This op-ed was published on Monday, March 23, 2015 in the Daily Journal.
In Walker v. Sons of Confederate Veterans, due for oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court Monday, the respondent will argue that a private organization should be able to have a specialty license plate with the Confederate battle flag on it. On the other side, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Board contends that license plates constitute government speech because the state government controls their production. The state, therefore, may choose not to approve a Confederate flag, which many Texans find offensive, as part of a specialty license plate design.» Read More
Proposed ‘Victim and Survivor Bill of Rights’ Further Jeopardizes New York Students’ Due Process Rights
New York’s proposed budget for 2015–16 reportedly contains provisions that should concern due process advocates—namely, the codification of an “affirmative consent” standard for college students engaged in sexual activity and a “Victim and Survivor Bill of Rights” that appears to preclude accused students from being presumed innocent until proven guilty. Brooklyn College professor KC Johnson details several problems with the “Bill of Rights” in a column for Minding the Campus posted yesterday.» Read More
Category: The Torch
Before President Barack Obama entered politics, he taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago, home of one of the nation’s top law schools. When he took the oath of office as President, he appeared to have theoretical knowledge that would help him to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
So it is disheartening that President Obama missed the opportunity to affirm the basic principles of free speech and due process in a Huffington Post interview, when asked about the recent incident at the University of Oklahoma (OU) involving fraternity members reciting a racist chant on a bus.» Read More
One Brown University student explained her recent decision to leave a debate about sexual assault thusly: “I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs.” In seeking to avoid ideas with which she disagrees, this student is far from alone—and this depressingly widespread sentiment is endangering open discourse on college campuses. Journalist Judith Shulevitz wrote in The New York Times on Sunday about the increasing demands from college students who want “safe spaces” where they will be shielded not just from physical danger, but from ideas that they find upsetting.» Read More
Jeremiah True, a student at Reed College in Portland, has reported that he was banned from his Humanities 110 classroom by Professor Pancho Savery because of statements he made about rape culture that made others in the class uncomfortable. In particular, True said he challenged the controversial statistic that one in five college women are victims of attempted or completed sexual assault. Accounts of True’s classroom expression and behavior differ among those speaking to the press. But to FIRE’s knowledge, no one has challenged the legitimacy of an email that Savery allegedly sent to True, excerpts of which True has published. Without clarification from Reed, FIRE believes this email could substantially chill student expression on campus.» Read More
FIRE has written before about the difficulties that American universities have encountered in upholding their commitments to freedom of expression on satellite campuses operated in countries that restrict speech. Often, it seems that American institutions advertise American-style academic freedom abroad, but deliver only what their host countries will allow—which is, in many cases, not much. The United Arab Emirates’ recent denial of entry to New York University (NYU) professor Andrew Ross is just the latest example of this kind of failure on foreign campuses, and it demonstrates that institutions of higher education need to be more forthcoming about what they can provide to students and professors seeking unfettered discourse—and what they can’t.» Read More
A former high-level administrator at Chicago State University alleged in a statement filed today in federal court that Chicago State President Wayne Watson pressured her to file a false sexual harassment complaint against Professor Philip Beverly, an outspoken faculty critic of Watson’s administration.
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On Tuesday, the Supreme Court of New Jersey held that a section of the state’s bias intimidation law was unconstitutionally vague because it allowed for a defendant to be convicted if his or her victim was intimidated and “reasonably believed” that he or she was targeted on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, or ethnicity. The law did not require that the defendant actually be motivated by the target’s membership in a protected class. The court’s decision that the state cannot punish conduct based solely on another person’s subjective response to that conduct may be a useful tool in the fight for free expression and due process on campus.» Read More
Earlier in the month, students William Jergins, Joey Gillespie, and Forrest Gee filed a First Amendment lawsuit against Utah’s Dixie State University, the eighth and most recent suit filed as part of FIRE’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project.» Read More
About five years ago, when I was a graduate student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), I tried to start a student group for nontheistic students (atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, and so forth) called the Secular Student Alliance (SSA). I quickly discovered that RPI had a policy of denying funding to political and religious student groups (of which they considered SSA one), despite funding all kinds of other student groups.» Read More