One cannot deny that the state of individual rights and individual liberties on America’s campuses often seems bleak. In Spotlight on Speech Codes 2006: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation’s Campuses, FIRE reports that of the 330 institutions surveyed, “an overwhelming majority of them explicitly prohibit speech that, outside the borders of campus, is protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” In addition to challenging restrictive policies, FIRE constantly defends students and professors whose rights have been forgotten or ignored. For that matter, FIRE only exists because individual rights and liberties need protection on campus.
A student whose rights have been violated can always come to FIRE for assistance. Or, he can follow the advice of Naomi Schaefer Riley’s recent article, “The Myth of the College as a Democracy,” and get bulldozed by those around him. Schaefer Riley uses FIRE’s Speech Codes 2006 report and a handful of FIRE’s other cases to help illustrate her point: things are the way they are; deal with it or leave.
While it is not, in this venue, worth going through each instance in which Schaefer Riley omits, elides, or ignores details (religious student groups’ cases and students’ protesting rights jump off the page), she does make one decent point: “Read about the product before you (or your parents) hand over money for it.”
We spend a lot of time researching and posting schools and their policies on Spotlight: The Campus Freedom Resource, and high school students and their parents should use Spotlight and our case archive to learn about the schools to which the students plan to apply. More and more schools have established themselves as chronic offenders. Perhaps these are schools that students should begin to avoid.