San Francisco State University

Location: San Francisco, California
Website: http://www.sfsu.edu
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 9th Circuit

Speech Code Rating

San Francisco State 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.

  • San Francisco State University: Speech Code Litigation Project

    July 9, 2007

    SFSU put its College Republicans on trial before a campus tribunal (see more here) for stepping on makeshift Hamas and Hezbollah flags during an anti-terrorism rally. The College Republicans claimed that SFSU’s speech codes were facially invalid, and with the help of the Alliance Defense Fund and the support of FIRE’s Speech Code Litigation Project, sued the university. The lawsuit ultimately resulted in an injunction against SFSU, effectively striking down unconstitutional speech codes across the entire California State University system.

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  • San Francisco State University: Students Investigated for Stepping on Flags

    January 23, 2007

    The College Republicans at San Francisco State University held an anti-terrorism protest against Hezbollah and Hamas by stomping on homemade replicas of those organizations’ flags. Unbeknownst to the students, the flags of the two organizations contain the word “Allah” in Arabic script. Another student complained, alleging “acts of incivility,” “intimidation,” and the creation of a “hostile environment.” The school responded by instituting disciplinary action against the College Republicans. After FIRE intervened, the college ended the investigation and decided not to punish the students involved. However, the incident led to litigation over SFSU’s speech codes, which is detailed here.

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Red Light Policies

Yellow Light Policies
  • Acceptable Use Policy 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies

    It is a violation of this policy to use electronic means to harass, threaten, or otherwise cause harm to an individual, whether by direct or indirect reference.

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  • SF State Title IX: Sexual Discrimination 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that includes, but is not limited to, sexual violence, sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, indecent exposure and other verbal, nonverbal or physical unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, where such conduct is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive that its effect, whether or not intended, could be considered by a reasonable person in the shoes of the individual, and is in fact considered by the individual, as limiting the individual’s ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities or opportunities offered by the university. Sexual harassment also includes gender-based harassment, which may include acts of verbal, non-verbal or physical aggression, intimidation or hostility based on sex or sex-stereotyping, even if those acts do not involve conduct of a sexual nature.

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  • Office of Student Conduct: Standards for Student Conduct 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies

    Misuse of computer facilities or resources, including: … Use of computing facilities and resources to send obscene or intimidating and abusive messages.

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  • Executive Order 1072: Implementation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and Related Sexual Harassment/Violence Legislation for CSU Students 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    “Sexual Harassment” is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that includes, but is not limited to: sexual violence; sexual advances; requests for sexual favors; indecent exposure; and other verbal, nonverbal or physical unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, where such conduct is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive that its effect, whether or not intended, could be considered by a reasonable person in the shoes of the individual, and is in fact considered by the individual, as limiting the individual’s ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities or opportunities offered by the university. Sexual harassment also includes gender-based harassment, which may include acts of verbal, non-verbal or physical aggression, intimidation or hostility based on sex or sex-stereotyping, even if those acts do not involve conduct of a sexual nature.

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  • Office of Student Conduct: Standards for Student Conduct 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility

    Students are expected to be good citizens and to engage in responsible behaviors that reflect well upon their university, to be civil to one another and to others in the campus community, and contribute positively to student and university life.

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Green Light Policies
  • Time, Place and Manner: Use of Buildings and Grounds 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies

    The University actively promotes free expression and the exchange of ideas, perspectives and viewpoints. Within the context of this policy, free speech activity includes, but is not limited to the following: pure or symbolic speech, assembly, meeting, demonstrations or rallies, picketing, petitioning, mime and theater, music and singing, and religious or political expression. … There shall be no restrictions on legally-protected free speech activity based on the content of such speech or expression or on the political, religious, or other affiliations of speakers. Speech activity not protected by the U.S. Constitution or by this policy includes defamation, obscenity, terrorist threats, false advertising, and the promotion of actual or imminent violence or harm.

    Spontaneous events occasioned by news or issues coming into public knowledge may be held on campus without advance permission so long as they adhere to all University policies and the restrictions outlined above ….

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  • Executive Order 1074: Systemwide Policy Prohibiting Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation Against Students 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Harassment means unwelcome conduct engaged in because of a Protected Status that is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive that its effect, whether or not intended, could be considered by a reasonable person in the shoes of the Student, and is in fact considered by the Student, as limiting the Student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities or opportunities offered by the University.

    Sexual Harassment, as defined in California Education Code 212.5, consists of both non-sexual conduct based on sex or sex-stereotyping and conduct that is sexual in nature, and includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature where: … The conduct is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive that its effect, whether or not intended, could be considered by a reasonable person in the shoes of the Student, and is in fact considered by the Student, as limiting the Student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities or opportunities offered by the University.

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  • College to student group: No selling Christmas trees, only ‘holiday’ trees

    November 28, 2012

    by Robert Shibley The Daily Caller   I’m not a big believer in the “war on Christmas” rhetoric that we often hear around this time of year. In a religiously diverse and pluralistic society like ours, politicians, corporations, and other institutions are naturally going to adjust the way they express themselves in order to avoid offending their constituents or customers. But every so often in my work at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), I see an example of seasonal political correctness so ridiculous that it makes me want to put my head down on my desk. Such is the […]

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  • 5 More of the Worst Free Speech Violations on College Campuses

    September 12, 2012

    On Tuesday, I shared the first half of my list of ten of the most common free speech violations which the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE ) encounters in its work defending campus expression. As I noted yesterday, the list is far from comprehensive, and the offenses listed are in no particular order. They do, however, give a sense of the depth and variety of ways free speech is threatened at our colleges and universities. Here are five more of the most common violations against free speech on campus. Be sure to visit yesterday’s post for the first half of […]

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  • Judge says CSU speech policies raise serious constitutional concerns

    December 11, 2007

    A federal judge has ordered that the speech policies for all 28 schools in the California State University system be suspended or limited while a First Amendment challenge works its way through the courts. U.S. Magistrate Judge Wayne Brazil issued the preliminary injunction Oct. 31, saying that the policy contains serious constitutional problems. A written order on the matter was still pending at press time. “The university is supposed to be the ‘marketplace of ideas,’ but these speech codes, with few exceptions, are selectively applied against Christian and conservative students,” said David Hacker, staff counsel for Alliance Defense Fund, which […]

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  • Magistrate bars Cal State from enforcing “civility” provision in conduct code

    November 15, 2007

    A federal magistrate said he will temporarily bar San Francisco State University and the 22 other California State University system campuses from enforcing certain provisions of the student conduct code that he ruled could be used to punish students for Constitutionally protected speech. The policies were challenged in a lawsuit by the College Republicans of San Francisco State. Members of the group were investigated for inciting violence, creating a hostile environment and engaging in “actions of incivility” stemming from an incident in which members stepped on Hamas and Hezbollah flags during an anti-terrorism rally. The allegations against the group were […]

