Amendment lawsuits. The project and lawsuits were announced today at a press conference at the National Press Club. FIRE has retained preeminent First Amendment attorney Robert Corn-Revere of the national law firm Davis Wright Tremaine as counsel for students and faculty members participating in the Stand Up […]

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  • Notre Dame Defends Rejection of ‘Redundant’ Student Group Amid Controversy

    By on June 19, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    NOTRE DAME, Ind., June 19, 2014—The University of Notre Dame is standing by its decision to reject the prospective student organization Students for Child-Oriented Policy (SCOP), claiming the group would be “redundant” in light of other existing groups on campus. Notre Dame rejected the group following student opposition to SCOP due to its stance against same-sex marriage. FIRE has intervened on SCOP’s behalf. FIRE sent Notre Dame a letter on May 23 calling on the university to reverse its decision. Notre Dame responded on June 6 with a defense of SCOP’s rejection, citing the same questionable “redundancy” rationale. “It is […]

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  • In Unanimous Ruling, Supreme Court Protects Ability to Challenge Restrictions on Speech

    By on June 17, 2014 Category: The Torch

    Back in March, FIRE filed an amicus curiae brief (PDF) with the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus after the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit’s ruling in the case threatened to create a significant hurdle for those wishing to challenge restrictions on speech in court. FIRE is happy to report that yesterday, the Supreme Court unanimously reversed the Sixth Circuit’s judgment (PDF) and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Court’s ruling reaffirmed that the threat of punishment may allow for a First Amendment challenge to a law, even if that law has not yet been enforced against the speaker.

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  • UNC Wilmington Hit With $700,000 Legal Bill for Violating Professor’s Speech Rights

    By on June 11, 2014 Category: The Torch

    The protracted legal battle between the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNC Wilmington) and professor Mike Adams can be fairly characterized as a series of failures by the university to cut its losses and own up to its mistakes. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled against the university in 2011, holding that the professor’s academic speech was entitled to protection under the First Amendment. Yet the university pressed on. Then, a federal jury rejected the university’s defense that it didn’t deny Adams’ promotion based on the protected activity and found that UNC Wilmington had […]

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  • Sexual Assault Injustice at Occidental: College Railroads Accused Student

    By on June 4, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    LOS ANGELES, June 4, 2014—Under pressure from the federal government to take action on sexual assault, and in the wake of a multi-plaintiff lawsuit from attorney Gloria Allred last year, Occidental College has found a student “responsible” for sexual assault despite the fact that police refused to charge him with any crime and text message evidence indicates that both parties consented to having sex. Accused student John Doe has filed a pseudonymous lawsuit against Occidental College to invalidate its finding and contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help. “Disregard for due process on campus, prompted by […]

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  • A Closer Look at Senator McCaskill’s Second Roundtable on Campus Sexual Assault

    By on June 4, 2014 Category: The Torch

    On Monday, Senator Claire McCaskill held the second of a series of three roundtables discussing sexual assault on campus in Washington, D.C. Joined by Senators Jon Tester and Richard Blumenthal, the discussion centered on Title IX and featured what Senator McCaskill deemed a “diverse group of stakeholders,” including representatives from victims’ rights advocacy groups like Know Your IX, college administrators involved in Title IX compliance, and Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Jocelyn Samuels from the Department of Justice.

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  • Stanford Student Government Steamrolls Club, Ignores Promises on Free Speech

    By on June 2, 2014 Category: The Torch

    STANFORD, Calif., June 2, 2014—In the wake of its heavily criticized, viewpoint-based retraction of funding to the Stanford Anscombe Society (SAS) student group for a conference on traditional values and marriage, Stanford University’s student government has ruled that the government’s Graduate Student Council (GSC) did not violate the group’s rights under Stanford rules. Additionally, the student government maintains that there is “simply not enough money” to fulfill requests for funding such as SAS’s request for $600—despite the fact that the student government has amassed a “Graduate buffer fund” of more than half a million dollars.

