Rights in the News: FIRE’s Thought Reform Efforts Continue to Resonate

By May 1, 2009

It seems like every week we’re reporting that FIRE’s short film on the University of Delaware’s experiment in thought reform has doubled the amount of views received on YouTube from the week before—a trend I’m all too happy to continue. This week the folks at Reason (which—throwback!—published Alan Charles Kors’ article "Thought Reform 101" back in 2000) gave FIRE an extra hand by blogging about the video on their website, helping to push it toward 50,000 views.

Thought reform at Delaware was also the subject of Robert’s article this week for Pajamas Media. Robert also discussed Virginia Tech’s efforts at enforcing a commitment to "diversity" among its liberal arts faculty before a public awareness campaign sparked in part by FIRE led President Charles Steger to change Virginia Tech’s tune. However, as Peter Wood wrote earlier in the week, "President Steger’s decision, conveyed through a PR flack, seemed to say, ‘Oops! We were too candid. We need to find a way to advance this policy without making its coercive aspect and its disregard for academic freedom so easy to pin down.’" It is likely that FIRE has not heard the last from Virginia Tech here.

With Harvey’s petition candidacy for the Board of Overseers at Harvard University and Todd Zywicki’s recent ouster from the Board of Trustees at Dartmouth College, petition candidacies have been much on FIRE’s mind of late, as Kyle writes here. Relatedly, FIRE was thrust into the debate this week when John Engelman, a Dartmouth alumni association executive, challenged Zywicki to produce evidence of the speech code that FIRE helped dismantle at Dartmouth in 2005. Zywicki was all too happy to oblige, via The Volokh Conspiracy and Phi Beta Cons, pointing Engelman straight to FIRE, and to the stinging rebuke Will gives to Engelman’s assertion that no speech code ever existed at the college. (Will’s blog also gets tipped at Phi Beta Cons.)

If you need further proof of the institutional hostility to petition candidates, Harvey’s essay on Minding the Campus is a must. The account of his relegation to second-class status, along with co-petitioner Robert Freedman, would be comical if it weren’t so nakedly partisan on Harvard’s part.

Elsewhere, FIRE was on the scene, via the Las Vegas Review-Journal, as the University of Nevada at Las Vegas scrapped a proposed bias incident policy in the face of heated opposition from civil liberties organizations. Lastly, we’re glad to see that a Binghamton University student newspaper, The Pipe Dream, hasn’t forgotten BU’s appalling treatment of social work student Andre Massena. Neither has FIRE.

Schools: Binghamton University, State University of New York Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Dartmouth College University of Nevada, Las Vegas Harvard University University of Delaware