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  • Students who ‘desecrated’ terrorist flags vindicated

    November 9, 2007

    In a decision hailed as a victory for free speech, a federal judge ordered San Francisco State University and the California State University system to stop enforcing speech codes used to prosecute students for the “desecration” of flags used by terrorist groups. U.S. Magistrate Judge Wayne Brazil issued a preliminary injunction to bar the schools from enforcing several policies challenged in a lawsuit. One required students to act in accordance with SFSU “goals, principles, and policies” and another, a CSU system-wide policy, called for students “to be civil to one another.” “This decision is a vital step in the fight […]

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  • San Francisco State latest target in anti-speech code campaign

    July 18, 2007

    For a number of years, the Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has been successfully waging a war on college speech codes the organization claims run afoul of protected free speech rights. The organization has won pivotal victories against Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania, Texas Tech University, the State University of New York at Brockport and California’s Citrus College. Now, San Francisco State University (SFSU) is squarely within FIRE’s crosshairs. With the assistance of the Alliance Defense Fund, a leading Christian public interest law firm, FIRE has sued SFSU claiming that the university’s policies violated the First Amendment rights […]

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  • When Hezbollah trumps Old Glory

    July 16, 2007

    Most Americans know that burning our nation’s flag is protected by the First Amendment. No matter how distasteful to some, the Supreme Court has consistently held flag-burning to be protected as expressive political conduct.   So if burning an American flag is protected speech, burning other flags—say, the flags of political parties considered to be terrorist groups by our government—would  also be protected speech, right?   Right—except  at San Francisco State University (SFSU), where the First Amendment takes a backseat to Hamas and Hezbollah. As part of an anti-terrorism rally held on campus last October, SFSU’s College Republicans stepped on […]

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  • Allah Says: Don’t tread on me

    July 10, 2007

    by Jacob Sullum Reason Online   College Republicans at San Francisco State University recently filed a federal lawsuit challenging the speech restrictions that led to a five-month investigation of the group after an anti-terrorism rally last October. Participants in the rally stepped on paper facsimiles of the Hamas and Hezbollah flags in a deliberate counterpoint to similar treatment of the U.S. flag by members of those groups. Afterward a student complained that the College Republicans had “incited violence,” created a “hostile environment,” and engaged in “actions of incivility.” Although both the ACLU and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education […]

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  • A story about flag stomping you won’t believe

    July 10, 2007

    San Francisco State University is being sued for allegedly violating the rights of students who stomped on Hamas and Hezbollah flags during an anti-terrorism rally. The Alliance Defense Fund and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education—also called FIRE—have filed the suit in federal court on behalf of the College Republicans club and two individual students. The lawsuit contends the school conducted an illegal investigation into the flag stomping incident. FIRE says it wrote to the school president twice to stress that a public university is not permitted to prosecute students for engaging in a peaceful protest or desecrating any […]

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  • Ban on desecrating terrorist flags challenged

    July 10, 2007

    A lawsuit filed by the Alliance Defense Fund is targeting the speech codes imposed on students by the university system in California after several students were prosecuted for the “desecration” of flags used by terrorist groups. “America’s colleges and universities should recognize the constitutional rights of Christian and politically conservative students just as they do for all other students,” said David French, senior legal counsel for the ADF and chief of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “Officials at San Francisco State are required to respect the U.S. Constitution, which protects the right to free speech in exactly these kinds […]

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  • Students sue university over probe of anti-terror rally

    July 10, 2007

    San Francisco State University was sued yesterday for allegedly violating students’ right to free speech when it investigated an incident during which students stomped on flags bearing the name of Allah. The Alliance Defense Fund, in cooperation with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, filed the federal lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs—the College Republicans club and members Trent Downes and Leigh Wolf. FIRE’s Speech Codes Litigation Project worked to coordinate the suit but does not represent the plaintiffs. The lawsuit charges the university with having violated the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights by dragging them through a five-month investigation […]

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  • SFSU sued for investigating stomping of flag with Allah’s name

    July 9, 2007

    by Associated Press International Herald Tribune San Francisco State University was sued for allegedly violating students’ right to free speech when it investigated an incident during which students stomped on flags bearing the name of Allah. The Alliance Defense Fund and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) filed the federal lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs—the College Republicans club and two of its members. The case charges the university with having violated the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights by dragging them through a five-month investigation and campus tribunal after they stepped on Hamas and Hezbollah flags during an anti-terrorism […]

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  • Lawsuit accuses San Francisco State U. of violating rights of College Republicans

    July 9, 2007

    The College Republicans at San Francisco State University sued it today for alleged violations of the group’s First Amendment rights. As part of an anti-terrorism rally at San Francisco State last year, members of the political group’s campus chapter stomped on makeshift flags of Hamas and Hezbollah, which the U.S. government considers terrorist organizations. (Both flags include Arabic script spelling the word “Allah,” but the lawsuit says the plaintiffs did not know that.) The university investigated the College Republicans and conducted a disciplinary hearing, though ultimately it found no violation of its code of student conduct. The lawsuit—filed on behalf […]

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  • Do College Republicans hate Allah?

    April 9, 2007

    The College Republicans at San Francisco State University recently found themselves under investigation for the offenses of flag desecration and blasphemy. While the disciplinary proceedings ended late last month with a decision not to punish the student group, the investigation itself points to a troubling trend. The alleged blasphemy was directed at Islam, and the desecrated flag contained no stars or stripes. At a small anti-terrorism rally in October 2006, several members of the College Republicans stomped on pieces of paper they had painted to look like flags of the radical Islamic organizations Hezbollah and Hamas, copying the designs from […]

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  • University won’t punish College Republicans for anti-terror rally

    March 29, 2007

    San Francisco State University’s College Republicans will not face sanctions after hosting a rally during which students stepped on pieces of paper they had painted to resemble the Hezbollah and Hamas flags. The anti-terrorism demonstration on Oct. 17, 2006, prompted another student to file a complaint because the flags contain the Arabic word for “Allah.” The complaint alleged that the Republicans had attempted to “incite violence and create a hostile environment.” SFSU administrators held a hearing to evaluate the charges, which could have resulted in sanctions to force the group to apologize or even remove their organization from campus. The […]

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  • Stepping out

    March 22, 2007

    College Republicans at San Francisco State University held an anti-terrorism rally last October during which they stepped on pieces of paper painted to resemble the flags of the terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah. Another student filed a formal complaint accusing the Republican group of attempting to incite violence and creating a hostile environment. The school took it seriously enough to schedule a formal hearing. The students’ rights group called the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education said the hearing was illegal—contending a public institution cannot prosecute students for political protests. The hearing was held—and the College Republicans were exonerated. University […]

