• 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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