Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Federal Circuit: 7th Circuit
Marquette University has been given the speech code rating Red. A red light university has at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech. Read more here.
September 27, 2006
In August 2006, a PhD student at Marquette University, Stuart Ditsler, posted a Dave Barry quote on his office door. The quote read, “As Americans we must always remember that we all have a common enemy, an enemy that is dangerous, powerful, and relentless. I refer, of course, to the federal government.” In September, the University administration had the quote taken down because it was “patently offensive.” On September 5, Distler received an email from the Philosophy Department Chair, James South, stating that there had been several complaints about the quote and that it had been removed as a result. […]» Read More
Red Light Policies
Harassment is defined as verbal, written or physical conduct directed at a person or a group based on color, race, national
origin, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation where the offensive behavior is intimidating, hostile or demeaning, or which could or does result in mental, emotional or physical discomfort, embarrassment, ridicule or harm.
Marquette expects its members to behave toward one another with sensitivity, consideration, understanding, tolerance and an active concern for the welfare of others. The university is particularly concerned that its members show respect for others regardless of race, creed, gender, disability, sexual orientation or nationality and avoid all forms of harassing or offensive behaviors.
The following acts may subject students to disciplinary action: … Participating in stalking, hazing or harassment, which includes actions or situations that do or could result in mental, emotional or physical discomfort, embarrassment, ridicule or endangerment whether intentionally, for fun or by consent. …
Solicitation is defined as any activity that seeks to entice or gain support from resident students at Marquette. Therefore, this policy applies to a wide range of activities, all of which are prohibited unless specifically approved by Residence Life. These activities may include advertising, selling, petitioning, campaigning for political candidates, distributing flyers in mail boxes and surveying residence hall students by telephone, mail or in person.
Posters and signs in student rooms and windows are permissible provided they are in good taste. Residents may post signs, notices or posters on their doors as long as they do not damage the doors. Students may be asked remove items from their doors if the item may be considered offensive to their community. Students are not allowed to post unapproved items in common areas. See the hall director for approval.
Student Handbook: Policies and Procedures for the Distribution of Literature, the Sponsorship of Visiting Speakers and Public Performances, and the Screening of Films 13-14
Student organization requests for the distribution of literature, the sponsorship of visiting speakers and public performers and the screening of films will be considered in light of the educational purposes and the Catholic identity of Marquette University. Specific attention, therefore, will be paid to the context and purpose of the proposed material.
The following acts may subject students to disciplinary action: … Physically or verbally abusing or threatening any person, on or off the campus, including especially such persons as student staff and Public Safety officers. … Engaging in behaviors that are disruptive to the educational community, in or out of the classroom.
Sexual harassment is defined as any unwelcome sexual advances, demands, requests for sexual favors, innuendoes or any other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when: … Such conduct is sufficiently severe and pervasive so as to alter the conditions of, or have the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with, an individual’s academic performance or work by creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive educational, residential, or working environment.
