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 in to the protesters, Rawlins followed the footsteps of Stephen Jordan, who as Eastern Washington University president this spring tried, on thin pretext, to block controversial Colorado professor Ward Churchill from speaking on campus before relenting. EWU survived Churchill. WSU will outlast playwright Lee. Rather than encourage what FIRE calls “the heckler’s veto,” Rawlins should promote a variety of ideas—and order security guards to evict misbehaving playgoers at all times.
Unfortunately, there are some details wrong in the Spokesman-Review editorial—for instance, it misleadingly calls FIRE “a watchdog organization involved in conservative campus issues.” I’ll admit I’m not sure what defending a play making fun of The Passion of the Christ has to do with conservatism—much less our cases at Seminole Community College, the University of New Mexico, or the University of New Hampshire, just to name a few. While we certainly defend conservatives, many of our cases also involve liberal students—or, like the one at UNH and, I would argue, this one, defy political categories altogether.
Even so, the whole editorial is definitely worth reading.