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  • New FIRE Report: ‘Disinvitations’ Skyrocketing

    By on May 28, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    PHILADELPHIA, May 28, 2014—In the wake of high-profile controversies this month over withdrawn and disinvited commencement speakers including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, International Monetary Fund Director Christine Lagarde, and women’s rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has released its first formal report on the phenomenon known as “disinvitation season” on campus. FIRE’s report finds that since 2000, the number of reported disinvitations and demands that speakers be disinvited has skyrocketed—from six in 2000 to 29 in 2013, for a total of 192 such incidents. And while efforts to exclude speakers receive […]

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  • Victory for Student Rights: UT Austin Restores Transparency in Funding Student Organizations

    By on May 19, 2014 Category: The Torch

    The assessment of mandatory student fees for the purpose of supporting a variety of student organizations and programming is commonplace at public universities. Distribution of these funds is often placed in the hands of students themselves, with the understanding—reinforced by multiple Supreme Court decisions—that this process must be content- and viewpoint-neutral. In the absence of transparency, however, the fair allocation of student fee funds can be threatened—as was until recently the case at the University of Texas at Austin (UT). Fortunately, in response to concerns raised by FIRE, UT is taking steps to ensure transparency is restored and funds are distributed even-handedly.

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  • U. of Hawaii at Hilo Suspends Restrictive ‘Free Speech Zone’ While Lawsuit Proceeds

    By on May 16, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    Facing a federal lawsuit from a student who was ordered to stop handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution on campus, the University of Hawaii at Hilo has announced that it will immediately take interim steps to stop requiring students to limit their spontaneous political expression to a tiny “free speech zone.” FIRE coordinated last month’s lawsuit against the university for this and other First Amendment violations on behalf of students Merritt Burch and Anthony Vizzone.

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  • Don’t Save the Date: NYT, WSJ, Fox, MSNBC, NPR Cover ‘Disinvitation Season’

    By on May 13, 2014 Category: The Torch

    The Class of 2014 is preparing for graduation by buying their caps and gowns—but let’s hope they weren’t counting on having a speaker for the ceremony. The years-long, snowballing trend of protests against commencement speakers, which FIRE has termed “disinvitation season,” is getting major attention this year from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, MSNBC, and NPR, among many other outlets.

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  • Loyola University Chicago Backs Down from Demands That Students Censor Free Speech Wall

    By on May 12, 2014 Category: The Torch

    In April, Loyola University Chicago informed a student group planning a “free speech wall” event that it would be required to censor any messages that were “grossly offensive” or “contrary to the University’s Catholic, Jesuit mission and heritage.” After FIRE wrote to remind Loyola of its obligation to honor its promises of broad expressive rights on campus, Loyola backed down from its demands that students censor each other, and the event transpired as planned. FIRE is pleased that Loyola ultimately respected its students’ free speech rights and hopes that it will continue to do so in the future.

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  • Racial Humor Among Friends Deemed ‘Harassment’ at Lewis & Clark College

    By on May 8, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    Lewis & Clark College has declared two students, one African-American and one white, guilty of creating a “hostile and discriminatory environment” after racially themed jokes spoken between the friends at a private party were overheard and reported to campus authorities. The students contacted FIRE for help. In the face of media scrutiny and growing faculty concern, the college has said only that it “may” respond to FIRE’s criticisms.

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  • Concern Grows over White House Task Force’s Recommendations

    By on May 6, 2014 Category: The Torch

    In the week since the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault released its first report, commentators nationwide have echoed FIRE’s concerns about the Task Force’s recommendations.

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  • Speech Code of the Month: Wake Forest University

    By on May 5, 2014 Category: Speech Code of the Month

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for May 2014: Wake Forest University. Wake Forest’s “Campus Posting” policy explicitly restricts student postings on the basis of their viewpoint. Not only does the policy ban any postings subjectively deemed “sexist,” “racist,” “derogatory,” or not in “good taste,” but it threatens violators with fines and disciplinary action. With this policy, Wake Forest places an impermissibly heavy burden on students wishing to express controversial political or social opinions on campus.

