University of Wisconsin – Madison

Location: Madison, Wisconsin
Website: http://www.wisc.edu
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 7th Circuit

Speech Code Rating

University of Wisconsin – Madison 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 Wisconsin: Students’ Due Process Rights

    March 13, 2009

    FIRE successfully persuaded the University of Wisconsin’s Board of Regents to affirm due process rights for students, including the option of a hearing before a committee including student peers, attorney representation in the case of serious allegations, and both e-mail and paper notification of proceedings. The Board had proposed changes to the State Administrative Code governing infractions and judicial procedures within Wisconsin’s public universities that would have limited due process rights and granted more discretion to administrators. FIRE’s Adam Kissel engaged in a speaking tour of University of Wisconsin schools in opposition to these changes, even speaking before the Board […]

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  • Mohammed Cartoon Controversy: FIRE Response to Intimidation and Newspaper Disputes

    February 22, 2006

    As a result of worldwide controversy regarding caricatures of the prophet Mohammed, first published in a Danish newspaper, free speech was being openly disregarded on American college campuses. In the weeks following the printing of the cartoon, students, professors, and student publications not only reprinted the controversial cartoons but even created their own satirical cartoons depicting Mohammed. Chilling of speech in relation to the cartoon was found at Century College, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and New York University, amongst others.

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  • University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire: Ban on RAs’ Leading Bible Studies

    October 10, 2005

    The University of Wisconsin’s (UW) Board of Regents voted to uphold religious liberty on campus under its jurisdiction by permitting resident assistants (RAs) to hold Bible study groups in their dormitory rooms. Six months before FIRE advocated on the RAs’ behalf, a residential life official from UW Eau-Claire sent Christian RAs a letter notifying them that residential life officials were not permitted to host Bible, Torah, or Koran study sessions in their dorm rooms because their religious beliefs may make them less “approachable” to students who did not hold the same views. FIRE first wrote to Interim Chancellor Vicki Lord […]

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Responsible Use of Information Technology Policy 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies

    Respect and Protect Privacy and Be Civil: Users of University IT resources are expected to protect others’ privacy. They may not use University IT resources to stalk, harass, threaten, or otherwise cause harm to another individual or entity, or to the activities of others.

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  • Office of Equity and Diversity: Sexual Harassment Information and Resources- What is Sexual Harassment? 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    What is Sexual Harassment?

    Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when: … the conduct interferes with an employee’s work or a student’s academic career, or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work, learning, or program environment.

    Some behavior that is not in violation of university policy may, nonetheless, be unprofessional under the circumstances. Consequences of such unprofessional behavior may include poor performance evaluations or possible discipline.

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  • Dean of Students Office: Reporting and Response to Incidents of Bias/Hate 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Bias and Hate Speech

    Definition of Bias/Hate: Single or multiple acts toward an individual, team, or their property that have a negative impact and that one could reasonably conclude is based upon actual or perceived age, race, color, creed, religion, gender identity or expression, ethnicity, national origin, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, political affiliation, martial status, spirituality, cultural, socio-economic status, or any combination of these or other related factors. Bias/Hate incidents include, but are not limited to: slurs, degrading language, epithets, graffiti, vandalism, intimidation, symbols, and harassment; that are directed toward or affect the targeted individual or team. Incidents of Bias or Hate contribute to a hostile campus environment and can occur even if the act itself is unintentional or delivered as a joke, prank, or having humorous intent.

    While some acts of bias or hate may be violations of the law and/or University policy, many may be considered speech protected by the First Amendment; which allows for the expression of hateful and intolerant statements and expressive conduct. In such cases, no formal action can be taken against the offending party(ies). However, the University has an obligation and the right to respond to such incidents in a manner consistent with the role of promoting a climate of tolerance, respect, inclusion and dialog.

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  • Division of University Housing: Student/Community Expectations- Dismissal on the First Offense 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Other Speech Codes

    Some behaviors and policy violations may result in dismissal from University Housing on the first offense. These behaviors include, but are not limited to: … Interfering with a staff member engaged in the performance of his/her duties; interference includes, but is not limited to: verbal abuse, physical intimidation or use of physical force, and the display of demeaning or humiliating visual materials.

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  • UWS 18 Conduct on University Lands: Computer Use 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies

    No person may, with intent to harass, annoy or offend another person, send a message to the person on an electronic mail or other computerized communication system and in that message use any obscene, lewd or profane language or suggest any lewd or lascivious act.

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  • Division of University Housing: Student/Community Expectations- Harassment 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    “Harassment” is defined as verbal threats, intimidation, or conduct which: tend to cause or incite a breach of the peace; or are severe or pervasive enough to substantially interfere with a reasonable student’s educational performance, opportunities or benefits, or mental, emotional or physical well-being and which actually do so interfere. The presentation of any idea, regardless of the ideas’ nature or perceived value, may not be considered harassment unless it is accompanied with verbal threats, intimidation, or conduct as previously defined.

    Behaviors and actions exhibited via electronic media including email, text messaging or social networking websites (e.g. Facebook or Twitter) may be in violation of the harassment policy or fit the definition of a bias incident.

    Harassing someone will likely lead to dismissal from University Housing

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  • Division of University Housing: Student/Community Expectations- Arrangement and Decoration of Rooms Policy 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Posting Policies

    Harassing or demeaning material (i.e. graffiti, genitalia, etc.) should not be posted on the outside of your room door, bulletin boards, dry erase boards, or other resident room doors. If you are unsure, consult your House Fellow.

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Green Light Policies
  • Prohibited Harassment: Definitions and Rules Governing the Conduct of UW-Madison Faculty and Academic Staff 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    A member of the university faculty or academic staff is subject to discipline if, in a work or learning-related setting, he or she makes sexual advances, requests sexual favors, or makes physical contacts commonly understood to be of a sexual nature, and if 1.the conduct is unwanted by the person(s) to whom it is directed, and 2.the actor knew or a reasonable person could clearly have understood that the conduct was unwanted, and 3.because of its flagrant or repetitious nature, the conduct either 1.seriously interferes with work or learning performance of the person(s) to whom the conduct was directed, or 2.makes the university work, learning, or service environment intimidating or hostile, or demeaning to a person of average sensibilities.

