Links for the Weekend: Spotlight Report Raises Speech Code Awareness, while Scrutiny of Michigan State Intensifies

By on December 20, 2008

The release of FIRE’s Spotlight on Speech Codes 2009 report has been a flashpoint of discussion this week, with journalists and pundits across the spectrum taking note of FIRE’s comprehensive evaluation of the speech codes at 364 American colleges and universities.

WorldNetDaily and The Chronicle of Higher Education are among the many publications to cover the report, which has also been featured on a wide array of Internet news sites and blogs, including Campus Magazine Online and The Prereq. As one would expect, the report has prompted many to check on the status of schools in their state, and their alma maters. As we mentioned earlier in the week, Glenn Reynolds over at Instapundit was pleased to see that the University of Tennessee─Knoxville, where he is a law professor, is one of the eight schools in the current report to receive a "green light" rating from FIRE. Elsewhere, the blog Alaska Pride doesn’t take much pride in the poor showing of the three University of Alaska schools rated in the current reportall of which received a "red light" rating.

At Phi Beta Cons, former FIRE president David French bemoans the silence from university presidents and administratorsand the lack of public outrage in response to FIRE’s reportas well as decades of judicial opinions discrediting their speech code policies. As he writes, "There is a free-speech crisis in American universities, but there is no free-speech "scandal" in the sense of widespread public outrage. And with no scandal, there is little incentive for reform."

The ongoing case of alleged "spammer" Kara Spencer at Michigan State University (MSU) has continued to generate press for FIRE’s work on her behalf, as well as continued bad press for MSU. Ars Technica, Utne Reader, and education scholar and historian Sherman Dorn are among the latest to pick up on the story of MSU’s absurd prosecution of Spencer. David French, in a separate post at Phi Beta Cons, offers his thoughts as well. Adding to the international attention Spencer’s case has garnered, the news division of the Copenhagen, Denmark-based SPAMfighter, a company specializing in spam-filtering software, has written on the case as well. (Presumably, the folks at SPAMfighter know a thing or two about what actually constitutes as "spam.")

As we mentioned on Wednesday, FIRE joined twelve other civil liberties organizations in writing an open letter to MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon expressing our grave concern over MSU’s prosecution of Spencer and its continued defense of their actions (be sure to read Adam’s latest blog for more details). And don’t miss Greg’s column at The Huffington Post, as well as these dispatches from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the National Coalition Against Censorship, two of the co-signing organizations.