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  • Where There’s Smoke, There’s FIRE: Two More Allegations of Rights Violations at Hawaii-Hilo

    By on May 2, 2014 Category: The Torch

    Last week, two students, supported by FIRE, filed a lawsuit against the University of Hawaii at Hilo for violating their rights to free expression. Since the lawsuit was filed, other students have come forward alleging violations of their rights.

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  • FIRE Responds to White House Task Force’s First Report on Campus Sexual Assault

    By on April 29, 2014 Category: The Torch

    Three months after its creation, the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault issued its first report today. Titled “Not Alone” and accompanied by a new website, NotAlone.gov, the report announces new recommended practices for colleges and universities nationwide, including a template for “campus climate surveys,” a model sexual misconduct policy, and a sample confidentiality policy. The report is accompanied by the issuance of a new guidance document regarding Title IX from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Taken together, the Task Force’s recommendations double down on a broken campus judicial system and raise troubling new concerns about the impartiality and fundamental fairness of campus proceedings.

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  • Lawsuit! Another Student Ordered to Stop Handing Out Constitutions on Campus Files Suit in Hawaii

    By on April 24, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    A student ordered by administrators to stop handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution at the University of Hawaii at Hilo has filed a lawsuit today in federal court. Merritt Burch is suing the University of Hawaii System for violating her First Amendment rights. She is joined as a plaintiff by fellow student Anthony Vizzone.

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  • Bergen Administrators Fear ‘Game of Thrones’ Quote, Censor Professor

    By on April 16, 2014 Category: The Torch

    Brace yourselves; censorship is coming!

    Displaying a lack of both pop culture and First Amendment awareness, administrators at Bergen Community College in New Jersey placed Professor Francis Schmidt on leave this past January, requiring him to meet with a psychiatrist before returning to campus—just for posting a picture of his daughter in a T-shirt quoting the popular HBO television show Game of Thrones.

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  • EMT Instructor Deemed Insufficiently ‘Sensitive to Diversity’ Vindicated; Settlement Reached

    By on April 14, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    LOS ANGELES, April 14, 2014—A paramedics instructor at Antelope Valley College (AVC) has vindicated his First Amendment rights after being threatened with discipline for allegedly demonstrating insufficient “sensitivity to diversity” in class.

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  • Saint Louis University Kicks Political Speech Off Campus

    By on April 9, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    Last fall, Saint Louis University (SLU) demanded a student group take an event featuring former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown off campus. SLU justified its wrongful decision to prevent Brown from appearing on campus out of misguided concerns for its tax-exempt status. With the 2014 midterm elections on the horizon, FIRE calls on SLU to once and for all stop using this excuse to suppress political speech on campus.

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  • Virginia Bans Unconstitutional Campus ‘Free Speech Zones’

    By on April 7, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    On Friday, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed a bill into law effectively designating outdoor areas on the Commonwealth’s public college campuses as public forums where student speech is subject only to reasonable, content- and viewpoint-neutral time, place, and manner restrictions. Under this new law, college students at Virginia’s public universities will not be limited to expressing themselves in tiny “free speech zones” or subject to unreasonable registration requirements.

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  • Speech Code of the Month: Colorado Mesa University

    By on April 7, 2014 Category: Speech Code of the Month

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for April 2014: Colorado Mesa University. Colorado Mesa’s policy on “Free Speech” limits students’ expressive activities to just one “concrete patio” on the university’s 86-acre campus. While the university has the right to enact reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions, courts have held time and again that onerous restrictions like this one are not reasonable.

