• At DePaul, Free Speech Is Out; ‘Fee Speech’ Is In

    By on September 26, 2016 Category: Press Releases

    CHICAGO, September 26, 2016—Speech is free at DePaul University, so long as you’re willing to pay for it. That is the regrettable lesson DePaul administrators have taught three separate registered student organizations—the DePaul Socialists, Young Americans for Freedom, and the College Republicans—that sought to exercise their free speech rights on DePaul’s campus this year. Each group had to pay exorbitant “security fees”—or speech taxes—to do so because of the content of their message. On Friday, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) wrote to DePaul, demanding that it honor the explicit free speech promises it makes to its students […]

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  • As Northern Michigan U. Responds to National Criticism, Serious Questions Remain

    By on September 23, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    In response to a FIRE press release yesterday, Northern Michigan University (NMU) is now publicly addressing widespread concern about its policy of threatening to punish students who discuss thoughts of suicide or self-harm with their peers. However, their response has been woefully inadequate and, with respect to FIRE’s involvement, inaccurate. After ignoring FIRE’s August 25 letter inquiring about the practice, NMU responded to our press release by posting a notice announcing—apparently for the first time—changes to how it communicates with students with thoughts of self-harm. The notice reads in part: Questions concerning the NMU communication to students with self-harm inclinations […]

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  • FIRE Releases Second Edition of ‘Correcting Common Mistakes in Campus Speech Policies’

    By on September 23, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    I’m pleased to announce that today, FIRE is releasing a revised and updated second edition of our handbook for college administrators, Correcting Common Mistakes in Campus Speech Policies. First issued in 2009, our Common Mistakes guide takes a look at the most consistent and problematic speech restrictions found in university policies and provides FIRE’s recommendations as to how those mistakes can be corrected to protect student and faculty expressive rights. New for the second edition, our handbook goes through an in-depth review of campus sexual harassment and discriminatory harassment policies, which often contain broad and vague language encompassing much speech […]

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  • FIRE to Northern Michigan U.: End Ban on Students Discussing Self-Harm

    By on September 22, 2016 Category: Press Releases, Statement

    MARQUETTE, Mich., Sept. 22, 2016—When Northern Michigan University (NMU) students most need to be heard, administrators violate their First Amendment rights. Last month, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) wrote to NMU asking the university to announce that it will no longer prohibit students from discussing thoughts of self-harm with other students. NMU failed to respond to FIRE’s request, leaving students unclear as to whether they will face disciplinary action for reaching out to their peers during difficult times. “NMU is imposing a gag order on students at a time when a conversation with a friend may be […]

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  • ‘So to Speak’ Podcast: ‘Twisting Title IX’

    By on September 22, 2016 Category: Newsdesk, So To Speak

    “Unfortunately, Title IX has really become unmoored from its original intention,” says FIRE Executive Director Robert Shibley. Title IX is the 1972 law that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded educational programs. The active part of the law is fewer than 40 words long. But in a forthcoming book entitled Twisting Title IX, Robert argues that these words have been “twisted” by an activist Department of Education to violate the free speech and due process rights of students and faculty members on college campuses. In today’s episode of So to Speak: The Free Speech Podcast, we talk with Robert about […]

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  • Speech Code of the Month: University of Vermont

    By on September 21, 2016 Category: Newsdesk, Speech Code of the Month

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for September 2016: the University of Vermont (UVM). Like many universities, UVM has a Bias Response Program in place so that students can report incidents of biased behavior—including speech—to the university administration. UVM uses a very broad definition of bias: Bias* is a personal inclination or temperament based on unreasoned judgment or belief. Bias may be reflected in behavior (verbal, nonverbal, or written) that is threatening, harassing, intimidating, discriminatory, hostile, unwelcoming, exclusionary, demeaning, degrading, or derogatory and is based on a person’s real or perceived identity or group affiliation, including (but not […]

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  • Robert Shibley’s ‘Twisting Title IX’ Set for Release September 27—Pre-Order Today!