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  • Prohibited Harassment: Definitions and Rules Governing the Conduct of UW-Madison Faculty and Academic Staff 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression

    The University of Wisconsin-Madison endeavors to maintain an environment that challenges students, faculty, and staff to develop their critical thinking capacities to their fullest potential-an environment in which controversial, provocative, and unpopular ideas can safely be introduced and discussed. The university is, therefore, unswervingly committed to freedom of speech as guaranteed under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and to the principle of academic freedom adopted by the Board of Regents in 1894, which states in part: “whatever may be the limitations which trammel inquiry elsewhere, we believe that the great state University of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone truth can be found.”

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  • University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents: Policies- Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Discriminatory Harassment is a form of discrimination consisting of unwelcome verbal, written, graphic or physical conduct that:

    1. Is directed at an individual or group of individuals on the basis of the individual or group of individuals’ actual or perceived protected status, or affiliation or association with person(s) within a protected status (as defined herein above); and
    2. is sufficiently severe or pervasive so as to interfere with an individual’s employment, education or academic environment or participation in institution programs or activities and creates a working, learning, program or activity environment that a reasonable person would find intimidating, offensive or hostile

    To constitute prohibited harassment, the conduct must be both objectively and subjectively harassing in nature. Harassment may include but is not limited to verbal or physical attacks, threats, slurs or derogatory or offensive comments that meet the definition set forth herein. Harassment does not have to be targeted at a particular individual in order to create a harassing environment, nor must the conduct result in a tangible injury to be considered a violation of this policy. Whether the alleged conduct constitutes prohibited harassment depends on the totality of the particular circumstances, including the nature, frequency and duration of the conduct in question, the location and context in which it occurs and the status of the individuals involved.

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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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  • Free speech expert questions suspension of UW fraternity

    May 30, 2012

    A UW-Madison free speech expert is questioning whether the university had the evidence to suspend a school fraternity for two years. Donald Downs, a UW-Madison political science professor, said he is reviewing the case with the Committee for Academic Freedom and Rights, an independent faculty group that takes on university issues like free speech and due process. Last week, the university released a decision to suspend Delta Upsilon after fraternity members reportedly taunted two black female students using socioeconomic terms. The Committee on Student Organizations wrote that it believes a bottle was thrown but could not determine whether it was […]

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  • UW regents to consider revised changes to student conduct code

    June 3, 2009

    Students faced with suspension, expulsion or criminal charges for non-academic misconduct could have legal representation during hearings at University of Wisconsin System schools, but students would be expected to answer questions on their own, according to a revised policy the Board of Regents will consider this week. The change is part of a new conduct code that would expand administrators’ jurisdiction to allow them to discipline students for certain types of off-campus, non-academic misconduct. The issue has attracted interest at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where more students rent off-campus housing in a traditionally residential neighborhood. Homeowners have pushed UWM to […]

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  • UW System conduct code revisions still need tweaking

    May 7, 2009

    A committee of the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents on Thursday voted to delay until June the consideration of proposed revisions to the student conduct code. A key issue was a provision that would allow students to have a lawyer speak on their behalf during disciplinary proceedings where they face suspension or expulsion or have been charged with a crime in connection with their conduct. While students and advocates have argued that students are entitled to legal representation during such hearings, some student affairs officers testified that lawyers make the hearings too adversarial. The university system has been […]

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  • UW Regents consider conduct code changes

    May 6, 2009

    University of Wisconsin System students facing charges of misconduct could have lawyers represent them at disciplinary hearings under a change praised by student advocates but opposed by some deans of students. The UW System has spent two years considering changes to its student code of conduct, including giving universities the authority for the first time to punish students for off-campus, nonacademic misconduct. The system announced several revisions to the proposal last week after student leaders, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and others complained an earlier plan went too far. The UW System Board of Regents is expected to […]

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  • Code of conduct change threat to student rights

    March 6, 2009

    By Todd Stevens at The Daily Cardinal Let’s create a hypothetical situation. Say you’re in some sort of trouble. Perhaps you ran your moped into the Abe statue, and Biddy Martin isn’t fond of Lincoln’s new tire-track look. This doesn’t look particularly good for you, but surely you’ve got a good explanation for your recent breach of UW protocol. Good thing you’ve got due process and the opportunity to sort this whole mess out, right? Well, that might not last for much longer. This past Thursday, the UW System Board of Regents held an informational session to present its proposed […]

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  • Possible changes to UW code of conduct debated

    March 5, 2009

    Amid the controversy surrounding the proposed changes to the UW student code of conduct, Adam Kissel of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education discussed their potential effect on students’ rights Wednesday at Memorial Union. The proposed changes would give the university the ability to punish students for crimes committed off-campus, but such offenses would have to be repeated violations or serious ones, like sexual assault or destruction of property. Kissel presented his worries that the new revisions may take away some of students’ rights, such as the right to legal representation at a disciplinary hearing. Under the new proposed […]

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  • Student leaders weigh in on code change proposal

    March 5, 2009

    By Taylor Cox at The Badger Herald University of Wisconsin System student leaders voiced concern at a public forum Wednesday about the UW System Board of Regent’s proposal to amend chapters 17 and 18 of the conduct of code regarding nonacademic misconduct. “It definitely needed to be updated,” University Affairs Director for the United Council Michael Moscicke said. “The two chapters don’t mention any technology at all, and they definitely need to update, but there are also some things we just object to.” Moscicke said the council, which represents all 26 UW System campuses, has four main objections to the […]

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  • Wis. Provost Will Review Teaching of Instructor With Controversial 9/11 Views

    July 14, 2006

    By John Gravois at The Chronicle of Higher Education The provost of the University of Wisconsin at Madison announced that he would conduct a review of the teaching of an instructor who believes that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, were orchestrated by the U.S. government. The provost’s announcement in late June came amid calls from state legislators to fire the instructor, Kevin Barrett, after he discussed his views on a local conservative radio talk show. … To read the full article, please click here: http://chronicle.com/temp/reprint.php?id=zpmdxytkjhqy5skzbrm8hqdj05pgd8rc

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  • Speech Codes and the Future of Education

    March 1, 2006

    By Patrick Tucker at The Futurist [March–April 2006 issue, vol. 40, no. 2.]

