This Week in the News: Hearings Begin for Whistleblowing UCLA Professor

By April 8, 2011

Hearings for University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) professor and scientist James Enstrom began on Monday of this week. Torch readers will remember that Dr. Enstrom is fighting for his job after UCLA retaliated against him for his exposure of a California Air Resources Board (CARB) scientist with a fake Ph.D. as well as other staffing irregularities, and for Enstrom’s scientific critique of findings by CARB that were used to create air pollution regulations in the state.FIRE’s efforts to protect Enstrom’s rights have been picked up by writers for a number of outlets, including The Chronicle of Higher Education, Instapundit, Carpe Diem, Hot Air, Canada Free Press, and The Blaze. Former FIRE President David French also covered the case for Phi Beta Cons on National Review Online and Reason‘s Nick Gillespie has continued Reason‘s coverage as well. The caseincluding the audio from the Reason.tv videoalso was featured on The John and Ken Show based in the Los Angeles area (KFI, AM 640).

The other big story of the week was that of student Ethel Borel-Donohue of Sinclair Community College (SCC) in Dayton, Ohio, who was banned from distributing literature about abortion, birth control, and breast cancer to her classmates after class. FIRE has been involved in this case since February, most recently issuing a press release on Wednesday (reprinted by The Moral Liberal) protesting SCC’s treatment of Borel-Donohue and urging SCC to revise its unconstitutional ban on distributing flyers (see Section IV.3).

Since our press release, Borel-Donohue’s story has sparked national attention. William R. Toler of The Campus Communicator (an online student newspaper covering Craven Community College in North Carolina) and Emily Esfahani Smith of The Blaze both came out in support of FIRE’s principled defense of Borel-Donohue’s constitutional rights. The Beaumont Enterprise (Beaumont, TX), the Connecticut Post of Bridgeport, CT (reprinted in Greenwich Time of Greenwich, CT, the Lancaster Eagle Gazette of Lancaster, OH, and Dayton Daily News of Dayton, OH), Phi Beta Cons on National Review Online, Care2, wdtn.com (Dayton, OH), and WTVG-TV (Toledo, OH) also mentioned FIRE’s defense of free speech in their coverage of the case.

In national news, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) sent a "Dear Colleague" letter on Monday to federally funded colleges and universities regarding those schools’ obligations under federal regulations to address sexual harassment and sexual assault. Unfortunately, as FIRE pointed out in a statement in response to the letter, the letter fails to mention that all efforts to combat sexual harassment must respect students’ First Amendment rights at public universities and promises of freedom of expression to students at private ones. Inside Higher Ed‘s Allie Grasgreen wrote an article about the content of the letter and different parties’ views on it, including FIRE’s concern that universities attempting to comply with the letter will adopt sexual harassment policies that don’t fully respect freedom of speech. Stay tuned for more on the OCR’s letter next week.

Finally, in Robert’s neck of the woods, the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy on Monday launched its North Carolina College Finder, nccollegefinder.org, intended to give college-bound students better information about the state’s colleges and universities. Among the ratings criteria are FIRE’s Spotlight speech code ratings for every university in North Carolinaalso featured last year in a report by the Pope Center.

Schools: Sinclair Community College University of California, Los Angeles Cases: Sinclair Community College: Unconstitutional Ban on Distributing Literature After Class University of California at Los Angeles: Non-Reappointment of Controversial Professor