Another Busy Week For FIRE: Greg on ‘CLS,’ Censorship at Seton Hall, More on Free Speech at UVa, and a Victory at UC Berkeley

November 6, 2010

FIRE staff has spent yet another busy week defending individual rights on campus.

On Monday, Greg delivered a speech to the National Association of Scholars (NAS) that focused primarily on the Supreme Court’s CLS v. Martinez decision, in which the Court ruled that public universities may require student organizations to admit any student as a voting member or officer, even if that student openly disagrees with or is hostile to the group’s fundamental beliefs. Greg argued that this "discrimination" on the basis of belief is necessary for the survival of viewpoint-based groups, and that it is difficult for these groups to operate without official recognition. David Spett of Campus Progress agreed with Greg’s point about recognition in his excellent article summarizing the speech.

On Thursday, Greg delivered a riveting speech to young professionals in the Koch Associate Program. (I should know; I was in attendance!) He talked about the connection between freedom of speech and other freedoms, unconstitutional speech codes on campus, and some of the more ridiculous cases in which FIRE has been involved. His speech sparked great interest among Koch Associates about FIRE’s mission, with several people asking Greg and me for more information about FIRE.

Also on Thursday, Peter wrote a blog post ridiculing a resident assistant’s decision at Seton Hall University to ban all door decorations in response to recent incidents of vandalism. This blog post was quickly republished by the Student Free Press Association.

Last week, we sent out a press release congratulating the University of Virginia (UVa) for becoming just the 13th green-light school in our Spotlight database, joining its fellow Virginia public institution The College of William & Mary. This week, several articles in both city and college newspapers and blog posts have recognized UVa’s accomplishment and brought scrutiny to other public Virginia institutions for not reforming their speech codes.

The editorial board of James Madison University’s (JMU’s) newspaper The Breeze published an article urging the administration to follow UVa’s example and make JMU a green-light school. In a great op-ed for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, A. Barton Hinkle criticizes JMU, Virginia Tech, and especially George Mason University for their repressive speech codes. The article was republished in the Culpeper Star Exponent and the Media General News Services, and was also extensively cited by Ilya Somin on The Volokh Conspiracy. Additionally, Jack Marshall of Ethics Alarm laments the future state of journalism if future journalists are graduating from non-free speech friendly schools like JMU and GMU. Finally, Adam wrote a blog post about the attention that speech codes at Virginia universities are receiving in the press.

Moving north, the free speech fever has crossed the Potomac River into Washington, DC, where Christian Geoghagen cites FIRE in an article published in George Washington University’s (GWU’s) newspaper the GW Hatchet that both eloquently espouses the value of free speech and encourages the administration to reform its yellow-light speech codes.

And finally, across the country to the birthplace of the free speech movement, the University of California at Berkeley upheld free speech last Friday in a case involving a student cursing at a police officer. On October 22, a student got angry when he saw a police officer riding his bike in a "no-ride" zone and told him to "get off his f****** bike!" The officer erroneously charged him with "unauthorized conduct"click here for UC Berkeley’s actual Unauthorized Conduct policybut the Student Conduct and Community Standards office wisely dropped the charges. (For in-depth analysis on the incident, read Adam’s blog post.) Former FIRE intern and current UC Berkeley student Casey Given cites FIRE in his article this week about the incident for the Students for Liberty, UC Berkeley website.