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  • FIRE criticizes honor society

    December 1, 2005

    By Benjamin Jones at The Badger Herald The Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education criticized the honor society Phi Beta Kappa Tuesday, citing the society’s inconsistent policies regarding freedom of expression. In a nine-page letter, FIRE program director Samantha Harris referenced several possible constitutional free-speech violations by seven universities in which Phi Beta Kappa chapters are present. “Nearly all of Phi Beta Kappa’s member institutions maintain speech codes of some kind, many of them unconstitutional or an unlawful violation of contractual promises made to students and faculty,” Harris said in the letter. “Policies such as [these] pose a real […]

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  • Eau Claire suspends Bible-study ban

    December 1, 2005

    By Michael Gendall at The Badger Herald The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire announced Wednesday it will suspend its controversial Bible-study ban, effective immediately. Plagued by sharp legislative criticism for nearly a month, the university will no longer adhere to an oral policy prohibiting resident assistants from leading Bible studies and other ideological activities, pending the completion of a UW System review. UW-Madison, however, will stick by its policy, at least for the time being. It is the only other UW school confirmed to enforce such a ban. “I think it’s a good policy. It’s very viewpoint-neutral,” UW-Madison Housing Director Paul […]

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  • Controversy of Biblical proportions

    November 29, 2005

    The University of Wisconsin System has not fared well this past year in the national spotlight. Last year, UW-Whitewater received a cacophony of criticism for hosting the controversial University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill Another pepper-spray finale to Halloween was covered by CNN, a high profile conservative attacked UW-Madison for being “a willing partner in the degradation of higher education.” Yet, these controversies were not the result of any direct action by the UW System and the powers that be were not responsible for their outcome. But the same can not be said about the brouhaha over the ban against […]

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  • Proponents obtain no legal opinion

    November 28, 2005

    The state’s attorney general’s office declined to offer a legal opinion regarding the controversial University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Bible-study ban last week. The office received requests from both the UW System and the delegation of 25 Republican legislators and both parties are disappointed with the recent declination. “We got a quick response,” UW System spokesperson Doug Bradley said. “I think we had asked in hopes of getting some expert legal opinion and she declined to opine, so it is what it is.” State Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, who was among the group of 25 requesting Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager’s opinion, […]

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  • Legislators request Lautenschlager’s opinion in Eau Claire controversy

    November 17, 2005

    Twenty-five Wisconsin legislators sent a letter to Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager Wednesday, asking her legal opinion on a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire policy, which they feel may be unconstitutional. The policy, which first made headlines earlier this month, prohibits resident assistants from leading Bible studies in their residence halls. “Consultations with the Legislature’s top attorneys indicate that this policy may conflict with the ‘free exercise of religion clause’ of the First Amendment,” the letter reads. “We are concerned the Bible ban puts the UW System in a precarious position with the U.S. Constitution.” Just two days earlier, the Attorney General’s […]

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  • Speech codes on campus

    November 16, 2005

    Once again, state legislators and the national media have turned their attention to the UW System. This time, their fiery gaze has zeroed in on UW-Eau Claire. Over the summer, RAs who led Bible studies during their off-hours were contacted by Associate Director of Housing and Residence Life Deborah Newman and informed that they are not permitted to hold the Bible studies in their dorm rooms. The decision has been furiously condemned by numerous Wisconsin legislators and the Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. For all the attention given to Eau Claire, they are not the only institution with […]

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  • University denies religious freedom

    November 3, 2005

    By Charles Parsons at The Badger Herald Recently the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has banned resident assistants from organizing and leading bible study groups in their dorm rooms. In a letter sent to a RA in July, Associate Director of Housing and Residence Life Deborah Newman justified her decision by explaining that “we have a fair number of students … who do not practice Christianity, as well as some Christians who may follow a different doctrine … It is very important to us that these students still feel that they can turn to you in a crisis, for information and […]

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  • Eau Claire policy comes under FIRE

    November 3, 2005

    By Michael Gendall at The Badger Herald The Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) made public its gripe with the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Wednesday, claiming the UW school has “shamefully” attacked the religious freedom of its employees by prohibiting resident assistants from leading bible studies in their rooms. “As a state university, UWEC has no business forbidding RAs or any other students to engage in religious activities in their own rooms and on their own time,” FIRE President David French said in a release. After receiving a letter from the foundation nearly a month ago, UW-Eau Claire […]

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  • Court flawed in student paper ruling

    October 27, 2005

    Sometimes even federal judges make mistakes. Last week the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education filed an amicus brief in Hosty v. Carter, the recent 7th Circuit Court ruling that allows colleges to censor student newspapers that receive a substantial amount of funding from that college. FIRE’s brief joins two others in support of Margaret Hosty, Jeni Porche and Steven Barba — the three students suing Dean Patricia Carter, alleging a violation of the First Amendment. The story begins late in 2000, when the Innovator, the student newspaper for Governors State University, published a number of articles critical of the […]

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  • In-depth: Words Left Unsaid

    October 27, 2005

    By Sundeep Malladi at The Badger Herald Dedicated to the pursuit of truth, universities create forums for discussion. According to many, this basic foundation shook on June 20, 2005, when the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals gave universities the right to censor student newspapers. The Hosty v. Carter ruling has come under fire in recent months from several First Amendment rights groups and media watchdogs that found the ruling both shocking and appalling. This week, a coalition of several major groups headed by the Virginia-based Student Press Law Center (SPLC), delivered their friend-of-the-court, or amicus, brief to the Supreme […]

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  • In-Depth: Letter and the law

    October 13, 2005

    The University of Wisconsin’s Student Services Finance Committee denied recognition to the UW Roman Catholic Foundation Sept. 26 in a 6-6 vote for a second time after the group had appealed the first decision a week earlier. The decision follows in a line of denials issued to Christian student groups by student-funding groups around the country. In the past eight months, more than eight universities have been involved in similar cases, and often universities have returned recognition to groups after lengthy legal battles. In an effort to retain student funding, UWRCF sued Associated Students of Madison in Student Judiciary. During […]

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  • Ideology creeps into academic evaluation

    October 5, 2005

    At which point does diversity, a most recent shibboleth in academe, turn around and devour its own tail? Just before the start of the fall semester, Edward Swan, a student in the College of Education at Washington State University, was informed he was in jeopardy of being removed from his program. The college is bound by state law to evaluate the character of each student at graduation. Since 2001, the college has used a system where each semester, faculty members fill out a “professional disposition evaluation” for each student they have in class. The forms ask for marks on, among […]

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  • The ‘No Viewpoint’ Viewpoint

    June 6, 2005

    By Greg Lukianoff at Inside Higher Ed Imagine a college student returning to campus next fall and being greeted by a student government representative who asks her if she is devoutly religious or not. She answers “yes” and the representative responds, “I am sorry, the student government has decided that the separation of church and state means that, as state college, we have to be free of religious students. You may want to consider a religious college.” Next imagine this befuddled student taking her complaint to the president of the college and he says “Yes, I know the student government’s […]

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  • Educating the University

