FIRE’s press release from yesterday details some of the cases that made 2005 FIRE’s busiest year ever. If 2005 made anything clear, it is that no student, regardless of his or her views, is safe from censorship on today’s college and university campuses. This year, we intervened on behalf of students censored for expressing viewpoints spanning the political spectrum:
- Seminole Community College in Florida refused to allow a student to distribute literature from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. After FIRE intervened, the college changed course and allowed the student to distribute her literature.
- Northeastern Illinois University decided to allow its College Republicans to hold an “affirmative action bake sale” protest on campus after FIRE publicized the university’s unconstitutional threat to punish the College Republicans if they held the protest.
- Unconstitutional policies at George Mason University in Virginia led to the arrest of a GMU student who was protesting military recruiters on its Northern Virginia campus. After FIRE wrote a letter to the university expressing concern, the university “launched a review of all of its policies on the use of public space,” and criminal charges against the student were dropped.
- The Oregon Commentator, a conservative student magazine, was derecognized and defunded by the University of Oregon’s student government after it published an article making fun of a transgendered student senator. After FIRE wrote letters to the administration and to relevant campus leaders, the student government reversed its unconstitutional actions and re-recognized the Commentator.
- The Communicator, the student newspaper at Craven Community College in North Carolina, published an explicit sex advice column in March 2005. After the column caused some controversy, the college considered granting prior editorial review of the paper to college administrators, an action that would have violated the First Amendment. After protests from FIRE and the Student Press Law Center, Craven affirmed that The Communicator would continue to enjoy editorial independence.
- At William Paterson University in New Jersey, a Muslim student employee was convicted of harassment after he expressed his religious objection to homosexuality in a private e-mail to a professor. FIRE wrote to the university in protest and publicized the case. When the student appealed the finding through a union grievance process, the hearing officer determined that the harassment charge was “not supported” and that the student’s one-time expression of a personal religious belief was not “harassment.”
These examples illustrate that everyone is fair game for the censors at today’s colleges and universities. Students and faculty of all political persuasions must guard vigilantly against threats to their fundamental freedoms, and FIRE is here to help. This year, FIRE released its Guide to First-Year Orientation and Thought Reform on Campus, which is the fifth and final volume of FIRE’s Guides to Student Rights on Campus. FIRE also launched Spotlight: The Campus Freedom Resource, an online database where you can research restrictions on freedom at hundreds of colleges and universities across the country. Moreover, FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program will continue vigorously defending students and faculty whose individual rights have been violated by their colleges and universities. Let’s all work together to preserve liberty in 2006!