    By on September 15, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    In the last decade, the federal government has increasingly used Title IX—the 1972 law that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded educational programs—to force colleges and universities to comply with new, sometimes controversial, regulations. But many of these regulations, promulgated by the Departments of Education and Justice in questionable compliance with federal regulatory law, have been not just fundamentally unfair, but unlawful. In his new book, Twisting Title IX—out September 27 through Encounter Books and available for pre-order today—FIRE Executive Director Robert Shibley gives readers a quick but comprehensive overview of how Title IX “became a monster that both the […]

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  • Administrators Defend Bias Response Teams, But Shy Away From Transparency

    By on September 15, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    On Monday, Inside Higher Ed published a lengthy defense of “bias response teams”—teams largely composed of administrators and law enforcement who direct a university’s response to reports of offensive language or conduct, usually (but not always) under the guise of educating the offending speakers about the impact of their speech. But the same administrators are unwilling to back up their claims, declining to provide details about how they respond to particular incidents. As Inside Higher Ed’s Jake New reports: Ohio State declined to offer detailed information about the incidents its team has investigated, but Christopher Davey, a spokesman for the […]

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  • FIRE Goes to Capitol Hill

    By on September 14, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    Yesterday, FIRE went to the nation’s capital to speak with members of both parties about free speech and due process issues on college campuses. As part of FIRE’s Back to School efforts, we want to make sure elected officials know that FIRE is active in their districts, working diligently to ensure students know their rights—and who to contact if those rights have been violated. We had a jam-packed agenda. FIRE spoke with members of Congress about student political activity and how campus administrators incorrectly claim that students’ political expression would jeopardize the institution’s tax-exempt status. We discussed FIRE’s Spotlight database and […]

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  • Professors Standing Up for Freedom of Association at Harvard

    By on September 13, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    Harvard University has faced widespread criticism since its May announcement that it would sanction members of off-campus, single-gender clubs. The administration claims it’s part of an effort to “address deeply rooted gender attitudes, and the related issues of sexual misconduct.” Now a small group of professors say that they hope the Harvard faculty adopt a motion they’ve authored which would prevent the Harvard administration from discriminating against students “on the basis of their organizational memberships.” If it passes, it may just signal hope for the future of freedom of association at Harvard. In an op-ed published today in The Harvard […]

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  • Is DePaul America’s Worst School for Free Speech?

    By on September 9, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    Every year when FIRE publishes its “Worst Colleges for Free Speech” list, we remind readers that it is not a ranked list, but rather a compilation—in no particular order—of the year’s worst free speech offenders. Occasionally, however, we do wonder which college or university would deserve a spot at the top of a ranked list. Yesterday provided such an occasion, as we sent a letter to DePaul University outlining several months of free speech violations spanning multiple incidents and contemplated the university’s history of violating its community’s expressive rights. DePaul’s most recent series of missteps began in April, when students […]

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  • ‘So to Speak’ Podcast: Jason Riley on Being ‘Disinvited’ from Campus

    By on September 8, 2016 Category: Newsdesk, So To Speak

    Earlier this year, Jason Riley was “disinvited” from speaking at Virginia Tech due to concerns his writings on race would spark campus protests. The Wall Street Journal columnist, Fox News commentator, and Manhattan Institute senior fellow wasn’t alone in seeing an invitation to speak on campus revoked over concerns that his appearance might prove controversial. He was in distinguished company. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, columnist George Will, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde, and hip hop artist Common were all similarly disinvited from speaking on a college campus in recent years. These disinvitations are part of a troubling […]

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  • Penn Students Choose Protest Over Censorship

    By on September 7, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    While it is far too early to identify any kind of trend, the beginning of this academic year has included several encouraging free speech moments. First, there was the University of Chicago’s letter to incoming students clearly stating the university’s commitment to free and open—and even uncomfortable—debate on campus. Then Columbia University President Lee Bollinger expressed similar sentiments in remarks to incoming students. And now comes a report that students at the University of Pennsylvania have responded to offensive speech not with calls for censorship, but instead with more speech—drawing praise from the Penn administration. Inside Higher Ed reports on […]

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  • ​Jim Sleeper Gets It Wrong in ‘The New York Times’

