University of Massachusetts – Amherst

Location: Amherst, Massachusetts
Website: http://www.umass.edu
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 1st Circuit

Speech Code Rating

University of Massachusetts – Amherst 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.

  • University of Massachusetts at Amherst: Student Government Tries to Punish Conservative Newspaper

    April 10, 2009

    University of Massachusetts Amherst student government leader Vanessa Snow was mocked by name in an issue of the conservative campus newspaper The Minuteman. In response, Snow impeded the distribution of the paper by standing on a stack of newspapers and then grabbing copies out of the hands of a student as police detective Lisa Kidwell did nothing. Later, the Student Government Association (SGA) Senate passed a resolution to suspend the Silent Majority, the organization that publishes The Minuteman, unless it wrote an apology addressing the paper’s representation of SGA members. After FIRE intervened, the university administration rejected the resolution, and […]

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  • University of Massachusetts at Amherst: Student Newspapers Stolen While Police Officer Watches

    April 10, 2009

    When a student government leader was ridiculed in an issue of conservative campus newspaper The Minuteman, she decided to take matters into her own hands. The student, Vanessa Snow, was mocked by name as a leader of UMass Amherst’s student group Student Bridges, a campus organization supported by the UMass Amherst Student Government Association, because of Student Bridges’ finances. She violated the First Amendment right to free speech of the student group that publishes the newspaper by standing on the stack of newspapers, then grabbing them out of the hands of a student after she was required to stop standing […]

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  • University of Massachusetts Amherst: Student Group Charged Unconstitutional Security Fee for Controversial Speaker

    March 24, 2009

    The Republican Club at UMass Amherst was pressured to accept $444.52 in extra security fees by the university’s police department after it became known that students were planning to protest and disrupt its lecture event featuring conservative columnist Don Feder. Though the Republican Club reluctantly accepted the fees, the speech was nonetheless disrupted by protesters, and Feder was unable to finish his lecture. After pressure from FIRE, including a column in The Boston Globe pointing out that forcing groups to subsidize the activities of their protesters is unconstitutional, the UMass Amherst administration relented and relieved the group of the extra […]

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  • University of Massachusetts at Amherst: Suppression of ‘Racist’ Speech

    October 7, 2004

    The University of Massachusetts at Amherst campaigned to persecute nine students who were seen in photographs containing a caricature of one of them as the “Grand Wizard” of the Ku Klux Klan. At a post-election party following the Student Government Association (SGA) elections, Patrick Higgins, a student defeated in a race for SGA President during which he was labeled a “racist,” was in attendance. Another student, in an effort to mock the charges of racism, drew a caricature of Higgins as a member of the Ku Klux Klan on a dry-erase board. A photo was taken of the caricature and […]

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  • University of Massachusetts at Amherst: Refusal to Permit Pro-War Speech

    October 24, 2001

    At the University of Massachusetts, students were granted a permit for a rally to protest any use of force in waging the war against terrorism. The protest was held. Another student group reserved the same place to hold a rally in support of America’s policy towards terrorism, but two days before the rally, their permit was revoked. Students held the rally anyway, and their pamphlets were publicly vandalized, with impunity.

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Red Light Policies

  • Responsible/Acceptable Use of Computing and Data Resources Standards 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies

    Posting, sending or publicly displaying or printing unsolicited mail or materials that violate existing laws or University policies/codes of conduct. Such material includes, but is not limited to those that are of a fraudulent, obscene, offensive, defamatory, harassing,
    abusive, or threatening nature.

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Code of Student Conduct 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Unwelcomed sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when: … such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or sexually offensive working or academic environment.

    Examples of sexual harassment include, but are not limited to the following behaviors when they are unwelcome or unwanted, and are both objectively and subjectively offensive:: … verbal comments of a sexual nature about an individual’s body or sexual terms used to describe an individual; display of sexually suggestive pictures, posters or cartoons; jokes, language, epithets or remarks of a sexual nature ….

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  • Housing and Residence Life: Community Standards- Harassment Policy 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Harassment is a form of violence that consists of verbal and/or written invasion/violation of another person’s rights. It can be racial, sexual, or personal in nature and may be expressed through graffiti, obscene telephone calls, or other means.

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  • Registered Student Organization Handbook: Rallies 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies

    Rallies are events where people freely assemble around a common cause(s) and/or point(s) of advocacy. … Space for rallies can be requested 24 hours in advance, but it is advisable to allow at least 48 hours to make sure that space is registered.

    During class hours, rallies can only be held on the Student Union steps (either front entrance or south steps).

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Green Light Policies
  • Dean of Students Office: Picketing Code 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression

    All students, undergraduate and graduate, have a right to demonstrate on University premises provided, however, that no such demonstration shall be permissible which for any reason of time, place, or type of behavior materially disrupts class work or other University business, or involves substantial disorder or invasion of the rights of others.