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  • Dept. of Education Rulemaking Session Ends on Positive Note for Student Due Process Rights

    By on April 2, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    Yesterday, the last of three “negotiated rulemaking” sessions over new requirements for campus safety rules imposed by last year’s Violence Against Women Act reauthorization closed with good news for student rights.

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  • Asnuntuck C.C. Punishes Student Speech, Ignores This Exculpatory Video

    By on April 1, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    FIRE has called on Asnuntuck Community College (ACC) to drop its disciplinary action against a student following a conversation on campus with Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy. Making matters worse, ACC deprived the student of crucial due process protections, even refusing to review exculpatory video evidence.

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  • Georgetown College Earns Highest Rating for Free Speech

    By on March 28, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    Georgetown College in Kentucky has eliminated all of its speech codes, earning the highest, “green light” rating for free speech from FIRE.

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  • Video: ‘The State of Free Speech in America’ with Lukianoff, Fish, Rauch, Posner, Rosen

    By on March 27, 2014 Category: The Torch

    This Tuesday, FIRE hosted an event focused on “The State of Free Speech in America” at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. Check out the video recording of the complete event!

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  • Stanford Covers Security Fee, But Viewpoint Discrimination Remains

    By on March 21, 2014 Category: The Torch

    FIRE received word yesterday evening that Stanford would cover the costs of security after all. As SAS announced, it was informed via email that the university had “[f]ound more funds to subsidize the full cost of the security”—a lucky break, given that Stanford is only a “$4.8 billion enterprise.”

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  • New FIRE Video: Dartmouth Student Runs Over Free Speech

    By on March 20, 2014 Category: Video

    FIRE’s newest video features Dartmouth College student Robert Smith, who talks about the afternoon a fellow Dartmouth student ran over his organization’s pro-life display with his car. The ironic twist? The car was sporting a “Coexist” bumper sticker on the back.

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  • Victory: Indiana U. Dismisses Conduct Charges Based on Student’s Single Email

    By on March 19, 2014 Category: The Torch

    FIRE has successfully defended the First Amendment rights of Indiana University – Bloomington student Andrew Hsu, who was charged with “Personal Misconduct” on the basis of a single email sent to a faculty member. After FIRE intervened on Hsu’s behalf, making clear the university’s unconstitutional application of its misconduct policy to Hsu’s protected expression, the university dismissed all charges against Hsu and permanently closed his case. FIRE commends IU for taking prompt corrective action.

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  • Western Kentucky University Revises Speech Code of the Month Policy

    By on March 17, 2014 Category: The Torch

    In some good news for free speech on campus, Western Kentucky University (WKU) has revised a “Computing Ethics” policy that drew condemnation from the university’s Student Government Association (SGA) and was named FIRE’s Speech Code of the Month for March 2014. Because this was WKU’s only “red light” policy, the university now earns an improved, “yellow light” rating in FIRE’s Spotlight database.

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  • ‘Unlearning Liberty’ Released in Paperback Today

    By on March 11, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is proud to announce the paperback release of President Greg Lukianoff’s Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate, which includes a new afterword and photo section. As with the hardcover edition, all royalties from sales of the book will support FIRE’s work defending individual rights on campus.

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  • A Closer Look at FIRE’s ‘Susan B. Anthony List’ Brief

    By on March 7, 2014 Category: The Torch

    As announced earlier this week, FIRE filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief (PDF) with the Supreme Court of the United States on Monday in the case of Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus. Because the case is an important one for FIRE’s work challenging speech codes in court, it’s worth taking a closer look at the stakes and our arguments.

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  • Victory: Modesto Junior College Settles Student’s First Amendment Lawsuit

    By on February 25, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    Yesterday evening, California’s Modesto Junior College (MJC) agreed to settle a First Amendment lawsuit filed last October by student Robert Van Tuinen, whom the college prevented from handing out copies of the Constitution on Constitution Day. The videotaped incident drew national media attention.

