This Week in the News: The Toxic Mixture of OCR Regulations and Campus Speech Codes, and Whistleblowing UCLA Professor Back in the News

By June 17, 2011

FIRE’s opposition to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights’ (OCR’s) recent policy guidance to colleges and universities is still in the news. This week, Greg published an article in The Huffington Post (a version of the article also appeared in The Daily Caller) arguing that OCR’s new guidance for addressing sexual harassment and sexual assault on campus threatens to create "a perfect storm for rights violations" by encouraging universities to enforce overbroad harassment codes and ignore individual rights.

Torch readers may remember the ordeal of Dr. James Enstrom, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) professor who was forced to fight for his job after UCLA retaliated against him for exposing 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. Peter Wood, in The Chronicle of Higher Education noted the dangerous threat to academic freedom Enstrom’s case represents.

In other free speech news, Michael Mayday wrote an article in The Daily Caller about two separate rulings in which the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that the public schools in those cases could not punish students for their online speech, made off-campus. Will was quoted praising the rulings, noting that high school speech cases often leak into the university setting, despite the fact that courts have held time and again that free speech protections should be at their strongest in the higher education setting.

Lastly, the state of Tennessee passed a draconian law that will introduce criminal penalties for posting online images that "frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress." The bill, which was meant to address severe cases of cyberbullying, hasunsurprisinglymet with outrage from numerous experts, including Greg, who called the bill "almost comically unconstitutional" in an article by Steven Nelson in The Daily Caller.