    No student shall intentionally and substantially interfere with the freedom of expression of another person on University premises or at University sponsored activities.

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  • Code of Student Conduct 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Harassment is defined as repeated use of written, verbal, or electronic expression or physical act or gesture, or any combination thereof, directed at a person that places that person in reasonable fear for her or his physical safety or prevents the person from conducting her or his customary or usual affairs, or substantially interferes with her or his educational experience.

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  • UMass Teaches Lesson on Free Speech; Other Campuses Should Heed It

    April 16, 2014

    By Joan Vinnochi at The Boston Globe Free speech can be ugly, but that doesn’t mean it should be silenced — and at the University of Massachusetts, a spokesman said it won’t be. When UMass Amherst basketball player Derrick Gordon announced he is gay, he made national headlines as the first NCAA Division 1 basketball player to come out. His announcement also triggered a threat from the Westboro Baptist Church of Kansas to travel to UMass to protest the school’s support for him. This “church” has followers who are obsessed with homosexuality, which they believe is sinful. Its acolytes travel around […]

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  • Between the Lines: Intolerant of Dissent

    May 21, 2009

    Those who charge that modern-day liberalism has become fundamentally illiberal toward speech and ideas that challenge its own dogma could ask for no better illustration than recent events at UMass-Amherst. On March 11, the Republican Club at UMass hosted Don Feder, a conservative journalist, addressing the subject of hate speech and hate crimes. Feder believes that legislation which singles out hate crimes with special penalties, rather than treating all violent crime equally, amounts to unconstitutional punishment of bad speech or bad thoughts. He also disputes the notion of a hate crime epidemic in America. A group of left-wing students announced […]

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  • Before you know it, your speech could be offensive

    April 22, 2009

    Those who charge that modern-day liberalism has become fundamentally illiberal toward speech and ideas that challenge its own dogma could ask for no better illustration than the recent events at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, a bastion of the academic left. On March 11, the Republican Club at UMass hosted Don Feder, a conservative journalist and former columnist for The Boston Herald, addressing the controversial subject of hate speech and hate crimes. Feder believes that legislation which singles out hate crimes with special penalties, rather than treating all violent crime equally, amounts to unconstitutional punishment of bad speech or bad thoughts. […]

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  • UMass-Amherst abandons free-speech rights

    April 21, 2009

    An organization that defends individual liberty in education is taking issue with the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Last month UMass-Amherst came under fire for its treatment of conservative columnist Don Feder. Feder was invited by a conservative school club to give a presentation, but was unable to do so after student protestors heckled him off stage while university officials stood by. Now another censorship issue is brewing on the campus after student protestors stole copies of a conservative newspaper and blocked its distribution on campus. Adam Kissel is the director of the individual rights defense program at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, […]

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  • Free speech silenced

    April 16, 2009

    The Founding Fathers thought it was so important that they made it No. 1. The former slave Frederick Douglass told a Boston crowd that liberty was meaningless without it. Public Enemy rapped about it in “Fight the Power.” Across the centuries, freedom of speech has been held up as a freedom worth fighting for. It is enshrined in the First Amendment. How regrettable that it seems so little valued at the Massachusetts institutions where it should be most respected – our universities. In late March, Boston College cancelled the appearance of University of Illinois professor William Ayers, a former member […]

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  • Why no one should be silenced on campus

    April 9, 2009

    WHEN CONSERVATIVE columnist Don Feder spoke at UMass-Amherst last month, his speech was cut short by a large group of students whose noisy and disruptive antics drove Feder off the lectern midway through his speech. As one UMass student wrote after the event, “I am embarrassed of the way my fellow classmates have chosen to express their discontent.” She should be – but she should also know that she is not the only one who is due for some embarrassment. America’s campuses are seeing a growing movement by students to shut off debate by organized groups and silence speakers with […]

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  • Flunking free speech

    December 24, 2007

    In 1995, the liberal New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis advised his young readers—a constituency he mistakenly assumed existed—that if they felt wounded, were abnormally thin-skinned, or desirous of professorial protection against a delicate sensibility, they might consider enrolling at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, an institution possessing rigorous safeguards against various forms of “harassment.” This was all rather surprising to Lewis because, as he noted, “Speech codes at universities had seemed to be on the decline. Several were held unconstitutional. So it is of more than parochial interest that an extraordinarily sweeping code should be proposed in this […]

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  • Freedom Watch: UMass Amherst parodies itself

    March 11, 2005

    The administrative Pooh-Bahs at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst have demonstrated once again that they are too cynical, too cowardly, or a combination of both to recognize the difference between “hate speech” and parody. As we reported last fall (see “Send Out the Clowns,” News and Features, October 29, 2004), following a hotly contested student election in which one of the candidates had been unfairly branded a racist, a group of student leaders threw a party where they parodied the racism accusations. They took photographs of themselves posing in front of a cartoon depicting the candidate dressed in Ku […]