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  • ‘Bait and Switch’ at Dept. of Education’s Negotiated Rulemaking Session

    By on February 24, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    Today, the Department of Education began the second of three sessions of negotiated rulemaking on changes to federal campus crime reporting requirements. Unfortunately, negotiators are attempting to advance regulatory measures specifically rejected by lawmakers in the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), including a requirement that campus judiciaries employ our nation’s lowest evidentiary standard in sexual harassment and sexual assault hearings.

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  • ‘Harvard Crimson’ Column: Time to Get Rid of Academic Freedom

    By on February 21, 2014 Category: The Torch

    Harvard University student Sandra Y.L. Korn has a provocative column in The Harvard Crimson that has been making the rounds. The column has a bold thesis: We should get rid of academic freedom as our standard for what ideas should be admitted to the university sphere, and replace it with what she terms “academic justice.” In Korn’s concept of academic justice, “When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue.” The concept of academic freedom Korn seeks to supplant is long-established and enshrined in, among other statements, the American Association […]

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  • Ignoring Academic Freedom, South Carolina Legislators Aim to Punish Public Colleges for Choice of Books

    By on February 21, 2014 Category: The Torch

    It seems like just minutes ago that I was writing about the Tennessee legislature’s ill-considered attempt to silence discussion on campus by prohibiting the payment of outside speakers. Wait a second—it was. Unfortunately, I’m not done, because there’s more deeply depressing news on the state legislative front this morning.

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  • Victory: Free Press Vindicated at University of Alaska Fairbanks

    By on February 11, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    In a victory for freedom of the press, the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) has cleared The Sun Star student newspaper of any wrongdoing following a prolonged investigation of the newspaper’s content prompted by repeated and meritless complaints from a UAF professor. UAF officials announced the end of the investigation in a letter to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which intervened after the situation had dragged on for more than eight months.

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  • Save the Date! FIRE Celebrates 15 Years on October 23

    By on February 10, 2014 Category: Events

    This year, FIRE turns 15! We are excited to announce that we will be celebrating this milestone with a gala dinner in New York City for our friends and supporters. The event will feature Steven Pinker and Floyd Abrams as well as some of the many students helped by our work. Join us on Thursday, October 23, 2014 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York City. For more information or to purchase tickets contact Alisha Glennon at 215-717-3473 or alisha@thefire.org. We look forward to celebrating with you in New York on October 23!

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  • New Look, Same Mission: FIRE’s New Website and Logo!

    By on February 5, 2014 Category: The Torch

    2014 marks FIRE’s 15th anniversary, and we’re celebrating the occasion by unveiling a new website and a new logo! While FIRE’s commitment to defending individual rights on our nation’s college and university campuses will never change, we’ve spent the last few months working on a brand new website to more effectively reach the next generation of college students.

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  • Speech Code of the Month: University of Richmond

    By on February 5, 2014 Category: Speech Code of the Month

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for February 2014: the University of Richmond. The University of Richmond’s Standards of Student Conduct prohibit any “inappropriate behavior or expression,” giving the administration complete discretion to punish virtually any expression it finds inconvenient or unwelcome.

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  • ‘Kindly Inquisitors’ Anniversary Edition Now in Paperback

    By on February 3, 2014 Category: The Torch

    The 20th anniversary edition of Jonathan Rauch’s influential book on the importance of freedom of inquiry, Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought, is now available in paperback. This March, Rauch will join National Constitution Center President and CEO Jeffrey Rosen, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff, and University of Chicago Law School Professor Eric Posner to discuss freedom of expression at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. Full details about this exciting event will be announced here on The Torch soon. March will also mark the paperback release of Lukianoff’s Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate. […]

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  • FIRE Announces Winners of 2013-2014 Essay Contest

