University of Oklahoma

Location: Norman, Oklahoma
Website: http://www.ou.edu
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 10th Circuit

Speech Code Rating

University of Oklahoma has been given the speech code rating Yellow. Yellow light colleges and universities are those institutions with at least one ambiguous policy that too easily encourages administrative abuse and arbitrary application. Read more here.

  • University of Oklahoma: State Legislature Investigates University for Hosting Controversial Speaker

    May 15, 2009

    Noted evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins waived his speaker fee and came to the University of Oklahoma to speak for the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. The Oklahoma state legislature, which considered passing legislation deeming Darwin’s theory “unproven and unpopular,” launched an investigation into Dawkins’ speech. The legislature requested all e-mails pertaining to the speech as well as the total cost of the speech, including any money that Dawkins might have received. By investigating a speech based on the unpopular views of the speaker, the state legislature is endangering free speech, creating a chilling effect by implying that […]

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  • University of Oklahoma: Ban on E-mailing Political Humor or Commentary

    January 26, 2008

    Weeks prior to the 2008 presidential election, the University of Oklahoma (OU) notified students and faculty that “the forwarding of political humor/commentary” using their university email accounts was prohibited. After FIRE wrote OU President David L. Boren, explaining that the policy violated the right to freedom of speech, Boren replied that the policy was intended to be applicable only “to the extent discussions are attributable to the University as endorsing or opposing a political candidate.” Boren issued a university-wide statement on October 27, 2008, fully rescinding the earlier email and stating that OU policy “does not limit the right of anyone to express […]

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  • University of Oklahoma: Plot to Punish Professor for Political Beliefs, Whistleblowing

    December 28, 2004

    At the University of Oklahoma, the School of Geology and Geophysics attempted to silence Professor David Deming, a frequent critic of administrative policy and a politically outspoken faculty member. OU removed him from his department, stripped him of most of his classes, and moved his office to a converted basement lab. After controversial remarks in Oklahoma Daily newspaper, Roger Slatt, Director of Geology and Geophysics, began to unconstitutionally monitor Deming’s letters to the newspaper and include them in three professional evaluations, until directed to stop by OU President David L. Boren. Slatt and his colleagues did not stop there, however. […]

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  • University of Oklahoma: Use of Sexual Harassment Allegations to Suppress Protected Speech

    March 23, 2000

    At the University of Oklahoma David Deming, an associate professor of Geology and Geophysics, criticized an opinion column that stated: “Easy access to a handgun allows everyone in this country . . . to quickly and easily kill as many random people as they want.” A citizen who holds protected beliefs about the Second Amendment, Deming responded with a letter that stated: “[Her] easy access to a vagina enables her to quickly and easily have sex with as many random people as she wants . . . and spread venereal diseases.” In response, the Dean of the College of Geosciences, […]

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Interim Policy on Acceptable Use of Information Resources 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies

    The following are examples of uses that are unacceptable: … use University systems for commercial or partisan political purposes, such as using electronic mail to circulate advertising for products or for political candidates.

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  • Sexual Misconduct, Discrimination and Harassment Policy 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Sex Discrimination: includes sexual harassment and is defined as conduct directed at a specific individual or a group of identifiable individuals that subjects the individual or group to treatment that adversely affects their employment or education, or institutional benefits, on account of sex or gender (including sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression discrimination). It may include acts of verbal, nonverbal, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostility based on sex or sex-stereotyping, even if those acts do not involve conduct of a sexual nature.

    Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. Sexual harassment is unwelcome and discriminatory speech or conduct undertaken because of an individual’s gender or is sexual in nature and is so severe, pervasive, or persistent, objectively and subjectively offensive that it has the systematic effect of unreasonably interfering with or depriving someone of educational, institutional, or employment access, benefits, activities, or opportunities.

    Other forms of misconduct based on one’s gender also constitute violations of this policy including … Gender-based bullying, defined as repeated and/or severe aggressive behavior likely to intimidate or intentionally hurt, control or diminish another person, physically or mentally (that is not speech or conduct otherwise protected by the First Amendment).

     

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  • Facility Use and Solicitation Policy for Registered Student Organizations and Individual OU Students 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Other Speech Codes

    The University of Oklahoma Chief of Police, or his or her designee, shall have the final decisionmaking capability and will decide how many police officers will be present, if any, and how many security personnel will be present, if any, after being properly advised as to the facts surrounding the event and the likelihood of potential disruptions or security threats … The RSO/student shall be responsible for the cost of additional security.

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  • Regents’ Policy Manual: Sexual Harassment/Sexual Assault Policy 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Sexual harassment shall be defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature in the following context: … when such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work or academic performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or academic environment.

    Conduct prohibited by this policy may include, but is not limited to:

    • Unwelcome sexual flirtation; advances or propositions for sexual activity
    • Continued or repeated verbal abuse of a sexual nature, such as suggestive comments and sexually explicit jokes.
    • Sexually degrading language to describe an individual.
    • Remarks of a sexual nature to describe a person’s body or clothing.
    • Display of sexually demeaning objects or pictures.

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  • Community Living Guide: Room Decorations 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Posting Policies

    Residence Life staff have the authority to ask a student to remove inappropriate or offensive decorations. Failure to remove the decoration or display could result in a failure to comply citation.

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Green Light Policies
  • Non-Discrimination Policy 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Harassment as a form of discrimination is defined as verbal or physical conduct that is directed at an individual or a group because of race, color, sex … sexual orientation, genetic information, religion, political beliefs, national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or veteran status when such conduct is sufficiently severe, pervasive and objectively offensive so as to have the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s or group’s academic or work performance or of creating a hostile academic or work environment viewed by examining a totality of the circumstances from the standpoint of a reasonable person with the same characteristics as the purported recipient of the harassing conduct.