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  • ‘Lyle’ Portends Life Without Freedom, ‘Friends,’ ‘Seinfeld’

    March 10, 2005

    Every year when I attend a national conference of administrators for America’s colleges and universities, one message comes through loud and clear: claims of harassment, sexual or otherwise, are out of control. At this conference, experts review harassment case law, recent suits and settlements from across the country. They also tell horror stories of absurd harassment accusations they have battled and quote statistics placing the cost of defending just one of these suits, no matter how frivolous, at hundreds of thousands of dollars, with the average award to plaintiffs equally high. In my work at the Foundation for Individual Rights […]

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  • Under the Radar: Political Correctness Never Died

    July 1, 2004

    By Cathy Young at Reason

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  • Thought Reform 101

    March 1, 2000

    At Wake Forest University last fall, one of the few events designated as “mandatory” for freshman orientation was attendance at Blue Eyed, a filmed racism awareness workshop in which whites are abused, ridiculed, made to fail, and taught helpless passivity so that they can identify with “a person of color for a day.” In Swarthmore College’s dormitories, in the fall of 1998, first-year students were asked to line up by skin color, from lightest to darkest, and to step forward and talk about how they felt concerning their place in that line. Indeed, at almost all of our campuses, some […]

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  • NPR’s ‘Morning Edition’ and ‘Chronicle of Higher Education’ on Campus Sexual Assault and Due Process

    September 3, 2014

    National Public Radio’s (NPR’s) Tovia Smith spoke with both due process advocates and victims’ rights advocates on “Morning Edition” today, illuminating the serious problem of college students who are accused of sexual assault being denied a fair hearing. The report included comments from FIRE’s Robert Shibley, claimants’ attorney Colby Bruno, an unnamed former student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who was expelled for an alleged sexual assault, and several others.

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  • UMass Chancellor: Campus Leaders Must Encourage Debate, Not Censorship

    July 31, 2013

    Far too often, college administrators fail to recognize the value of free speech in education and instead take action to censor students’ protected expression. However, Kumble Subbaswamy, Chancellor at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, commendably advocated for free speech in a recent article for The Huffington Post.  Commenting on recent free speech controversies involving Rolling Stone magazine and Northwestern University, Subbaswamy voiced his support for the freedoms FIRE works hard to defend: The Bill of Rights in the Constitution is unprecedented in its protection of free speech, even hateful speech. It is those protections that form the enduring foundation of U.S. […]

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  • FIRE’s Top 3 Free Press Cases

    January 31, 2013

    Over the years, FIRE has repeatedly gone to bat for student newspapers and student journalists faced with censorship. That censorship came in many forms, ranging from newspaper theft, reduced support from student activity funds, and the firing of faculty advisors, to prior review and editorial control of content. Since it’s Free Press Week, here, in no particular order, are three of the most egregious examples of free press violations from FIRE’s case archives. 1. Prior Restraint at Quinnipiac University Prior restraint was the censorship tool of choice for administrators at Quinnipiac University (QU) from 2007 through much of 2008. Back […]

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  • FIRE Receives Response from UMass: Code Changes Forthcoming?

    May 3, 2011

    Last week here on The Torch, FIRE’s Samantha Harris discussed our concerns about proposed changes (.PDF) to the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s (UMass’) Code of Student Conduct. These concerns, detailed in an urgent letter FIRE sent UMass on April 22, focused on the broad bans on protected speech presented by the revisions. Samantha detailed our problems with UMass’ proposed changes: First, a proposed introduction to the Code sets forth a set of institutional values including “civility,” “social justice,” and “social responsibility,” and states that once students “choose to accept admission,” they are expected to “uphold the above stated values.” As […]

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  • Student Rights in Jeopardy as University of Massachusetts Considers New Speech Codes

    April 26, 2011

    In the wake of government pressure on universities to address sexual harassment and bullying on campus, a committee at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) has proposed revisions (.pdf) to the university’s Code of Student Conduct that would severely compromise the rights of UMass students. Last Friday, FIRE sent an urgent letter to UMass detailing the problems with the proposed changes and reminding the university of its obligation, as a public institution, to uphold its students’ First Amendment rights. While the number of restrictive speech codes on college campuses has declined slightly over the last few years, two recent developments threaten to […]

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  • Under Pressure from FIRE, UMass Amherst Revises 2010′s Speech Code of the Year

    February 14, 2011

    Under pressure from FIRE, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst has revised its policy governing rallies on campus—and not a moment too soon. FIRE supporters will remember that the policy had earned UMass Amherst intensely negative attention, both here on The Torch and in the national media. In January, FIRE named the policy the 2010 Speech Code of the Year. In the post announcing this dubious distinction, Sam explained just why UMass Amherst’s policy was a cut above—or below—all the rest: While all 12 Speech Codes of the Month in 2010 flagrantly violated students’ right to free expression, one-the University […]

