‘Inside Higher Ed,’ ‘Richmond Times-Dispatch’ Cover Hampton Case

By February 26, 2007

Inside Higher Ed has an article today concisely summarizing FIRE’s latest case at Hampton University, where a gay and lesbian student group—Students Promoting Equality, Action and Knowledge (SPEAK)—was denied recognition with no explanation. The article says in part:

The university’s code of conduct states that the university will “support equal rights and opportunities for all regardless of age, sex, race, religion, disability, ethnic heritage, socio-economic status, political, social, or other affiliation or disaffiliation, or sexual preference.”

Greg Lukianoff, president of the nonprofit Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which was contacted by SPEAK, said Hampton has a pattern of squelching free expression. In 2005, students there faced expulsion after being accused of violating university policy by handing out fliers focused on Hurricane Katrina, homophobia and other issues. They eventually were allowed to remain enrolled.

Lukianoff said that Hampton’s mission statement and its practices are inconsistent.

“If a college is clear when you enter that you don’t have certain rights, then that’s there for students to see,” he said. “But Hampton likes to hold itself out as a school that promotes freedom of speech. If you make that promise, you have to deliver.”

The Richmond Times-Dispatch features an editorial by Michael Paul Williams describing the “heavy handed tactics” and arbitrary methods used by the Hampton administration. Williams makes a good point about why it is not in universities’ own best interests to behave in such a manner: students who dislike the campus atmosphere cultivated by such actions will begin to take their business elsewhere.

Schools: Hampton University