FIRE scored another victory for free speech and academic freedom this week with its successful intervention on behalf of Kerry Laird, an instructor at Temple College (TX) who was ordered to remove a religiously themed cartoon and a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche translating to "God is dead" from his office door. Within half an hour of receiving FIRE’s letter, Temple College President Glenda O. Barron swiftly and commendably reversed the order and reaffirmed Laird’s constitutional rights at the public college.
Scott Jaschik, writing for Inside Higher Ed, ably captures both the gravity of the constitutional issues at stake at Temple and the absurdity of the college’s initial response. Jaschik opens, "Whether or not ‘God is dead,’ as Nietzsche famously argued in The Gay Science, the philosopher’s famous quote can once again be displayed on the doors of faculty offices at Temple College, in Texas." Jaschik goes on to note FIRE’s letter to the Temple administration pointing out their untenable position and, as we said in our letter, "the embarrassment of fighting against the Bill of Rights" sure to follow if they dug in their heels in the dispute. The Temple Daily Telegram also carries a compelling story on the incident and FIRE’s latest victory.
In the blogs, Todd Zywicki, writing for The Volokh Conspiracy, commends both FIRE’s decisive action and Temple’s principled volte-face; a blog hosted by the Dallas Morning News, as well as the Rational Review, also carry word of Temple’s reversal.
FIRE’s speedy victory at Temple is a useful reminder of the ease with which countless colleges and universities can restore free expression on their campuses, and in doing so restore their good names in the academic community. Case in point: Brandeis University, which for more than a year now has refused to acknowledge its appalling treatment of Professor Donald Hindley. Daniel Ortner’s scathing column in The Brandeis Hoot illustrates in no uncertain terms the damage the administration’s actions have had on Brandeis’ public image and its ability to attract top students and faculty, noting in particular our full-page ad in U.S. News & World Report‘s current "America’s Best Colleges" issue. Be sure to read Ortner’s column in full; a single choice quote simply doesn’t do it justice.
Elsewhere, the launch of FIRE’s new journal, The Lantern, along with Adam’s in-depth article on the University of Delaware’s Reslife Program, continues to make waves, showing up most recently in a blog hosted by the Richmond Times-Dispatch and a number of other blogs, among them the aptly named Colleges to Avoid. And finally, an article in College News heavily features FIRE’s 2008 Policy Statement on Political Activity on Campus and FIRE’s help in securing the rights of political expression for tens of thousands of students and faculty at the University of Illinois and the University of Oklahoma, among other campuses. The timing of the article—published the day after America’s presidential election—serves as a reminder that while this historic election may be in the rear view mirror, our policy statement will serve as a helpful guide to political expression on campus for a long time to come.