    June 1, 2005

    By Peter Berkowitz at Policy Review (Hoover Institution) Donald Alexander Downs. Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus. Cambridge University Press. 318 pages. $28.99 Our universities are ailing. Many, including most of our elite universities, have abandoned the notion that a liberal arts education is constituted by a solid core, that is, a basic knowledge of the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences that all educated people should possess. Furthermore, for all their earnest words about the beauty and necessity of multicultural education, university administrators and faculty preside over a curriculum that routinely permits students to graduate without acquiring reading, […]

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  • Fire on American Campuses

    May 7, 2003

    By Richard L. Cravatts at The Washington Dispatch

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  • Stop Funding Campus Anti-Americanism

    November 2, 2001

    The Augusta Chronicle

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  • FOIA Request for UVA Law Prof’s Records Threatens Academic Freedom

    May 28, 2014

    Last week, two students at the University of Virginia School of Law, working with LGBT rights group GetEQUAL, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking the “university-funded travel expenses and cellphone records for the past two-and-a-half years” of Professor Douglas Laycock, a prominent legal scholar with expertise in religious liberty jurisprudence.

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  • Free Speech Defender Professor Donald Downs Honored for Work

    April 8, 2014

    University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) Professor Donald Downs was recently awarded the university’s Hilldale Award for Social Studies, in recognition of his significant contributions as a teacher and free speech advocate. As a founding member of UW-Madison’s Committee for Academic Freedom and Rights, Downs helped defeat a faculty speech code on campus in 1999, setting an example for colleges nationwide.

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  • FIRE’s Sean Clark Speaking at University of Wisconsin-Madison This Evening

    March 27, 2014

    Students and FIRE supporters in the Madison, Wisconsin, area are invited to hear FIRE Vice President of Operations Sean Clark speak at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) tonight at 7 p.m. in Birge Hall B302.

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  • Vindicating Freedom of the Press from Alaska to Wisconsin

    February 25, 2014

    As we celebrate Free Press Week here at FIRE, I find myself thinking back on cases in which FIRE has intervened on behalf of student journalists and protected the freedom of the press that the First Amendment guarantees. I don’t have to look very far back, either. As our work over the past year (including as recently as this month) demonstrates, FIRE is committed to defending student newspapers and media outlets against censorship and ensuring that free press rights can be properly exercised on college and university campuses.

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  • Student Spotlight: Haley Sinklair, Making Waves at University of Wisconsin-Madison

    December 18, 2013

    FIRE’s Campus Freedom Network’s Student Spotlight is proud to recognize University of Wisconsin-Madison student Haley Sinklair for her innovative student activism. Haley, a junior majoring in sociology and legal studies and the director of communications for Young Americans for Liberty at UW-Madison, has helped lead her group through a busy year promoting free speech rights on campus. The recipe for success? A healthy dose of creativity. The group exemplified its creative spirit with “Old Americans for Tyranny vs. Young Americans for Liberty.” For this event, Haley said the chapter split into two—half of their members dressed normally, while the other half donned old-fashioned gowns, […]

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  • UW-Madison Senior Rebukes Censorial Commenters, Defends Open Debate

    November 14, 2013

    University of Wisconsin-Madison senior Alex Schaefer penned a passionate defense of the virtues of free and open debate this week in student newspaper The Badger Herald, responding to the reaction of the paper’s readership to a controversial letter to the editor. Schaefer was disappointed that many comments to the letter advocated stifling the author’s ideas and viewpoints, with some decrying the decision to publish the letter, and one going as far as suggesting that the letter be “reported” to the school. Recognizing the crucial role that the free exchange of ideas plays in developing and reaching informed conclusions, Schaefer cogently argues that instead of […]

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  • Victory for Academic Freedom: Wisconsin Governor Vetoes Unconstitutional Ban on Faculty Speech

    July 1, 2013

    Yesterday, in a victory for academic freedom, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker issued a line-item veto to strike an unconstitutional ban on faculty speech and research from the Wisconsin state budget. A late addition to the budget proposal, the broad, vague ban would have prohibited University of Wisconsin faculty “from doing any work related to” the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization.  FIRE wrote Governor Walker twice urging this result. As we stated in our first letter, sent on June 13:  [T]he Joint Finance Committee’s proposed prohibition is extreme in its breadth, preventing faculty from performing any number […]

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  • FIRE Writes to Wisconsin Governor Urging Veto of Unconstitutional Budget Measure

    June 21, 2013

    On June 6, we reported on an addition to the Wisconsin State Legislature’s budget proposal that would forbid University of Wisconsin (UW) faculty from working with the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, a nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism organization. FIRE then wrote a letter to Governor Scott Walker on June 13, expressing our concern with this provision and explaining its unconstitutional effects. As of this week, both the Assembly and the Senate of the state legislature have approved the budget proposal, including this provision, and it is awaiting Governor Scott Walker’s signature or veto. FIRE has written again today to Governor Walker […]

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  • FIRE to Wisconsin State Legislature: Protect University of Wisconsin Faculty’s Academic Freedom

    June 13, 2013

    Today, FIRE sent a letter to Governor Scott Walker and Wisconsin state legislators asking them to protect academic freedom by rejecting a controversial modification to the state budget. Specifically, the modification would prohibit University of Wisconsin faculty from "doing any work related to" the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (WCIJ).   The current budget proposal, in prohibiting WCIJ and UW faculty from collaborating, will severely restrict UW faculty’s academic freedom. The letter notes the Supreme Court’s long history of protecting academic freedom and freedom of speech on public university campuses. These principles are so critical that "speech related to scholarship […]

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  • Wisconsin Legislative Committee Threatens UW Faculty, Journalism Nonprofit

    June 6, 2013

    Just before 6 a.m. yesterday morning, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) of the Wisconsin State Legislature voted 12–4 to add a motion to the proposed state budget that would kick the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (WCIJ) off the University of Wisconsin–Madison (UW–Madison) campus and forbid UW employees from even working with the WCIJ. WCIJ executive director Andy Hall said that he was "blindsided" by this striking blow to academic freedom. If the motion is passed into law, it will unacceptably restrict the academic freedom and freedom of association rights of UW–Madison journalism faculty.  For the past three years, UW–Madison […]

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  • Fraternity Cleared of Discrimination Charge for Protected Speech But Punished Anyway

