Washington State University

Location: Pullman, Washington
Website: http://www.wsu.edu
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 9th Circuit

Speech Code Rating

Washington State University has been given the speech code rating Red. A red light university has at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech. Read more here.

  • Washington State University: Administrative Support for Heckler’s Veto of Student Play

    June 17, 2005

    Washington State University (WSU) rejected the use of a “heckler’s veto” and warned students not to disrupt a controversial student-sponsored play—a reversal from its previous act of financing and organizing

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  • Washington State University: Use of Dispositions Theory to Enforce Ideological Orthodoxy

    June 17, 2005

    Washington State University (WSU) repealed partisan evaluative criteria used to punish a student whose views on diversity and gun control differed with those of other professors at WSU. Student Ed Swan had received poor evaluative teaching marks on his “dispositions” criteria, which had “required students to have a commitment to vague ideological concepts such as “appreciat[ing] and valu[ing] human diversity,” sensitivity to “community and cultural norms,” and respecting “others’ varied talents and perspectives.” Swan was penalized for admitting that he opposes gun control and does not believe that white privilege and male privilege exist, and was forced to sign a […]

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Red Light Policies

  • WSU Police: Directory of Services- Bias Hotline 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Bias and Hate Speech, Statement

    If you witness or experience something that discriminates, stereotypes, excludes, or harasses anyone based on some part of their identity - such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, or sensory handicap, report it immediately.

    Washington State University and Washington State University Police Department is committed to responding to and investigating all reported incidents of discrimination, harassment, hate, and bias.

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Policy Prohibiting Discrimination and Sexual Harassment 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Discriminatory harassment is improper conduct toward a particular individual, individuals or groups on the basis of one or more of the protected statuses indicated above, that is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive that it has the purpose or effect of:

    • Creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment, or
    • Unreasonably interfering with the work, academic performance, living environment, personal security, or participation in any WSU activity.

    Examples of behaviors that may constitute discrimination include, but are not limited to: …

    • Name calling, jokes, or other verbal or physical behavior towards a person based on their religion, sexual orientation, or perceived sexual orientation.

    Sexual harassment encompasses unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. … Sexual harassment creates a hostile environment when behavior is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive to interfere with an individual’s work or educational performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work or educational environment.

    Examples of behavior that may constitute sexual harassment include, but are not limited to: …

    • Sexual behavior that is unwelcome. Such behavior may include, but is not limited to, the following:
      • Comments of a sexual nature;
      • Sexually explicit statements, questions, jokes, or anecdotes;
      • Unnecessary or undesirable physical contact;
      • Unwanted, offensive, and/or uninvited comments about another’s physical appearance;
      • Display of pictures with sexual content ….

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  • Facility Use Rules for First Amendment/Free Speech Activities 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies

    “Limited public forum areas” means those areas of each campus that the university has chosen to be open as places for expressive activities protected by the first amendment, subject to reasonable time, place or manner restrictions. (a) At the Pullman campus, the designated limited public forum areas are: (i) The Glenn Terrell Mall; and (ii) The public sidewalks adjacent to public roads. …

    “First amendment activities” include, but are not necessarily limited to, informational picketing, petition circulation, the distribution of information leaflets or pamphlets, speech-making, demonstrations, rallies, appearances of speakers in outdoor areas, protests, meetings to display group feelings or sentiments and/or other types of constitutionally protected assemblies to share information, perspective or viewpoints. …

    (1) Notice to use the limited public forum areas is to be provided as follows: (a) At the Pullman campus: (i) To the campus police; and (ii) For requests to use the Glenn Terrell Mall, to the scheduling office. …

    (2) Timing of notice. All groups must provide the required notice no later than fourteen calendar days in advance of use of the limited public forum. However, events may be permitted with less notice so long as the event does not interfere with any other function occurring at the facility.

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Green Light Policies
  • Standards of Conduct for Students: Harassment 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Harassment is conduct by any means that is severe, persistent, or pervasive, and is of such a nature that it would cause a reasonable person in the victim’s position substantial emotional distress and undermine his or her ability to work, study, or participate in his or her regular life activities or participate in the activities of the university, and/or actually does cause the victim substantial emotional distress and undermines the victim’s ability to work, study, or participate in the victim’s regular life activities or participate in the activities of the university.

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  • Introduction To Irony: Or, How To Take A Joke 101

    December 4, 2012

    I know a few Holocaust jokes. I learned them from the children of survivors. I suspect they’d disagree with the Harvard student who declared that pain was no laughing matter. “I don’t think that jokes should trigger on any type of pain,” 20-year-old Dakota Rot explained to the Boston Globe. She was responding to satirical fliers distributed on campus advertising a fake social club, noting “Jews need not apply,” and “Coloreds Okay,” and including a reference to date rape. “If you’re a person that’s part Jewish or a person of color or a woman who’s has been in any dangerous situation, you […]

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  • Free Speech on FIRE

    November 10, 2012

    The essentiality of freedom in the community of American universities is almost self-evident,” wrote Earl Warren in a 1957 Supreme Court opinion. Apparently, American universities themselves have come to disagree. In Unlearning Liberty, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) president Greg Lukianoff demonstrates that the First Amendment is in serious danger at many institutions of higher learning. Where universities once went to court to protect campus speech from state intrusion, students and even professors must now go to court to keep schools from censoring them. Sometimes schools go beyond censoring unapproved viewpoints, and simply compel students to express the […]

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  • ‘I Believe in Free Speech and All, but I Draw the Line at Comedy Musicals!’

