Red Alert: FIRE Exposes Worst Abusers of Student, Faculty Rights in ‘U.S. News’ Rankings Issue

August 31, 2010

PHILADELPHIA, August 31, 2010—The 2011 edition of U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges issue, released today, includes a full-page advertisement from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) highlighting the six colleges and universities that have earned FIRE’s Red Alert distinction for being the “worst of the worst” when it comes to liberty on campus. These institutions are Bucknell University, Brandeis University, Colorado College, Johns Hopkins University, Michigan State University, and Tufts University. The advertisement also features the story of a graduate student who was nearly expelled from SUNY Binghamton for expressing his views about a faculty member he thought was responsible for social injustice.

“For the third year in a row, FIRE is alerting prospective students about the universities most likely to threaten their fundamental freedoms,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “America’s universities must understand that they can no longer abuse students’ rights outside the light of public scrutiny.”

In addition to the Red Alert schools, FIRE’s U.S. News advertisement highlights the shocking story of Andre Massena, a student at SUNY Binghamton (now called Binghamton University) who was nearly expelled after he publicly criticized a professor who also held a government job as Executive Director of the Binghamton Housing Authority. Andre believed that the professor was responsible for social injustice for evicting people from public housing. With FIRE’s help, Andre was able to fight back against his oppressive punishment and graduate. A video about this shocking case is online at thefire.org/redalert.

All of the schools on FIRE’s Red Alert list have refused to remedy their own egregious offenses against fundamental rights. Bucknell University, the newest addition to the list, repeatedly used flimsy or patently false excuses to censor a conservative group’s satire of President Obama’s stimulus plan and the group’s “affirmative action bake sale” protest. Brandeis University found a professor of nearly 50 years guilty of racial harassment for using the word “wetbacks” in his Latin American Politics class—in the context of criticizing the term. Colorado College found two students guilty of “violence” simply for posting a flyer that satirized a flyer circulated by another student group.

Johns Hopkins suspended a student for what it deemed an “offensive” Halloween party invitation posted on Facebook.com, and then passed a repressive “civility” code over the protests of student leaders. Michigan State found a student government leader guilty of “spamming” after she e-mailed eight percent of the faculty to encourage them to express their views on a proposed shortening of the school calendar. And Tufts University found an entire student newspaper guilty of “harassment” for publishing two pieces satirizing affirmative action and Islamic Awareness Week. The latter of these two pieces included only factually verifiable information about Islam, as well as quotes from the Koran.

In student newspapers at the six Red Alert institutions, FIRE is running large advertisements in the first issue of the school year, reminding students about their institutions’ attacks on their freedom and warning new students about the repressive culture on campus. FIRE’s Spotlight speech code database also provides information about the speech codes and related policies at more than 400 of the nation’s biggest and most prestigious colleges and universities.

“Every year, college guidebooks fail to inform prospective college students and their parents about atrocious abuses of the freedom of speech and expression. This freedom is the engine behind the marketplace of ideas,” Lukianoff said. “People should share the facts about Massena’s case and those at the Red Alert schools with their friends, relatives, colleagues, and classmates, or look up the policies of the schools they want to attend. Americans are staunch believers in liberty, and the more people who hear about how badly student rights are abused on campus, the more they will advocate for schools to protect student and faculty rights. FIRE can only achieve its goals with the help of the public.”

FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, due process, freedom of expression, academic freedom, and rights of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty on campuses across America can be viewed at thefire.org.

CONTACT:

Greg Lukianoff, President, FIRE: 215-717-3473; greg_lukianoff@thefire.org

Jehuda Reinharz, President, Brandeis University: 781-736-3001; jreinhar@brandeis.edu

John Bravman, President, Bucknell University: 570-577-1515; president@bucknell.edu

Richard F. Celeste, President, Colorado College: 719-389-6700; president@coloradocollege.edu

Ronald J. Daniels, President, Johns Hopkins University: 410-516-8068; president@jhu.edu

Lou Anna K. Simon, President, Michigan State University: 517-355-6560; presmail@msu.edu

Lawrence S. Bacow, President, Tufts University: 617-627-3300; bacow@tufts.edu