Rights in the News: Protecting Free Speech from ‘Touchy’ Administrators

By on June 1, 2010

Here’s some news you can use from the past week or so. First, Cal Poly’s paper, the Mustang Daily, published an editorial in which a student–citing FIRE’s frequent interventions over the years–presses Cal Poly’s next president to improve upon outgoing president Warren J. Baker’s record on free speech. 

Cal Poly’s next president—whoever he or she may be—can take a cue from Clemson University, which quickly dropped disciplinary charges against student Wil Kirwan after FIRE pointed out its violations of his free speech for charging him with "harassment" and "disorderly conduct" (among other things) over a series of argumentative e-mails with an administrator. Reason senior editor Jacob Sullum comments on the case, reminding potential campus offenders that "[d]efending campus hotheads against retaliation from touchy university administrators is a FIRE specialty." FIRE’s other recent victory, at the University of Idaho—noted here by The Spokesman-Review‘s blog—provides further testimony.

Hinds Community College, meanwhile, wasted another opportunity to protect student rights, as President Clyde Muse has upheld student Isaac Rosenbloom’s punishment for cursing outside of class. FIRE’s public efforts at HCC, which have already brought a flood of national press on Mississippi’s largest community college, will continue. Inside Higher Ed touches on HCC again in an interesting article on one college’s efforts to clean up student "habits that suck." 

The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s article last week about Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli’s investigation of former University of Virginia professor Michael Mann points out FIRE’s presence in this dispute over academic freedom, and over the weekend we reported on how the university is fighting back against Cuccinelli’s very broad demands for Mann’s research materials and correspondence. We’ll keep Torch readers updated on this important case.

Finally, don’t miss FIRE’s continuing analysis of the the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in Rodriguez v. Maricopa County Community College District.