    May 17, 2010

    by Greg Lukianoff The Huffington Post   Back in 2005, Chris Lee, a student at Washington State University, set out make a comedy musical that, in the tradition of South Park, offended as broad a spectrum of people as possible. Unfortunately for him, he succeeded. His musical–a very loose parody of Mel Gibson’s 2004 film The Passion of the Christ–earned him protests, death threats, and even an organized attempt among administrators and students to disrupt the play. Today, my organization, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, unveils a new video about Chris’ strange journey. You can see all the […]

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  • Campus Alert: Think like us–or else

    June 4, 2007

    Columbia University’s Teachers College is one of America’s most prestigious education schools. For many students, it’s probably the best—but not if you don’t buy the school’s definition of “social justice.” Teachers College evaluates students in part on the basis of so-called “dispositions,” defined as “observable behaviors” that “involve the use of certain skills.” One “disposition” is the student’s “Respect for Diversity and Commitment to Social Justice.” This warps the discussion of whether a student might make a good teacher into whether that student has the “correct” personal, religious or political beliefs. Evaluating students’ aptitude for teaching based on their commitment […]

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  • University presidents battle for honors in spinelessness

    May 1, 2006

    It’s time for this column to announce its Sheldon Award, given annually to the university president who does the most to look the other way when free speech is under assault on campus. As all Sheldon fans know, the prize is a statuette that looks something like the Oscar, except that the Oscar shows a man with no face looking straight ahead, whereas the Sheldon shows a man with no spine looking the other way. The award is named for Sheldon Hackney, former president of the University of Pennsylvania and a modern legend in looking the other way. College presidents, […]

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  • Education School Revises Policy on ‘Dispositions’

    March 10, 2006

    by Paula Wasley The Chronicle of Higher Education   Washington State University’s College of Education has revised a form that it uses to evaluate students’ dispositions to become schoolteachers, one that, in its previous version, had led to complaints of discrimination against political conservatives. The previous 10-point “professional dispositions evaluation” form required, among other things, that students in training to become teachers exhibit “an understanding of the complexities of race, power, gender, class, sexual orientation, and privilege in American society.” … To read the full story, please click here: http://chronicle.com/temp/reprint.php?id=1y5zb4lghnfx2k74gh6t7knhjsmfn7xq     View this article at The Chronicle of Higher […]

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  • Washington State U. Revises Evaluation Form for Would-Be Teachers That Led to Bias Complaints

    March 1, 2006

    Washington State University’s College of Education has revised a form that it uses to evaluate students’ dispositions to become teachers, one that, in its previous version, had led to complaints of discrimination against political conservatives. The previous 10-point “professional dispositions evaluation” form required, among other things, that students in training to become teachers exhibit “an understanding of the complexities of race, power, gender, class, sexual orientation, and privilege in American society.” …   To read the full story, please click here: http://chronicle.com/temp/reprint.php?id=8f9q1sw25vnxj6mmdh3n1pfpdb9wkkvt

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  • Undergraduate education majors to be evaluated by new form

    February 22, 2006

    An evaluation form for education majors that sparked a controversy over political correctness will be replaced at Washington State University, school officials said. The new form will not record the political or religious beliefs of students who are seeking to become teachers, according to the WSU College of Education. “We never had the intent to exclude anyone,” said Judy Mitchell, dean of the College of Education The evaluation forms, known as “professional disposition evaluations,” generated controversy last August when undergraduate Ed Swan, 42, was threatened with termination as an education major after failing four PDEs the previous school year. A […]

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  • Campus Conscience Police?

    December 21, 2005

    “Over one’s inner mind, and self, no one has coercive power.” So write attorneys Jordan Lorence and Harvey A. Silverglate, authors of the just-published Guide to First-Year Orientation and Thought Reform on Campus from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). The Guide is yet another indication that political correctness is faltering on campuses across North America. To those who value the right of individuals to a conscience—that is, to judge right and wrong for themselves—this is welcome news. Political correctness is the belief that certain ideas and attitudes are improper and, so, should be discouraged or prohibited by […]

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  • WSU ends ‘hecklers veto’ aid but threatens conservative student’s graduation

    December 17, 2005

    It shouldn’t have taken a threatened law suit and being held up to nationwide public scorn but Washington State University officials have stopped paying student hecklers who shout down speakers with whom they disagree. Unfortunately, the stench remains strong at Washington State University of a Stalinist suppression of political views that deviate from the politically correct academic liberal orthodoxy. Regular readers of this space will recall from this July column that the controversy began when it was learned university administrators were paying students to heckle the production of a controversial play by a student author. Student playwright Chris Lee warned […]

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  • ‘We Don’t Need That Kind of Attitude’

    December 16, 2005

    Partway through her teacher-training program, Karen K. Siegfried started pulling her red compact car to the far end of the campus parking lot. She didn’t want her professors at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks to see her bumper stickers: One proclaims her opposition to abortion, and the other is emblazoned with the name of one of Alaska’s Republican senators.”It worried me what they could do based on my politics,” says Ms. Siegfried, who had already clashed with education professors over her views on affirmative action and gun control. When Ms. Siegfried disagreed with one professor’s contention that video games […]

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  • WSU finally gets it: Heckling isn’t free speech

    December 16, 2005

    Hey, no heckling zombie Jesus! And if you disagree with Lucifer that “Hell is So Sweet,” keep it to yourself. At least until he’s done singing. Otherwise, you might be asked to leave the theater. A zombie Jesus and singing Lucifer are only two of the things that offended audiences earlier this year during “The Passion of the Musical” at Washington State University. Threatening to eject hecklers represents a new attitude among WSU administrators. At first, they claimed heckling was a First Amendment right. When student playwright Chris Lee presented his satirical production last April, the crowd went wild. Literally. […]

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  • FIRE to the rescue

    December 1, 2005

    What is the biggest swindle in the educational establishment today? A tough question, that: the contenders for the prize are many. But there is a lot to be said—by which we mean “said against”—the whole teacher-training and teacher-certification industry. It nurtures a closed-shop, guild-like mentality, and one, moreover, that is reflexively committed to the entire menu of illiberal, politically correct causes. Consider, for example, the use of so-called “dispositions tests” as one element in judging a teacher’s qualifications. As the indispensable John Leo reported recently in U.S. News & World Report, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (how’s […]

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  • WSU challenge underscores true meaning of diversity