    June 1, 2012

    On May 23, a University of Wisconsin-Madison disciplinary committee voted 10-0 to clear the Delta Upsilon Fraternity (DU), a registered student organization (RSO), of a charge of discrimination, finding that the speech in question was protected expression. According to the disciplinary committee’s findings and an evidence packet, two student members of DU, after a long night that seems to have included some kind of party, noticed two non-members (who also were students at the university) trespassing on DU’s property. The DU members yelled at the non-members using sentences such as, “How did it feel to be peasants,” and the individuals […]

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  • University of Wisconsin-Madison To Pay $500,000 for Violating Religious Student Group’s First Amendment Rights

    September 26, 2011

    A 5-year-old legal battle over First Amendment rights has culminated in an enormous, nearly $500,000 bill for the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW). Back in 2006, UW refused to officially recognize or fund, from student fees, the “Badger Catholic” (then, “Roman Catholic Foundation”) student group. After a lawsuit and an injunction from a federal court, UW settled with the group and agreed to recognize it and release the suggested funding for the group’s operation. But soon after, UW backtracked and refused to disburse the portion of the funds that would go toward events that included prayer, worship, or proselytizing. The resulting […]

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  • Why Academic Freedom is Implicated by the Wisconsin GOP’s Open Records Request

    March 29, 2011

    Last Friday, I commented on the legal issues raised by the Republican Party of Wisconsin’s recent open records request of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UWM). Specifically, the Wisconsin Republicans are asking that UWM turn over all emails sent and received by Professor William Cronon on his university email account that reference a variety of terms and names connected to controversial state legislation regarding the rights of public sector employees to bargain collectively. I pointed out that while the request itself is perfectly legal, the question of whether Cronon must turn over “all emails into and out of” his university account […]

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  • Supreme Court Rejects Appeal of Seventh Circuit Decision Protecting First Amendment Rights of Religious Student Organizations

    March 8, 2011

    On Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States rejected an appeal by the University of Wisconsin at Madison (UW) against a ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit that prohibited the university from denying funding to student organizations that engage in religious activities. This decision represents a victory for the First Amendment rights of students and student groups, and leaves intact the conception of student groups as private speakers in a government-established forum (i.e., the student organization structure). The Seventh Circuit, which covers the states of Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin, had ruled that UW could not […]

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  • Seventh Circuit: UW-Madison Cannot Refuse Religious Student Groups Funding on Basis of Religious Viewpoint

    September 3, 2010

    In a victory for free speech on campus, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled on Wednesday that the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s (UW’s) policy of denying funding to student groups that engage in “worship, proselytizing, and religious instruction” is a violation of the First Amendment. The case, Badger Catholic, Inc. v. Walsh, arose when student group Badger Catholic (formerly Roman Catholic Foundation, UW-Madison) was repeatedly denied student activities funding by both UW and its student government because the group engages in religious speech. As Judge Frank Easterbrook, author of the Seventh Circuit’s majority opinion, explains: The […]

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  • Victory for Free Speech at University of Wisconsin: Antiwar Panel to Be Held Tonight

    April 26, 2010

    After cancelling a panel of antiwar speakers last Friday, University of Wisconsin – Madison (UW) has reversed its decision, and the event will proceed tonight as planned. The university also will not charge an unconstitutional security fee to any of the student or academic sponsors of the event. Steve Horn, president of the UW chapter of the Campus Antiwar Network (CAN), had come to FIRE for help, and FIRE advised the event’s sponsors about how to advocate for speech rights on campus. About two weeks ago, according to Horn, space was formally reserved in UW’s Wisconsin Union for today, April […]

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  • Don Downs on UW-Madison Newspaper’s Internet-Age Free Speech Dilemma

    March 25, 2010

    University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor Don Downs has an essay today at Minding the Campus worth reading, in which he discusses how he and the staff of the Badger Herald newspaper dealt with a controversy involving an advertisement run by Holocaust denier Bradley R. Smith on its website. Downs explains that Like some other controversies involving the Herald in recent years, this episode began, essentially, as an accident. The process involved in the placing of ads did not fully vet Smith’s advertisement, which announced his mission and provided an Internet link to his group and other materials. The ad remained on line […]

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  • New Due Process Rules Finally Hit University of Wisconsin

    September 10, 2009

    As of September 1, revisions to UWS 17, which governs the on- and off-campus behavior of students in the University of Wisconsin System (UWS), have taken effect. As Torch readers may remember, FIRE played an active role in the revision process, particularly when it became known that proposed revisions to the conduct code severely limited the due process rights of UW students. Adam quickly embarked on a speaking tour of the UW system and made FIRE’s case directly to Regents in a public meeting. With the help of FIRE and a host of committed UW students, many of these rights […]

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  • Wisconsin Students’ Right to Legal Representation Diminished in Ambiguous New Draft of Conduct Code

    June 4, 2009

    I reported last month that the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents had announced the restoration of fairly strong due process rights for students in the May 2009 draft of UWS 17 and 18, the statewide code of nonacademic student conduct. The restored rights include the option of a hearing before a committee including student peers, attorney representation in the case of serious allegations, and both e-mail and paper notification of proceedings. After protests from some deans of students and judicial officers, the Regents agreed to make some final tweaks to the changes they had announced, with a final […]

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  • Victory for Student Rights in Wisconsin: Regents to Restore Basic Due Process Rights Including a Hearing by Peers and Attorney Representation

    May 6, 2009

    Due process matters. It can protect a student from being expelled for no good reason or from being tried for an alleged infraction without any of the legal privileges that citizens routinely get in off-campus judicial systems. My statewide speaking tour of Wisconsin in March made clear to me that college students across the state understand the value of their due process rights, and many of them spoke out against the changes that the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents was considering to UWS 17 and 18, the system-wide disciplinary code. Many of the changes were unobjectionable from a […]

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  • Angry Wisconsin Dean Resents Fair Procedures for Students

    May 6, 2009

    As you can see in today’s press release, the University of Wisconsin System has been reevaluating part of its student conduct code with a particular emphasis on disciplinary procedures and what process is due to students who are accused of violations. The revisions to the code sections entitled UWS 17 and 18 include the following. Take a look at them and see if they seem reasonable to you: Changes of significance that have been made to the Chapter 17 documents going to the Board of Regents include: 1.  A student accused of a violation of Chapters 17 and 18 may […]

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  • Victory for Student Rights in Wisconsin: Regents to Restore Due Process Rights

    May 6, 2009

    MADISON, Wis., May 6, 2009—After substantial input from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents has restored essential due process rights for students statewide. The restored rights include the option of a hearing before a committee including student peers, attorney representation in the case of serious allegations, and both e-mail and paper notification of proceedings. “The Board of Regents should be highly commended for protecting students’ rights and fundamental notions of fairness across the state,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “The policy revisions are a victory for due process rights, which […]

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  • Adam’s Lecture at the University of Wisconsin Uploaded to Podcasts Page

    March 16, 2009

    Earlier this month, FIRE’s Adam Kissel went on a tour of the University of Wisconsin system to speak to students and faculty about due process and the proposed changes to Chapters UWS 17 and 18 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code. We have posted his lecture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on our Multimedia page. Be sure to check back regularly for new podcasts and multimedia content.