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  • UMass Amherst: Frequent Student Rights Violations and Unconstitutional Policies Ensure Place on ’12 Worst’ List

    February 4, 2011

    When looking for another six schools to join the six schools on our Red Alert list and round out our “12 Worst Schools for Free Speech” feature for The Huffington Post, we had to think long and hard about whether or not to include the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Wait—no we didn’t. When it comes to free speech issues, UMass Amherst has a rap sheet a mile long. Its mixture of restrictive written policies and numerous run-ins with the First Amendment—and FIRE—made this decision about as hard as deciding if LeBron James might make a good addition to your […]

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  • FIRE in ‘The Huffington Post’ on America’s 12 Worst Schools for Free Speech

    January 27, 2011

    Today, The Huffington Post published FIRE’s list of America’s 12 Worst Schools for Free Speech. An expansion of FIRE’s Red Alert List of the “worst of the worst” schools for student and faculty rights, this “dirty dozen” slideshow includes the schools that come onto FIRE’s radar screen again and again for their repeated and egregious violations of fundamental rights, as well as schools whose policies are so bad that they simply had to be included. For longtime Torch readers, the presence of most of these schools on our list won’t come as a surprise. But we don’t want to give it all away here. Is […]

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  • 2010′s Speech Code of the Year: UMass Amherst

    January 5, 2011

    As I reported last week on The Torch, each month, FIRE singles out a particularly reprehensible speech code for our Speech Code of the Month award. One of those—University of Massachusetts Amherst’s policy on “rallies”—is so egregious that it deserves to be 2010′s Speech Code of the Year. The policy has special regulations applicable to what it calls “controversial rallies.” If a rally is deemed “controversial,” it may only take place between noon and 1 p.m. on the Student Union steps, must be registered at least five days in advance, and even requires the student group to provide its own security in the form […]

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  • UMass Chancellor Wonders Why College Coverage Is So Negative

    December 28, 2010

    Two days ago, University of Massachusetts Amherst Chancellor Robert Holub wrote a letter to the editor of The Boston Globe complaining that the Globe‘s coverage of UMass is “unrelentingly negative.” Maybe the various “challenges” UMass is facing are arising because it is the sort of place that would pass a speech code so bad that FIRE selected it today as our Speech Code of the Year. (And the Globe didn’t even point that out, since we hadn’t announced it yet!) If Holub wants his campus’ image to improve, perhaps he should start by changing its absurd and unconstitutional policy of allowing one hour of “free” […]

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  • Speech Code of the Year: 2010

    December 28, 2010

    As Torch readers know, each month FIRE singles out a particularly reprehensible speech code for our Speech Code of the Month award. While all 12 Speech Codes of the Month in 2010 flagrantly violated students’ right to free expression, one—the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s policy on “Rallies”—was so egregious that it deserves special mention as 2010′s Speech Code of the Year. UMass Amherst’s policy on “Rallies” has special regulations applicable to what it calls “controversial rallies”—and it leaves “controversial” wholly undefined, giving the administration unfettered discretion to invoke the policy when it sees fit. If a rally is deemed controversial, […]

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  • Speech Code of the Month: University of Massachusetts Amherst

    September 2, 2010

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for September 2010: University of Massachusetts Amherst. UMass Amherst has a policy on rallies that flagrantly burdens student speech on the basis of viewpoint, with total disregard for the public university’s obligation to uphold the First Amendment rights of speech and assembly. The policy defines rallies as “events where people freely assemble around a common cause(s) and/or point(s) of advocacy.” This broad definition would appear to encompass any event, no matter the size, in which two or more people join together to publicly express an opinion. There are several problems with the […]

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  • Unprincipled Hypocrisy Drives UMass to Do the Right Thing–This Time

    November 10, 2009

    Yesterday, FIRE’s Will Creeley brought you the story of University of Massachusetts Amherst’s capitulation to political pressure from Governor Deval Patrick and various police groups by canceling a planned speech on campus by convicted terror bomber Raymond Luc Levasseur. Well, get ready to suffer some whiplash—according to the Boston Herald, it’s apparently back on. According to the Herald: Now UMass officials say anti-censorship rules leave them no choice but to let Levasseur speak, even in a campus building. “I am opposed to convicted terrorist Raymond Luc Levasseur speaking at the University of Massachusetts,” college President Jack Wilson said. “The University […]

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  • At UMass-Amherst, Political Pressure Leads to Cancellation of Appearance by Former Militant Radical

    November 9, 2009

    Last Friday, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst cancelled a scheduled appearance by former radical leader Ray Luc Levasseur. The cancellation was announced following pressure from Governor Deval Patrick, the National Association of Police, and the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association. Levasseur had been invited to participate in a “Colloquium for Social Change” sponsored by the school’s Special Collections and University Archives division. According to a university spokesman, Levasseur was to have taken part in a discussion of responses to the social unrest of the 1960s and 70s.  Levasseur is the former leader of the United Freedom Front, a militant radical group responsible for the […]