    By on January 31, 2014 Category: The Torch

    Today, FIRE is pleased to announce the winners of our 2013–2014 Freedom in Academia Essay Contest: Kanitta Kulprathipanja, a senior at Schaumburg High School in Schaumburg, Illinois, won first prize for her essay inviting readers to imagine what her essay would look like without freedom of speech. Kanitta will receive a $10,000 college scholarship. In her winning essay, published below, Kanitta argues that “[c]ollege brings huge changes in the life of a student. Students learn a lot during the years they spend there: about the past, about the world, and about themselves. Preventing free speech stunts their ability to gain […]

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  • FIRE President Lukianoff Named to Media Institute’s Advisory Board

    By on January 30, 2014 Category: The Torch

    The Media Institute, a nonprofit organization specializing in freedom of expression and media policy issues, announced yesterday that FIRE President Greg Lukianoff has joined its First Amendment Advisory Council. The Council is chaired by Kurt Wimmer of Covington & Burling LLP and includes leading First Amendment attorneys such as Floyd Abrams, Kathleen Kirby, Ashley Messenger, and Robert Corn-Revere. “Through his work at FIRE, Greg reminds us all that the First Amendment belongs to everyone. We are honored that he accepted our invitation to join the Institute’s First Amendment Advisory Council,” said Media Institute President Patrick Maines in a press release […]

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  • University of Memphis Slashes Student Newspaper’s Funding [VIDEO]

    By on January 23, 2014 Category: Video

    On most college campuses, the student newspaper is entrusted with reporting on issues important to the campus community and with holding powerful campus authorities accountable. But after the student newspaper at the University of Memphis found its budget slashed by $25,000 because the student government and university administration didn’t like the paper’s critical, investigative reporting on their activities, The Daily Helmsman’s role as a campus watchdog was threatened. Chelsea Boozer was editor-in-chief of the Helmsman when the paper’s budget was cut in May 2012. In FIRE’s latest video, Boozer talks about the events leading up to the paper’s funding cut and how the actions taken by […]

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  • New Report: 59% of Campuses Maintain Severe Speech Restrictions–But That’s Actually an Improvement

    By on January 17, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    PHILADELPHIA, January 17, 2014—The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) released its 2014 report on campus speech codes today, finding that 59% of the 427 colleges and universities analyzed maintain policies that seriously infringe upon students’ speech rights. For the sixth consecutive year, however, this percentage has dropped. Despite this progress, confusing signals from the federal government have created an unacceptable tension between universities’ twin obligations to protect free speech and to prevent discriminatory harassment. Major findings from Spotlight on Speech Codes 2014: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation’s Campuses include: 59% (58.6%) of the 427 schools surveyed have speech codes that clearly and […]

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  • Virginia Legislature Considers Bills to Safeguard Student Rights

    By on January 15, 2014 Category: The Torch

    Yesterday, we reported on Virginia Delegate Scott Lingamfelter’s bill that would prohibit public colleges in Virginia from misusing “time, place, and manner” restrictions in violation of the First Amendment. Today, we’re happy to bring you news of yet another Virginia bill that would safeguard the rights of students at Virginia’s public institutions of higher education. Following in North Carolina’s footsteps, Delegate Rick Morris has introduced a bill that would grant students facing serious non-academic disciplinary charges the right to be represented by an attorney or other advocate of the student’s choosing. HB 1123 provides, in part: Any student enrolled at a public institution of higher education […]

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  • Prof Returns to Class after CU ‘Harassment’ Claim Fails

    By on January 10, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    BOULDER, Colo., January 10, 2014—The University of Colorado (CU) has backed down from last month’s cancellation of Professor Patti Adler’s popular and long-running “Deviance in U.S. Society” class after claiming that a lecture on prostitution that involved voluntary student participation could be seen as “harassing.” The rowback comes only days after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the National Coalition Against Censorship, the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, and the Student Press Law Center issued a public statement to the university warning of the cancellation’s consequences for academic freedom. Adler will teach the course again this spring. “While we’re glad that Professor Adler will return […]