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  • FIRE Writes Wisconsin Regents about Reconsidering Due Process Changes for Students

    March 13, 2009

    As I wrote last week, I spent several days in Wisconsin to discuss a number of due process concerns in the proposed changes (PDF) to Chapters UWS 17 (PDF) and 18 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code. Some of the proposed changes diminish due process for students accused of infractions, and other proposed changes make it easier for the University of Wisconsin (UW) System to suffer from due process lawsuits because of the greater ambiguity and administrative discretion in the proposed changes. Students and faculty members have contributed many voices to the debate, and their concerns are generally in line with […]

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  • Wisconsin Faculty and Students Rise in Defense of Due Process

    March 4, 2009

    I am on tour this week in Wisconsin because of proposed changes to UWS 17 (PDFs), the part of the Wisconsin Administrative Code that applies to University of Wisconsin student non-academic disciplinary matters. The proposed changes, as I outlined earlier today, seriously diminish the due process rights of students and add so much uncertainty (in the form of administrative discretion) to the process that UW is practically asking for due process lawsuits in the future. Yesterday I spoke to outraged audiences at UW-Oshkosh and UW-Stevens Point. Tonight, I will be speaking in Madison at 6:00 pm. The biggest events are […]

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  • Due Process Matters, or, Why I’m On Tour in Wisconsin

    March 4, 2009

    Due process matters. Just ask Hayden Barnes, who was expelled from Valdosta State University by means of a note slid under his door—without any hearing or any chance to respond to the “evidence” (a Facebook.com collage) against him. Or ask Professor Donald Hindley at Brandeis, whose provost put a monitor in his classroom over a misapplication of the university’s harassment policy—and then cut off the appeal of his punishment by simply declaring the matter “closed.” Or ask “The Coalition of Some Dudes,” two male students at Colorado College who were found responsible for sex-related violence because of a poster they […]

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  • Don Downs on ‘Blazing Saddles’ Controversy at UW–Madison

    October 28, 2008

    Two weeks ago, The Badger Herald, a student newspaper at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (UW), reported on the university’s apology to an African-American student offended by the content of a clip from the 1974 Mel Brooks movie Blazing Saddles, which an instructor showed in a training seminar run by UW’s Continuing Studies Department in November 2007. Use of the clip—which contained several racial slurs—prompted a complaint from the student, which was reviewed by UW’s Office for Equity and Diversity. The training seminar was not offered this year. The Continuing Studies department chair wrote an apology to the student along with […]

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  • University of Wisconsin Professor Don Downs Criticizes Misconduct Policy Revisions on ‘Minding the Campus’

    October 9, 2008

    Don Downs, University of Wisconsin–Madison professor and President of the Committee for Academic Freedom and Rights (CAFAR) at the University of Wisconsin (UW), has an article, “Due Process Fades In Wisconsin,” on the Manhattan Institute’s Minding the Campus. Downs is critical of the changes approved by the UW System Board of Regents. After explaining the objections regarding the due process concerns already voiced in CAFAR’s statement released Monday, Downs offers some insight into the dubious wisdom of the Board of Regents’ motives and the broader context of these sorts of reforms. UW leaders endorse the reforms by pointing out that […]

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  • University of Wisconsin Faculty Criticize Proposed Changes to Misconduct Code

    October 6, 2008

    Last week, the University of Wisconsin (UW) System Board of Regents approved new revisions to the student misconduct policies including “Student Nonacademic Disciplinary Standards” and “Conduct on University Lands.” The revisions were sent to a legislative committee for review last Friday. They will be returned to the Board of Regents for a public hearing before being sent to the state legislature for a vote. The revisions, if enacted, will have serious ramifications for students’ due process rights. The Badger Herald reports: The revised codes include the universities’ power to discipline students for serious criminal offenses off campus, the shift of […]

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  • The University of Wisconsin Needs to Drop the Security Fee—Permanently

    December 13, 2007

    The Wisconsin State Journal reports that on October 22, the College Republicans at the University of Wisconsin–Madison hosted a speech by political pundit David Horowitz. The university intended to charge the student group $1,300 in security fees, but according to The Badger Herald, ended up covering the fee for the group when the group demonstrated that it simply couldn’t pay. To levy additional charges on student groups for controversial speech unconstitutionally hinders the expression of that speech. As the Supreme Court wrote in Forsyth County v. Nationalist Movement (1992), “[s]peech cannot be financially burdened, any more than it can be […]

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  • University of Wisconsin’s Bias Reporting System Went Out with a Whimper, But Anonymous Bias Reporting Systems Remain

    November 29, 2007

    An article in The American Thinker mentions FIRE’s victory at the University of Delaware, where an egregious thought reform program was shut down after FIRE’s publicity campaign. The article highlights “Think Respect,” a “bias reporting mechanism” at the University of Wisconsin whereby students were encouraged to “report anything” that could possibly be construed as bias-related. A bias incident was defined to include “verbal, written or physical” acts directed against a student because of “actual or perceived characteristic(s)” such as political affiliation and religion. The program was condemned by eminent University of Wisconsin Law Professor Ann Althouse, who noted that such […]

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  • Professor Donald Downs Discusses ‘Religion in the University’

    June 18, 2007

    Last Monday, University of Wisconsin at Madison Professor Donald A. Downs had an interesting post at the National Association of Scholars forum, “Religion and the University.” Professor Downs divides the history of the American university into three eras: the proprietary, the liberal, and the post-liberal. The proprietary university, to use the American Association of University Professors’ term, was defined by its adherence to a specific conception of truth and its mission to pass on that idea. It was replaced by the liberal university, with a research focus spurred by scientific advances. The liberal/research university believed in the validity of universalism […]

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  • Victory for Religious Liberty at the University of Wisconsin

    May 10, 2007

    A few days ago David French reported over at Phi Beta Cons that the University of Wisconsin Roman Catholic Foundation settled its religious discrimination lawsuit against the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The terms of the settlement consisted of the following: [T]he Foundation’s recognition as a student group was affirmed, the university agreed to award the Foundation more than $250,000.00 in student activity fees, and the parties agreed to a framework that should prevent any future viewpoint discrimination. At its essence, the settlement guarantees that the university will treat the Foundation the same as other student groups. In return, the Foundation has […]