    November 29, 2005

    A recent case involving the conservative political views of a Washington State University student has provided an opportunity for academia to revisit a meaningful definition of “diversity” in teacher education programs. Diversity means just that — a wide-ranging approach that must embrace the entire spectrum of views and issues. Ed Swan, a 42-year-old who wants to be a teacher, has made no bones of the fact he’s a social conservative, predictably opposed to the likes of gay marriage and abortion. The Associated Press reported that a form used by the university asks professors to evaluate whether a student exhibits an […]

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  • Unpopular political opinions part of diversity too

    November 20, 2005

    Teachers have to deal with a wide range of kids. A student might be the child of illegal immigrants or have two daddies. Children come from all kinds of social, economic, ethnic and religious backgrounds. A teacher who believes “diversity is perversity” might have trouble checking his biases at the door. Washington State University student Ed Swan certainly has trouble keeping his mouth shut. He let his views on diversity be known in a variety of ways. Aside from scribbling “diversity is perversity” in a textbook, he failed four times to meet the College of Education’s benchmarks for understanding the […]

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  • Politically Correct?

    November 18, 2005

    Has political correctness run amok at Washington State University’s College of Education in Pullman? We don’t think so. But the college might have pushed the envelope further than necessary in its efforts to ensure that the teachers it produces are prepared and eager to work positively with culturally diverse enrollments. Certainly Ed Swan and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education  (www.thefire.org) think WSU was out of line. But, if things go well from here on, the 42-year-old Swan, from Othello, Wash., will be teaching elementary school next fall. Swan, who calls himself a “traditionalist” in gender relations, marriage etc., […]

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  • WSU student claims discrimination because of conservative views

    November 12, 2005

    PULLMAN, Wash. — Ed Swan considers himself a basic social conservative, opposed to gay marriage, affirmative action and the notion that affluent white men are responsible for a lot of social injustice. The Washington State University student also opposes abortion and wrote “diversity is perversity” in the margins of a textbook. Swan’s attitude prompted his professors in the WSU College of Education to order him into diversity training, and almost caused Swan, 42, to be kicked out of the teacher training program. He fought back by contacting the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a Philadelphia-based group that battles political […]

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  • Scholars Group: Accrediting Agency Violating First Amendment

    November 4, 2005

    The National Association of Scholars, a group that advocates for traditional academic standards in higher education, is accusing the nation’s largest accrediting agency of teacher education programs of imposing standards that violate the First Amendment. The association Wednesday filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education against the accrediting agency. The complaint demands that the Education Department strip the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education of federal recognition as an accrediting agency unless it changes its standards for evaluating schools. The 51-year-old agency accredits 602 colleges of education – about half the country’s total. Addressed to the assistant […]

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  • Class(room) Warriors

    October 24, 2005

    The cultural left has a new tool for enforcing political conformity in schools of education. It is called dispositions theory, and it was set forth five years ago by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education: Future teachers should be judged by their “knowledge, skills, and dispositions.” What are “dispositions”? NCATE’s prose made clear that they are the beliefs and attitudes that guide a teacher toward a moral stance. That sounds harmless enough, but it opened a door to reject teaching candidates on the basis of thoughts and beliefs. In 2002, NCATE said that an education school may require […]

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  • WSU takes hit on free speech

    October 22, 2005

    A national higher education watchdog group says Washington State University is failing to protect the speech rights of students who have controversial or unpopular opinions. In the latest case, an education student who describes himself as a conservative Christian was threatened with dismissal and ordered into diversity training over comments that he didn’t believe that whites are privileged, opposed adoption by gays, and wrote “diversity is perversity” in the margins of a book. Professors accused the man, 42-year-old Ed Swan of Othello, of being a white supremacist and anti-gay, but WSU dropped its threat of dismissal against Swan after the […]

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  • WSU’s Politburo enforces dogma

    October 22, 2005

    Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once said of pornography that although he could not intelligibly define it, “I know it when I see it.” The same might be said of bias at Washington State University. Incidents of bias are forbidden at WSU, but are bias incidents easier to identify than they are to define? I am far from certain that forbidden acts of bias are anywhere near as universally recognizable as obscenity. And I doubt that there is anyone in any position of authority at WSU whom I would trust to judge bias crimes. A poster found all over campus […]

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  • Demerit System

    October 22, 2005

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  • Student plans new plays

    October 22, 2005

    A student playwright at Washington State University who wrote a controversial “intentionally offensive” play last year is preparing new productions. Chris Lee’s “Passion of the Musical” inflamed its audience and sparked a debate about WSU’s role in a protest of the play. University officials purchased tickets for protesters, and the school has taken the position that protesters were expressing their free-speech rights. Lee and the free-speech group Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) say the university has trampled his constitutional rights by supporting the “heckler’s veto.” Lee said protesters at his show in April made threats of violence and […]

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  • WSU Education Department studying ‘litmus test’

    October 20, 2005

    Washington State University is reviewing its policies on evaluating the character of students in the teacher training program after a student alleged the College of Education was biased against conservatives. Provost Robert Bates said Tuesday the matter is under review within the college, which is under fire for evaluating students in a way that makes personal political beliefs grounds for failure. At issue is an evaluation form that asks if a student exhibits an understanding of the complexities of race, power, gender, class, sexual orientation and privilege in American society. Ed Swan, 42, failed four Professional Dispositions Evaluation forms filled […]

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  • WSU responds to evaluation criticisms

    October 19, 2005

    The College of Education at Washington State University is considering how it may change its policies regarding the evaluation of “good character” for students in the teacher-training program. “The matter is under review by the college,” WSU Provost Robert Bates said Tuesday. The college has been criticized recently, including this week in an opinion piece published in U.S. News and World Report, for evaluating student character in a way that could make personal political beliefs grounds for failure in the program. At issue is language on an official form that refers to whether or not a student “exhibits an understanding […]

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  • National columnist attacks WSU