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  • Students who ‘desecrated Allah’ acquitted

    March 21, 2007

    After months of pressure, San Francisco State University has decided not to punish College Republicans it charged with desecrating the name of Allah by stepping on makeshift Hezbollah and Hamas flags at an anti-terrorism rally. Led by the non-profit advocacy group Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the public and some media outlets had called on the school to “uphold the students’ constitutionally guaranteed right to free expression. “We are relieved that SFSU has come to its senses and recognized that it cannot punish students for constitutionally protected expression,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “But the fact remains that the […]

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  • Flag-stomping rabble rousers found not guilty

    March 21, 2007

    The SF State College Republicans will not face sanctions for allegedly breaking the student code of conduct when they stepped on homemade flags with the Arabic symbol for Allah. The Student Organization Hearing Panel, or SOHP, unanimously ruled Friday that there were no grounds to punish the club for “inciting violence and of actions of incivility” for its members’ actions during an anti-terrorism rally Oct. 17, 2006. Also, Associated Students Inc. abruptly rescinded their Nov. 15, 2006 resolution condemning the College GOPs by unanimous vote last Wednesday. Though ASI President Maire’ Fowler was originally a strong proponent of condemning the […]

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  • The San Francisco University kangaroo court

    March 14, 2007

    San Francisco University is investigating its College Republicans for hosting an anti-terrorism rally on campus in which participants stepped on makeshift Hezbollah and Hamas flags. Several Muslims students filed a complaint arguing they were offended because the flags bore the word “Allah” and the actions were intended to incite and create a hostile environment. Yet desecrating a flag—even burning an American flag however distasteful this act may be—is an expression protected by the First Amendment as recent Court cases have suggested and cannot be punished at a public university. Robert Shibley, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education […]

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  • San Francisco values don’t include conservative speech

    March 13, 2007

    by Joe Murray The Evening Bulletin Ever since the sit-ins of the ‘60s, one thing has been painstakingly clear for many a college campus. Universities are the incubators of free speech activity and the soapbox of choice for those cultural revolutionaries lobbying for unpopular, if not controversial, ideas. During the flower power days of academia, Hanoi Jane embodied the counter culture and its cause was a struggle against U.S. cultural imperialism aboard. To the Woodstock warrior, Jim Crowe was public enemy No. 1 and the war in Vietnam was not only a bad decision, but also an immoral one to […]

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  • San Francisco State forgets a great American ideal: free speech

    March 12, 2007

    In 1989, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Texas v. Johnson declaring it a constitutional right for individuals to burn the American flag in political protest. The Court wrote: …recognizing the communicative nature of conduct relating to flags. Attaching a peace sign to the flag, refusing to salute the flag, and displaying a red flag…may find shelter under the First Amendment. The Supreme Court ruled that such actions in the context of a political protest are expressive political speech protected by the free speech clause of the First Amendment. This is the state of First Amendment law. Burning […]

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  • Film’s view of Islam stirs anger on campuses

    February 26, 2007

    When “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” a documentary that shows Muslims urging attacks on the United States and Europe, was screened recently at the University of California, Los Angeles, it drew an audience of more than 300 — and also dozens of protesters. At Pace University in New York, administrators pressured the Jewish student organization Hillel to cancel a showing in November, arguing it could spur hate crimes against Muslim students. A Jewish group at the State University of New York at Stony Brook also canceled the film last semester. The documentary has become the latest flashpoint in […]

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  • Higher ed’s support for terrorism

    February 13, 2007

    by Jason Rantz Family Security Matters A dangerous trend is brewing on our college campuses, and it’s empowering our enemies. As bastions of far left political thought, college campuses are doing what they can to give soap boxes to students and professors who are against the War on Terror, while silencing anyone on campus who dares to support our efforts to defeat our enemies. Take, for example, recent events at San Francisco State University (SFSU), where the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) reports on a frightening disrespect for free speech: …San Francisco State University (SFSU) is investigating its […]

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  • Desecration

    February 11, 2007

    A state university in California is weighing punishment for students who disrespected a flag. Not the American flag, of course. The College Republicans at San Francisco State University are in hot water for stomping on the flags of the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah during an October “anti-terrorism rally.” Little did they know, the flags bear the name of Allah in Arabic script—the trampling of which is a grave offense to Islam. The university is currently weighing whether to punish the students even though they couldn’t have known. It is expected to hold a disciplinary hearing in the coming weeks. […]

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  • Playing with FIRE

    February 8, 2007

    It’s all well and good to desecrate a flag these days—as long as it’s an American flag. If the flag represents, say, a terrorist organization such as Hamas, then you could find yourself in trouble. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education performs an estimable service by defending free speech on college campuses. It doesn’t choose sides, defending only the speech it likes or agrees with. FIRE has defended individuals from across the ideological spectrum. In the current case, it’s sticking up for a group of College Republicans at San Francisco State University (SFSU) who held an anti-terrorism rally at […]

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  • S.F. State—Hecklers’ paradise

    February 8, 2007

    What is San Francisco State University teaching that makes student leaders think that if they don’t like what other students say, they can use student organizations to stifle those with dissenting views? Do they even know about the First Amendment? This story starts with an “anti-terrorism rally” held last October on campus by the College Republicans. To emphasize their point, students stomped on Hezbollah and Hamas flags. According to the college paper, the Golden Gate (X)Press, members of Students Against War and the International Socialist Organization showed up to call the Republicans “racists,” while the president of the General Union […]

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  • A Response to SFSU’s Ellen Griffin

    December 3, 2004

      Giving new meaning to the worn campus quip that nothing is to be believed until the public affairs office officially denies it, San Francisco State University’s campus spokesperson, Ellen Griffin, has taken issue with my depiction of the Jihad at SFSU.      What has vexed Ms. Griffin in her capacity as official apologist for a campus that enshrines and defends the anti-American left is my characterization of events that occurred at the campus on November 1, 2004 and November 3, 2004.  In my Chronwatch article (November 30, 2004) on the reaction in academia to waking up to the Bush […]

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  • Speech Code of the Month: Arkansas State University

    August 4, 2014

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for August 2014: Arkansas State University.

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  • The Pitt Promise: A Commitment to Civility over Constitutionality

    July 23, 2014

    One needs only to flip five pages into the University of Pittsburgh’s Student Code of Conduct and Judicial Procedures to find “The Pitt Promise: A Commitment to Civility” (the “Pitt Promise,” or “the Promise”)—a list of pedagogical principles and values to which students are expected to adhere. In principle, the pledge is morally sound and perhaps desirable, but, as FIRE has explained, mandating civility clauses infringes on students’ First Amendment rights. As a current student at the University of Pittsburgh, a public institution of higher education that is bound by the Constitution, it concerns me that the university has enacted a policy that so clearly infringes on its students’ rights.

