This Week in the News: Whistleblowing UCLA Professor Still Making Headlines and Hamilton College Wins Muzzle Award

By on April 15, 2011

UCLA’s gross violation of the rights of Dr. Enstrom, the whisteblowing professor fighting for his job after being told he did not fit his department’s "mission," continued to elicit outrage in the media this week. Debra Saunders of the San Francisco Chronicle published both a column (reprinted in Townhall.com) and a shorter blog post (containing Reason.tv’s video on the case) criticizing the university’s actions. Also don’t miss Adam’s excellent interview about the case with Mike Slater of The Mike Slater Show.

Up north, Hamilton College earned a Muzzle Award for forcing all first-year male students to attend "She Fears You," a lecture by Keith Edwards that he described as an "emotional and cognitive intervention" aiming to teach that certain views about masculinity will be "no longer acceptable in any way." For those who missed Adam’s excellent post (reprinted by The Moral Liberal) on the topic, Muzzle Awards are "awarded" annually by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression to those who engage in "egregious or ridiculous affronts to free expression."

An article by Daniel P. Bader in the Utica Observer-Dispatch (Utica, NY) about Hamilton’s Muzzle Award features quotes from Adam and Hamilton College freshmen concerning the "She Fears You" controversy. Ronald Bailey of Reason.com also wrote about the controversy, as well as several other Muzzle Award winners, over at Hit & Run.

Torch readers will recall the plight of Sinclair Community College (SCC) student Ethel Borel-Donohue, who was banned from distributing literature about abortion, birth control, and breast cancer to her classmates after class. This week, Fergus Hodgson of WorldNetDaily wrote about FIRE’s defense of Borel-Donohue’s right to distribute literature after class and the pressure we’re placing on SCC to revise its unconstitutional ban on distributing flyers (see Section IV.3). Additionally, Sheila Liaugminas of MercatorNet pointed to segments of our press release from last week on the case in expressing her outrage at SCC.

FIRE filed an amici curiae brief on Monday with the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in the case of Barnes v. Zaccari, in which we asked the Eleventh Circuit to uphold a federal district court’s September 2010 ruling denying the defense of qualified immunity to former Valdosta State University (VSU) President Ronald M. Zaccari. For those who don’t remember this horrific case, President Zaccari expelled student Hayden Barnes on the grounds that he was a "clear and present danger" after he posted a collage page on Facebook protesting Zaccari’s proposed parking deck!

Greg wrote a column for The Huffington Post pointing to the formidable coalition of 15 organizations from across the political spectrum that have co-signed this brief, and the constitutional issues at stake in this case for students and administrators at public universities. Meanwhile, Ilya Shapiro of the Cato Institute, one of the 14 other organizations who signed the brief, criticized Zaccari’s actions and expressed his hope that the September 2010 ruling be upheld at Cato@Liberty. A blog post on JDSupra from the Cato Institute also argued that Zaccari should still be denied qualified immunity for his blatant abuse of presidential power.    

Speaking of the Supreme Court, Torch readers will remember FIRE’s extensive coverage of the Supreme Court’s decision last summer in CLS v. Martinez. This week, Michael De Groote of the Deseret News (Salt Lake City) wrote an extensive article, including a map from FIRE data as well as quotes from Greg and Adam, about the controversy over Christian groups on campus in the aftermath of the Martinez case.

Moving from the Supreme Court to the Capitol, Will, writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, once again tackles the proposed Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act. He eloquently argues that the proposed legislation would do little to prevent harassment above what is already being done, but would do a lot to chill protected speech by creating a vague standard for peer harassment that conflicts with Supreme Court precedent.

Heading over to the executive branch, On April 4, the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) sent the nation’s school officials a letter urging them to water down due process and other protections for students and staff accused of sexual harassment. FIRE issued a statement in response to the letter, in which he protested its failure to discuss the importance of balancing punishing sexual harassment with protecting free speech. This week, Hans Bader, writing for OpenMarket.org, mentioned FIRE’s criticism of the letter in his article lambasting the letter.

Azhar was recently quoted in an article in The Herald Journal (Logan, Utah) about free speech restrictions at Utah State University (USU). The article focused primarily on USU’s red-light "Responsibilities of Students" policy, which Azhar believes is vague and encompasses protected expression.

Adam spoke last week at another red-light school, Iowa State University. After the lecture, Matt Wettengel of Iowa State Daily quoted Adam in an article about some of Iowa State’s speech-chilling red- and yellow-light policies. In another article by Wettengel, Keith Bystrom of the Office of University Counsel argued that FIRE’s ratings are inaccurate and that our free speech concerns at Iowa State are overblown. FIRE, of course, disagrees with Bystrom’s assessment.

Finally, Jaclyn Hall, Associate Director of the Campus Freedom Network, was recently interviewed by Internships.com’s Eye of the Intern blog about FIRE’s ten-week Summer Internship Program for undergraduates. Jaclyn, a former FIRE intern herself, talked about how to get involved in the free speech movement, what prospective interns can do to stand out from the crowd, and how they can really shine during and, perhaps more importantly, after their internships.

Schools: Sinclair Community College Hamilton College University of California, Los Angeles Cases: Sinclair Community College: Unconstitutional Ban on Distributing Literature After Class Hamilton College: Thought Reform of ‘Pro-Rape’ Male Freshmen University of California at Los Angeles: Non-Reappointment of Controversial Professor