    By on September 4, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    This morning, readers across the country woke up to a New York Times op-ed by Yale University lecturer Jim Sleeper that contains patently false charges about FIRE and me. I’ve deliberately ignored Sleeper’s multiple screeds over the past year. He’s posted thousands of words at outlets like Salon and Alternet attacking me, Jonathan Haidt, Conor Friedersdorf, Todd Gitlin, Jeannie Suk, and others, and he has bizarrely attempted to weave FIRE into his labyrinthine critiques of Citizens United and American capitalism. (I urge readers to check out Sleeper’s weird diatribes for themselves; they’re really something. Here’s a representative example from Salon, […]

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  • BACK TO SCHOOL: Welcome to Campus! (VIDEO)

    By on September 2, 2016 Category: Back To School, Newsdesk, Video

    Going to college means a heap of new, adult responsibilities, like doing your own laundry and making sure you turn that term paper in on time. But there are also benefits to adulthood. We at FIRE think perhaps the most important of those benefits is your freedom of speech. College is a great time to learn about the value of speaking your mind. Engaging in meaningful campus conversations and debates is a great way to meet new people, open your mind to new ways of thinking, and make a lasting impact on campus. In our latest video, FIRE staffers offer a […]

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  • BACK TO SCHOOL: Want to Host a Stellar Event This Fall? Here’s How!

    By on September 2, 2016 Category: Back To School, Newsdesk

    The leaves are changing, Halloween decorations are on store shelves, and students like you are heading back to school for what promises to be a whirlwind year! FIRE is excited to welcome you back with some awesome new resources to help you take your activism to the next level. Whether you are hoping to engage students in debate over controversial viewpoints, or simply make a statement of your own—hosting an event is a great way to engage your peers and bring attention to your cause. A few things to keep in mind when organizing an event: Begin planning early. If […]

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  • BACK TO SCHOOL: Is Your School Censoring Your Speech? Think About Making a Federal Case Out of It.

    By on September 2, 2016 Category: Back To School, Newsdesk

    During the summer, many college administrators take advantage of the relative quiet to work on revising their policies. Sometimes the results are constructive, but often the news isn’t so good and students return to campus facing greater restrictions on their speech. By all indications, many colleges and universities are battening down the hatches for this fall’s presidential campaign, mistakenly thinking that they can avoid controversy by stifling political speech. As my colleague Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon explained earlier this week, the go-to justification for censorship is the myth that if students engage in political speech, the school will lose its tax-exempt […]

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  • Mandatory Trigger Warnings, Part Two

    By on September 1, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    Yesterday, I reported on several university Title IX/sexual misconduct policies I found that appear to require professors to use trigger warnings. This discovery runs contrary to the assertion—made in the wake of the University of Chicago’s recent denunciation of trigger warnings—that no university has ever mandated their use. Specifically, language in force at Drexel University and several other institutions states that “[i]t is expected that instructors will offer appropriate warning and accommodation regarding the introduction of explicit and triggering materials used.” City University of New York (CUNY) professor Angus Johnston disagrees that this language is mandatory. Johnston suggests that in […]

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  • BACK TO SCHOOL: The Do’s and Don’ts of Campus Activism (VIDEO)

    By on September 1, 2016 Category: Back To School, Newsdesk, Video

    Student activists advocating for everything from heavy metal music to metal workers’ rights should check out FIRE’s Do’s and Don’ts of Campus Activism video, which features helpful tips for any college student who wants to make their voice heard. FIRE’s tips include: Know your college’s policies and know your rights. Build coalitions. Use common sense. Document everything. Ask for help. Students have the right to speak out on campus, and those with something to say should feel free to do so. If you encounter roadblocks along the way, know that FIRE is here to help. Watch the video for the complete list […]

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  • BACK TO SCHOOL: How Students and Faculty Can Help Codify Free Speech on Campus

    By on September 1, 2016 Category: Back To School, Newsdesk

    As the new academic year gets underway on university campuses, students and faculty members concerned about the climate for free speech in higher education may be wondering how they can help. With topics such as “safe spaces,” “trigger warnings,” “hate speech,” and many more continuing to be debated, the start of a new academic year presents a great opportunity for free speech advocates on campus to make a difference. Fortunately, FIRE is here to assist you, and we have some helpful ideas and tips. If you have been following our website this week, you may have already read our FAQs […]

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  • Think Trigger Warnings Are Never Mandatory on Campus? Think Again.