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  • FIRE, NCAC, ACLU-CO, and SPLC Urge CU-Boulder to Uphold Academic Freedom

    By on January 3, 2014 Category: The Torch

    Yesterday FIRE, the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado (ACLU-CO), and the Student Press Law Center (SPLC) released a statement urging the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU-Boulder) to reinstate Professor Patricia Adler’s course on “Deviance in U.S. Society” and to publicly reaffirm the boundaries between protected classroom discussion and sexual harassment. Last month, Adler was allegedly given the choice between resigning or discontinuing the “Deviance” course and was told that even if she stayed, she could be fired if anyone filed a complaint against her. As justification for this threat, Provost Russell Moore said that Adler’s teaching methods—particularly […]

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  • Speech Code of the Month: University of West Alabama

    By on January 2, 2014 Category: Speech Code of the Month

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for January 2014: the University of West Alabama (UWA). The University of West Alabama has a new policy prohibiting “Cyberbullying and Cyber Harassment” (PDF) that subjects virtually every student and faculty member on campus to punishment. That is because the policy defines cyberbullying to include not only unlawful conduct and unprotected speech, but also “harsh text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles.” Go ahead and read that one again: “harsh text messages or emails.” Given that a “harsh” text or email […]

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  • 2013 in Review: Threats from Washington, Victories in the States

    By on December 30, 2013 Category: Press Releases

    As 2013 comes to a close, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) looks back on a year that was headlined by dire threats to free speech and student rights on campus.

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  • Speech Codes of the Year: 2013

    By on December 26, 2013 Category: The Torch

    Each month, FIRE singles out a particularly reprehensible campus speech code for our Speech Code of the Month designation. While all of 2013’s Speech Codes of the Month flagrantly violated students’ or faculty members’ right to free expression, two of them were so egregious that they deserve special mention as 2013’s Speech Codes of the Year. Troy University Troy, a public university in Alabama, defines harassment (PDF) as “any comments or conduct consisting of words or actions that are unwelcome or offensive to a person in relation to sex, race, age, religion, national origin, color, marital status, pregnancy, or disability or veteran’s status.” This […]

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  • California College Suspends Speech Restrictions Amidst Settlement Talks

    By on December 18, 2013 Category: Press Releases

    FRESNO, Calif., Dec. 18, 2013—Modesto Junior College (MJC) has agreed to suspend enforcement of its “free speech zone” as it negotiates an end to a federal lawsuit filed by a student prevented from handing out copies of the Constitution on campus on Constitution Day. A joint stipulation filed in federal district court yesterday by MJC and attorneys for student Robert Van Tuinen states that the parties have agreed on several significant revisions to the college’s “free speech policies and procedures,” pending final approval by the Yosemite Community College District, expected this spring. “FIRE welcomes this development as a sign that Modesto Junior College is […]

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  • Oregon State Earns Highest Rating for Free Speech Policies

    By on December 13, 2013 Category: The Torch

    Oregon State University (OSU) joins an elite group of colleges and universities by becoming just the 17th school in the country to receive FIRE’s highest, “green light,” rating for free speech policies. A college or university earns a green light when its written policies do not seriously imperil free speech. While the clear majority of the nation’s colleges maintain policies that clearly and substantially restrict freedom of speech, OSU is now a proud exception. It is Oregon’s first-ever green light school, and its policy change affects more than 27,000 students. “FIRE is thrilled to see another major state university eliminate its speech codes,” said […]

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  • Speech Code of the Month: Virginia State University

    By on December 11, 2013 Category: Speech Code of the Month

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for December 2013: Virginia State University. According to Virginia State’s Student Code of Conduct (PDF), “[s]tudents shall not injure, harass, threaten, offend, or degrade a member of the University community” (emphasis added). Any violation of this provision “is subject to disciplinary sanctions including, but not limited to warning, probation, loss of privileges, fines, restitution, residence hall suspension, residence hall expulsion, Virginia State University suspension, and Virginia State University expulsion.” So here we have a public university, legally bound by the First Amendment, threatening to expel students if they “offend” another student on campus. Do you support […]

