On Wednesday, FIRE’s Adam Kissel traveled through wintry weather to Binghamton University (BU) to deliver a speech on"Liberty in Peril: Speech Codes on our Nation’s College Campuses." The speech, which was followed by an hour-long question-and-answer period, discussed speech codes nationwide and drew particular attention to FIRE’s recent case at BU involving Andre Massena and BU’s Department of Social Work. Massena was threatened with suspension and then expulsion after he posted flyers around campus that criticized the Binghamton Housing Authority’s director, David Tanenhaus, and criticized the Department of Social Work for having hired him. Although the department dropped the charges against Massena under pressure from FIRE, it seems that a number of professors in the department have continued to attack him through other means. FIRE is investigating these allegations of retaliation, and Adam called on the BU administration to take them very seriously.
Adam’s lecture came at an appropriate time because students at BU have begun to see trends in the department’s actions in censoring and "advancing" (their Orwellian term for expelling) students who dissent—and while some students in the department still fear retaliation, others are starting to fight back. One Social Work student, who had graduated just that day, stated that she finally felt free to criticize the department. She told the story of being reprimanded for cultural insensitivity and racism when she and other students remarked that they could not understand the English of a non-native job candidate. She also said that individual students were being pressured by the department to remove their names from a petition against Tanenhaus.
The Binghamton Review, a student-run journal at BU, has published two articles on Massena’s case and was present to document Adam’s speech, along with the student newspaper, the Pipe Dream. The Pipe Dream and Binghamton’s FOX and ABC affiliates also held pre-event interviews with Adam.
Also on hand was the blog Essential Dissent, which recorded the event, embedded below.
On Monday, we will have Adam’s entire speech available for download in mp3 format as part of our podcasting series FIREside Chats. For the latest news on Binghamton University and Andre Massena, please click here.