University of Alaska Fairbanks: Complaint Over Student Newspaper’s Articles Results in Months-Long Harassment Investigation

Category: Free Speech
Schools: University of Alaska Fairbanks

University of Alaska Fairbanks student newspaper The Sun Star was subjected to sexual harassment investigations nearly a year after Professor Jensine Anahita filed complaints based on two articles published in April 2013. The first, a satirical article in the paper’s annual April Fool’s Day issue, described the university’s plan to construct a vagina-shaped building and included a picture from the 1998 PG-13 rated film Patch Adams. The second was an investigative report exploring hateful messages posted to the anonymous UAF Confessions Facebook page. The report included screenshots of messages on the page. After a lengthy investigation, UAF concluded that the articles were constitutionally protected speech. Anahita appealed the investigation’s conclusions, and UAF appointed an external attorney to review the investigation. Following a January 15, 2014, letter from FIRE, the reviewer confirmed that the articles enjoy full constitutional protection.

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    A professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks has finally lost her nutty, anti-First Amendment sexual harassment complaints against the school’s student newspaper for running a satirical piece about a vagina-shaped building and a straight news article concerning a Facebook page. It only took almost a year. Sine Anahita, a sociology professor and the coordinator of the school’s women and gender studies program, initially filed a sexual harassment complaint against the student paper, The Sun Star, in April 2013, reports the Student Press Law Center (SPLC). The complaint stemmed from an April 1, 2013 article in the student rag — that particular day called […]

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  • FIRE Explains Student Journalists’ Rights (VIDEO)

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  • VIDEO: University of Alaska Fairbanks Newspaper Investigated for Nearly a Year for Protected Speech

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    Last December, I wrote here on The Torch about a University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) professor’s repeated sexual harassment complaints against independent student newspaper The Sun Star. Two articles prompted the complaints: one satirical April Fool’s Day article about a “a new building in the shape of a vagina” and one investigative piece on the “UAF Confessions” Facebook page. After FIRE wrote to the university in January explaining the danger to a free press created by UAF’s months-long investigation into the newspaper’s protected expression, the investigation finally concluded with the correct outcome. The whole ordeal—spanning from April 2013 to February […]

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    Last summer, FIRE sounded the alarm about a shockingly broad definition of sexual harassment being pushed by the Departments of Education (ED) and Justice (DOJ) as a “blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country.” Announced at the conclusion of a year-long investigation into the University of Montana’s sexual assault policies and practices, the resolution agreement and findings letter the feds labeled a “blueprint” defined sexual harassment as “any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature,” including “verbal conduct” (i.e., speech). And this all-encompassing definition wasn’t just a general characterization of sexual harassment; rather, it was the exact policy language that ED and DOJ were requiring the University of Montana to adopt verbatim.

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  • At U. of Alaska Fairbanks, Months-Long Investigations of Student Newspaper Chill Speech

    December 12, 2013

    University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) independent student newspaper The Sun Star is being subjected to an investigation—again—after a faculty member who complained about the paper’s content appealed two separate findings clearing the newspaper of sexual harassment charges based on its content. Although the university has not formally disciplined the newspaper staff, the months-long and burdensome investigations of clearly protected speech are wearing down the newspaper’s editors and are likely to significantly chill future student speech. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner described the two articles that led to the complaints: The first was a satirical article in the newspaper’s April Fools’ “Fun Star” issue and written about […]

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