This Week in the News: Another Busy Week for FIRE

By February 11, 2011

The first full week of February was characteristically busy for FIRE.

Greg’s Huffington Post article, "The 12 Worst Colleges for Free Speech," made the news for the third consecutive week, with two articles published about Yale University’s placement in Greg’s "dirty dozen." Sam Lasman, writing for Yale’s student newspaper, the Yale Daily Newsencouraged Yale to improve its free speech protections and foster an atmosphere of open and vigorous debate. Meanwhile, an editorial in the same newspaper disagreed with Yale’s placement on the list in part because of the existence of the famous Woodward Report, the work of a Yale committee led by historian C. Vann Woodward in the 1970s, which declared that "the paramount obligation of the university" is to protect all university members’ right to free expression. Unfortunately, the Report, authored in the 1970’s, has not stopped Yale from implementing repressive speech codes and, even worse, trampling students’ and faculty members’ rights to freedom of speech over the last decade, solidifying Yale’s place on Greg’s list. 

Now that Arizona State University (ASU) has earned a "green light" rating, FIRE is focusing on reforming the speech codes of ASU’s fellow public institutions, including the University of Arizona (UA). Eliza Molk quotes Sam’s hope that UA — a public institution bound by the First Amendment — will reform its policies in a column about UA’s "red light" rating for the Arizona Daily Wildcat, UA’s student newspaper.

Speaking of "green light" institutions, Michael F. Cochrane, writing for the Daily Press (Hampton Roads, Va.) declared that the University of Virginia and The College of William & Mary’s "green light" ratings should be matters of state pride. FIRE, of course, couldn’t agree more!

Ara Demirjian, writing for Forum, Clarment McKenna College’s (CMC’s) student newspaper, lists Greg as one of the "stellar speakers" CMC brought/will bring to campus in 2011. (Greg spoke there on February 2nd.) Meanwhile, on Andrew Sullivan’s Atlantic blog The Daily Dish, Senior Editor Conor Friedersdorf challenges CMC’s policy (February Speech Code of the Month) on "Acceptable E-Mail Usage" in his post "The Right To Disparage My Political Views."

Greg also spoke at California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) this Monday. An article by Amanda Sedo in the Mustang Daily, Cal Poly’s student newspaper, indicated that students were motivated by Greg’s talk about the nonpartisan nature of the First Amendment, the ridiculousness of speech codes, and the importance of combating offensive speech with more speech.

Controversy gripped the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa after a white fraternity member reportedly shouted racial epithets at an African-American student last week. Robert was quoted in an article by Allie Grasgreen of Inside Higher Education about the situation. Elsewhere, Robert offered his opinion concerning the recent debate at North Carolina State University (N.C. State) over putting a student group in charge of overseeing the campus’ "Free Expression Tunnel." In a letter to N.C. State’s student newspaper, The Technician, Robert commends the majority of students for rejecting student oversight of the tunnel (via a recent poll) and argues that students will benefit much more by answering "offensive" speech with more speech, instead of censorship. 

On Monday, Sam wrote about how Middlebury College’s new "Aunt Des" videos violate Middlebury’s own overbroad harassment policy. JP Allen reflects upon the irony of his school breaking its own harassment policy, while recognizing FIRE’s excellent credentials, non-partisan nature, and strong commitment to preserving free speech in a piece for Middblog. 

Finally, Northern Kentucky University (NKU) has recently proposed a policy regulating the speech rights of uninvited guests on campus. In an article for The Northerner, the independent student newspaper of NKU, Matt Brewer mentions FIRE’s praise of Dean of Students Jeffrey Waple for recognizing that the university cannot ban speakers on the basis of the content of their speech.