    October 19, 2005

    The test for “good character” in the College of Education at Washington State University has drawn national attention in a piece published this week in U.S News and World Report. To syndicated columnist John Leo, the test is an unconstitutional outrage because it requires students to conform to liberal rhetoric and beliefs. In keeping with national accreditation standards, the College of Education evaluates whether students pass the good character test required by the state of all teachers. The evaluation form includes an item asking whether a student “exhibits an understanding of the complexities of race, power, gender, class, sexual orientation […]

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  • Challenging campus free speech through theater

    October 18, 2005

    Chris Lee may choose to not graduate. Lee, a senior theatre major, will stay until he is 85 years old if he has to, he said. WSU has to learn students’ First Amendment rights before he leaves. “I want the message of freedom and speech to go through here before I go,” Lee said. “I’d rather move on and know this school is going to let freedom ring.” Spring semester, “Passion of the Musical” closed on Apr. 21 with a protest. Lee wrote, directed and starred as Lucifer in the play. Protesters who disliked the message of Lee’s self-acknowledged offensive […]

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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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  • Character evaluations are absurd, offensive

    October 4, 2005

    Washington State University’s College of Education needs to rethink how it evaluates character in future teachers. Perhaps the best way to start would be to define character because we’re obviously on different pages. A person’s character is not measured by whether or not they espouse opinions on political or social issues that you agree with. WSU’s College of Education needs to come to grips with that in a hurry, as the university works through the protests of Edward R. Swan. The college threatened to boot Swan out of the program after he “failed” four evaluations of his character. The basis […]

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  • Battle over students rights comes to head

    October 1, 2005

    A national civil liberties group is defending a Washington State University undergraduate because the College of Education threatened to terminate him from the education program this fall after he expressed conservative religious and political views in class last school year. Edward R. Swan, 42, describes himself as someone who goes to church each Sunday. He values both the U.S. Constitution and the Bible and has strong ideas about what both documents mean. Swan doesn’t support Affirmative Action programs, and he doesn’t believe gays should adopt children. He thinks men and women are naturally different and suited to different roles in […]

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  • Race, free speech issues likely to linger

    August 27, 2005

    The fall semester promises to include more discussion of race and the First Amendment on the Washington State University campus as many of the main players from last school year are back in town after summer break. Last spring, a black theater major at WSU produced a deliberately provocative play at the student union that caused a stir among several groups on campus. Christopher Lee, now a senior, wrote and produced “The Passion of the Musical.” The play was protested and disrupted on its last night by a number of minority students, many of whom gained admittance to the production […]

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  • Playing Politically Correct

    July 28, 2005

    Protesters disrupted his play by shouting down the actors, blocking the aisles, rushing the stage and threatening the audience, and student playwright Chris Lee expected Washington State University officials to  ake action. They did, but not quite in the way he expected. After an inquiry, the university’s Center for Human Rights concluded that the student hecklers had engaged in an appropriate expression of free speech after being provoked by the play “Passion of the Musical.” University President V. Lane Rawlins agreed, telling a faculty member in an e-mail that the protesters had “exercised their rights of free speech in a […]

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  • Group Claims Biased Campus Officials Bankrolled Protest of Student Play

    July 26, 2005

    Washington State University is being accused of funding “vigilante censorship” of a controversial student play on campus. Student playwright Chris Lee’s production, Passion of the Musical, had to shut down after 40 hecklers kept interrupting, shouting about its being offensive and allegedly issuing threats against cast members. And now an academic freedom advocate is charging that a university administrator used school money to pay for the hecklers’ tickets. WSU’s president, Lane Rawlins, has defended the disruptive behavior of the 40 protesters, calling it a responsible exercise of their free-speech rights. And Raul Sanchez, director of the Center for Human Rights […]

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  • Why does Washington State University Pay Campus Hecklers?

    July 21, 2005

    Washington State University’s web site calls the school “an ideal place to live and learn” and promises prospective students that instead of “smog or traffic jams,” they will find “an easy-going pace and eclectic college-town atmosphere.” Here’s something else WSU students don’t find much of on the Pullman campus – freedom of speech. Hecklers who shout down speakers at WSU sometimes do so on tax dollars. Hitler used Nazi thugs called “Brown Shirts” to silence opponents as he sought power in pre-war Germany. Today at WSU, the people paying the hecklers are called “administrators.” Here are the basic facts of […]

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  • Rawlins wrong on free speech

    July 18, 2005

    V. Lane Rawlins has abetted censorship. Inadvertently, perhaps, but that’s what it was. In an attempt to placate protesters, the Washington State University president reiterated his support for faculty and students who shouted their objections this spring during the final performance of student Chris Lee’s “intentionally offensive” play, “Passion of the Musical.” In a followup letter to Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Rawlins said the demonstrators had “exercised their rights of free speech in a very responsible manner.” Except that the “speech” they were exercising was nothing but a high-decibel barrage to drown out the message coming from the […]

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  • Everyone’s a Critic

    July 18, 2005

    The curtain did not fall silently on the Devil. But rather to a chorus of “I am offended.” In fact, the shouts by a group of Washington State University students pervaded the final performance in April of The Passion of the Musical — a show that has become the subject of a free speech dispute months after its short run. The protesters, angry at the satire depicting the last of two days of the life of Jesus, forced the show to stop several times. At the behest of campus security guards concerned about a potential riot, Chris Lee, a theater […]

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  • It’s time for FIRE to shout in a crowded theater

    July 18, 2005

    Jesus turns into a zombie. Lucifer sings “Hell is So Sweet.” Pontius Pilate hurls racial epithets that would make Archie Bunker blush. OK, so “Passion of the Musical” will never be mistaken for “Beauty and the Beast.” Does that give people the right to protest the play at Washington State University? You bet it does. But wait. Does it give them the right to protest the play by disrupting one of its performances? Definitely not. Washington State University President V. Lane Rawlins expressed support for the protesters after 40 of them descended on the play’s final performance April 21. Protesters […]

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  • Play sparks controversy at WSU