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  • Compelling ‘Civility’

    June 1, 2012

    Earlier this week, an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required) discussed the growing popularity on college campuses of programs aimed at promoting civility. While one might reasonably ask whether there is a connection between exorbitant tuition rates, administrative bloat, and programs such as the “transformational, saturation approach” civility projects discussed in the article, there is no problem from an individual rights standpoint with colleges promoting civility. The individual rights problem, which the article barely even hints at, is that a large number of colleges and universities actually compel civility rather than simply encouraging it.  The article focuses […]

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  • This Month in FIRE History: San Francisco State University Investigates Students for Anti-Terrorism Protest

    February 17, 2012

    Five years ago this month, FIRE first publicized a case at San Francisco State University (SFSU) that ignited public attention and eventually led to a significant legal victory for student rights.  In October 2006, the College Republicans at San Francisco State University held an anti-terrorism rally on campus, during which they stepped on makeshift Hezbollah and Hamas flags. In response, several students filed complaints with the school, protesting that they were offended because the flags bore the word “Allah” (written in Arabic), a fact unknown to the College Republicans. Rather than defend the constitutional rights of its students to peaceably […]

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  • ADF’s David Hacker on Civility Codes as Speech Codes

    August 12, 2010

    Last week in The Christian Post, Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) Legal Counsel David J. Hacker took aim at an August 5, 2010, article titled “Rude Democracy” in Inside Higher Ed, written by Susan Herbst. Herbst discusses the perceived lack of civility in contemporary American discourse, both in the larger society and on university campuses, and argues that one solution to the problem as presented on campus is to maintain and enforce civility policies regulating student expression. Herbst writes that civility policies should play a major role in how universities counsel their students to behave on campus and should be used more prominently […]

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  • SFSU Policy Change Just Another in a Long Line of Free Speech Zone Reversals

    April 7, 2010

    Sam reported last week that San Francisco State University (SFSU) has revised its “Use of Buildings and Grounds” policy, which previously limited campus demonstrations and other expressive activities, such as distributing literature, to specified free speech zones. SFSU’s revised policy allows students to distribute literature anywhere in the university’s outdoor spaces so long as pedestrian traffic is unimpeded. As for rallies and demonstrations, the revised policy does not specify any free speech zones, and allows for spontaneous events “occasioned by news or issues coming into public knowledge” as an exception to its requirement for advanced reservation for outdoor student events. […]

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  • SFSU Eliminates Free Speech Zones

    April 2, 2010

    There is good news for students at San Francisco State University: pursuant to the university’s revised policy on the Use of Buildings and Grounds, demonstrations and other expressive activities are no longer restricted to free speech zones. Under the old policy, “rallies and demonstrations” at SFSU—a university of more than 30,000 students—were restricted to “Public Forum Areas (i.e., Student Union Plaza Area).” Similarly, the distribution of literature was restricted to “the Student Union Plaza behind the blue lines marked on the pavement.” The revised policy contains no such restrictions. Now, “[d]istribution of literature may occur in University outdoor areas as […]

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  • Universities’ Compliance with Speech Code Decisions Leaves Much to Be Desired

    September 24, 2009

    FIRE’s newest Justice Robert H. Jackson Legal Fellow is Erica Goldberg. Erica is a graduate of Tufts University, where she was editor-in-chief of Tufts’ weekly newspaper, and of Stanford Law School, where she was a member of the moot court board. She also served as a law clerk to the Honorable Ronald L. Gilman on the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, where she was confronted with various deprivations of freedom of expression. Before becoming a Robert H. Jackson fellow, Erica worked for two years as an appellate attorney at Latham & Watkins in Washington D.C. and then as […]

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  • Rights in the News: Harvey’s Harvard Candidacy Continues to Grab Headlines

    February 27, 2009

    As April’s election for Harvard University’s Board of Overseers draws nearer, the candidacy of FIRE co-founder and chairman Harvey Silverglate continues to attract attention and enthusiasm. Scot Lehigh’s excellent column in The Boston Globe is just the latest testament to this, as Adam wrote earlier for The Torch (and as the Cato Institute’s Cato @ Liberty blog briefly noted as well). Even unlikely supporters such as this blogger in Falmouth, Nova Scotia have taken notice of Harvey’s candidacy. FIRE expects the energy to continue to rise in the final weeks before voting ballots are sent out to Harvard alumni. Hopefully […]

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  • Anti-Hamas Rally Stirs Controversy, Calls for Punishment at SFSU

    February 16, 2009

    The College Republicans at San Francisco State University (SFSU) held an anti-Hamas rally on Wednesday at which at least one group member stepped on a Hamas flag, apparently leading offended students to call for the group’s punishment. No, we haven’t accidentally re-posted our “This Month in FIRE History” blog—believe it or not, these events just happened last week!  Reaction to the rally has been fast and furious; according to the College Republicans’ blog, a coalition of students offended by the rally will shortly be releasing a statement containing the following demands: Authorities must drop all charges pending against [the two […]

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  • This Month in FIRE History: San Francisco State University Investigates Students for Anti-Terrorism Protest

    February 13, 2009

    As documented in our video FIRE on Campus: An Introduction to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, one of FIRE’s most shocking February cases over our ten-year history began two years ago at San Francisco State University, when the university administration responded to FIRE defending its decision to investigate the College Republicans for an anti-terrorism rally. As a part of the group’s event, they painted mock Hamas and Hezbollah flags on large pieces of paper and stepped on them to show their outrage for the actions of those groups. Unbeknownst to the protestors, the flags they had copied contained […]

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  • Remembering September 11 and the Freedoms that Make Us Americans

    September 11, 2008

    On the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on our nation, FIRE joins the rest of the country in remembering those who were lost. As we look back on that day, it is important that we also remind ourselves of the importance of the freedoms that make this country what it is, and that we commit ourselves to defending those freedoms when they are threatened. As those who follow FIRE’s work well know, many, if not most, American colleges and universities restrict freedom as much as they claim to promote it. In fact, in the immediate wake of the […]

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  • Victory at San Francisco State, But Serious Concerns Remain

    September 9, 2008

    Yesterday, I reported about the Outdoor Event Request Form policy at San Francisco State University (SFSU) barring all student groups from holding outdoor events. The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) wrote to SFSU on behalf of the College Republicans demanding that SFSU respect its students’ First Amendment rights and change the policy. We are happy to report that J.E. Saffold, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, promptly responded to ADF’s letter and retracted the ban on outdoor events. That said, we are a little irked at Saffold’s dishonesty. Saffold claims that groups were never barred from holding events […]

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  • San Francisco State University Puts Indefinite Hold on Outdoor Protests

