The National Center for Higher Education Risk Management (NCHERM) is likely the most prominent risk management law firm in higher education. This afternoon, NCHERM issued “An Open Letter to Higher Education about Sexual Violence” (PDF). It’s a fascinating document about which you can be assured FIRE will have more later.
However, one contention in the letter, presented as a suggestion to FIRE, warrants an immediate response. NCHERM writes:
FIRE. Live up to your name. Don’t just fight for the rights of accused students. Fight for the individual rights of all students. If a campus puts a gag order on a victim, where is your voice in favor of her rights to share her story?
We’re glad NCHERM asked, because one of FIRE’s bigger cases last year involved our fight against a student gag order in a sexual assault case at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. To wit:
Will Creeley’s blog post of February 26, 2013: Student Critic of University of North Carolina’s Sexual Misconduct Procedures Faces Discipline under Speech Code
Will’s follow-up blog post of March 6, 2013: Controversy Grows over UNC’s Response to Sexual Assault Claim
Our press release of June 7, 2013: Scandal Over Handling of Rape Charge Prompts UNC to Suspend Speech Code; FIRE Had Warned UNC that Rule Was Unconstitutional
FIRE even named UNC one of 2013’s “Worst Colleges for Free Speech” because of this very case: The 10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech: 2013 (a list we also released on one of the most highly trafficked websites in the world, The Huffington Post).
And it’s not just UNC. On May 15, 2013, we celebrated the fact that Otterbein University Scrap[ped] Nondisclosure Agreements for Sexual Assault Cases.
FIRE’s mission is to defend First Amendment rights and due process on campus. If students are being told that they cannot speak, in violation of the Constitution or a college’s own promises of free speech, FIRE is there to help—and has been, consistently, for the last 15 years, no matter the person or the issue.