December 28, 2011
Despite my 10 years working to defend free speech on campus, university censors keep finding new ways to surprise me. This year a campus in the University of Wisconsin system managed to do something that offended me both as a First Amendment lawyer and as a sci-fi fan, two parts of my life that I thought would never intersect. As I reported back in September, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, James Miller, was threatened with potential criminal charges just for posting a quote from the beloved but short-lived sci-fi classic Firefly outside his door and, then, for having the temerity to object to the […]» Read More
September 29, 2009
I worked for three years on the sixth floor of One Herald Plaza and never bumped into the infamous Dave Barry. He never invited me up to the roof to fire potatoes into Biscayne Bay from his gas-powered spud gun. I worked for the afternoon Miami News and he for the morning Miami Herald. I did sit at home on Sunday mornings and laugh till I cried over his humor column in the Tropic Sunday supplement section of the Miami Herald. I especially enjoyed his surprised discovery of the unique flora and fauna of Dade County when the paper finally […]» Read More
June 11, 2007
As college students head off to summer vacation, it’s time to look back at the academic year’s most ridiculous case. When it came to being just plain nuts, one university distinguished itself above all others this year: Marquette University in Wisconsin and its crackdown on Dave Barry. That’s right: Even all-American humorist Dave Barry is subject to censorship on our nation’s college campuses, as Ph.D. student Stuart Ditsler found out last fall. Ditsler didn’t think he was doing anything objectionable by posting a Dave Barry quote on his office door last October—but James South, the head of Marquette’s philosophy department, […]» Read More
October 22, 2006
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Editorial We were under the impression that the entire United States is a free-speech zone. Which is why the phrase’s use is puzzling in the case of a teaching aide and graduate student at Marquette University who had a quote from a well-known humorist removed from his office door recently. The quote from Dave Barry was, “As Americans we must always remember that we all have a common enemy, an enemy that is dangerous, powerful, and relentless. I refer, of course, to the federal government.” Philosophy department chairman and associate professor James South called the quote […]» Read More
October 19, 2006
A national free speech group lambasted Marquette University administrators Wednesday for removing a quote by humorist Dave Barry from a graduate student’s office door. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education criticized a Marquette administrator for removing this Barry quote from the office door of doctoral student Stuart Ditsler last month: "As Americans we must always remember that we all have a common enemy, an enemy that is dangerous, powerful, and relentless. I refer, of course, to the federal government." Philosophy Department Chair James South said in a Sept. 5 e-mail that he removed the quotation, which was posted in […]» Read More
October 19, 2006
by Nathan Burchfiel Cybercast News Service Officials at Marquette University have ordered a Ph.D. student to remove a quotation critical of the federal government from his office door, because the hallway the door faces is not a “free speech zone.” In August, Stuart Distler, a doctoral student teacher, posted a quotation from humor columnist Dave Barry on his office door. “As Americans, we must always remember that we all have a common enemy, an enemy that is dangerous, powerful and relentless,” the sign stated. “I refer, of course, to the federal government.” On Sept. 5, Philosophy Department Chairman James South […]» Read More
October 18, 2006
The free-speech fun squad at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) reports on the latest suppression of expression on campus: In August, a grad student at Marquette University in Milwaukee posted a Dave Barry quote on his office door. The quote reads: “As Americans we must always remember that we all have a common enemy, an enemy that is dangerous, powerful, and relentless. I refer, of course, to the federal government.” On September 5, says FIRE: Philosophy Department Chair James South sent [student Stuart] Ditsler an e-mail stating that he had received several complaints and therefore removed the […]» Read More
December 29, 2011
Over at the blog Marquette Warrior, John McAdams provides a good example of how unwarranted investigations of campus speech can cause a deeply problematic “chilling effect” at a university. Universities must not pursue investigations of protected expression just because someone submits a complaint; as soon as it is clear that the expression in question is protected speech, the inquiry must end, even if there are other factual disputes. Prolonging the investigation tells everyone on campus that the university will pursue charges against you no matter how frivolous or malicious the complaint. The likely result is that people self-censor and keep […]» Read More
October 17, 2011