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  • Facility Use and Solicitation Policy for Registered Student Organizations and Individual OU Students 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies

    There are several areas located on the University campus that are open to students and RSOs for free speech, protests, leafleting, etc. and require no reservation or notice (unless such use also includes the placement of tables, booths, structures, large displays, vehicles, sound, audio or PA systems, or when assistance is needed from the University, in which case reservations as noted in Paragraph B below are required) … The public areas for use by RSOs/Students include all public sidewalks, and the following areas:

    Areas Governed by Student Life (rso@ou.edu)
    Concrete South of Bizzell Statue
    East side of Dale Hall
    West side of Gaylord Hall
    Lloyd Noble Parking Lot-Southeast Quadrant
    Duck Pond
    South Oval (West side grassy area and East side grassy area)
    Unity Garden
    East side Dale Hall, Copeland Hall, Kaufman Hall, Gittinger Hall or Nielson Hall
    West side of Gaylord Hall, Gould Hall, George Lynn Cross Hall or Richards Hall
    East side of Physical Science Center
    West lawn of Felgar Hall
    Gould Hall courtyard
    Library Mall walkway north of Nielson Hall
    Dale Hall breezeway
    Non-landscaped areas of the North Oval
    The grassy area immediately north of Evans Hall

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  • Student Rights and Responsibilities Code: Prohibited Conduct 14-15

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Abusive conduct: Unwelcome conduct that is sufficiently severe and pervasive that it alters the conditions of education or employment and creates an environment that a reasonable person would find intimidating, harassing or humiliating. … Mental harassment: Intentional conduct that is so extreme and outrageous that a reasonable person would not tolerate it.

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  • OU Frat’s Racist Chant Raises First Amendment Question

    March 19, 2015

    By Tanner Howard at U.S. News & World Report In the 1972 Supreme Court case Healy v. James, Central Connecticut State College defended its refusal to recognize a chapter of Students for a Democratic Society on its campus. College administrators argued that SDS’s speech was likely to incite chaos, at a time when campuses were hotbeds of political activity that threatened to spill over into violence. In a unanimous ruling affirming the free speech rights of the student group, Justice Lewis Powell said, “state colleges and universities are not enclaves immune from the sweep of the First Amendment.” Recent events […]

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  • Oklahoma’s Campus Totalitarians

    March 16, 2015

    By Staff at The Patriot Post A video showing Oklahoma University Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity members chanting racial slurs and singing about lynching has put the spotlight on the inherent conflict between First Amendment-protected speech and college speech codes begetting “zero tolerance” policies. These policies have mistakenly enshrined the “right” not to be offended. There is little question the chant was offensive. “There will never be a n—– at SAE. There will never be a n—– at SAE. You can hang him from a tree, but he can never sign with me. There will never be a n—– at […]

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  • Why Frat Boys, Even Racist Ones, Should Have Free Speech

    March 16, 2015

    By Sean Collins at Sp!ked Last week, a video emerged that shocked the US. Members of a University of Oklahoma (OU) fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE), were caught singing a horribly racist song while on a bus: ‘There will never be a nigger at SAE. There will never be a nigger at SAE. You can hang him from a tree, But he’ll never sign with me. There will never be a nigger at SAE.’ The video caused uproar on the OU campus, and across the US, after the national media picked up on it. In response, OU president David Boren […]

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  • I Pledge Allegiance To The 1st Amendment

    March 15, 2015

    By Debra J. Saunders at San Francisco Chronicle I understand why University of Oklahoma President David Boren chose to expel two students for singing a vile, racist ditty at a fraternity event. There is nothing funny about lyrics that make light of lynching and repeat the N-word. If students did that at a university that I administered, I’d want to toss them out, too. Yet Boren was wrong to act as he did. As UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh wrote, “racist speech is constitutionally protected, just as is expression of other contemptible ideas; and universities may not discipline students based on […]

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  • Oklahoma SAE Chapter Considering Lawsuit Against University, Attorney Says

    March 13, 2015

    By Tyler Kingkade at The Huffington Post An attorney representing the University of Oklahoma’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter, which was booted from the school this week because of racist behavior, said the chapter’s board is not ruling out a lawsuit against the university. At a press conference Friday afternoon in Oklahoma, attorney Stephen Jones said a lawsuit based on the school’s eviction of the fraternity members is not the “first choice” of the SAE chapter, but is on the table. Jones, best known for representing Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh, is requesting a meeting with university administrators for unspecified goals. […]

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  • Report: Cable News Reverses Baffling Hate-Speech Analysis By Its Own ‘Legal Expert’

    March 12, 2015

    By Greg Piper at The College Fix HLN, the sibling cable network to CNN, has an in-house “legal expert” named Joey Jackson who specializes in criminal law. It asked him to weigh in on whether the University of Oklahoma’sexpulsion of the alleged leaders of a racist chant on a bus was unconstitutional. According to former College Fix editor Robby Soave at Reason, Jackson was initially quoted as saying: “Hate speech is not protected by the Constitution as it has no social value.” That analysis puts him at odds with mainstream constitutional law authorities. At some later point, HLN actually reversed his quote, Soave says in an […]

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  • Frat Brothers Make Execrable Racist Statements, America Forgets First Amendment

    March 12, 2015

    By Robby Soave at Reason Online Outrage over racist chanting at a Sigma Alpha Epsilon event at the University of Oklahoma is spilling over to other campuses, prompting concerns about systemic racism at that fraternal organization and within college Greek life as a whole. At the same time, lots of people who should know better—who purport be legal scholars, even—seem to have forgotten that offensive speech is protected under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Higher education reporters are now hard at work digging up every instance of racial insensitivity perpetrated by any SAE chapter. The full list, which […]

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  • Univ. Of Oklahoma Expulsions Infringe Free Speech Rights, Experts Say

    March 11, 2015

    By Amel Ahmed at Aljazeera America The decision by University of Oklahoma president David Boren to expel, without a prior hearing, two students for leading a racist chant raises serious constitutional concerns about violating the students’ First Amendment rights, legal experts say. A video of the incident, which was posted online Sunday, shows several people on a bus participating in a chant in which they used a racial slur, referred to lynching and said black students would never be admitted to OU’s chapter oftheir fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Boren acted swiftly after the video surfaced, severing ties with the fraternity and ordering its house […]

