This Week in the News: Greg’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ Makes a Big Splash and ‘Spotlight’ Report is Still Hot

By on January 28, 2011

An East Coast blizzard was no match for FIRE’s determination to advance free speech this week.

Greg’s article in The Huffington Post (one of the most popular items right now, according to the front page ), "The 12 Worst Colleges for Free Speech," was cited multiple times in the news almost as soon as it appeared yesterday. Geoff Herbert of Syracuse, New York’s The Post-Standard  wrote about how Syracuse University College of Law’s ongoing prosecution of student Len Audaer for "harassment" and its speech-chilling policies, such as a ban on "offensive" e-mails, led Greg to put Syracuse University first on the list. Herbert further notes that Syracuse’s fellow New York institution, Binghamton University, is also on the list for suspending a social work student who had criticized a faculty member and expelling another apparently for innocent classroom expression. Karen of The Lonely Conservative also bashed Syracuse University, ironically commenting that Syracuse Chancellor Nancy Cantor must be extremely proud that her university was designated the worst violator of free speech.

Nikita Lalwani also wrote a piece for the Yale Daily News about Yale University’s unfortunate place in this list, a result of administrators censoring an image of Mohammed in a book and censoring a T-shirt that referred to Harvard students as "sissies." Meanwhile, Allison Kasic, writing for National Review Online’s Phi Beta Cons blog, was dismayed but not surprised to see that her alma mater, Bucknell University, was one of Greg’s "dirty dozen."

The Student Free Press Association and Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit both linked to Greg’s article, with Reynolds also linking to Robert’s article in Pajamas Media about the redundancies and speech-chilling nature of the "Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act of 2010."

Jeanne Hoffman also interviewed Robert for a KosmosOnline podcast this week. Robert reflected upon the state of free speech on campus, current cases, and what students and professors can do to promote free speech.

Robert also spoke with Hoffman about our latest annual speech code report, Spotlight on Speech Codes 2011: The State of Free Speech On Our Nation’s Campuses, which made the news for the sixth consecutive week! Sean Keister, in an article about CSU-Sacramento’s red-light rating for Sac State’s student newspaper The State Hornet, captured several reactions about the state of free speech on campus

FIRE also responded decisively to Syracuse University’s weak defense of its actions in Audaer’s case, writing that Syracuse had released a "statement so deceptive and dishonest that we are frankly shocked that Syracuse released it."

Across the nation in Palo Alto, California, Brendan O’Byrne reported on Stanford University’s past red-light rating in The Stanford Daily, Stanford University’s student newspaper. Stanford received its red-light rating because the speech policy on the use of White Plaza was password protected when the annual report was written. However, the policy is no longer password-protected, and Stanford was upgraded to yellow-light status just today, a rarity among California schools!

In other news, Marsha Sutton of La Jolla Light in California details the many noteworthy findings in our speech code report, and discusses the various issues of campus censorship that college students and faculty face today.

This week, I’m going to conclude with an excellent quote by David Moshman, a blogger for The Huffington Post. Reflecting upon the numerous comments Greg’s article received that had mistakenly equated the defense of free speech with conservatism, Moshman eloquently argues that free speech is truly a nonpartisan issue and that everyone should support intellectual freedom at our nation’s universities:

As many of the comments reveal, the defense of student First Amendment rights in higher education is commonly seen as a conservati­ve cause. Interestin­gly, the defense of student First Amendment rights in secondary education is generally seen as a liberal cause. There are historical and political reasons for this difference but there is no principled justificat­ion for it. As I have argued in my own blog, we should all support the intellectual­ freedom of all students and teachers at all levels of education. FIRE does an important part of this work, but of course there’s much more to be done.

Indeed, much more difficult work remains to be done to protect free speech on campus, and not just at U.S. colleges and universities. Yet, with allies like Moshman, FIRE’s job of advancing individual liberty is made much easier. Indeed, as FIRE often finds, most people outside of the university context do actually understand how important it is to preserve free speech on our nation’s campuses, although they often do not know the magnitude of the problem.