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  • Harvey Silverglate on Harvard’s Free Speech Fakery

    By on December 5, 2013 Category: The Torch, Video

    Growing up, Harvey Silverglate always had a natural inclination toward free speech. As he says, “We really used to say on the streets of Brooklyn, ‘Sticks and stones will break my bones but names can never harm me.’” After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1967, Harvey followed his passion for free speech to college campuses, where, as a lawyer, he defended Vietnam war protesters. His experiences defending student expression on campus eventually led him to co-found FIRE, where he now serves as Chairman of the Board. In FIRE’s latest video, we sit down with Harvey to discuss why it […]

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  • You Could Win a $10,000 College Scholarship from FIRE!

    By on November 26, 2013 Category: Featured stories, The Torch

    When applying to colleges, it’s important for high school students to learn about the extent to which their First Amendment rights will be respected or restricted at different schools. FIRE’s essay contest aims to teach high school students about their rights while giving them the opportunity to win thousands of dollars in scholarships! To enter, high school juniors and seniors should watch two FIRE videos—Silencing U: Five Outrageous Cases of Campus Censorship and What Every Student Should Know Before Starting College—and write an essay answering the question: “Why is free speech important at our nation’s colleges and universities?” Essays are due January […]

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  • ‘Blueprint’ No More? Feds Back Away from New Campus Speech Restrictions

    By on November 21, 2013 Category: Press Releases

    WASHINGTON, November 21, 2013—The federal government is backing away from the nationwide “blueprint” for campus speech restrictions issued this May by the Departments of Education and Justice. The agencies’ settlement with the University of Montana sought to impose new, unconstitutional speech restrictions, due process abuses, and an overbroad definition of sexual harassment and proclaimed the agreement to be “a blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country.” But in a letter sent last week to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the new head of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), Catherine Lhamon, said that “the agreement in the […]

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  • U. of Wisconsin Regents Revise Systemwide Speech Code

    By on November 18, 2013 Category: The Torch

    There is very good news for free speech at Wisconsin’s public universities: The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents has revised a system-wide discriminatory harassment policy that previously contained language declared unconstitutional by a federal court. In April of this year, FIRE and two groups of University of Wisconsin (UW) faculty wrote to the Board of Regents urging them to reform Board of Regents Policy 14-6, which at the time was titled “Racist and Discriminatory Conduct.” That policy directed Wisconsin’s public universities to adopt policies against discriminatory conduct and offered sample policy language substantively identical to language struck down by a federal district court […]

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  • Students’ Free Speech Victory Upheld at Oregon State as Supreme Court Denies Cert Petition

    By on October 8, 2013 Category: The Torch

    Last October, my colleague Will Creeley wrote a post here on The Torch describing an important victory for students’ free speech rights from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Oregon State University Student Alliance v. Ray. That decision will now stand, as the United States Supreme Court denied defendants’ petition for certiorari in an order issued yesterday. As you may recall, the case arose when Oregon State University (OSU) administrators apparently attempted to push the Liberty, a conservative student newspaper, off campus—initially by removing and throwing out the Liberty’s newsbins (picture here), then by enforcing […]

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  • Is UW-La Crosse Prof Being Railroaded over ‘Partisan’ Speech?

    By on October 8, 2013 Category: The Torch

    A concerning report out of Wisconsin suggests that administrators at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (UW-L) have inappropriately pressured a professor there to apologize for sending her class an email critical of the government shutdown and to refrain from using “politically partisan language” in the future. According to The Daily Caller, UW-L geography professor Rachel Slocum sent her class the following email: hi everyone Some of the data gathering assignment will be impossible to complete until the Republican/tea party controlled House of Representatives agrees to fund the government. The Census website, for example, is closed. Please do what you can […]

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