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  • OU Students Learn ‘A Devastating Lesson’

    March 11, 2015

    By Nolan Clay & Adam Kemp  at The Oklahoman NORMAN — Fallout continued Tuesday from videos showing members of a University of Oklahoma fraternity singing a racist song, with the university expelling two students and another video surfacing showing the fraternity’s house mother using racist language. Also, a second demonstration was held Tuesday evening, with students marching on campus while chanting “not on our campus.” The first video-recorded incident occurred Saturday evening as members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon rode in buses to a party at the Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club to celebrate the fraternity’s founding. Disciplinary action continued […]

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  • Free Speech Even For Racists

    March 11, 2015

    By John Leo at Minding The Campus Eugene Volokh of UCLA Law School spoke up quickly on the expelling of  University of Oklahoma students for  their racist chants—it was an impermissible violation of free speech rights. On his blog, The Volokh Conspiracy, he wrote: “[R]acist speech is constitutionally protected, just as is expression of other contemptible ideas; and universities may not discipline students based on their speech. That has been the unanimous view of courts that have considered campus speech codes and other campus speech restrictions.” The campus, of course, has become one of the most censorship-prone segments of American […]

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  • There Might Be A Big Legal Problem With The Decision To Expel 2 Oklahoma Students For Racist Remarks

    March 11, 2015

    By Peter Jacobs at Business Insider On Tuesday, the University of Oklahoma expelled two students for leading a racist fraternity chant that has brought negative attention to the school from across the US. Members of the Oklahoma Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter were seen chanting about lynchings and using racist epithets in a video leaked online Sunday. Even before the decision came down, the school’s president, David Boren, decried the “disgraceful” and “reprehensible” behavior by the SAE members. But this might not be the end to these students’ education in Norman, Oklahoma. The swift expulsion might have opened up the school to claims […]

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  • OU Expels 2 DFW-Area Fraternity Members

    March 11, 2015

    By John Gravois at The Star-Telegram As the University of Oklahoma expelled two students from North Texas on Tuesday for leading a racist song that sparked outrage across the country, the fraternity involved said it would investigate incidents at other campuses as it faced questions over the chant’s use by members at other universities. Former members of the fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, claimed on social media that the same chant was used at colleges in other states, and University of Oklahoma officials investigating the episode said they did not believe the song had originated on their campus. “I’m not sure […]

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  • The OU Debacle and the Case for Private Institutions

    March 11, 2015

    By Stephanie Slade at Reason Online Yesterday the president of the University of Oklahoma (OU) expelled two students who had been caught on camera leading a bus full of their fraternity brothers in disgustingly racist song. Despite agreement from all corners that their behavior was worthy of condemnation, legal experts and First Amendment advocates quickly pointed out that, well, um, kicking students out of a public college for something they said almost definitely violates the Constitution. “The university president wrote that the students are being expelled for ‘your leadership role in leading a racist and exclusionary chant which has created […]

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  • Expelling Students for a Racist Video Feels Good, but It Might Be Unconstitutional

    March 11, 2015

    By Daniel Rivero at Fusion Two students involved with the racist video that came out of the University of Oklahoma (UO) this week have been expelled from the campus, the school’s president announced yesterday. Some might applaud this decision. The video is, after all, beyond defensible. A group of white Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity members riding a bus, chanting happily about lynching and using offensive language to about how black men would never be allowed into their organization. But civil liberties experts are raising serious questions about the constitutionality of the president’s move. The university is a public institution, and the […]

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  • The OU Debacle and the Case for Private Institutions

    March 11, 2015

    By Stephanie Slade at Reason Online Yesterday the president of the University of Oklahoma (OU) expelled two students who had been caught on camera leading a bus full of their fraternity brothers in disgustingly racist song. Despite agreement from all corners that their behavior was worthy of condemnation, legal experts and First Amendment advocates quickly pointed out that, well, um, kicking students out of a public college for something they said almost definitely violates the Constitution. “The university president wrote that the students are being expelled for ‘your leadership role in leading a racist and exclusionary chant which has created […]

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  • Can U. of Oklahoma Expel SAE Members for Racist Song?

    March 11, 2015

    by Staff at Inside Higher Ed The University of Oklahoma has expelled two students for leading a bus full of Sigma Alpha Epsilon members in singing a racist song that was recorded on video. But First Amendment experts on Tuesday said that such a punishment is unconstitutional. “I have emphasized that there is zero tolerance for this kind of threatening racist behavior at the University of Oklahoma,” David Boren, Oklahoma’s president, said in a statement. In a letter to the expelled students, Boren said that they were expelled because of their “role in leading a racist and exclusionary chant which […]

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  • Breaking: U. of Oklahoma Expels 2 Students Over Racist SAE Chant

    March 10, 2015

    By Robby Soave at Reason Online The University of Oklahoma has expelled two Sigma Alpha Epsilon students who were involved in the racist chanting caught on video recently. OU President David Boren announced the expulsions on Twitter: Gawker obtained a copy of the expulsion letters, which state that the students have been expelled “because of your leadership in a racist and exclusionary chant which has created a hostile educational environment for others.” The identities of the two students are not yet known. This is a brazen, impulsive move from Boren. As I wrote not half an hour ago, the students’ offensive […]

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  • Censorship Can’t Cure Racism Of Oklahoma Frat: Column

    March 10, 2015

    By Robert Shibley at USA Today The Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity chapter at the University of Oklahoma (OU) is giving America yet another crash course in just how offensive people can be when they put their minds to it. Members of the now defunct chapter are featured in a YouTube video singing a song on a bus that works in the “n-word” no less than three times, references lynching and pledges allegiance to an odious form of racial discrimination — no small feat for an 11-second clip. And if you’re against racism, you should be glad they could do it. […]

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  • Expulsion Doesn’t Fix Hateful Speech. More Free Speech Does

