‘From the President’ in ‘The FIRE Quarterly’

By on February 11, 2008

FIRE President Greg Lukianoff gave the keynote speech at the fall conference for the Southern Association for College Student Affairs (SACSA) and used this forum to speak on several current FIRE cases, including the University of Delaware and Valdosta State University. In the latest issue of The FIRE Quarterly, Greg explains how these cases shocked the SACSA audience and how after the speech, many came forward and agreed with FIRE’s opposition to the administrative abuses seen at these schools. He writes,

I learn again and again at these conferences that too many campus administrators have never been taught the basic principles of individual liberty. Instead, they are inundated with programs and conference sessions thatlike the University of Delaware programregard students as something akin to patients in need of internal reformation, not the rational citizens presumed by their college’s academic curriculum. Startlingly, administrators often come to believe that a duty of "residence life" officials is to orchestrate an internal transformation of students.

As FIRE has proven again and again, universities often cannot defend in public what they do in private. We can and do win our fightsbut what FIRE really strives for is to ensure that such abuses never happen in the first place. Such a massive undertaking requires an expanded and sustained education campaign, larger than any FIRE has ever attempted. But with the help of supporters and allies, as well as our resolute engagement of administrators across the country, we hope to swing the pendulum forward in favor of liberty.

‘From the President’ in ‘The FIRE Quarterly’

By on September 27, 2007

FIRE President Greg Lukianoff’s new column in the latest FIRE Quarterly explores the tension between the arbitrary nature of politeness as a social value and truthful candor. The column highlights our recent case at Tufts University, where a student newspaper was sanctioned for publishing verifiable facts that some people found “offensive.”
Greg explains: 
In this case we see censorship in its most dangerous form—where even verifiable facts are forbidden if they contain uncomfortable truths. Yes, the satirical advertisement was one-sided. Yes, it painted Islam in a less-than-favorable light. But if we’re going to have the discussions that we need to have as a society about problems facing our world, we cannot be restricted to merely what is polite, politically correct, or agreeable. It should also chill readers that the students who objected to The Primary Source advertisement sought official punishment as their first response instead of engaging in the debate that the advertisement was intended to initiate. FIRE is calling for Tufts’ administration to overrule this dangerous decision.
 
FIRE exists in no small part to remind universities of what it means to live and educate in liberty. Education in a free society is a serious business, and if done correctly, feelings will be hurt, assumptions will be challenged, and uncomfortable questions will be asked. This is the natural result of the marketplace of ideas at work, and universities, especially Tufts, would do well to remember that.

‘From the President’ in ‘The FIRE Quarterly’

By on May 24, 2007

FIRE President Greg Lukianoff’s new column in the latest FIRE Quarterly explores how university administrators’ try to squelch student speech acting “like the censors of the Victorian era—morally infallible, plugged into absolute truth, and engaged in saving the country’s soul from incivility or impropriety.”
 
As Greg points out, FIRE’s recent cases at Johns Hopkins University, San Francisco State University (SFSU), and Columbia University’s Teachers College have all brought with them galling attempts by university officials to crack down on expression by a variety of different methods that seem to want to save campus communities from impropriety. These tactics range from establishing a rule stating “rude and disrespectful behavior is unwelcome” at Hopkins, to threatening students who were disrespectful to others’ religion at SFSU, to maintaining a policy of evaluating students on their “commitment to social justice” at Teachers College.
 
As Greg writes: 
It is true that the similarity between the narrow-minded Victorian censors and those of the present day campus may only exist because authoritarianism manifests in a finite number of forms—the rationales for censorship and repression are predictable, generally uncreative, and tend to repeat through history with the monotony of a terrible skipping record. The results are, also, sadly predictable: crushing dissent squelches innovation and utterly impedes the noble search for truth and greater understanding. FIRE exists as a counterforce to this troubling and longstanding trend, and working together with the public and our supporters, we can help bring the eternally radical ideas of individual liberty, academic freedom, and the right to private conscience back to our campuses. 
To read the complete text of the column, see page 2 of The FIRE Quarterly.