Weekly Media Round-up: The Washington Times, Stanley Fish, and the Federal Government Weigh in on Campus Free Speech

By on August 15, 2008

Last week, Brandon and I chronicled the widespread coverage given to the ruling in the case of DeJohn v. Temple University by various daily publications, blogs, radio stations, and legal news sites around the United States. This week the ruling received a further boost in an editorial published in The Washington Times. As I mentioned in an earlier blog this week, the editorial correctly understands the ruling as a major victory for free speech rights on campus, and a warning signal to universities maintaining overly restrictive speech codes. The editorial also cites the work done by FIRE’s Spotlight in exposing the widespread abuses of free speech carried out by countless university administrations.

This week also saw the release of Save the World on Your Own Time, scholar Stanley Fish’s latest book on the subject of free speech. As Adam noted in his blog yesterday, Fish does not mention FIRE in the book, but does give attention to Evan Coyne Maloney’s documentary feature Indoctrinate U, a film which heavily features FIRE cases and our speech code research. One case cited by Fish is our case at California Polytechnic State University, which arose from a student posting a flyer that had the word "plantation" on it, leading to a conviction for "disruption of a campus event," and eventually to a federal civil rights lawsuit filed against the university. Fish devotes five pages of his book to Maloney’s film-no small amount of attention for this slender, 178-page volume.

Finally, no round-up would be complete without a hat tip to Chuck Norton at the IUSB Vision Weblog. This week Norton, a tireless voice in the effort to clear Keith John Sampson’s name at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, linked readers to a 2003 letter from the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Education on FIRE’s website, warning universities not to adopt overly broad definitions of harassment in their speech codes. Specifically, the OCR letter states that true harassment "must include something beyond the mere expression of views, words, symbols or thoughts that some person finds offensive." Given Kelly’s blog earlier today on Congress’ largely symbolic but nonetheless reassuring affirmation of the need for free speech and thought in the academy’s marketplace of ideas, Norton’s citation is prescient.