    March 10, 2015

    By Jeff Michael at myfoxla.com The damage done at the University of Oklahoma by SAE members singing a racist song is not to the campus’ African American student population. They are undoubtedly more enlightened than the idiots on the bus and are less surprised at latent racism rising above the surface than was University President David Boren. The damage done was by Boren going beyond his verbal rebuke of the SAE students and closing the fraternity house and then expelling two of the offending students. Last I looked, the University of Oklahoma is a state institution; a government funded school. […]

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  • OU Could Be Making A Huge Mistake With Its Expulsions

    March 10, 2015

    By Blake Neff at The Daily Caller University of Oklahoma President David Boren’s announcement that two students have been summarily expelled for their role in leading a racist song could blow up in the university’s face, exposing both the school and Boren to hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages and legal fees. On Tuesday morning, just two days after the video first went public, Boren announced that two students would be expelled for having a “leadership role” in the video’s creation. Civil liberties advocates have already pointed out that punishing the students could be illegal, saying the song is […]

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  • Two Students Expelled From University Of Oklahoma Over Racist Video

    March 10, 2015

    By Jacob McCleland, Brian Hardzinski & Kate Carlton Greer at KGOU.org Two students involved in the video where a bus full of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity members participated in a chant with racial slurs and derogatory language against African-Americans apologized in separate statements Tuesday evening. The Dallas Morning News reports both teens are from the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The family of Parker Rice confirmed he withdrew from the university Monday, and his father issued a statement on his behalf. “I know everyone wants to know why or how this happened. I admit it likely was fueled by alcohol consumed at the […]

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  • Apologies Offered On Behalf Of Expelled University of Oklahoma Students

    March 10, 2015

    By Hailey Branson-Potts and Matt Pearce at Los Angeles Times Hours after the University of Oklahoma expelled two members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity Tuesday for leading a racist chant in a video that went viral, one student apologized, and the parents of the other student apologized for him. The national fraternity said the chant did not reflect its 15,000 collegiate members, but also said that incidents involving other chapters and other members had come to light and would be investigated. “This is absolutely not who we are,” SAE said in a statement. “We apologize for the unacceptable and […]

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  • Is University of Oklahoma Frat’s Racist Chant Protected By 1st Amendment?

    March 10, 2015

    By Matt Pearce at Los Angeles Times The lyrics to the Sigma Alpha Epsilon chant include the N-word and a reference to lynching black people. Is it racist? Incredibly. Is it protected by the 1st Amendment? Probably, experts say. Attorneys and law professors have watched with interest this week as the University of Oklahoma moved swiftly to disband the school’s SAE chapter and expel two students on suspicion of leading the racist chant, which was captured on a now-viral video. University President David Boren acted decisively in dismantling the chapter, but experts say the university may be on shaky legal ground. Here’s a look at the issues. What are the […]

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  • SAE’s Speech May Be Protected By FIrst Amendment

    March 10, 2015

    By Dillon Hollingsworth at The Oklahoma Daily OU President Boren stood behind a podium in Holmberg Hall on Monday morning and left no doubt about his stance on the actions of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity members who were caught on video participating in a racist chant that sparked protests across campus. “Would I be happy if they left the university as students and were no longer our students? You betcha,” Boren said. “I’d be happy. We don’t have any room for racists and bigots at this university. I’d be glad if they left.” At this point the OU chapter […]

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  • Several Sigma Alpha Epsilon Chapters Accused of Racism in Recent Years

    March 10, 2015

    By Jake New at Inside Higher Ed This article contains explicit and potentially offensive terms that are essential to reporting on this situation. Two months before the Civil War began, Noble Leslie DeVotie was boarding a steamship when he slipped, fell into the waters of Mobile Bay and drowned. DeVotie was one of the founders of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, the only national fraternity founded in the antebellum South. A chaplain at Alabama’s Fort Morgan at the time of his death, he became the fraternity’s — and some argue, the country’s — first Civil War casualty. Nearly 75 other SAE members would […]

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  • Congratulations, University of Oklahoma, In Your Outrage You Just Violated the Law

    March 10, 2015

    By David French at National Review This week several University of Oklahoma frat boys were caught on tape singing a vile, racist song (and, no, it wasn’t “unconscious” racism or “coded” racism — it was straight up segregation-era hate). The video triggered a tidal wave of outrage on and off campus. A top football recruit “de-committed” to OU and committed to Alabama, the national fraternity expelled the local OU chapter, and students, coaches, professors, and administrators marched in protest. To this point, the matter is rather simple. The SAE students engaged in racist expression, and private citizens countered with expression […]

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  • As Two Oklahoma Students Are Expelled for Racist Chant, Sigma Alpha Epsilon Vows Wider Inquiry

    March 10, 2015

    By Manny Fernandez and Richard Perez-Pena at The New York Times NORMAN, Okla. — As the University of Oklahoma expelled two students Tuesday for leading a racist song that sparked outrage across the country, the fraternity involved said it would investigate incidents at other campuses as it faced questions over the chant’s use by members at other universities. Former members of the fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, claimed on social media that the same chant was used at colleges in other states, and University of Oklahoma officials investigating the episode said they did not believe the song had originated on their […]

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  • Civil Libertarians Say Expelling Oklahoma Frat Students May Be Illegal

    March 10, 2015

    By Eliza Gray at Time.com Free speech at issue The University of Oklahoma’s decision Tuesday to expel two students who played “a leadership role” in singing a racist chant that went viral after it was caught on video may assuage critics. But civil liberties experts say it could also be unconstitutional. “The impulse to expel is understandable, but the decision is on constitutionally questionable ground,” said Ken Paulson, the President of the First Amendment Center and Dean of the College of Mass Communication at Middle Tennessee State University. “A public university is subject to the free speech guarantees of the […]

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  • Civil Rights Org: The Oklahoma Frat Song Was Racist, But Was Still Free Speech

    March 10, 2015

    By Blake Neff at The Daily Caller The 10-second video of fraternity members at the University of Oklahoma (OU) singing a racist song has provoked national outrage, the destruction of the fraternity, and widespread calls for harsh punishments, with two students expelled just two days after the video leaked. But one of the United States’ premier campus civil liberties groups says that despite widespread calls for students to be expelled, everything contained within the video is actually constitutionally protected speech. In the video, students from Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity sing “There will never be a nigger SAE/You can hang him from […]

