Weekly Media Round-up: FIRE’s Expertise Widely Cited, and Pressure Grows on Brandeis and Third Circuit Schools

By on October 3, 2008

Today’s Chicago Tribune featured an article examining the widening controversy over restrictions on political speech and activity at the University of Illinois, which go so far as to suggest that displaying a candidate’s bumper sticker on one’s car is out of bounds. FIRE is closely monitoring this case, as well as a similar situation at the University of Oklahoma, where all manner of political speech has been banned from the university network. FIRE has sent letters to both universities, asking for immediate clarification of the policies consistent with each school’s legal obligation to uphold the First Amendment on campus. Hopefully the increased exposure given to these FIRE cases by the Tribune will remind each university of the need for full freedom of expression on campus, especially in the final weeks before the presidential election. Be sure to read the full text of the article, and check out Brandon’s Torch entry for extended commentary on this issue.

As I mentioned on The Torch last week, a recent column by free speech advocate and FIRE Board of Advisors member Nat Hentoff has been making the rounds in syndicated newspapers and blogs around the country, highlighting the abuses of free expression and academic freedom at Brandeis University. The column continues to generate attention this week, after being published in the The Washington Times and mentioned on Phi Beta Cons and a handful of other blogs, bringing further attention to Brandeis’ shameful treatment of Professor Donald Hindley. FIRE’s efforts to clear his name and restore liberty to the university continue.

In the wake of last month’s pivotal ruling from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in DeJohn v. Temple University, FIRE this week sent letters to the twenty public schools in the Third Circuit that currently receive a red-light rating. The widely distributed letter has garnered mention on various blogs, including (once again) a nod from Phi Beta Cons. We hope that as the schools in the Third Circuit are forced to reexamine their unconstitutional speech codes, the public pressure will only escalate.

FIRE’s insights on the threats to academic freedom inherent in the academy’s increasing reliance on adjunct professors were cited, as Adam discussed on Tuesday, in an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The article mentions two cases from 2007 that FIRE was involved with: those of Steven Bitterman at Southwestern Community College, and of June Sheldon in the San Jose/Evergreen Community College District. A blog hosted by The Ithacan, the student newspaper of Ithaca College, points to the Chronicle article, and cites FIRE as one of a "number of national organizations now mobilizing to protect faculty and adjuncts who discuss ‘hot-button issues’ like ‘the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, religion, and homosexuality.’"

Meanwhile, the National Association of Scholars continues to hit hard when it comes to residence life programs that see themselves as "therapeutic" treatments for students’ supposedly incorrect thoughts and values, pointing again to our case at the University of Delaware. FIRE Co-founder and Chairman Harvey Silverglate sounded off on the paternal instincts of the university in a letter to the Wall Street Journal, and Students for Liberty congratulated Greg Lukianoff on being the inaugural recipient of the Playboy Foundation’s Freedom of Expression Award. Many thanks from FIRE for their appreciation!

Schools: San Jose City College Brandeis University University of Oklahoma University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign University of Delaware