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  • Debate at University of Wisconsin a Success

    April 13, 2007

    On Wednesday night, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff debated University of Wisconsin Professor Howard Schweber on “Political Correctness, Academic Speech, and Free Speech on Campus” at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The Badger Herald reported that the debate went very well. Greg came to the defense of free speech—even when the expressive form of the speech might be found offensive. Prof. Schweber posited that while all viewpoints are welcome, some forms of speech are unacceptable. He distinguished, for example, between “f*ck you” and “f*ck the draft.” Greg argued that if you give administrators the power to police speech they deem “impolite,” you […]

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  • FIRE President to Debate at the University of Wisconsin–Madison

    April 11, 2007

    The Federalist Society and the American Constitution Society are sponsoring a debate between FIRE President Greg Lukianoff and University of Wisconsin political science professor Howard Schweber on “Political Correctness, Academic Speech, and Free Speech on Campus.” The debate will take place tonight at 7:00 PM in Room 5240 on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus. Pizza will be provided.

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  • Victory for Religious Freedom in Wisconsin

    March 12, 2007

    Last September, FIRE reported that the University of Wisconsin–Madison was derecognizing and defunding a number of religious student organizations, including the Roman Catholic Foundation, on charges of religious discrimination. In February, FIRE reported that the Board of Regents for the University of Wisconsin System passed a new policy that, despite some ambiguity, more or less protected freedom of association. According to Inside Higher Ed, a U.S. District Judge handed down a ruling last Thursday explicitly ordering the University of Wisconsin to cease its violation of religious groups’ freedom of association. The University cannot use the nondiscrimination policy to disqualify groups […]

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  • Professor Kaplan Speaks Out—And New Questions Abound

    March 8, 2007

    One of the big mysteries in the ongoing debacle at the University of Wisconsin Law School has been what, exactly, was said in Professor Kaplan’s classroom on February 15. (For background on this story, see here; for the reaction from the University’s Committee for Academic Freedom and Rights, see here.) From the first, the tone of the debate was set by an email from KaShia Moua, a Hmong student, which included alleged quotes from Kaplan. Moua sent her email on February 20, and various news outlets have been repeating the quotes therein for some time now. On Monday, Professor Kaplan […]

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  • UW’s Free Speech Committee Expresses Concern over Kaplan Case

    March 5, 2007

    Yesterday, at the University of Wisconsin, the Committee for Academic Freedom and Rights released a statement on the recent imbroglio at the Law School over a professor’s provocative statements about the Hmong people. The Committee said that it was following the affair “with deepening concern” and that it was worried about the consequences for academic freedom. Key quotes: There is a distinct possibility that the emotion and pressures surrounding this case—especially after the public meeting at the law school the evening of March 1—will have a chilling effect on honest and good faith discussion of racial and cultural issues in […]

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  • Furor at UW Law over Professor’s Classroom Comments

    February 28, 2007

    For the past two weeks at the University of Wisconsin Law School, several students have been decrying what they see as racially insensitive remarks made by a tenured professor during class. According to the campus newspaper, The Badger Herald, Professor Leonard Kaplan made the provocative remarks about the Hmong people, an ethnic group from Southeast Asia with a sizeable population in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The article quoted from an e-mail sent to law school students by KaShia Moua, a Hmong student (although it is not clear whether she was in the class at the time). Moua alleged that Professor Kaplan said, among other […]

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  • Religious Freedom Under Assault at the University of Wisconsin (Again)

    September 27, 2006

    The University of Wisconsin is once again impinging upon the religious freedom of its students. The current debacle began in February when the Freedom from Religion Foundation urged the University of Wisconsin–Madison to de-fund the University of Wisconsin Roman Catholic Foundation and other religious groups. In April the University of Wisconsin–Madison said that it would fund the Foundation but it would consider de-funding the group the following year. The school is arguing that funding a religious group violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, despite clear Supreme Court precedent to the contrary in Rosenberger v. University of Virginia and Board of Regents […]

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  • Professor Under Review for Saying 9/11 Might Be an ‘Inside Job’

    July 6, 2006

    The provost of the University of Wisconsin at Madison announced last week that the university would conduct a “review” of an instructor who has publicly stated that he believes the 9/11 attacks were an “inside job.” The instructor, Kevin Barrett, was a guest on a radio show last week where he defended his controversial views. Shortly thereafter a state representative called for Barrett’s immediate dismissal and UWM provost Patrick Farrell announced the review of Barrett’s course materials, syllabus, and evaluations.   “Mr. Barrett’s statements regarding the events of Sept. 11 have raised some legitimate concerns about the content and quality […]

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  • Bible Studies: Not So Bad After All

    March 14, 2006

    FIRE’s press release today announces a tremendous victory for religious liberty throughout the 13 schools in the University of Wisconsin System. Since last November, the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire (UWEC) has been under attack for a policy that banned RAs from leading Bible studies—or studies of any other holy book—in their dorm rooms, on the grounds that open religious practice might make RAs less “approachable.” After six months of pressure from FIRE, the UW system’s Board of Regents finally settled the controversy on Friday by approving a policy that gives RAs the right to “participate in, organize, and lead any […]

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  • Wisconsin Regents’ Education Committee Approves New Bible Study Policy

    March 10, 2006

    In a fantastic development for religious liberty and freedom of association on campus, the Education Committee of the University of Wisconsin’s Board of Regents yesterday approved a new policy governing activities by RAs that would acknowledge that they have the same right to lead or participate in Bible studies or any other group activities as other students (search for the words “Education Committee” in the preceding link). FIRE has been leading the charge since last November to force UW to protect all students’ rights equally, and it now looks like the end of UW’s repressive policies is at hand. The […]

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  • Kersten Lauds FIRE’s Religious Liberty Efforts

    March 9, 2006

    An excellent column by Katherine Kersten of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune recently called attention to FIRE’s efforts to protect religious liberty on campus. She writes: The Foundation for Individual Rights (FIRE) is a Philadelphia-based organization that defends constitutional rights, including freedom of speech, due process and religious liberty, on college campuses. In 2003, FIRE commissioned twin surveys of 1,037 students and 306 administrators at more than 300 colleges nationwide, testing their knowledge of various aspects of the First Amendment. The survey revealed a troubling cluelessness about our most fundamental freedoms. For example, only 30 percent of students and 21 percent of […]

