Following the December 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, University of Rhode Island Associate Professor Erik Loomis posted criticism of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its Chief Executive Officer, Wayne LaPierre, to his Twitter account, including a tweet calling for LaPierre’s “head on a stick.” In response to the public controversy generated by these comments, URI President David Dooley issued a statement on December 18 stating that URI “does not condone acts or threats of violence.” FIRE wrote to Dooley on December 21 to make clear that Loomis’ statements did not qualify as true threats and were fully protected by the First Amendment. On December 28, Dooley issued a second statement, acknowledging that Loomis’ statements, however controversial, were constitutionally protected.
September 6, 2013
My favorite bumper sticker is an American flag with the caption: “Think. It’s patriotic.” That’s essentially what Steven Salaita, a professor of English at Virginia Tech, was trying to say when he posted commentary on Salon arguing against uncritical support of the military. But he chose to do so in a deliberately provocative way, framing his essay as an explanation for why he declined to donate his change (18 cents) from a convenience store purchase “to support the troops.” The result, according to The Washington Post, was a “backlash” against him that has grown from “outrage on social media into calls […]» Read More
Revisiting Twitter Controversy, University of Rhode Island President Issues New Statement Acknowledging First Amendment
December 28, 2012
University of Rhode Island (URI) President David Dooley issued a new statement this past Sunday regarding Associate Professor Erik Loomis’ recent criticism of the National Rifle Association. Following the tragic murders in Newtown, Connecticut, Loomis took to Twitter to sharply criticize the NRA. Among other statements, Loomis called for NRA Chief Executive Officer Wayne LaPierre’s “head on a stick.” Loomis’ hyperbole generated significant criticism, including calls for his firing and arrest. As a result, Loomis was questioned by police and called into a meeting with a URI administrator, and even reported receiving death threats. Dooley first addressed the situation in […]» Read More
December 19, 2012
Protecting controversial or offensive speech is what the First Amendment is all about. After all, no one tries to censor speech that they like. FIRE’s core mission is the defense of students and faculty from censorship, and as defenders of free speech on campus, we often defend the rights of people who have said things that others find inflammatory, even though FIRE takes no position on the speech in question. Since there’s no shortage of controversial speech on campus, you can imagine we’re pretty busy. That’s why we’re so appreciative when others join our cause and highlight threats to free […]» Read More