    July 15, 2005

    A student play that includes racial and religious slurs has created a free speech dispute at Washington State University. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has asked WSU President V. Lane Rawlins to renounce his support of people who disrupted a performance of “Passion of the Musical” in April. “Performing a play is constitutionally protected free speech,” the group said in its letter. “However, disrupting a play is not.” In a short letter sent Wednesday, Rawlins thanked FIRE for its interest and suggestions, without addressing the incident directly. Student Chris Lee wrote and staged “Passion of the Musical,” a […]

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  • WSU chief stands by protesters at biting play

    July 14, 2005

    Washington State University President V. Lane Rawlins refused Wednesday to renounce the school’s position on an “intentionally offensive” student play that deteriorated into a shouting match in April. A national advocacy group, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, asked Rawlins to do so, arguing that his apparent support for about 40 protesters who disrupted a performance of “Passion of the Musical” amounts to supporting the censorship of the “heckler’s veto.” “Performing a play is constitutionally protected free speech,” the group said in its letter. “However, disrupting a play is not.” In a five-sentence letter sent Wednesday, Rawlins essentially thanked […]

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  • Ninth Circuit Modifies, Broadens Ruling in Important Academic Freedom Case

    February 10, 2014

    Back in September, Washington State University (WSU) Professor David Demers won a victory for faculty speech rights in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in the case of Demers v. Austin. As my colleague Susan explained in detail, the Demers court joined the Fourth Circuit in holding that academic freedom concerns warrant an exception to the general rule set forth by the Supreme Court in Garcetti v. Ceballos, 547 U.S. 410 (2006), that the First Amendment does not protect government employees from discipline or retaliation based on speech made pursuant to their employment. On January 29, the […]

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  • ‘Chronicle’ Commentary Praises ‘Demers’ Decision, Protection for Academic Freedom

    September 30, 2013

    FIRE isn’t alone in celebrating the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s decision earlier this month in Demers v. Austin, a case in which the federal appellate court ruled that the First Amendment protected the academic speech of Washington State University professor David Demers. As we wrote, the decision is a significant win for faculty speech rights given the legal landscape following the Supreme Court’s 2006 decision in Garcetti v. Ceballos. In Garcetti, the Supreme Court held that public employees may be disciplined for “speech made pursuant to the employee’s official duties” but left open the question of […]

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  • ‘Demers v. Austin’ Shifts Circuit Split on Faculty Speech Rights

    September 6, 2013

    Yesterday we reported on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Demers v. Austin, in which the court held that a professor’s academic speech was protected under the First Amendment despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Garcetti v. Ceballos (2006) that government employees may be disciplined for speech “pursuant to” their “official duties.” Plaintiff and Washington State University professor David Demers called the outcome “a great victory for those who cherish academic freedom, free speech ideals and shared governance.” Although the court ruled that Demers may not receive money damages, the ruling reaches far […]

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  • New Video: How Washington State Censored a Student Musical

    February 8, 2011

    In a new video from the 2010 Campus Freedom Network (CFN) Conference, former Washington State University (WSU) student Chris Lee discusses how administrators at WSU subsidized a group of protesters to disrupt his satirical play, Passion of the Musical. When he wrote, directed, and produced Passion of the Musical in 2005, Chris sought to create a show “so offensive to everyone, they would have to speak about things that are important to them.” After WSU officials received a complaint, however, the school bought a block of tickets for protesters to attend the play. These protesters shouted down the action on […]

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  • Washington State University Appears to Have Gotten the Message on Bias Reporting Protocols; Will Other Universities?

    July 23, 2010

    The advent of bias reporting protocols on university campuses is viewed by FIRE as a pernicious threat to student speech, and with good reason. Universities that maintain and operate such policies typically encourage students and others on campus to report, often anonymously, occasions in which they experience or overhear any speech that they deem biased, prejudiced, or hostile on the basis of listed categories. Even though speech that is prejudiced or biased, standing alone, is entitled to constitutional protection, many universities have unwisely enacted such reporting protocols in order to protect students from mere offense or politically incorrect speech. In […]

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  • Schools Infringing on Free Speech Rights

    July 20, 2010

    Watch John Stossel’s interview with Greg and former Washington State University student Chris Lee, where they discuss WSU’s deplorable attempts to censor Lee’s satirical musical and the wider infirmity of politically correct speech codes on campus. 

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  • Tonight on ‘Stossel’: Here Come the Speech Police

    July 15, 2010

    Recently, as Torch readers saw here, John Stossel’s syndicated column paid heed to Keith John Sampson’s outrageous case at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis. Today, in a blog entry previewing tonight’s Stossel program, he notes an equally outrageous case: that of Washington State University student Chris Lee, whose satirical The Passion of the Musical was viciously shouted down by students whose tickets had been bought and paid for by WSU administrators. As Stossel puts it: [Lee] didn’t trick people. He got everyone who attended the show to sign a statement saying that they knew the play was offensive. But […]

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  • New FIRE Video on Vigilante Censorship Promotes Release of ‘New Threats to Freedom’

    May 17, 2010

    Tomorrow, Templeton Press’ new book New Threats to Freedom hits bookstores. To mark the release of this volume, which features original essays from a wide variety of noted authors including playwright David Mamet (of Glengarry Glen Ross fame), journalist Christopher Hitchens, author Christina Hoff Sommers, and many others, FIRE is releasing a brand new video featuring one of the main cases covered in FIRE President Greg Lukianoff’s own chapter of the book, “Students Against Liberty?” We need your help getting the word out about the video! The video highlights the case of Washington State University student Chris Lee, an African-American […]

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  • This Month in FIRE History: Washington State University Bankrolls Vigilante Censorship

    July 29, 2009

    Over four years have passed since our fight with Washington State University began, but it still remains one of the most astonishing cases we have ever handled. It surrounded a controversial and purposefully offensive play that aimed, according to the playwright, Chris Lee, “to show people we’re not that different, we all have issues that can be made fun of.”  Lee was clear about these intentions and the fact that the play was not suitable for minors in the play’s promotional materials. The play was entitled “Passion of the Musical” and parodied Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” one […]