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  • Editorials Endorse Repeal of ‘Bible Study Ban’

    March 9, 2006

    Today, the Education Committee of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents is set to vote on repealing UW-Madison and UW–Eau Claire’s infamous “Bible study bans.” It was FIRE, of course, that brought this issue to the surface. As the Education Committee votes—and, hopefully, as the full board prepares to vote tomorrow—it’s an appropriate time to consider the widespread support that the recent policy recommendation by UW System President Kevin Reilly has received. As we noted in a press release, FIRE supports Reilly’s proposed policy; it is what we have been requesting for months now. So does the Badger Herald, […]

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  • There Is No Such Thing as ‘Hate Speech’

    February 24, 2006

    Yes, that is correct. “Hate speech” is not a category of speech recognized under current constitutional law. It is merely a convenient way to pigeonhole speech that some people find offensive. But what is very troubling is when people begin to treat “hate speech” as unprotected speech. For example, a student leader at Penn State, a university which was recently sued for its unconstitutionally vague and overbroad speech codes, made the following comment featured in a prominent article in the student newspaper The Daily Collegian: “We support any and all university policies that prohibit intolerant actions against any student on […]

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  • The UW Waiting Game Begins

    February 15, 2006

    Yesterday, the Badger Herald at the University of Wisconsin–Madison featured an article on the letter recently sent to UW System President Kevin Reilly by ten Wisconsin legislators. As the article points out, FIRE’s public exposure of UW–Eau Claire’s ban on RAs’ holding Bible studies in their dorms (which is also in force at UW-Madison) resulted in a “firestorm of controversy last fall,” policy recommendations by a special committee, and a call for feedback from the public. A new system-wide policy on the subject will be promulgated in March. Interestingly, the article also said the following: The public-comment period ended last […]

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  • Legislators Renew Call for Religious Liberty at UW

    February 9, 2006

    FIRE recently received a copy of a letter sent on February 7 to Kevin Reilly, the president of the University of Wisconsin System, about the ongoing “Bible study ban” controversy there, which FIRE brought to public attention. It’s from ten Wisconsin state legislators and it’s so good that it’s worth quoting in full: Dear President Reilly: We wanted to weigh in on your ongoing dialogue, discussion, and effort to come up with a uniform, written, and defensible UW System policy regarding RA’s and their First Amendment rights. First, we want to applaud you for testifying before the Assembly Colleges and […]

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  • Nine Days Left to Set UW Straight

    January 27, 2006

    An article in yesterday’s edition of The Spectator, the student newspaper at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire, provided some useful information about FIRE’s battles against UWEC’s and UW-Madison’s nationally infamous “Bible study bans.” As you may recall from FIRE’s January 16 press release: The University of Wisconsin (UW) has missed yet another opportunity to demonstrate that it respects its resident assistants’ (RAs’) basic rights. A UW System committee recommended late last week that two UW campuses be allowed to maintain policies banning RAs from leading Bible studies on their own time and in their own dormitories. UW has faced months […]

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  • ‘Badger Herald’ Gets It Right

    January 20, 2006

    Check out the excellent editorial from the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Badger Herald on the ongoing debacle at UW-Madison and University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire: This board feels that RAs within the UW System have the right to lead ideological discussions in their own dorm rooms so long as such sessions remain strictly voluntary. To ban an RA from observing a belief is to ban an RA from being human. That the committee appointed by the UW System would advocate guidelines allowing each school to make its own policy regarding the matter is ludicrous and misguided. Yes, the colleges may prevent RAs […]

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  • Bring Your Moral Outrage to Bear on UW

    January 19, 2006

    Monday’s press release noted the University of Wisconsin’s latest missed chance to abolish once and for all its Eau Claire and Wisconsin campuses’ now-infamous “Bible study bans.” As we pointed out then, a UW committee has ludicrously recommended that the individual campuses be allowed to determine their own policies vis-à-vis Bible studies—which they haven’t exactly done constitutionally so far—and the UW System’s president is seeking public comments on the matter. In accordance with that request, here is what FIRE friend Timothy Michael wrote to UW: Let’s try a little compare and contrast. The following is a quote from the UW’s […]

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  • Cuius Regio, Eius Religio

    January 16, 2006

    The University of Wisconsin committee charged with making recommendations for a final, system-wide policy on whether RAs should be allowed to lead Bible studies in their dorms put out its Resident Assistant Working Group Final Report late last week. The committee’s recommendation: each school in the UW System should make the decision for itself. The Report reads: [T]here is general agreement among UW System institutions in how they define the rights and responsibilities of RAs. In particular, there is agreement that RAs can participate in, organize, or lead meetings as long as they don’t use their position to inappropriately influence, pressure, or […]

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  • UWEC’s Edifice of Repression Begins to Crumble

    December 1, 2005

    Today’s FIRE press release announces that the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire (UWEC) is now in federal court over its unconstitutional ban on RA-led Bible studies in those RAs’ own dormitories. Since FIRE exposed this shameful example of religious repression last month, UWEC and the UW system have been taking enormous hits from all sides for their stubborn insistence on maintaining and defending a policy that has not even been codified at UWEC and that exists at only two of the system’s campuses (UW-Madison apparently features a similar ban on RAs’ private practice of religion). Through it all, UWEC and the […]

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  • Wisconsin Readers: Watch FIRE on TV Tonight!

    November 18, 2005

    FIRE President David French will be appearing tonight on the Wisconsin Public Television program Here & Now, which airs at 7 p.m. (CT). It does not seem to be available online, but friends of liberty in Wisconsin should tune in. During the appearance, David will debate Mike Rindo, UWEC’s executive director of university communications. It’s tough not to feel bad for Rindo, as the guy’s had the unfortunate duty of defending the indefensible: UWEC’s assault on the First Amendment. For instance, after FIRE issued its latest press release on UWEC, Rindo threw together a memorandum to members of the media […]

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  • Have RAs Surrendered Their Religious Rights?

    November 10, 2005

    FIRE’s case at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire (UWEC), where Christian RAs have been told that they may not lead Bible studies in their own dorm rooms or dorms, has captured a great deal of attention in the national media, including syndicated columnist Suzanne Fields’ latest. Condemnation of UWEC has generally been widespread, and for very good reason. However, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and MSNBC.com have run a story including quotes from two organizations that suggest that FIRE is barking up the wrong tree here and that RAs, as state employees, ought to be prohibited from having Bible studies in their […]

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