Rights in the News: With FIRE’s Help, Students Standing Up to Their Speech Codes

By October 16, 2009

FIRE was elated to begin the week with the announcement that The College of William & Mary had reformed the last of its troublesome speech codes and become one of just eleven colleges to earn a "green light" rating in FIRE’s Spotlight database. Perhaps the fever has spread to neighboring James Madison University, where the focus has intensified on JMU’s policy on "Obscene Conduct" since it was named FIRE’s Speech Code of the Month. Not surprisingly, heightened awareness of the policy sowed discontent among the student body–enough so that this week JMU’s student newspaper The Breeze reported that JMU has promised to revise the policy. Hopefully JMU’s students will show the same industriousness we saw at William & Mary, and FIRE can relegate this speech code to the dustbin where it belongs.

FIRE keeps its eye as well on Eastern Kentucky University, whose free speech zones have been the subject of controversy lately after police attempted to stop a small group of students protesting the visit of Kentucky Congressman Ben Chandler. Fortunately, EKU President Doug Whitlock has owned up to the university’s error and apologized to the students affected, promising them that the policy was not intended to affect EKU students, faculty, or staff. FIRE hopes that Whitlock will follow through on this guarantee and clarify the policy to the entire EKU community.

As I mentioned yesterday, Adam published a compelling op-ed in The Collegiate Times at Virginia Tech, urging the administration to guarantee its faculty the protections of freedom of conscience and academic freedom, which remain threatened by an encroaching "diversity" requirement that may affect both their academic work and their prospects for advancement.

FIRE’s recent victory at the Community College of Allegheny County continues to resonate; Examiner.com and WorldNetDaily both wrote about the restoration of CCAC student Christine Brashier’s rights, which had been previously stifled by the administration as she attempted to found a chapter of the national group Students for Concealed Carry on Campus at CCAC.

Finally, a quick thanks to Nick Gillespie at Reason.com for giving a final promotional push to FIRE’s Tenth Anniversary Celebration Dinner. While the reservation deadline has now passed, those wishing to support FIRE on this auspicious occasion can still do so here.

Schools: Community College of Allegheny County James Madison University Eastern Kentucky University The College of William and Mary Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University