Rights in the News: FIRE’s Letter to Obama Hopes to Inaugurate New Era for Speech on Campus

By January 23, 2009

This past Tuesday, which saw the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States, FIRE sent President Obama a letter detailing the violations pervading America’s higher education system, and requesting that the President and his administration join the fight against unconstitutional speech policies that threaten the liberties of millions of students.

Phi Beta Cons is just one of the many interested observers waiting to see how the new administration will respond to FIRE’s letter. As a constitutional scholar and a former lecturer on constitutional law, we and many others in the legal and academic communities are hoping America’s "Professor in Chief" will tackle the issue.

As Will wrote in The Torch yesterday, The Sentinel, an independent student publication at The Ohio State University, is the latest student publication to raise awareness of the speech codes that hang over their home campuses. The Sentinel‘s precise and thorough article details exactly which policies have helped Ohio State—the nation’s largest public university, with more than 52,000 students—earn its "red light" rating from FIRE, and how students can learn more about their school’s rating for themselves. It should be far from the last article of this type that we see in a student publication, as FIRE’s massive public campaign to raise awareness of speech code abuses on campus continues to pick up steam.

Elsewhere, Anthony Paletta at Minding the Campus is the latest to endorse the campaign of Harvey Silverglate, FIRE’s co-founder and chairman, for Harvard University’s Board of Overseers, and points to the growing list of prominent endorsements he has gathered thus far.

Finally, this week’s Clarion Call article of the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, penned by scholar George Leef, gives the University of Delaware’s ResLife program a deservedly unsympathetic treatment in its rundown of a debate on residence life programs at the recent National Association of Scholars conference. As FIRE’s representative in the debate, Adam will revisit the discussion in a later, more in-depth Torch entry; in the meantime, Leef’s incisive account offers plenty of food for thought.

Schools: The Ohio State University University of Delaware