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  • Free Speech under Attack during Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week

    October 25, 2007

    This week, as the Terrorism Awareness Project provides speakers at college campuses in order to increase awareness about terrorism of the Muslim extremist variety, the predictable has come to pass: speakers have been prevented by protesters from enjoying their freedom of speech. At Emory University, David Horowitz’s lecture ended prematurely when audience members refused to hear him out. A photo essay describes what protesters did to Nonie Darwish at Berkeley. Rick Santorum suffered a similar fate at Penn State. The Washington Times has a list of those who are blogging about such events here. Students who are hosting a screening […]

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  • Today in FIRE History: Heckler’s Veto at Washington State

    July 18, 2007

    As the dog days of summer come rolling in, and students and faculty enjoy the last few weeks before the academic year begins anew, we figured it was a good time to crack open FIRE’s vaults and recall outrageous cases gone by. July 18 is a particularly good day to start with, as it was two years ago today that FIRE issued a press release detailing Washington State University’s (WSU’s) bizarre embrace of the heckler’s veto. Throughout the annals of FIRE’s history, few instances of officially sponsored censorship have been quite as brazen: WSU administrators actually bought tickets for students […]

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  • Dispositions in Teacher Education: Old Tricks, New Name

    March 14, 2007

    The Spring 2007 issue of Education Next features an excellent article on the widespread use of “dispositions” in teacher education. Authored by Kent State Professor Laurie Moses Hines, the article details how today’s “dispositions” are an updated version of the “mental hygiene” requirements widely utilized in teacher education between the 1930s and 1960s.   Hines’s article provides a useful historical context to FIRE’s ongoing battle against the disposition-based assessments currently employed in teacher education. Hines writes: The screening of prospective teachers for maladjustment 50 years ago and the dispositions assessments going on today have remarkable similarities. As William Damon of […]

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  • This Month in FIRE History: ‘Education Programs May Have a ‘Disposition’ for Censorship’

    September 12, 2006

    One year ago this month, FIRE launched in earnest its campaign against vague and politically loaded ‘dispositions’ standards in education programs. As our press release reported: A new trend in campus censorship is emerging: this summer, Washington State University used “dispositions” theory to punish an education student for his political and religious expression. The university relented only after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) became involved. “Dispositions” theory, increasingly in vogue in education programs, requires professors to evaluate their students’ commitment to concepts such as “social justice” and “diversity” in conjunction with their actual scholastic achievement. Just last […]

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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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  • Justice for Political Dissenters

    June 8, 2006

    As FIRE reported this week, NCATE, the largest national accreditor of education schools, has decided to drop the term “social justice” from its “dispositions” criteria for student graduation. FIRE’s objection is not that we as an organization are opposed to social justice—far from it. In fact, if anything, FIRE would define its mission as a critical part of social justice for college and university students and professors. After all, how can a society where speech, expression, or religion is not free be a just society? Clearly, though, there are people who disagree with FIRE; they believe that a just society […]

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  • John Leo Awards ‘Sheldons’ to the Richly Deserving

    May 1, 2006

    Those who follow John Leo’s columns know that he awards a yearly booby prize called the “Sheldon” (in dubious honor of former University of Pennsylvania President Sheldon Hackney, who presided over the famous “water buffalo” affair) to the university president who “does the most to look the other way when free speech is under assault on campus.” As Leo describes it, “the prize is a statuette that looks something like the Oscar, except that the Oscar shows a man with no face looking straight ahead, whereas the Sheldon shows a man with no spine looking the other way.” This year, […]

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  • The Media Condemn Censorship at NKU

    April 17, 2006

    Today, the Cincinnati Enquirer published an editorial concerning an incident at Northern Kentucky University (NKU) where a professor invited a class “to express their freedom-of-speech rights” to destroy a “Cemetery of Innocents,” an anti-abortion display consisting of 400 crosses and a sign explaining its purpose. The editorial is right on point in saying: Northern Kentucky University professor Sally Jacobsen overstepped her own rights and arrogantly stomped on the First Amendment rights of others when she invited students in her class to demolish an approved anti-abortion display on campus. As a teacher she has much to learn. Her own “outrage” at […]

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  • Washington State Rejects Political Litmus Test for Education Students

    February 28, 2006

    PULLMAN, Wash., February 28, 2006—Six months ago, Ed Swan feared that his teaching career would end before it started, merely because his ideology differed from that of his professors at Washington State University (WSU). Today, thanks to a campaign of public exposure by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), WSU has completely repealed the criteria it used to punish Swan. “WSU has finally done the right thing and abandoned its unconstitutional and unfair ‘dispositions’ requirements,” stated FIRE Interim President Greg Lukianoff. “This is a tremendous victory not just for Ed Swan, but for the freedom of thought and […]

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  • Get it in Writing

    December 28, 2005

    As 2005 comes to a close, I feel obligated to report on a disturbing new trend. Although the steady stream of cases we receive continues unabated, their nature has, thankfully, become less and less egregious since FIRE’s beginnings. Lately, however, FIRE has been seeing a new variation in the reports we get—a complete and utter disregard for the due process rights of students. At the absolute minimum, in disciplinary cases, a public college or university must provide students a notice of the charges against them, an explanation of the evidence for the charges, and a chance to dispute the evidence. […]

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  • Wendy McElroy Lauds FIRE

    December 21, 2005

    Friend of FIRE Wendy McElroy has an excellent article on foxnews.com about FIRE’s new Guide to First-Year Orientation and Thought Reform on Campus. McElroy writes: The Guide is yet another indication that political correctness is faltering on campuses across North America. To those who value the right of individuals to a conscience—that is, to judge right and wrong for themselves—this is welcome news. McElroy makes the case that political correctness, which she describes as the “belief that certain ideas and attitudes are improper and, so, should be discouraged or prohibited by punishing those who advance them,” has overtaken college campuses, […]

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  • Cal State’s Spineless Defense