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  • Colleges have free speech on the run

    November 30, 2012

     In 2007, Keith John Sampson, a middle-aged student working his way through Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis as a janitor, was declared guilty of racial harassment. Without granting Sampson a hearing, the university administration — acting as prosecutor, judge and jury — convicted him of “openly reading [a] book related to a historically and racially abhorrent subject.” “Openly.” “Related to.” Good grief. The book, “Notre Dame vs. the Klan,” celebrated the 1924 defeat of the Ku Klux Klan in a fight with Notre Dame students. But some of Sampson’s co-workers disliked the book’s cover, which featured a black-and-white photograph of a Klan […]

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  • 5 Free Speech Threats to Watch Out for on Campus This Election Season

    September 11, 2012

    In its 13 years defending free speech on colleges campuses nationwide, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), where I have worked since 2008, has won nearly 250 public victories on behalf of students and faculty. FIRE has been responsible for well over 100 reforms of unconstitutional and illiberal campus speech policies, with the total number of affected students reaching into the millions.  Needless to say, in all that time FIRE has seen certain types of violations committed over and over. Now, with the linens and seersucker put away and the new school year officially in business, I thought I would […]

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  • COLUMN: “National Freedom of Speech Week” reminds us of core value

    October 22, 2009

    Freedom of speech is one of the most essential freedoms in the United States, and its value and importance on college campuses cannot be understated. This week is “National Freedom of Speech Week,” a perfect time to reflect on the importance of free speech and how it is being viewed and upheld here at OU. Colleges and universities are among the most common organizations to regularly advertise allegiance to free speech on their campuses. When first applying for college, many of us looked through different universities’ prospective student brochures. Almost all of them proclaim that one of the school’s core […]

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  • Engaging the Oklahoma legislature on its decision to investigate Richard Dawkins’ free speech

    May 20, 2009

    by Greg Lukianoff The Huffington Post   Back in March, I uncovered that members of the Oklahoma state legislature had launched an investigation of a March 6 speech at the University of Oklahoma by noted evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. The investigation was preceded by an attempt by another Oklahoma legislator to pass two bills condemning Dawkins and proclaiming the theory of evolution as “an unproven and unpopular theory.” Another representative, Rebecca Hamilton, followed up with a post-speech letter to the university demanding all e-mails and correspondence relating to the speech; a list of all money paid to Dawkins, public or […]

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  • Is Oklahoma investigating Richard Dawkins free speech?

    March 14, 2009

    In a case that harkens back to the old-timey censorship of yesteryear, it appears that the Oklahoma legislature is pulling out the stops to oppose the University of Oklahoma’s decision to host the Oxford evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins on its campus. Dawkins was invited to speak at an event celebrating the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. In a move sure to score political points with some constituents, Oklahoma representative Todd Thomsen proposed not one but two resolutions condemning Dawkins and asking the University to disinvite him. One of the resolutions reads: A Resolution expressing disapproval of the […]

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  • Students fight for free speech

    November 5, 2008

    The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, created a political activity policy for colleges and universities to abide by in response to a string of complaints accusing colleges across the country of silencing student and faculty political expression. FIRE, a nonprofit educational foundation, wants all public colleges and universities to acknowledge that students and student groups can express themselves politically on campus under the First Amendment and that faculty employees enjoy the right to engage in partisan political speech when occurring outside of their “employment-related” activities. FIRE released the statement of policy on political activity for campuses Oct.15 […]

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  • The Chill Is Nothing New

    September 9, 2005

    There is a chill on campus, but that’s nothing new. For decades, campus speech has been chilled by speech codes and other attempts to prevent expression that might offend. Some would like to imagine that the excesses of “political correctness” are ancient history, but repression in the name of tolerance hasn’t gone anywhere. Oppressive speech codes are not only still around—they have actually multiplied, even after numerous court decisions declared them unconstitutional. Within the past year, college students have been punished for such things as expressing a religious objection to homosexuality and arguing that corporal punishment may be acceptable. Students […]

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  • Professor’s case exposes bias

    February 23, 2005

    Tenure hasn’t been all it’s cracked up to be for University of Oklahoma professor David Deming. Sure, he still has a job, but it wasn’t enough to keep him out of the basement. Deming’s situation is a perfect example of what’s wrong with today’s academic establishment. The modern academy is too often characterized by political and intellectual conformism and a willingness to silence people who don’t just go along to get along — people like Deming. OU faces a federal lawsuit for removing Deming from its geology department, stripping him of classes, and, in a ridiculous attempt at punishment, actually […]

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  • UI free speech policy disappoints

    January 12, 2005

    Certainly our freedom of speech is one of the most cherished and fundamental rights in this country. Unfortunately, the United States falls far short of the ideal put forth in the old saying, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Far too many people are now more than willing to suppress the speech of others simply because they find it offensive. Perhaps the most frightening aspect of this move towards oppression is that our nation’s universities are leading the way. At the University of Oklahoma, a disgraceful group of […]

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  • Pro-Gun Professor Claims University Denied Him Free Speech

    December 13, 2004

    (CNSNews.com) – The issues of gun control and free speech dominate a lawsuit filed by an Oklahoma University geology professor who used a blunt sexual comparison to criticize a pro-gun control newspaper column and later was demoted for that and other perceived transgressions. The letter that geology professor David Deming wrote to the editor of the Oklahoma Daily newspaper in February 2000 argued that the owner of an unregistered gun was no more likely to become a murderer than a woman who had not registered her sex organ was to becoming a prostitute. The letter prompted 25 charges of sexual […]

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  • Harassed Professor Files Suit Against Univ. of Oklahoma

    December 10, 2004

      (AgapePress) – Administrators at the University of Oklahoma are being accused of conspiring to punish an outspoken professor for his political views.   Tenured geology professor David Deming has filed a lawsuit against OU for stripping him of his office and most of this courses. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which has advocated on his behalf, claims OU administrators plotted to ostracize Deming for his outspoken political views and attempts at whistle blowing.   FIRE’s Greg Lukianoff notes that four years ago, Deming was charged with sexual harassment for mocking a columnist’s pro-gun control arguments. Since […]