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  • Victory for Freedom of Speech at University of Arizona: Refund of Security Fee for Controversial Speaker

    July 6, 2009

    Today’s press release announces yet another FIRE victory on behalf of a student group unfairly burdened with the cost of bringing controversial speakers to campus. Late last week, FIRE learned that the University of Arizona was reversing its decision to charge the College Republicans $384.72 in extra security fees for an event featuring author and conservative activist David Horowitz. As FIRE has reminded America’s universities time and again throughout our ten-year existence, charging speakers or their student hosts for extra security fees solely because they may provoke hostile reactions from audience members affixes a price tag to protected speech and […]

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  • Glaring Deficiencies Revealed in Police Report Following Theft of ‘The Minuteman’

    June 18, 2009

    There is an old adage that when you don’t have the law on your side you argue the facts, and that when you don’t have the facts on your side you argue the law. What if you have neither on your side? You end up with something like Detective Lisa Kidwell’s official report filed after the theft of The Minuteman at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Indeed, the report is riddled with distortions, inaccuracies, and untruths so evident that one wonders how someone who was there could have composed it. Torch readers may remember the theft of The Minuteman […]

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  • Rights in the News: FIRE on a Roll with Numerous Victories and Successful Videos

    April 24, 2009

    The past week at FIRE has been filled with victories for free speech on campus, and the media has responded. After FIRE’s victory for freedom of conscience at Virginia Tech, the St. Petersburg Times published a column by Bill Maxwell entitled “A diversity step too far.” In it, Maxwell agrees with FIRE’s efforts to protect freedom of conscience at VT, writing: Although diversity is a worthy goal, suggesting that evidence of it is required as one of the activities in professors’ annual report for advancement and tenure is wrong. As a former professor, I would not want to be forced […]

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  • Victory for First Amendment Rights at UMass Amherst: Administration Rejects Censorship of Newspaper

    April 23, 2009

    Under pressure from FIRE, University of Massachusetts Amherst has rejected the student government’s official censorship of The Minuteman, a conservative campus newspaper that mocked a student government official. In addition, FIRE has learned that UMass Amherst has held accountable at least one of the people who stole copies of The Minuteman out of the hands of a student while a campus police officer watched and did nothing. Several video recordings of the newspaper theft at UMass show UMass police officer Lisa Kidwell idly standing by as hundreds of copies of The Minuteman are stolen out of the hands of a […]

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  • Victory for First Amendment Rights at UMass Amherst: Administration Rejects Censorship of Newspaper

    April 23, 2009

    AMHERST, Mass., April 23, 2009—Under pressure from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), University of Massachusetts Amherst has rejected the student government’s official censorship of The Minuteman, a conservative campus newspaper that mocked a student government official. In addition, FIRE has learned that UMass Amherst has held accountable at least one of the people who stole copies of The Minuteman out of the hands of a student while a campus police officer watched and did nothing. “Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis was right: Sunlight is the best of disinfectants,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “Next time, maybe UMass […]

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  • Administration rejects SGA suspension of ‘The Minuteman’

    April 21, 2009

    by S.P. Sullivan The Daily Collegian Online   Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Campus Life Esther Terry rejected an enactment by the Student Government Association (SGA) that would suspend conservative campus newspaper The Minuteman in a letter to President Ngozi Mbawuike last week. The letter, dated April 15, informed Mbawuike and the SGA that the enactment, which would suspend the registered student organization (RSO) the Silent Majority, which publishes the paper, did not bear Terry’s signature. “As the enactment does not reflect an appreciation of the Silent Majority’s constitutional right to the exercise of free speech, I reject it […]

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  • Rights in the News: A Good Week for FIRE at Virginia Tech

    April 17, 2009

    I blogged on Wednesday on the press generated by FIRE’s successful effort to get Virginia Tech President Charles Steger to shelve a requirement that would have more deeply ensconced a “diversity” requirement for tenure and promotion for the university’s arts and sciences faculty. FIRE’s efforts and success at Virginia Tech were reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required) and the Richmond Times-Dispatch as well as several blogs. You also may have noticed that there was a bit of a ruckus kicked up by University of Pennsylvania professor John L. Jackson, Jr., in a post on Brainstorm, a blog […]

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  • First Amendment Chaos at UMass Amherst

    April 16, 2009

    Our press release today explains how multiple First Amendment violations have rocked the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus in recent days. UMass has done nothing about the videotaped theft of and, later, the student government’s official censorship of The Minuteman, a conservative campus newspaper that mocked a student government official. Worse, last night, when a student senator offered a bill to reverse the unconstitutional censorship of The Minuteman, the Senate’s speaker had the UMass police throw him out (video of this incident is expected soon). These assaults on free speech came in the wake of last month’s disgraceful episode in […]