    September 8, 2008

    San Francisco State University is at it again. SFSU has posted a statement on its website suspending all outdoor protests. The statement reads: The Outdoor Reservation Request Process for Fall 2008 and Spring 2009 events has been postponed until further notice per University Administration. The postponement will be in effect until completion of a review of Time, Place, and Manner policies by a task force with final recommendations subject to Presidential approval by the President’s Cabinet. It is the intent that the review will be completed in early summer. We apologize for any inconvenience. The College Republicans intend to hold […]

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  • Victory over San Francisco State University’s Unconstitutional Speech Codes

    March 4, 2008

    Chalk up another victory for FIRE’s Speech Codes Litigation Project. Today’s press release discusses the settlement of the lawsuit against San Francisco State University (SFSU), challenging the school’s unconstitutional speech codes. The press release explains: SFSU’s speech codes had banned expression clearly protected by the United States Constitution. For example, the college’s sexual harassment policy defined sexual harassment as “one person’s distortion of a university relationship by unwelcome conduct which emphasizes another person’s sexuality.” A policy regulating student organizations had banned any conduct “inconsistent with SF State goals, principles, and policies.” In addition, the SFSU College Republicans was unconstitutionally targeted […]

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  • Victory over Unconstitutional Speech Codes: San Francisco State University Settles Lawsuit with College Republicans in Favor of Free Speech

    March 4, 2008

    SAN FRANCISCO, March 4, 2008—Yesterday, San Francisco State University (SFSU) settled a lawsuit challenging its speech codes by agreeing to modify several unconstitutional policies to make them consistent with the First Amendment. The settlement also requires SFSU to pay damages to members of the university’s College Republicans as well as to pay the College Republicans’ attorney fees. The lawsuit—part of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE’s) Speech Codes Litigation Project—was filed in July 2007 by attorneys from the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF). “Unconstitutional speech codes have been dealt yet another blow,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “This lawsuit […]

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  • Speech Restrictions and the Law in 2007

    December 24, 2007

    When it comes to speech restrictions and the law in 2007, perhaps the fairest thing that can be said is that this was a “complicated” year for advocates of free speech on campus. As many people know, the Supreme Court took on a student speech case this year, Morse v. Frederick—but the catch is that this case was about a high school student, not a college student. For high school students, the news was clearly bad. As Samantha put it in a June 24 blog entry on the decision, “The Supreme Court further eroded high school students’ free speech rights […]

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  • The Difference the First Amendment Makes

    December 18, 2007

    The New York Post reports today that Canadian author Mark Steyn is facing charges in Canada for the opinions expressed in his book America Alone: After the Canadian general-interest magazine Maclean’s reprinted a chapter from the book, five Muslim law-school students, acting through the auspices of the Canadian Islamic Congress, demanded that the magazine be punished for spreading “hatred and contempt” for Muslims. The plaintiffs allege that Maclean’s advocated, among other things, the notion that Islamic culture is incompatible with Canada’s liberalized, Western civilization. They insist such a notion is untrue and, in effect,want opinions like that banned from publication. […]

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  • An Appropriately Narrow Conception of Intimidation and Harassment

    November 26, 2007

    In a significant victory for speech rights on campus, U.S. Magistrate Judge Wayne Brazil ruled earlier this month that the plaintiffs in the San Francisco State University (SFSU) speech codes litigation were entitled to a preliminary injunction with respect to the University’s requirement that students be “civil” toward one another and its provision allowing student groups and organizations to be punished collectively if any member engages in conduct “inconsistent with SF State goals, principles, and policies.” Sam has already analyzed Judge Brazil’s treatment of these issues, as well as his important discussion of the clear differences between the high school […]

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  • A Devastating Blow to Campus Censors

    November 20, 2007

    Earlier this month, U.S. Magistrate Judge Wayne Brazil partially granted plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction in the San Francisco State University (SFSU) speech codes litigation. Yesterday, Judge Brazil issued his written opinion on the motion, and in so doing struck a devastating blow against speech codes at universities in California and hopefully—to the extent that his wise words are heeded by judges in other jurisdictions—across the country. Judge Brazil’s opinion proves that he truly is—as he said from the bench on October 31—a “friend of the First Amendment.” In discussing the general importance of the First Amendment, he wrote […]

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  • ‘Thou Shalt Be Civil, Or Else….’

    November 12, 2007

    Check out FIRE co-founder Harvey Silverglate’s blog post over at The Free For All about our recent victory over San Francisco State University’s speech code. Harvey concludes:    Of course, there’s nothing wrong with civility, but, like much that is virtuous, it must be the product of voluntary self-restraint, not orders barked by an intrusive (and unconstitutional) campus feel-good bureaucracy. Magistrate-Judge Brazil said he would issue a written opinion, which we’ll be looking for. Meanwhile, let us each do a good deed and find someone today to whom to be voluntarily civil.

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  • SFSU: Another Speech Code Falls

    November 8, 2007

    As we announced in our press release today, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction prohibiting San Francisco State University (SFSU) and the California State University (CSU) System as a whole from enforcing several unconstitutional speech codes. The codes were challenged in a lawsuit filed by attorneys from the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) in cooperation with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). This lawsuit—the latest in FIRE’s Speech Codes Litigation Project—was filed by the SFSU College Republicans and two of the group’s individual members after SFSU violated the group’s First Amendment rights last year by dragging them through […]

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  • Federal Court Orders San Francisco State University, California State University System Not to Enforce Unconstitutional Speech Codes

    November 8, 2007

    SAN FRANCISCO, November 8, 2007—In a crucial victory for free speech, a federal judge has ordered San Francisco State University (SFSU) and the California State University System (CSU) to stop enforcing several unconstitutional speech codes. The codes were challenged in a lawsuit filed by attorneys from the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) in cooperation with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). “This decision is a vital step in the fight against unconstitutional campus speech codes,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “The court’s decision frees hundreds of thousands of students throughout the CSU System from unlawful restrictions on their expression.” […]

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  • Federal Judge Prohibits SFSU from Enforcing Speech Codes

    November 2, 2007

    This has been a truly fantastic week for freedom on campus. Not only did the University of Delaware end its program of mandatory thought reform, but on Wednesday, a federal judge in California enjoined the enforcement of several unconstitutional speech codes at San Francisco State University (SFSU). The lawsuit—part of FIRE’s Speech Codes Litigation Project—was filed by the SFSU College Republicans this past July. Torch readers may recall that the SFSU College Republicans were dragged through a prolonged investigation and hearing simply for engaging in constitutionally protected expression. They brought suit both to challenge the university’s blatant violation of their […]

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  • Oral Arguments Today in SFSU Case

    October 31, 2007

    Oral arguments in the San Francisco State University (SFSU) College Republicans’ lawsuit against the university will be taking place today at 1:30 PT (4:30 ET) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Oakland Division. The College Republicans are asking the court to enjoin SFSU from enforcing several unconstitutional speech codes on campus. Torch readers may remember that after the College Republicans were dragged through a protracted investigation and hearing for engaging in constitutionally protected expression, they brought a lawsuit (the latest suit in FIRE’s Speech Codes Litigation Project) challenging not only the university’s violation of their […]

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  • Speech Codes Don’t Get Enforced?

