This Week in the News: Federal Harassment Bill Is Back

By on January 7, 2011

The first week of 2011 has been eventful for FIRE.

The "Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act" is back in the news and will most likely be reintroduced in Congress this year. FIRE Chairman Harvey Silverglate explained why the bill is unnecessary and would restrict a wide swath of protected expression if enacted in an article for Forbes.com. Reason editor-in-chief Matt Welch points to Harvey’s article over at Hit & Run.

Meanwhile, Raju Chebium, in an article for DailyRecord.com, cites Greg’s opposition to the proposed legislation on the ground that it will lead to even greater censorship on college campuses. Bill co-sponsor Representative Rush Holt argues that at least the new legislation "doesn’t imprison students for teasing or bullying their classmates."

FIRE’s annual speech code report, Spotlight on Speech Codes 2011: The State of Free Speech On Our Nation’s Campuses, continues to make the news. Erica Perez, an investigative reporter focusing on higher education for California Watch, wrote an excellent piece about how no California institutions in our report fully protect expressive rights, with 64% earning red lights and 36% earning yellow lights. She also cites examples of policies that caused certain California institutions to receive such poor ratings, while noting one positive free speech development in California: San Francisco State University getting rid of its free speech zone.

Across the country in snowy New Hampshire, Brendan Woods wrote a column for The Dartmouth praising his university (one of only twelve green-light institutions in our Spotlight report) for respecting free speech and criticizing other Ivy League institutions for failing to do so.

In its January/February 2011 issue, the Utne Reader summarizes Greg’s and Will’s recent article in Free Inquiry about campus censorship against speech running afoul of the politically correct culture on so many campuses. Some examples of censorship mentioned in the Utne Reader article are Yale University’s decision to remove controversial cartoon drawings of Mohammed from a book about the censorship of those very cartoons and New York University threatening to ban a discussion about the Mohammed cartoons.

Torch readers will remember that last Wednesday, Valerie Strauss of The Washington Post wrote for her blog The Answer Sheet about the University of Virginia’s rapid transformation from a red-light to a green-light university. On Monday, Fredericksburg.com and Brendan Fitzgerald of C-VILLE joined the ranks of recent authors and publications to spread the good news, extolling UVa’s newfound commitment to freedom of expression. We welcome the continued coverage of UVa’s positive turn.

In other news, Diane Schrader, writing for NewsRealBlog, researched recent FIRE cases and documented what she considered to be the 10 most egregious violations of individual rights with updates in 2010.

Finally, calls for donations to FIRE continued up until the new year. Asking her readers to donate to FIRE, Amy Alkon, in a post for her Advice Goddess Blog, cited an earlier piece by Ann Snyder about FIRE’s involvement in protecting freedom of expression at Temple University, San Francisco State University, and Penn State.