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  • UMass Amherst Stands by as Student Newspaper is Stolen and Censored

    April 16, 2009

    AMHERST, Mass., April 16, 2009—Multiple First Amendment violations have rocked the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus in recent days. UMass has done nothing about the videotaped theft of and, later, the student government’s official censorship of The Minuteman, a conservative campus newspaper that mocked a student government official. Worse, last night, when a student senator offered a bill to reverse the unconstitutional censorship of The Minuteman, the Senate’s speaker had the UMass police throw him out (video of this incident is expected soon). These assaults on free speech came in the wake of last month’s disgraceful episode in which a […]

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  • UMass Amherst SGA Ejects Senator Standing Up for the First Amendment

    April 16, 2009

    This is a must-read. Yesterday I reported on a resolution introduced to the UMass Amherst student government that would have resolved most of the First Amendment issues currently boiling over on campus, following the student government’s attempt to coerce a student organization to apologize for its protected expression or else be derecognized and essentially destroyed. But here’s what happened, according to the sponsor of the resolution: Everything is a matter of public record with footage. I sent the bill to the speaker and associate speaker on Monday by 6 pm the deadline. The speaker refused to put the bill on […]

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  • UMass Amherst Student Government Has a Chance to Restore First Amendment Rights

    April 15, 2009

    The University of Massachusetts Amherst Student Government Association (SGA) has failed the First Amendment in almost every possible way by trying to punish a student organization for its protected speech in its March/April 2009 issue of The Minuteman. Tonight, they reportedly have a chance to undo the damage. The organization in question, The Silent Majority, already has had virtually the entire recent press run of its newspaper, The Minuteman, stolen from around campus (and we have the video to prove some of it). The stolen issue criticizes another UMass Amherst student organization, Student Bridges, for its “reckless spending,” and provides […]

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  • Derek Khanna removed from SGA senate meeting

    April 15, 2009

    Commuter Area Senator Derek Khanna was removed from last night’s Student Government Association senate meeting in what he described as a demonstration in support of the first amendment. Khanna submitted a motion for last night’s meeting that proposed the senate’s retraction of a resolution it passed last week. The previously passed resolution requested that the publication The Minuteman apologize for comments that the senate described as slander in its last meeting. Khanna believed the previous resolution violated the paper’s right to free speech and distributed a legal argument to members of the senate in support of his motion. Senate speaker […]

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  • Rights in the News: At Maryland, Virginia Tech, UMass and Elsewhere, FIRE Cases Grabbing Headlines

    April 10, 2009

    Another week, another crush of FIRE cases from around the country battling for headlines. I’ll start with Greg’s Huffington Post blog on the controversy swirling around the University of Maryland campus in the wake of a legislator’s threat to pull funding from the university if it allowed students to screen an adult film on campus—which, after a hiccup or two, they went ahead and did anyway. Elsewhere, Robert addressed a brewing controversy at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst via a column in The Boston Globe, while Adam took to the editorial pages of Virginia Tech’s student newspaper The Collegiate […]

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  • FIRE Letter to UMass Amherst Chancellor Robert C. Holub

    April 10, 2009

    April 10, 2009 Chancellor Robert C. Holub University of Massachusetts Amherst 374 Whitmore Administration Building Amherst, Massachusetts 01003 URGENT Sent by U.S. Mail and Facsimile (413-545-2328) Dear Chancellor Holub: FIRE is disappointed to be writing you for the second time within a month about violations of the rights of students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass Amherst). We wrote you on March 24 with serious concerns about the excessive security fee charged to the Republican Club for an event featuring controversial speaker Don Feder. We asked for a response by April 14 but have not yet received one. We […]

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  • FIRE Vice President Pens Op-Ed for ‘The Boston Globe’: ‘Why no one should be silenced on campus’

    April 9, 2009

    Today’s Boston Globe features an op-ed from FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley on the disruption of Don Feder’s speech at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Robert points out that this incident is indicative of a larger problem on college campuses, where students resort to disruption and violence to preempt speech with which they disagree: America’s campuses are seeing a growing movement by students to shut off debate by organized groups and silence speakers with whom they disagree. Rather than engage in the give-and-take that should be characteristic of the university as a “marketplace of ideas,” these students have decided […]

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  • Thousands of Papers Go Missing at Catholic University; Editors Get Little Help from Administration, Police

    April 7, 2009

    A few days after breaking news of the brazen theft of a student newspaper at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, FIRE reports another such disheartening incident, this time at the Catholic University of America (CUA), where thousands of issues of the independent student newspaper The Tower were taken from their racks and thrown into recycling bins around the campus on the evening of Friday, March 27. Though students salvaged some of the issues (which you can see in this YouTube video), thus far no disciplinary charges have been brought in the more than ten days since the theft. Ryan […]

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  • Greg in ‘Huffington Post’ on ‘Hell Week for Campus Free Speech’

    April 3, 2009

    Defending free speech is often an exhilarating and rewarding experience, fighting the good fight in an uphill battle for constitutional rights against an industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars. But sometimes, and this was one of those weeks, that hill looks pretty steep. Greg writes in his latest column on The Huffington Post on the “hell week for campus free speech.” FIRE broke the story of newspaper theft at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where students stole copies of a conservative student paper right in front of a campus police officer (all caught on tape). The University of […]

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  • Video: Newspaper Theft at UMass Amherst While Police Officer Watches

    April 2, 2009

    Thieves at UMass Amherst grab scores of copies of conservative student newspaper The Minuteman out of a man’s hands while a police officer watches and does nothing. Here’s the video.

