Weekly Media Round-up: FIRE’s Defense of Satire and Political Expression on Full Display

By on October 24, 2008

Earlier this week, FIRE blogged and issued a press release about Lone Star CollegeTomball’s threats against the school’s Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) chapter for distributing a satirical and entirely protected "gun-safety" flyer. After pointing out the college’s exploitation of the tragedies at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois as a way to silence protected speech, we also castigated the administration for contemplating punishing YCT with probation or outright dissolution. As Adam pointed out in plain terms, "there is simply nothing to investigate and not a single reason to censor."

Lone Star’s completely unreasonable response has drawn the ire of numerous blogs around the country, with more popping up each day. Todd Zywicki, writing at the Volokh Conspiracy, quotes Adam’s blog and tears into the Lone Star administration’s short-sightedness in trying to stifle a top-ten list from being viewed by other students. Says Zywicki, "If we are dealing with a bona fide threat, that of course is one thing. But c’mon, jokes about giving guns to monkeys and ‘don’t look into the barrel of your gun to inspect it’ could lead to disciplinary action against these kids? Absurd." Absurd indeed!

Zywicki is far from the only one who thinks so, as evidenced by tips in such blogs as the Houston Press, Rational Review, OneNewsNow, and a host of other blogs and news sites. (Winner for best blog title of the bunch? That would be Pirate King, in a landslide.) Most amusingly, Frank J., the originator of the oh-so-dangerous top-ten list, has weighed in, offering support to the YCT, and pointing out that, if anything, "[the ad is] actually making fun of conservative bravado", as much as anything else. Responding to Lone Star attorney Brian S. Nelson’s defense that even a humorous mention of guns brings unacceptable levels of "fear and concern" to the campus, he retorts, "So basically you can have the First Amendment and the Second Amendment but don’t try to combine the two into one freedom peanut butter cup and talk about guns, because that’s verboten." Hopefully this won’t be true for long at Lone Star, and FIRE will continue to follow this case.

People reading The Torch the last couple of days by now are aware of the ongoing controversy at Cornell University, in which an administrator for the College of Engineering removed a student group’s pro-life display from the Engineering Quad because she personally disapproved of its content. FIRE has been out in front on this issue, and Adam’s coverage of the incident has been cited across numerous blogs, including Townhall.com. (Be sure to look at the pictures in the display, which can hardly be called incendiary.)

FIRE’s efforts to protect political speech on campus in the run-up to the election continue to garner attention. This week, the Student Press Law Center published an article noting the release of FIRE’s 2008 Policy Statement on Political Activity on Campus, which has been widely disseminated in the days since its release. (Among other places, we sent it to the College of St. Catherine, given all the nonsense taking place there of late.) The SPLC’s article also highlights our involvement at the universities of Illinois and Oklahoma, which has led to the clarification of strenuous rules restricting the political expression of tens of thousands of students, faculty, and staff. On a related note, Greg’s recent Huffington Post column, also covering recent election season abuses of speech, has been widely tipped across the blogosphere and numerous news aggregate sites (not to mention republished at Yahoo! News). See also this blogger’s "attaboy!" for our stand on the University of Nebraska’s recent cancellation of an upcoming appearance by Bill Ayers.

Finally, FIRE’s presence at the University of Delaware (UD) continues to be felt, this time with an editorial in the Review, the student newspaper. The editorial focuses on the recent establishment of a Diversity Task Force at UD, and notes our intervention at UD last year over the university’s ResLife program, which pressured students to adopt highly specific and politicized views on diversity and a host of other issues. Be sure to read all the way to the bottom for Adam’s addendum in the comments sectionincluding a clarification on the idea of America as a "melting pot" of various cultures.

Schools: Lone Star College-Tomball Cornell University University of Delaware