    October 15, 2007

    As Will discussed earlier, Florida International University professor Stanley Fish argues in his latest “Think Again” column for The New York Times that campus speech codes do not present as much of a problem for students as one might think. In the process of reviewing filmmaker Evan Coyne Maloney’s Indoctrinate U, Fish argues that any negative effects that speech codes may have on the state of free speech on campus is overblown because colleges will rarely, if ever, actually enforce their speech codes. Pointing to the fact that every speech code that has been litigated in the courts has ultimately […]

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  • FIRE in the News for July

    August 1, 2007

    The lazy days of summer must have passed us over at FIRE, for one look at our media coverage for July reveals just how busy we’ve been. The latest effort in FIRE’s Speech Codes Litigation Project, a lawsuit filed against San Francisco State University, was the subject of a syndicated Associated Press article, a news brief on Special Report with Brit Hume on FOXNews.com, and our last Campus Alert column in the New York Post before we took a summer break. Reason Online and The Chronicle of Higher Education also covered the SFSU lawsuit in nationally circulated pieces. The second […]

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  • ‘The Evening Bulletin’ Covers SFSU Lawsuit

    July 19, 2007

    An article in The Evening Bulletin yesterday highlights FIRE’s latest case in its highly successful speech codes litigation project, an effort to rid universities of unconstitutional speech regulations. Organized by FIRE, the Alliance Defense Fund and the San Francisco State University (SFSU) College Republicans are suing SFSU for a violation of the College Republicans’ First Amendment rights. Last year, SFSU put the College Republicans through a five-month trial for stepping on Hamas and Hezbollah flags during an anti-terrorism rally. The lawsuit also targets several policies that unconstitutionally restrict protected speech.

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  • Today’s ‘Campus Alert’: When Hezbollah Trumps Old Glory

    July 16, 2007

    This week, Campus Alert—FIRE’s weekly column in the New York Post—focuses on the situation at San Francisco State University (SFSU), where the school’s College Republicans filed a federal lawsuit last week alleging that SFSU administrators violated the group’s First Amendment rights by staging a five-month investigation into the group’s activities at an anti-terrorism rally. Specifically, SFSU’s investigation centered on whether the College Republicans were guilty of “actions of incivility,” among other charges, for stepping on homemade Hezbollah and Hamas flags. However, as today’s column points out, the United States Supreme Court has consistently held that flag desecration is protected political […]

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  • Media Turns Attention to SFSU Lawsuit

    July 11, 2007

    The lawsuit against San Francisco State University continues to attract media coverage from local San Francisco outlets and nationally read journalists and bloggers. In addition to an article on the syndicated Associated Press wire, the story appeared on The Special Report with Brit Hume on FOXNews Channel and FOXNews.com, in The Chronicle of Higher Education, and in a post on Reason Online’s widely read Hit and Run blog. David French of the Alliance Defense Fund, the organization that filed the lawsuit, also wrote about the SFSU case on National Review Online’s Phi Beta Cons. His post includes a great summary of […]

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  • FIRE Discussing SFSU Lawsuit on the Radio Today

    July 10, 2007

    The media coverage of the lawsuit filed in cooperation with FIRE against San Francisco State University continues. FIRE President Greg Lukianoff will appear on the Pete Wilson Program on San Francisco ABC News affiliate KGO-AM at 2 p.m. PST (5 p.m. EST) today to discuss the case and our latest efforts in FIRE’s highly successful Speech Codes Litigation Project. Torch readers can listen online here.

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  • More on SFSU Lawsuit

    July 10, 2007

    The federal lawsuit against SFSU hit the news this morning, with articles in the International Herald Tribune and The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required).   One quick but important clarification of those articles: FIRE is not representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, but rather worked to coordinate the lawsuit that was filed yesterday by the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF). This is the modus operandi of FIRE’s Speech Codes Litigation Project: FIRE coordinates litigation—filed by cooperating attorneys from FIRE’s Legal Network—in defense of the First Amendment, in an effort to end the scourge of unconstitutional speech codes on public campuses. […]

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  • FIRE’s Speech Codes Litigation Project Targets San Francisco State University

    July 9, 2007

    FIRE’s Speech Codes Litigation Project is moving forward as attorneys from the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), in cooperation with FIRE, filed a federal lawsuit today against San Francisco State University (SFSU) for violating its students’ First Amendment rights.   Torch readers will likely recall the debacle at SFSU this past spring, when the SFSU College Republicans were tried by a campus tribunal for the “offense” of stepping on makeshift Hamas and Hezbollah flags during an anti-terrorism rally they held in October, 2006. Of course, as FIRE repeatedly told SFSU’s leadership, flag desecration in the context of political protest is constitutionally […]

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  • Students Sue San Francisco State University over Unconstitutional Speech Codes

    July 9, 2007

    SAN FRANCISCO, July 9, 2007—San Francisco State University (SFSU) is the latest target of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE’s) highly successful Speech Codes Litigation Project. In cooperation with FIRE, attorneys filed a federal lawsuit against SFSU for violating the First Amendment rights of its students. The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a Phoenix-based nonprofit organization devoted to protecting religious liberty, filed the suit. “Through its policies and practices, SFSU has violated and continues to violate the First Amendment rights of every student on its campus,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “Beginning today, SFSU will have to answer for […]

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  • ‘From the President’ in ‘The FIRE Quarterly’

    May 24, 2007

    FIRE President Greg Lukianoff’s new column in the latest FIRE Quarterly explores how university administrators’ try to squelch student speech acting “like the censors of the Victorian era—morally infallible, plugged into absolute truth, and engaged in saving the country’s soul from incivility or impropriety. As Greg points out, FIRE’s recent cases at Johns Hopkins University, San Francisco State University (SFSU), and Columbia University’s Teachers College have all brought with them galling attempts by university officials to crack down on expression by a variety of different methods that seem to want to save campus communities from impropriety. These tactics range from […]

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  • Spring 2007 ‘FIRE Quarterly’ Now Available

    May 24, 2007

    Check out our latest, newly re-designed issue of The FIRE Quarterly, which contains news updates on FIRE events and victories in cases at universities across the country. Some highlights from this edition include a look at our victory at San Francisco State University (SFSU), where FIRE stepped in to defend SFSU’s College Republicans after the school tried to punish them for stepping on makeshift Hezbollah and Hamas flags at an anti-terrorism rally. We also report on FIRE victories for freedom of association for Christian student groups at Brown University and at Pace University, and a victory for freedom of speech […]