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  • Hell week for campus free speech

    April 2, 2009

    The week is not quite over, and it’s already been a lousy one for free speech on America’s campuses. Yesterday, angry students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst were caught on video stealing a conservative student newspaper, while a police officer stood by and not only watched, but excused the students’ behavior. A graduate student protested the attempt to steal hundreds of copies of the newspaper, explaining that the newspaper said right on its front page that only the first copy was free and every following copy was three dollars (a tactic necessitated over the years by hundreds of previous […]

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  • Breaking News: Freedom of the Press Disrupted at UMass Amherst

    April 1, 2009

    Within a day of distributing their most recent issue on campus, the student journalists responsible for publishing The Minuteman, a conservative newspaper at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, had their issues stolen by vandals, had to contact the local police department, and had to attempt to wrestle their issues back from the would-be thieves while a police officer looked on, refusing to offer assistance. Members of The Minuteman immediately contacted FIRE, and we have promptly begun investigating the issue. According to one eyewitness, he discovered a woman standing on a stack of issues, refusing to allow community members the opportunity […]

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  • Four FIRE Cases on Security Fees Top Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle

    March 31, 2009

    Page A-1 of Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle features four of FIRE’s cases on unacceptably high security fees for controversial speakers. In each case, the potential reaction of the audience was used to assess security fees and charge them to the host. But as the Supreme Court wrote in Forsyth County v. Nationalist Movement (1992), “Speech cannot be financially burdened, any more than it can be punished or banned, simply because it might offend a hostile mob.” In the article, Bob Egelko points out that both Berkeley and UCLA, two of the three top-ranked schools in U.S. News & World Report, […]

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  • What 9/11 Taught Us About Academia

    September 11, 2006

    Today, FIRE joins the rest of the nation in remembering the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Five years ago, the events of 9/11 highlighted—in a very ugly way—just how out of touch many universities are with the American public. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when much of America was still in mourning, a number of very prominent universities moved swiftly to suppress displays of public sympathy and patriotism by students and faculty. Here are some examples of university actions in September and October 2001: At Central Michigan University, an administrator told several students to remove various patriotic posters […]

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  • Art and the Myth of the ‘Right Not to Be Offended’

    October 21, 2005

    Check out the fascinating story (“Censoring Art or Protecting Workers?”) about censored artwork in Inside Higher Ed. Apparently the University of Michigan at Flint is demanding that a graphic drawing called Hermaphrodite be removed from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Center because it is creating a “hostile environment” for workers. Anyone who pays attention to the battle for free speech on campus knows that “hostile environment” is the most abused rationale for silencing expression on campus. As I wrote in a recent column about a legal decision that threatens to badly expand what constitutes “hostile environment”: Claims of harassment […]

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  • Silverglate Reponds to Critic of UMass Amherst Column

    March 30, 2005

    FIRE cofounder Harvey Silverglate authored a piece in the March 11 Boston Phoenix entitled “UMass Amherst Parodies Itself,” in which he criticized the UMass administration for its reaction to “racist” photos of a party involving student government candidates who felt they had been unfairly labeled as racist during their campaigns. As Harvey put it: They took photographs of themselves posing in front of a cartoon depicting the candidate dressed in Ku Klux Klan garb, with a moronic expression on his face. It was difficult—nearly impossible—to miss the comic intent of the drawing. For those who are interested, FIRE’s press release […]

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  • Defending Speech Codes?

    March 24, 2005

    A group calling itself Alumni for a Strong Dartmouth has mobilized against free-speech trustee candidates Peter Robinson and Todd Zywicki. In a curious entry on its site, Alumni for a Strong Dartmouth challenges FIRE’s contention that Dartmouth has a speech code. The group states: Robinson does not mention FIRE’s position on free speech in higher education, which is that when First Amendment rights conflict with respect for a sense of community at a college or university (i.e. in the case of racist or other offensive speech), First Amendment rights should prevail. This merits debate and should certainly not be taken […]

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  • Harvey Silverglate in the ‘Boston Phoenix’: ‘UMass Amherst parodies itself’