    December 20, 2005

    FIRE’s case at Cal State San Bernardino is making national headlines today. An Associated Press piece is running across California, and the San Bernardino County Sun, the Riverside Press Enterprise, and several other media outlets have published their own stories on Cal State’s assault on religious liberty. FIRE’s own Greg Lukianoff has also been taking to the airwaves all day. All the news articles will continue to be archived on our case page, and if you peruse them, you’ll see one thing over and over: Cal State’s exceedingly lame justification for its actions. It goes a bit like this: Cal […]

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  • Daphne Patai on ‘Dispositions’

    December 20, 2005

    The invaluable Daphne Patai, who serves on FIRE’s Board of Directors, recently sent me some interesting thoughts on the abuse of “dispositions” and other vague, political standards in the modern academy. As loyal Torch readers know, students like Ed Swan at Washington State University and Bill Felkner at Rhode Island College have been the victims of universities’ attempts to require students to show a commitment to concepts like “social justice” seemingly without understanding that no two people likely agree exactly on what terms like that even mean. Such standards are an excuse for, and an invitation to, establishing official political […]

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  • FIRE’s Work Lauded in Newspapers Nationwide

    December 12, 2005

    It’s been a good couple of days for Justice Brandeis’ maxim that “sunlight is the best disinfectant.” Thanks to articles in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, news of FIRE’s efforts to disinfect the swamps of repression currently passing for American universities is reaching an ever-increasing number of people.   On Sunday, The New York Times covered our recent victory at William Paterson University. (Read it at the Times website if you are a TimesSelect subscriber.) The article by Peter Applebome ran on the front page of the Metro section and thoroughly denounced […]

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  • Washington State Rejects Mob Censorship—Finally

    December 12, 2005

    Washington State University (WSU) has spent much of 2005 making a name for itself as one of the premier schools in the country for unreasonable, unconstitutional, and frankly shameful censorship. Therefore it’s reason to celebrate that WSU has seemingly given up on protecting the “right” of audience members to shout down and physically threaten cast members of a play—the subject of today’s FIRE press release. As we detail in the release, WSU repeatedly insisted that the hecklers who shouted down and threatened cast members of student playwright Chris Lee’s Passion of the Musical (a parody of The Passion of the […]

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  • Victory for Freedom of Expression at Washington State

    December 12, 2005

    PULLMAN, Wash., December 12, 2005—Thanks to a campaign led by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), Washington State University (WSU) has rejected the “heckler’s veto” and warned students not to disrupt a controversial play. WSU financed and organized the disruption of a different play by the same student playwright earlier this year. “WSU has apparently been embarrassed into respecting free artistic expression,” stated FIRE Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Greg Lukianoff. “It is long past time that WSU recognized that shouting down a play, like wantonly tearing down controversial artwork, is the very opposite of free speech.” […]

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  • Your ‘Guide’ to Fighting Thought Reform on Campus

    November 11, 2005

    If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us. —West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943) These words recognize that the freedom of conscience is an inviolable right provided to Americans by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Tragically, however, many colleges […]

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  • Indefensible Dispositions

    October 19, 2005

    As the “dispositions” controversy rages on at Washington State (see also John Leo’s excellent column in this week’s edition of U.S. News & World Report), the defenders of ideological indoctrination are starting to step forward. Predictably, the argument follows the tired pattern of swearing loyalty to fairness and the First Amendment, but then following up with a qualifier that swallows the rule. “I love the First Amendment, but—.”   In the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Dawn Shinew, a faculty member in the education department at WSU wrote to defend her program. Unfortunately, the Daily News does not make its articles available […]

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  • Washington State’s Latest Spin

    October 19, 2005

    To its credit, the student newspaper at Washington State University seems to be holding its administrators’ feet to the fire about the recent departure of Vice President for Student Affairs Charlene Jaeger (mentioned on The Torch here). In a recent article, Daily Evergreen reporter Brian Everstine pressed university president V. Lane Rawlins (whose administration has refused to grant justice to students Chris Lee and Ed Swan) on why he requested Jaeger’s resignation. Here are the relevant paragraphs: Charlene Jaeger’s resignation was the result of restructuring in the Office of Student Affairs, WSU President V. Lane Rawlins said on Thursday afternoon. […]

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  • Hey, Justice Scalia: Stay Away from Washington State!

    October 12, 2005

    There is clearly something deeply wrong at Washington State University—and things are getting worse, not better, as FIRE points out in today’s press release. Earlier this year, Washington State administrators organized and financed disruptive heckling of a student play that some found “offensive.” Despite significant and much-deserved negative media attention, Washington State President V. Lane Rawlins refused to admit he had done anything wrong Adding insult to injury, Washington State’s College of Education threatened to dismiss a conservative Christian student after he obliged a professor’s request that he make his views known in class. Like many education programs, the College […]

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  • Washington State University Continues Campaign of Repression

    October 12, 2005

    PULLMAN, Wash., October 12, 2005—In recent months, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has intervened twice at Washington State University to protect students’ freedom of expression.  After publicly proclaiming respect for their students’ rights, Washington State administrators have now made clear that, between their grading students on their politics and their paying for hecklers to disrupt student plays, liberty is still in dire straits in Pullman. “The latest developments at Washington State are quite revealing,” remarked FIRE President David French.  “After the administration twice refused to apologize for subsidizing disruptive hecklers and refused to guarantee that it wouldn’t […]

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  • The Trouble with ‘Dispositions’

    September 21, 2005

    This morning, FIRE launched its second press release in two weeks detailing controversies surrounding the so-called dispositions evaluation of teaching candidates. Two weeks ago, we addressed the Brooklyn College School of Education’s attempt to censor Professor K. C. Johnson after he criticized overtly ideological elements in the school’s own dispositions program. Today, FIRE has set its sights on Washington State University. Already embroiled in controversy after financing and planning a disruptive and threatening protest of a controversial play, the university (this time acting through its school of education) has used “dispositions” theory to punish a self-described conservative Christian student for […]