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  • The Man Without a Department

    February 27, 2004

    Norman, Okla. From David Deming’s old desk up on the ninth floor, he could look out the window over hundreds of houses east of the University of Oklahoma campus here. It wasn’t an awe-inspiring vista, but it was something. In his new office in the basement, he has a great view of a sink. Mr. Deming is a tenured associate professor in the School of Geology and Geophysics. Or rather, he used to be in the school. Because of a feud with the administration, he has been removed, placed in a strange limbo the university calls a “dean direct” position. […]

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  • U. of Oklahoma Won’t Pursue Complaints Against Professor Who Compared Gun to Vagina

    May 8, 2000

    By JOEL HARDI     Facing the threat of a federal lawsuit, the University of Oklahoma on Thursday dropped its investigation into whether a professor’s controversial comparison of a handgun to a vagina broke the university’s sexual-harassment rules.     More than 25 people filed complaints with the university in February, accusing David Deming, an associate professor of geology and a self-described gun owner, of sexual harassment. In a letter to the editor of Oklahoma’s student newspaper, the Oklahoma Daily, he had mocked a columnist’s arguments for gun control, saying that “her possession of an unregistered vagina also equips her […]

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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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  • ‘Huffington Post’ Interview Suggests President Obama Needs to Remember Con Law

    March 23, 2015

    Before President Barack Obama entered politics, he taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago, home of one of the nation’s top law schools. When he took the oath of office as President, he appeared to have theoretical knowledge that would help him to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” So it is disheartening that President Obama missed the opportunity to affirm the basic principles of free speech and due process in a Huffington Post interview, when asked about the recent incident at the University of Oklahoma (OU) involving fraternity members reciting a racist chant on […]

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  • Robert Shibley and Oklahoma State Prof Joey Senat Take on Arguments for Punishing Racist Chant

    March 12, 2015

    FIRE’s Robert Shibley appeared on CNN Tonight with Don Lemon last night to talk about whether the racist chant performed by University of Oklahoma (OU) students (members of the university’s now-disbanded chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity), viewed millions of times on YouTube, is constitutionally protected speech. He was joined by Oklahoma State University professor Joey Senat, who agreed with FIRE that the chant is protected under the First Amendment, and attorney Areva Martin, who disagreed. During the segment, Shibley and Senat refuted several purported reasons why OU President David Boren’s decision to expel two students who participated in […]

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  • After Quick Expulsions, U. of Oklahoma Taking Heat on Free Speech and Due Process

    March 11, 2015

    FIRE has serious concerns about the University of Oklahoma’s (OU’s) disregard for the free speech and due process rights of two students who were told yesterday they would be expelled from the university for their participation in a “racist and exclusionary chant” that was caught on video. As I wrote on The Torch yesterday, the language in the video is constitutionally protected, and OU is legally and morally bound by the First Amendment not to punish students for speech merely because it is offensive or hurtful. Parker Rice, the first of the two students to be publicly identified, has apologized […]

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  • University of Oklahoma Expels Students for Constitutionally Protected Speech

    March 10, 2015

    University of Oklahoma (OU) President David Boren has decided to expel two students, who were members of the university’s now-shuttered chapter of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity, for their alleged “leadership role in leading a racist and exclusionary chant,” as shown in a video posted online recently. As FIRE wrote on The Torch yesterday, absent additional elements like true threats, the expression shown in the video is protected under the First Amendment, and punishing students for their participation in the chant is almost certainly unconstitutional. Constitutional law professor Eugene Volokh reminds Washington Post readers of this important point in […]

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  • Statement on the Recent Fraternity Controversy at the University of Oklahoma

    March 9, 2015

    Recently uncovered video reportedly featuring members and guests of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity chapter at the University of Oklahoma singing a racist song on a bus has raised the question of whether the song constitutes protected expression under the First Amendment. Unless there are more factors of which we are not yet aware, the answer is yes. As a private organization, the SAE national fraternity is free to punish the chapter, as it has done. Other citizens and groups are free to refuse to associate with the fraternity members based on their expression, and students, faculty, and administrators may […]

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  • U. of Oklahoma President Defends Speech Rights of Marching Band Members

    October 21, 2014

    University of Oklahoma (OU) President David Boren took a stand for students’ free speech rights after learning that members of the university’s marching band, The Pride of Oklahoma, were forced to agree in writing not to make negative remarks about the group’s leadership. A group of band members wrote an open letter to Boren (PDF) that was published in several newspapers on Friday, speaking out about the restrictions on their speech and asking Boren to hire a new band director. Students and alumni, the letter said, are embarrassed by the current state of the band and “poor leadership” by its […]

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  • Rights in the News: FIRE Enters the Fray Over Dawkins Investigation in Oklahoma

    March 20, 2009

    In his column posted last weekend on RichardDawkins.net, Greg helped bring attention to what is potentially a deeply troubling breach of free expression: the rumored investigation of the University of Oklahoma’s funding of a speech by evolutionary biologist and bestselling author Richard Dawkins by the state’s legislature. As Claire noted on Monday, Greg’s post has attracted attention from blogs both nationally and internationally; as of today it has also received 270 comments on Dawkins’ site. And as Greg notes in his most recent column for The Huffington Post, an investigation is indeed afoot. Be sure to read his column for […]

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  • Greg in ‘Huffington Post’ on the Oklahoma Legislature’s Investigation of Dawkins

    March 20, 2009

    In an article for The Huffington Post this afternoon, Greg confirms that the Oklahoma Legislature did in fact investigate the University of Oklahoma for hosting Richard Dawkins in early March. This post, a follow up to his article last weekend, cites a letter received by FIRE today verifying that Oklahoma State Representative Rebecca Hamilton requested that the university provide information about all costs associated with Dawkins’ speech. As Greg summarizes: Representative Hamilton’s exhaustive request included demands for all e-mails and correspondence relating to the speech; a list of all money paid to Dawkins and the entities, public or private, responsible […]