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  • ‘Campus Outrage Awards’ Feature Two FIRE Cases

    April 25, 2007

    The Collegiate Network has released their 2007 Campus Outrage Awards, an effort “to shed light on the most outrageous instances of intolerance and intimidation on the part of college officials.” Out of the five awards, two went to schools for their involvement in a FIRE case.   At Johns Hopkins University (JHU), The Carrollton Record (TCR), an independent student paper, ran a cover story entitled “Deepthroating Hopkins,” on the use of student fees to pay for a speech by pornographic film director Chi-Chi La Rue. The JHU administration refused to condemn the theft of 600 copies of the paper, alleging […]

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  • Cathy Young on SFSU and Censorship Masquerading as ‘Tolerance’

    April 10, 2007

    In Reason Online yesterday, the ever-reasonable Cathy Young discussed a string of FIRE cases involving students punished for expressing hostility toward Islam. Young notes that there is a disturbing trend afoot involving college administrators acting hastily, often with disciplinary action, against students who have been seen as blaspheming Islam. Of course there is the SFSU case, in which students were put on trial for desecrating not just the flags of terrorist organizations, but the name “Allah.” Young ties SFSU’s actions in with the Mohammed cartoon controversy and even Michigan State University’s recent attempt to make the Young Americans for Freedom […]

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  • Heroes of Free Speech

    March 21, 2007

    We were genuinely thrilled to announce yesterday that SFSU finally came to its senses and recognized that it could not lawfully punish the College Republicans for their political protest. We’ve talked a lot on The Torch already about the public outcry surrounding the case—the letters from FIRE, the ACLU of Northern California, and the numerous individuals who took the time to write to SFSU and express their concerns about the university’s disregard for free speech. Now I’d like to talk a little bit about the courage of the students at the center of this debacle.   FIRE can only do […]

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  • Victory at SFSU

    March 20, 2007

    As our press release today announces, San Francisco State University (SFSU) has found the College Republicans not guilty of allegations of incitement, creating a hostile environment, and actions of incivility. SFSU President Robert Corrigan stated in a letter to FIRE yesterday that “the Student Organization Hearing Panel (SOHP) unanimously concluded that the College Republicans organization had not violated the Student Code of Conduct and that there were no grounds to support the student complaint lodged against them.”   That complaint was filed after the College Republicans held an anti-terrorism rally on October 17, 2006, during which they stepped on paper […]

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  • Victory for Free Expression at San Francisco State University

    March 20, 2007

    SAN FRANCISCO, March 20, 2007—In a crucial victory for free expression, San Francisco State University (SFSU) announced yesterday that its College Republicans will face no punishment for hosting an anti-terrorism rally at which participants stepped on makeshift Hezbollah and Hamas flags. SFSU’s decision comes after months of pressure from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), national and local media, and the public—all of which called on the school to uphold the students’ constitutionally guaranteed right to free expression. “We are relieved that SFSU has come to its senses and recognized that it cannot punish students for constitutionally protected […]

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  • David Frum on SFSU

    March 19, 2007

    Yesterday on Phi Beta Cons, David Frum reposted a column about the “ongoing scandal” at SFSU that he wrote for Canada’s National Post. Frum had some wise words about the broader implications of the SFSU case: The SFSU College Republicans will prevail in the end. Even if the university sanctions them, those sanctions will be appealed to federal court and swiftly overturned. It is the universities for whom we should worry. They lack the courage to defend the freedom without which they cannot live.

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  • FIRE Friend Responds to SFSU

    March 16, 2007

    Upon receiving a FIRE press release regarding a threat to free speech on a university campus, FIRE friend Dr. David Ross always e-mails the administrator in question and asks a simple question: is this true?   After writing to San Francisco State’s administration regarding FIRE’s latest press release decrying the trial of the SFSU College Republicans, who stomped on Hamas and Hezbollah flags during an anti-terrorism rally, Dr. Ross received the following disturbing response: I am responding to your message concerning San Francisco State’s handling of a student complaint against the College Republicans Club. To clarify some matters of fact: […]

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  • Not a Threat, an Opportunity

    March 15, 2007

    When FIRE learned that SFSU was pushing forward with disciplinary proceedings against the College Republicans, we wrote an urgent letter to SFSU President Robert Corrigan advising him of the serious legal risks involved in pursuing a course of action that is clearly proscribed by established, well-known Supreme Court precedent. FIRE wrote that: Any punishment enforced against the College Republicans under SFSU’s student conduct policies as a consequence of their exercise of their First Amendment rights is an unlawful deprivation of constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 for which SFSU administrators can be sued in their individual capacities. Moreover, when […]

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  • FIRE on BBC Radio Today

    March 15, 2007

    In just a few minutes, FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley will be a guest on today’s edition of the BBC News radio program ‘World Have Your Say.’ The topic of today’s show is “Are universities stifling debate on the Middle East,” and Robert will be discussing FIRE’s current case at San Francisco State University. Interested Torch readers can listen live on the BBC World Service at 1 p.m. Eastern time.

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  • SFSU Stands By Its Actions

    March 15, 2007

    In the latest development in SFSU’s prosecution of the College Republicans, SFSU President Robert Corrigan has written a response to FIRE’s March 7 letter urging the administration to end proceedings against the students who dared to step on Hamas and Hezbollah flags in an act of political protest. In his reply, Corrigan points FIRE toward the statement SFSU posted on its website recently defending its actions in the investigation and hearing that followed the College Republicans’ protest.     The statement is called “On avoiding a rush to judgment”—an interesting title considering that the College Republicans’ alleged misdeeds took place […]

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  • FIRE on Air to Discuss SFSU Case

    March 14, 2007

    As part of tomorrow’s San Francisco launch of The Mancow Show on KTRB AM 860 in San Francisco, FIRE’s Greg Lukianoff will appear to discuss our recent case at San Francisco State University at 6:10 a.m. PST (9:10 a.m. EST). The show—which reaches 2.5 million listeners—is nationally syndicated and available online, so tune in to hear the latest on what is happening to College Republican students who were tried by a panel of faculty, administrators, and students for participating in an anti-terrorism protest at which they stepped on makeshift Hezbollah and Hamas flags.

