Rights in the News: FIRE Celebrates Victories for Free Speech In and Out of the Classroom

By July 31, 2010

FIRE’s victory at Hinds Community College in Mississippi (HCC) highlighted a week of advances for free speech and thought around the country. It was at HCC, Torch readers know, where student Isaac Rosenbloom had been found guilty of "flagrant disrespect," barred from class, and subsequently denied financial aid following a single incident of cursing outside of class time. The reversal of Rosenbloom’s punishment is documented here at the Torch, of course, and also at the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed; the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression notes it as well. FIRE’s Adam Kissel also appeared on The Gallo Radio Show to discuss the case this morning. Also, my601.com, of the Jackson, MS Fox affiliate, is on the scene, posting FIRE’s press release and noting that HCC so far has not responded to its request for comment.

The case of June Sheldon at San José City College also came to a victorious end this week, with the biology professor agreeing to settle for $100,000 with the San José/Evergreen Community College District nearly three years after it refused to rehire her for her protected and germane classroom speech about the nature/nurture debate regarding sexual orientation. You can read our coverage here; David French of the Alliance Defense Fund and the blog of the National Association of Scholars also notes FIRE’s success in the case.

Meanwhile, additional glowing praise for FIRE’s recent Campus Freedom Network student conference has come in, most recently from FIRE Board of Directors member Daphne Patai, whose Minding the Campus column is both a stirring call to arms for students to stand up for their rights and a primer on how to do so, building on what many speakers said at the conference. Do read it in its entirety; likewise, see the remarks of Students for Liberty Executive Board Member Irena Schneider and Alliance Defense Fund Senior Counsel Greg Baylor.

Rounding out the week, Greg’s most recent Huffington Post column discusses the themes of his article in the most recent issue of Free Inquiry magazine, co-authored with Will. The article covers many FIRE cases and some of the trends we have seen recently. See also Erica Perez’s California Watch blog entry on the Los Angeles Community College District’s attempts to use the recent ruling in the Supreme Court case Christian Legal Society v. Martinez to defend its unconstitutional speech code. Perez notes Erica’s excellent refutation of this last-ditch maneuver.

Finally, a controversy is brewing at Loyola University Chicago, where, as FoxNews.com reported, political strategist Karl Rove has been prevented from appearing during the election season due to the "political or potentially political" nature of his speech—this despite the university’s plans to bring Eboo Patel, a White House appointee, to speak in August. Read the FoxNews.com article for Adam’s comments, and we will keep Torch readers updated on this story as it develops. It looks like it’s time to dust off our Policy Statement on Political Activity on Campus for a 2010 refresher.