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  • Oklahoma legislature investigates Richard Dawkins’ free speech

    March 20, 2009

    by Greg Lukianoff The Huffington Post   Well, it’s official: Oklahoma’s state legislature is investigating the University of Oklahoma for hosting a speech by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. As I noted in a post over the weekend at Dawkins’ website, the legislature first considered two resolutions condemning both Dawkins and the theory of evolution as “an unproven and unpopular theory.” (I highly recommend reading both of the proposed resolutions.) Despite their efforts, the legislature failed to prevent Dawkins from speaking on March 6 to an audience of thousands at the University of Oklahoma. Last week, however, I received multiple reports […]

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  • Greg Discusses Oklahoma Legislature’s Rumored Investigation of Richard Dawkins’ Speech

    March 16, 2009

    FIRE President Greg Lukianoff has weighed in on the controversy surrounding noted evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins’ speech at the University of Oklahoma last week in an article entitled “Is Oklahoma Investigating Richard Dawkins’ Free Speech?” For those who have not been following the situation, Dawkins delivered a speech at a campus event celebrating the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Prior to the event, a member of the Oklahoma state legislature filed two legislative resolutions condemning Dawkins’ invitation to campus.   Though Dawkins’ speech proceeded as planned on March 6, drawing an audience of thousands, FIRE has received […]

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  • Repression of Political Speech and Activity Abounds on College Campuses in 2008

    December 24, 2008

    In an election year when the presidential race between Senators Barack Obama and John McCain dominated much of the country’s attention and media headlines, college and university campuses were certainly not immune to election fever. University students and faculty across the nation joined in the multitude of voices advocating for, criticizing, protesting, and otherwise commenting on the candidates and the hot-button issues of the season. With this came some regrettable consequences. This year, we witnessed a number of colleges and universities prohibiting and punishing many forms of constitutionally protected political speech and activity. While the rights of students and faculty […]

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  • Weekly Media Round-up: Victory at Temple College Highlights FIRE’s Week

    November 7, 2008

    FIRE scored another victory for free speech and academic freedom this week with its successful intervention on behalf of Kerry Laird, an instructor at Temple College (TX) who was ordered to remove a religiously themed cartoon and a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche translating to “God is dead” from his office door. Within half an hour of receiving FIRE’s letter, Temple College President Glenda O. Barron swiftly and commendably reversed the order and reaffirmed Laird’s constitutional rights at the public college. Scott Jaschik, writing for Inside Higher Ed, ably captures both the gravity of the constitutional issues at stake at Temple […]

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  • Weekly Media Round-up: National Media Takes Quinnipiac to School, With FIRE’s Help

    October 31, 2008

    The national media has officially descended on Quinnipiac University (QU), with FIRE’s early efforts to end the injustices visited on the Quad News and the QU chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists (SPJ) helping to pave the way. FIRE’s press release issued Wednesday helped to bring a new wave of attention to QU’s shoddy treatment of the newly formed Quad News, as well as the administration’s threats against the SPJ for associating with that independent publication. Law professor Eugene Volokh is only one of many to take notice of FIRE’s warning to QU; the Free Expression Network and the […]

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  • Greg in ‘The Huffington Post’ on ‘A Tale of Two Universities’

    October 31, 2008

    FIRE President Greg Lukianoff has a new post at The Huffington Post comparing FIRE’s recent cases at the University of Oklahoma and Quinnipiac University. Greg begins his comparison by mentioning our recent victory at the University of Oklahoma, where the college president recently rescinded a campus-wide ban on political emails. Greg explains that “it is rare that one sees a college president flatly and publicly reverse him or herself” which is why “President Boren should be commended for clarifying this murky policy.” But as Greg is quick to mention, the positive development at OU stands in sharp contrast to the […]

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  • Victory for Free Speech at University of Oklahoma: Ban on Political E-mails Rescinded

    October 28, 2008

    In a resounding victory for free speech, the University of Oklahoma (OU) has rescinded a September statement that banned the use of university e-mail accounts to engage in protected political expression. The reversal is a welcome confirmation of the First Amendment right of OU students, faculty, and staff to engage in protected political expression during this exciting election season and beyond. Here’s the timeline: On September 12, Nicholas S. Hathaway, Executive Vice President and Vice President of Administration and Finance, sent an e-mail to all University of Oklahoma students, faculty, and staff, informing them that university e-mail accounts “may not […]

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  • Boren changes political expression e-mail policy

    October 28, 2008

    OU President David L. Boren sent a campus-wide e-mail Monday revoking an OU policy over political expression on the OU e-mail system. Boren’s decision to clarify the university’s position came after several OU students and a national individual rights group expressed concern with a Sept. 12 e-mail from Nick Hathaway, vice president for executive and administrative affairs. In the clarification e-mail sent Monday, Boren said he admired those who questioned the original e-mail and thought a clarification to the OU community was appropriate. “I applaud those who asked the questions about this policy which was worded to make it appear […]

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  • FIRE warns multiple universities that political speech bans could be unconstitutional

    October 22, 2008

    The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education created a political activity policy for colleges and universities to abide by in response to a string of complaints accusing colleges across the country of silencing student and faculty political expression. FIRE, a nonprofit educational foundation, wants all public colleges and universities to acknowledge that students and student groups can express themselves politically on campus under the First Amendment and that faculty employees enjoy the right to engage in partisan political speech when occurring outside of their “employment-related” activities. FIRE released the statement of policy on political activity for campuses Oct.15 following several […]

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  • As election nears, censorship fever hits college campuses

    October 17, 2008

    If you’re a student at the University of Oklahoma and you enjoy The Huffington Post, beware: Your school has forbidden you from forwarding any of the fabulous political content you may find on this site. Sounds crazy, but sadly it’s true. Students at the University of Oklahoma have been warned not to use their university e-mail accounts for “the forwarding of political humor/commentary” during this election season. Meanwhile, anyone who has an actual opinion on the election should think twice about expressing it on a bumper sticker at the University of Illinois, or in their dorm window at University of […]

