FOX News Reports on FIRE Case at Rhode Island College

By December 17, 2008

FOX News reported yesterday on student William Felkner’s lawsuit against Rhode Island College’s (RIC’s) School of Social Work for denying him a master’s degree in social work for his conservative views:

Felkner said his problems with his professors began in his first semester, in the fall of 2004, when he objected in an e-mail to one of his professors that the school was showing and promoting Michael Moore’s "Fahrenheit 9/11" on campus. He said he objected because no opposing point of view was presented.

He said Professor James Ryczek wrote to him on Oct. 15, 2004, saying he was proud of his bias and questioning Felkner’s ability to "fit with the profession."

"I think the biases and predilections I hold toward how I see the world and how it should be are why I am a social worker. In the words of a colleague, I revel in my biases," he wrote.

Felkner’s complaint, filed two years ago, alleges that Ryczek discriminated against him for his conservative viewpoint and gave him bad grades because of it in several classes. It also alleges discrimination by other professors and administrators.

It’s an interesting case—and unfortunately, very familiar to us. In fact, FIRE wrote former Rhode Island College President John Nazarian about Felkner’s case in January 2005, and issued a press release condemning RIC’s actions in February 2005. RIC was unrepentant then, but thankfully appears to be changing its tune. According to Felkner, the school is actively pursuing a settlement. Nevertheless, Felkner has already spent two whole years locked in a legal battle with RIC. Making matters worse is the fact that the case should never have happenedand wouldn’t have happened, had RIC respected Felkner’s right to his own political beliefs in the first place. Shame on RIC.

Schools: Rhode Island College Cases: Rhode Island College: Violation of Student’s Freedom of Conscience