    March 10, 2005

    Our cofounder Harvey Silverglate authored an important piece about the situation at UMass Amherst. As readers may remember, FIRE defended the students at Amherst last fall. If it were not for public awareness and pressure on UMass Amherst, I believe the students involved would have been expelled for standing near a drawing that mocked race-baiting. Harvey voices one of the reasons that this kind of controversies frustrate me so much: “In a system without the resources to support a full-time tenured faculty, at a campus that makes increasing use of part-time contract teachers but has become too expensive for most […]

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  • Occidental College’s Ongoing Shame: Part 1

    March 1, 2005

    One year ago this month, Occidental College radio show host Jason Antebi hosted his popular radio show Rant and Rave for the very last time. In this last show he mocked two student representatives who had previously tried to have him impeached from his student government position. The student representatives filed sexual harassment charges against him, the dean of students fired him from his radio show over the objections of the radio station’s student management, and the College found him guilty of violating federal sexual harassment laws. As shocking as this turn of events may be, it is hardly novel […]

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  • The Censors’ Favorite Team

    February 4, 2005

    Tens of millions of people across America will watch the Philadelphia Eagles take on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX this Sunday night. In a gesture of magnanimity before the big game, those of us at FIRE’s headquarters here in Philadelphia would like to tip our hat to all the New England college administrators we’ve dealt with throughout the years. Not far from New England’s home of Foxboro Stadium near Boston lies Harvard University, home of the Crimson, censorship of business students, and a whole host of due process concerns. Meanwhile, Patriot-supporting administrators at nearby Tufts University in Medford have […]

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  • Send Out the Clowns

    October 28, 2004

    LIKE PATRONS of the Grand Hotel in the classic movie of the same name, administrators at the University of Massachusetts Amherst come and go, but nothing ever happens — at least as far as the school’s longstanding devotion to unconstitutional censorship is concerned. Always advanced in the name of some alleged higher principle, UMass’s history of censorship is actually rooted in a mundane bureaucratic need for order. And that makes it all the more screwball.   Many may remember the opposition UMass expressed when notorious gay-basher Paul Cameron was asked to give a speech on campus two decades ago. But […]

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  • Double standard on free speech?

    October 25, 2004

    LAST APRIL, the student paper at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, The Daily Collegian, ran a column by graduate student Rene Gonzalez attacking Pat Tillman, the football player who had volunteered for the US Army and was killed in Afghanistan. Gonzalez called Tillman an “idiot” who was “acting out his macho, patriotic crap” and got what he deserved. An outcry ensued, on and off campus. The Collegian printed a statement defending Gonzalez’s free speech rights while distancing itself from his views; university president Jack M. Wilson publicly deplored the column but affirmed the writer’s right to free speech. In my commentary […]

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  • Satirical UMass Students Victims of ‘Double Standards,’ Says FIRE

    October 21, 2004

    (AgapePress) – A civil liberties group says at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, it’s more acceptable to mock American soldiers than it is to make fun of racism allegations. That’s why the group is accusing the school of “repression and double standards.” UMass has charged nine students with harassment and threatened to expel them for their involvement in a party where a caricature of one of them as the “grand wizard” of the Ku Klux Klan was drawn. The picture was intended to mock allegations of racism leveled at a candidate for student body president who questioned the constitutionality of […]

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  • UMass failing constitutional test

    October 16, 2004

    For years, debates have raged about the state of higher education. To critics, campuses have been captured by oppressive political correctness – an ideology that permits only one point of view about the critical issues of the day. Defenders of the contemporary university establishment argue that the problem is exaggerated or that the criticism is itself repressive, designed to silence the “progressive” voice.Occasionally, however, a university administration acts with such breathtaking audacity, such brazen double standards, that the debate – at least for that campus – is settled. Civil liberties, democratic ideals and the rule of law take a back […]

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  • Repression and Double Standards at UMass Amherst

    October 15, 2004

    AMHERST, Mass., October 14, 2004—Less than one year after the University of Massachusetts Amherst defended the free speech rights of a columnist who celebrated the death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman, the university has campaigned to persecute nine students who were seen in photographs containing a caricature of one of them as the “Grand Wizard” of the Ku Klux Klan. The drawing, which was intended to mock both the Klan itself and spurious accusations of “racism” made during the course of a student government election campaign, depicted the so-called Grand Wizard with his eyes crossed and his tongue hanging out […]

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  • FIRE Letter to UMass Amherst Chancellor John V. Lombardi, October 7, 2004

    October 7, 2004

    October 7, 2004   Chancellor John V. Lombardi University of Massachusetts 181 Presidents Drive Amherst, Massachusetts 01003   URGENT Sent by U.S. Mail and Facsimile (413-545-2328)   Dear Chancellor Lombardi:   As you can see from our directors and board of advisors, FIRE unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of liberty, academic freedom, due process, legal equality, voluntary association, and freedom of speech on America.s college campuses. Our web page, www.thefire.org, will give you a greater sense of our identity and of our activities.   We […]

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