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  • ‘San Francisco Values Don’t Include Conservative Speech’

    March 13, 2007

    The Philadelphia Bulletin has an in-depth article today about the ongoing betrayal of free speech at San Francisco State University (SFSU). Bulletin columnist Joe Murray leads off with a discussion of SFSU’s history of censorship, pointing out the hypocrisy of those currently seeking to censor conservative voices at SFSU: SFSU is not a stranger to First Amendment controversy, for in 1968 a student strike organized by the leftist Third World Liberation Front completely overwhelmed the campus. The strike, which was supported by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Black Panthers, disrupted campus activities, called for an end to […]

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  • Update on SFSU Hearing

    March 12, 2007

    San Francisco State University went forward on Friday with its trial of the College Republicans for the (constitutionally protected) “offense” of stepping on drawings of the Hamas and Hezbollah flags during an anti-terrorism rally. According to College Republican Leigh Wolf, who represented his organization at the hearing, it was more or less a complete mockery of justice. The hearing panel should be delivering its decision within 10 days, and we hope to have a recording of the hearing available on our site within a day or two. We will keep you posted.

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  • Freedom Hanging in the Balance at SFSU

    March 9, 2007

    As we speak, the SFSU College Republicans are fighting for their fundamental rights in a disciplinary hearing taking place right now. Our thoughts are with them, and we’ll keep you posted.

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  • Free Speech on Trial Today at San Francisco State University

    March 9, 2007

    SAN FRANCISCO, March 9, 2007—Showing brazen disregard for its students’ clearly established constitutional rights, San Francisco State University (SFSU) is putting the College Republicans on trial today for hosting an anti-terrorism rally at which participants stepped on makeshift Hezbollah and Hamas flags. University officials have alleged that the students desecrated the name of Allah, which is written on both flags in Arabic script. The student group’s leadership contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help when they first learned of the school’s investigation. “SFSU must call off this hearing immediately,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “The College […]

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  • Undeterred by Reality, SFSU Presses Forward with Show Trial of College Republicans

    March 8, 2007

    The plight of the College Republicans at San Francisco State University (SFSU) should frighten everyone who values his or her freedom. SFSU, a public university, is putting its College Republicans on trial tomorrow for symbolic expression that is unequivocally protected by the First Amendment. Both FIRE and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California have written to the university urging it to see the obvious error of its ways, but SFSU, undeterred by reality, appears to be pressing forward with its kangaroo trial.   The facts are straightforward. After the College Republicans held an anti-terrorism rally on campus, […]

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  • SFSU in ‘National Review Online’

    March 8, 2007

    National Review Online features an article today by Brendan Conway about the College Republicans at San Francisco State University (SFSU). Conway writes: What is quite possibly the strangest flag-desecration controversy in American history is afoot right now at San Francisco State University. It’s strange for several reasons, firstly because the right to torch, stomp, or otherwise annihilate a flag was asserted nearly 18 years ago by the Supreme Court in Johnson v. Texas, and should be pretty much settled by now. Not here, though, where a chapter of College Republicans could be disbanded for allegedly inciting hostility via an act […]

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  • FIRE Letter to San Francisco State University President Robert A. Corrigan, March 7, 2007

    March 7, 2007

    March 7, 2007 President Robert A. Corrigan President’s Office, ADM 562 1600 Holloway Avenue San Francisco, California 94132 URGENT Sent via U.S. Mail and Facsimile (415-338-6210) Dear President Corrigan: It is with both deep disappointment and renewed resolve that FIRE is forced to write to you again to voice our grave concern about the threat to free expression posed by San Francisco State University’s (SFSU’s) ongoing investigation of the SFSU College Republicans for the content of an anti-terrorism rally held October 17, 2006. FIRE has learned that SFSU’s Student Organization Hearing Panel (SOHP) plans to hold a hearing this Friday, […]

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  • FIRE Quarterly: ‘From the Board of Directors’

    March 2, 2007

    Daphne Patai, a member of our Board of Directors, contributed to our recent edition of The FIRE Quarterly with a column reinforcing the importance of FIRE’s work after a year in which we saw so many attempts to limit student speech on campus. She wrote: Where restrictions on speech must, by law, be content-neutral, universities these days have the habit of taking it upon themselves to decide which points of view are to be protected by the First Amendment and which are not. Where the law prohibits harassment only if it is “persistent and pervasive” enough to interfere with an […]

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  • ‘The New York Times’ Looks at Middle East Controversies on Campus

    February 26, 2007

    Karen Arenson has an article in The New York Times this morning about the film “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” which she calls “the latest flashpoint in the bitter campus debate over the Middle East.”   The film shows anti-Western clips from Arab television programming and documentary footage of suicide bombers, at times comparing militant Islam to the Nazi movement. Many campus groups—mostly Hillels and other Jewish student organizations—have organized showings of “Obsession” at their universities. As Arenson reports, both the film’s message and the pro-Israeli nature of the viewings have sparked debate among students about Middle Eastern […]

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  • SFSU Students Scheduled for FOX News Today

    February 15, 2007

    San Francisco State University students involved in the recent controversy surrounding an anti-terrorism protest where College Republicans stepped on makeshift Hamas and Hezbollah flags are scheduled to appear on today’s The Live Desk with Martha MacCallum on the FOX News Channel. The segment is set to broadcast during the hour-long program, which airs from 1 to 2 p.m. Eastern.

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  • God and Man in San Francisco

    February 9, 2007

    Yesterday, FIRE took public one of its more outrageous cases: that of San Francisco State University (SFSU), where the College Republicans are to stand trial for stomping on Hamas and Hezbollah flags during a protest. The specific “offenses?” “Incitement” and creating a “hostile environment.” Now, it’s well-known to just about everyone with any knowledge of the First Amendment that burning an American flag is protected political expression. We have to assume that SFSU knows this too, and has managed to reason out that if you can cause whatever damage you like to an American flag, you can certainly do the […]

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  • SFSU Investigates Flag-Stomping Protestors

    February 8, 2007

    Today’s press release announces that San Francisco State University (SFSU) is investigating the College Republicans for holding an anti-terrorism protest on campus last October. During the protest, the College Republicans stepped on paper they had painted to represent the Hamas and Hezbollah flags. Unbeknownst to the protesters, the flags they copied bear the word “Allah.” The SFSU student government, Associated Students, Inc., passed a resolution condemning the College Republicans, and other students filed complaints with the university claiming that the College Republicans walked on a banner with the word “Allah” written in Arabic script. FIRE wrote to SFSU President Robert […]

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  • San Francisco State University Investigates Students for Anti-Terrorism Protest

    February 8, 2007

    SAN FRANCISCO, Calif., February 8, 2007—In a profound display of disrespect for free speech, San Francisco State University (SFSU) is investigating its College Republicans for hosting an anti-terrorism rally on campus in which participants stepped on makeshift Hezbollah and Hamas flags. After students filed a complaint claiming they were offended because the flags bore the word “Allah,” SFSU initiated an investigation into accusations of incitement, creation of a hostile environment, and incivility. Members of the College Republicans then contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for assistance. “At a public university, stepping on a flag—even burning an American […]

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