University of Wisconsin – Stout: Censorship, Referral to Threat Assessment Team, and Threat of Criminal Charges after Professor Puts Posters Outside Office Door

Category: Free Speech
Schools: University of Wisconsin – Stout

On September 16, 2011, Stout’s police chief removed a poster with a picture of Firefly actor Nathan Fillion and a quotation from the show from outside the office door of Professor James Miller. The police officer stated that the poster was unacceptable because it “refer[red] to killing” and “can be interpreted as a threat by others.” Days later, the same officer removed another posting outside Miller’s door that read “Warning: Fascism” and mockingly stated that “Fascism can cause blunt head trauma and/or violent death.” The university’s threat assessment team was activated by the posters despite their obviously satirical content, and Miller’s academic dean called him in to discuss the threat assessment team’s “concerns.” Under pressure from FIRE and Firefly fans, and after Firefly actors Fillion and Adam Baldwin began notifying their million-plus followers about the case, Chancellor Charles W. Sorensen and other administrators at first issued a statement defending its censorship, but finally folded and announced that Stout would no longer censor the posters. In December 2011, FIRE published a video about the case featuring an interview with legendary author Neil Gaiman, who also had alerted his 1.7 million followers about the case.