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  • With Election Weeks Away, Political Speech Under Attack on America’s Campuses

    October 15, 2008

    PHILADELPHIA, October 15, 2008—With the presidential race between John McCain and Barack Obama the focus of national attention, political speech on our nation’s campuses has come under sharp attack. In recent weeks, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has investigated open and blatant attacks on political expression at colleges and universities across the country, from a previously unreported case at Oklahoma, to better-known cases at Illinois and Texas, to cases at smaller schools across the country. This alarming trend towards silencing political expression has prompted FIRE to release a Policy Statement on Political Activity on Campus today. At […]

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  • New York teachers sue over ban on campaign buttons

    October 10, 2008

    The teachers’ union for the nation’s largest public school system accused the city on Friday of banning political campaign buttons and sued to reverse the policy, declaring that free speech rights were violated. United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten announced at a news conference that a lawsuit had been filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan to challenge the enforcement of the policy. “We couldn’t believe it,” said Weingarten, who wore a Barack Obama lapel button. The American Federation of Teachers, including its UFT delegates, voted over the summer to endorse Obama’s presidential candidacy. Weingarten said schools Chancellor Joel […]

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  • National Attention Continues for FIRE’s Work at Illinois

    October 8, 2008

    We blogged last week about the Chicago Tribune‘s coverage of FIRE’s letter in defense of political expression at the three University of Illinois (UI) campuses, where a memo circulated by UI’s ethics office banned a wide variety of political expression on campuses—down to the bumper stickers on the cars of UI faculty and staff. Instead of waiting until our usual end-of-the-week media round-up, we wanted to provide a brief update on the continued media exposure to FIRE stemming from UI as the situation has developed. Over the weekend the Associated Press, picking up on the Tribune‘s lead, covered a rally […]

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  • Weekly Media Round-up: FIRE’s Expertise Widely Cited, and Pressure Grows on Brandeis and Third Circuit Schools

    October 3, 2008

    Today’s Chicago Tribune featured an article examining the widening controversy over restrictions on political speech and activity at the University of Illinois, which go so far as to suggest that displaying a candidate’s bumper sticker on one’s car is out of bounds. FIRE is closely monitoring this case, as well as a similar situation at the University of Oklahoma, where all manner of political speech has been banned from the university network. FIRE has sent letters to both universities, asking for immediate clarification of the policies consistent with each school’s legal obligation to uphold the First Amendment on campus. Hopefully […]

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  • At U. of I., a question of supporting candidates on campus

    October 3, 2008

    Students and professors at the University of Illinois decided to rally for Barack Obama on the Urbana-Champaign campus Thursday to make clear their stand on an increasingly controversial question as the November elections approach: Is it legal for employees and students at state colleges to express support for political candidates while on campus? The university’s administration has sparked outrage by telling faculty, staff and graduate students that a 5-year-old state law designed to prevent state workers from campaigning for candidates on state time or with state resources meant they could not express support for candidates or parties through pins, T-shirts […]

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  • The ‘N-Word,’ the P.C. Police, and Honest Dialogue About Race

    May 19, 2005

    Earlier this month, University of Oklahoma baseball coach Larry Cochell resigned because of his use of the word “nigger” in comments he made regarding a black student athlete that were picked up by the media. An article, “Let’s Talk About Race,” by Lovell Estell III posted on AlterNet today provides a critical analysis of the case and how the enforcement of superficial political correctness often trumps transformative dialogue. Estell writes:  The hypocrisy in America is monumental between what is allowed by our rules of civic discourse and what some white people say when they think the microphones are turned off […]

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  • Alabama and the American Flag

    March 1, 2005

    Reader Fletcher Moore writes in regard to my post from Monday in which I stated that the University of Alabama was, “after all, the school that banned the American flag from dorm windows.” Mr. Moore responds: If you follow your own link, you’ll note that the policy applied to “all window displays in student dormitories,” and was created in response to the display of a Confederate flag. Students hung American flags in response to the policy, as a means of protest. To be sure, the policy is crude and contrary to a signal American freedom, but it was not as […]

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  • ‘The Oklahoman’ Runs FIRE’s Column on Bias at OU

    February 23, 2005

    The Oklahoma City Oklahoman today published my column on the most recent case at the University of Oklahoma (OU) involving geology professor David Deming. FIRE has been defending Professor Deming for years against OU administrators who seem willing to go to nearly any lengths to get this gadfly out of their hair. Back in 2000, OU tried to punish Prof. Deming for “sexual harassment” for writing a letter to the campus paper in support of gun rights that some people found offensive. FIRE came to Prof. Deming’s defense, and between FIRE’s involvement and the threat of a free speech lawsuit […]

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  • University of Oklahoma Administration Plots to Punish Professor for Political Beliefs, Whistleblowing

    December 8, 2004

    NORMAN, Okla., December 7, 2004—The University of Oklahoma (OU) School of Geology and Geophysics has taken academic infighting to a new low in its efforts to silence Professor David Deming, a frequent critic of administrative policy and a politically outspoken faculty member.   Professor Deming has filed a federal lawsuit after OU removed him from his department, stripped him of most of his classes, and moved his office to a converted basement lab, all while claiming to respect the principles of academic freedom.  Public records requests have uncovered damning evidence that OU administrators schemed to marginalize and isolate him for his […]

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  • Oklahoma Professor’s First Amendment Rights Still Under Threat

    March 23, 2000

    PHILADELPHIA, PA– In a case that illustrates the threat to liberty posed by political correctness, a professor at the University of Oklahoma was the target of more than twenty sexual harassment complaints filed with the University of Oklahoma’s affirmative action office as a result of a letter that he wrote to the student newspaper. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has adopted Professor David Deming’s case. FIRE is working closely with the Washington-based Center for Individual Rights, a public interest legal foundation now serving as Deming’s counsel. Deming faced possible termination for daring to comment on an issue […]

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