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  • Education Programs May Have a ‘Disposition’ for Censorship

    September 21, 2005

    PULLMAN, Wash., September 21, 2005—A new trend in campus censorship is emerging: this summer, Washington State University used “dispositions” theory to punish an education student for his political and religious expression. The university relented only after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) became involved. “Dispositions” theory, increasingly in vogue in education programs, requires professors to evaluate their students’ commitment to concepts such as “social justice” and “diversity” in conjunction with their actual scholastic achievement. Just last month, FIRE had to intervene when Brooklyn College professor K. C. Johnson was threatened with a secret investigation for questioning the use […]

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  • Grover Furr Ignores Facts, Again

    September 9, 2005

    In the comments section below my and Azhar Majeed’s Inside Higher Ed article, the infamous Grover Furr makes some outrageous accusations against my and FIRE’s writings.  He claims we do not “substantiate” our claims, that our articles are “dishonest” and that our articles “do not merit publication.”  Here is my response: Professor Furr, In claiming that my and Azhar Majeed’s article is “dishonest” and that we do not “substantiate” our claims, you make multiple unsubstantiated, dishonest, and willfully ignorant statements of your own.  FIRE documents all of its cases and provides access to that information through links to primary documents […]

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  • Smoking Gun at Washington State

    September 1, 2005

    Freedom of Information Act requests can be wonderful things. Several weeks ago, Washington State University student Chris Lee—the victim of a heckler’s veto at WSU when protestors disrupted the performance of his play, Passion of the Musical—made a formal request under state law for all university documents relating to the incident. Hidden within the 400 pages produced by the university was the smoking gun, the document that proves without a doubt that university officials not only paid for protestors to attend the play (something that we have known for some time), but they also helped plan the disruption. Rich Kelley, […]

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  • File Under ‘See No Evil’

    August 3, 2005

    Terry Caesar penned a column Monday on Inside Higher Ed lamenting the chilling effect speech codes have on professorial humor. Citing one of FIRE’s favorite examples, the former speech code at the University of Connecticut, he wrote: To relate an official response to some example of a joke, or even an unintended joke, on American campuses today is itself to appear to be telling a joke. Yet everybody knows speech codes that ban “inappropriately directed laughter” (say) are no joke. It’s not clear to me if a professor can be held accountable for a student who spontaneously tells a joke […]

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  • Washington State: The Story Gets Stranger and Stranger

    July 28, 2005

    Yesterday, I received the following e-mail from a student who attended the heckler-interrupted performance of the Passion of the Musical. The individual referred to as “Maldonado” is Brenda Maldonado, the administrator (an “Intercultural Student Development Coordinator” in the “Office for Campus Involvement”) who used university funds to purchase the hecklers’ tickets. This email comes from a student who alleges that he spoke with Maldonado during the performance: During the performance and while the hecklers were going full-swing, my friends and I (there were four of us total) were wondering aloud why the security personnel were utterly failing to do their […]

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  • The Authoritarian Communitarian Impulse

    July 27, 2005

    The Chronicle of Higher Education contains a fascinating account of an anthropology professor who spent a year posing as an undergrad student as part of a study of modern student life. Many of her findings were unsurprising (particularly for those of us who can still remember our own college days). Students are busy, focused on careers more than a love of learning, and they are animated by an overwhelming desire to have “fun.” The professor’s observations then led to this comment: That fun is a fundamental law of college life is no revelation to administrators who work closely with students, […]

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  • Mark Tapscott on Washington State University

    July 25, 2005

    Check out this article by Mark Tapscott on FIRE’s ongoing case at Washington State University.

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  • ‘Pity the Lion’

    July 19, 2005

    Late yesterday, Professor Fred Baumann forwarded David and me an email he had sent to president Rawlins at Washington State University concerning the university’s recent endorsement of the heckler’s veto. Interestingly, Fred’s clever and funny response exemplifies the kind of biting criticism and satire that is so likely to get you in trouble on the contemporary campus: Dear President Rawlins: Let’s see if I’ve got this straight. A controversial musical is performed by students on your campus. An administrator, a Ms. Maldonado, convinced that it conveys evil messages, buys tickets for like-minded students in order to have them disrupt it. […]

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  • Spokane Newspaper Denounces WSU Censorship

    July 19, 2005

    Mere hours after FIRE went public in defense of Washington State University student Chris Lee’s free speech rights, the newspaper most devoted to covering Washington State University wholeheartedly endorsed FIRE’s position in a powerful editorial. The editorial is even sweeter given that the paper in question, the Spokane Spokesman-Review, was responsible for running a fairly muddled story written last week without even consulting FIRE. But in “Rawlins wrong on free speech,” the Spokesman-Review editorial board correctly writes: In a college setting, students should be encouraged to explore and to push boundaries, to test ideas and to challenge norms. By caving […]

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  • Passion of the Heckler

    July 18, 2005

    As you can see on the FIRE homepage, we have just gone public with an incredible case at Washington State University. Not only did Washington State allow hecklers to disrupt student Chris Lee’s satirical musical Passion of the Musical because they were “offended” by it, but administrator Brenda Maldonado even bought tickets for them! (We have the documents to prove it.) And to top it all off, Washington State’s president, V. Lane Rawlins, thinks that exercising the heckler’s veto constitutes using the “rights of free speech in a very responsible manner.” Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. […]

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  • Washington State University Bankrolls Vigilante Censorship

    July 18, 2005

    PULLMAN, Wash., July 18, 2005—In a shameful distortion of the First Amendment, Washington State University has morally and financially supported disruptive heckling and threats at a controversial student play. Washington State went so far as to pay for hecklers to attend student playwright Chris Lee’s Passion of the Musical. It then allowed the hecklers to repeatedly disrupt the musical through shouts and threats of violence. Washington State’s president later defended the hecklers’ behavior as a “responsible” exercise of free speech. “Students have a right to leave a play, protest outside of the theater, and condemn a play in the newspaper. […]

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