Fresh on the heels of our case at the University of Wisconsin–Stout, it seems appropriate to look back five years at a similar case involving an overzealous administration and an “offensive” poster. In October 2006, Marquette Ph.D. student Stuart Ditsler came to FIRE for help after Philosophy Department Chair James South removed a flyer quoting well-known humor writer Dave Barry from his office door. The quote read, “As Americans we must always remember that we all have a common enemy, an enemy that is dangerous, powerful, and relentless. I refer, of course, to the federal government.” Despite the fact that […]» Read More
May 11, 2010
Marquette University made headlines recently for offering the job of Dean of Arts and Sciences to sexuality and gender scholar Jodi O’Brien. Marquette is a major Catholic university, and although O’Brien is open about being a lesbian, there is no evidence that this was an obstacle for either the search committee or Marquette administrators. Marquette, after all, has an anti-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation as a protected status. But that’s not why the appointment made headlines. The reason the story is in the news is that, shortly after offering O’Brien the deanship, Marquette rescinded the offer. Marquette President Father […]» Read More
July 30, 2009
Dave Barry, Pulitzer Prize-winning humor columnist and author of more than 30 books, is no stranger to critics trying to censor his writing. The nationally syndicated humorist has written some of our nation’s funniest columns—and with the First Amendment on his side, he’s been winning the battle for free speech for over 25 years. Today, we are releasing a new video that features Barry discussing why freedom of expression is important to him and how today’s politically correct college campuses are creating a culture of censorship that stifles humor writing and the opinions of millions of students across the country. […]» Read More
June 11, 2007
Our Campus Alert column in today’s New York Post focuses on the FIRE case we have crowned our most ridiculous case of the past academic year—Marquette University’s banning of a Dave Barry quote. Last October, Ph.D. student Stuart Ditsler posted a Barry quote on his office door that read, “As Americans we must always remember that we all have a common enemy, an enemy that is dangerous, powerful and relentless. I refer, of course, to the federal government.” Within days, Philosophy Department Chair James South deemed the quote “patently offensive” and ordered its removal, all the while maintaining in […]» Read More
January 15, 2007
Marquette University’s censorship of a Dave Barry quote was one of the more confounding cases of 2006. Marquette’s reaction to the quote—a benign criticism of the government—went from baffling to exasperating when administrators tried to justify the censorship, first by claiming that the quote was “patently offensive,” then that office doors are not “free speech zones,” then that it was only in “the context of a complaint” that Marquette is willing to forsake its community members’ free speech rights. In the hope that Marquette will push past these excuses to clarify whether students and faculty are allowed to express […]» Read More
December 27, 2006
As the year draws to a close and we reflect on all of FIRE’s activities in 2006, the case of Stuart Ditsler at Marquette University stands out not only for its absurdity but also because the case has yet to be resolved. Torch readers will recall Ditsler’s case from earlier this fall, when administrators removed a Dave Barry quote from his office door in Marquette’s philosophy department because they deemed it “patently offensive.” The quote—which could not be considered “patently offensive” (a term usually reserved for hardcore pornography) by any stretch of the imagination—read: “As Americans we must always […]» Read More
November 15, 2006
FIRE continues to follow the case of Stuart Ditsler, the graduate student at Marquette University who was forced to remove an innocuous political quote by humorist Dave Barry from his office door. Although the Marquette administration claimed that the situation was resolved within the philosophy department, Ditsler told FIRE he was never notified of this alleged resolution. So the question remains: are students and faculty now permitted to post materials on their office doors at Marquette? FIRE wrote to Marquette a second time, hoping to clarify the university’s position and establish a firm commitment to free speech on campus. […]» Read More
November 8, 2006
A recent editorial in The Daily Barometer, the student newspaper at Oregon State University, picked up on the absurdity of FIRE’s recent case at Marquette University where the chair of the philosophy department, Dr. James South, removed a quote from humorist Dave Barry from a graduate student’s office door because South found the quote “patently offensive.” The quote read: As Americans, we must always remember that we all have a common enemy, an enemy that is dangerous, powerful, and relentless. I refer, of course, to the federal government. If the quote doesn’t seem adequately nocuous to create any sort of […]» Read More
October 24, 2006
FIRE just received Marquette University’s response to our September 27 letter. Marquette said publicly that it sent us the letter on October 16, and the letter is indeed dated October 16, but the postmark is dated October 19, the day after FIRE’s press release on Marquette’s censorship of a Dave Barry quote. Curious indeed. Even more curious is the explanation that Marquette President Robert Wild gives for censoring the quote. He writes, “the original difficulty arose out of a misunderstanding… [W]hen the quotation cited was posted, it was without attribution; therefore, someone reading the quotation may not have understood […]» Read More