    By on August 31, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    Last week, the University of Chicago (UChicago) sent a letter to incoming students affirming the university’s commitment to robust and even uncomfortable dialogue and debate on campus. While many—including FIRE—lauded the university’s statement, some critics argued that the letter’s statement that it does not support “so-called ‘trigger warnings’” was unnecessary since no universities actually mandate trigger warnings. For example, the New Republic’s Jeet Heer accused UChicago of “attacking academic freedom,” quoting a tweet from City University of New York professor Angus Johnston: A professor’s use of trigger warnings isn’t a threat to academic freedom. It’s a MANIFESTATION of academic freedom. […]

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  • BACK TO SCHOOL: FIRE’s Spotlight Database Offers Comprehensive Picture of Campus Speech Codes

    By on August 31, 2016 Category: Back To School, Newsdesk

    According to FIRE’s research, over 93 percent of colleges and universities maintain policies that restrict students’ free speech rights. These policies, which FIRE calls “speech codes,” come in many forms, from onerous restrictions on protest and demonstration to bans on controversial or offensive speech. Regrettably, many students don’t learn about their school’s restrictions until they land in a dean’s office for violating one. Fortunately, FIRE is here to help. Our Spotlight database contains comprehensive information on speech codes at more than 440 colleges and universities nationwide. And the database is easy to use: You can search for a school by […]

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  • BACK TO SCHOOL: Tips for Submitting Your Case to FIRE

    By on August 30, 2016 Category: Back To School, Newsdesk

    To students arriving at college for the first time this fall: Welcome! And to returning students: Welcome back! As you may have seen yesterday, FIRE is kicking off the new academic year by offering students a range of resources for exercising their free speech rights—including, importantly, the right to protest. Throughout the week, we’ll continue to highlight those resources for students on our website, so keep reading! As director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program, I’m going to highlight one of the most basic resources we have: our case submission form. Some of you, after all, are going to need […]

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  • BACK TO SCHOOL: What You Should Know About Political Speech on Campus

    By on August 30, 2016 Category: Back To School, Newsdesk

    You’re back on campus (or will be soon) and the 2016 election season is kicking into high gear. Many of you are probably excited and ready to debate election issues or convince your peers of your favorite candidate’s virtues. Some of you may want to campaign for your candidate. One of the most obvious places you’ll engage in political speech this fall is on your campus—where you live, learn, and interact with hundreds of other young adults. Some of you will be surprised to find that your college is not as excited as you are about political speech on campus, […]

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  • BACK TO SCHOOL: FIRE’s FAQ for Student Protests on Campus

    By on August 29, 2016 Category: Back To School, Newsdesk

    This week, FIRE’s getting you ready to head back to school with a series highlighting our favorite resources for student activists. Whether you’re thinking about joining the FIRE Student Network, planning a campus protest, or want your school to formally commit to free speech by adopting the Chicago Statement on Free Expression, check back here all week for more on how you can make a difference on your campus. Just look for the backpack icon! First up: FIRE’s FAQ for Student Protests on Campus. In our FAQ, we cover our most-asked questions about campus student activism—including a primer on campus-protest rights and […]

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  • Students Return to Campus During Contentious Election Season with FIRE on Their Side

    By on August 29, 2016 Category: Back To School, Press Releases

    PHILADELPHIA, August 29, 2016—The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) routinely receives reports from students about colleges censoring political speech during election season. As a new academic year begins, FIRE reminds students and administrators that political expression lies at the heart of free speech protections—and FIRE stands ready to defend it. A number of schools have already threatened or restricted political speech on campus during this election cycle: Last fall, Georgetown University Law Center administrators prevented a group of students supporting Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign from tabling inside or outside the school. After FIRE intervened with a letter to […]

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  • U. Chicago’s ‘Academic Freedom’ Letter a Win for Campus Speech [UPDATED]

    By on August 25, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    The University of Chicago (UC) has pushed back against the nationwide trend toward student-led calls for censorship with a letter to incoming students telling them not to expect “intellectual ‘safe spaces’” when they arrive on campus this fall. FIRE hopes this will be the first of many requests from colleges and universities asking students to recommit to freedom of expression this academic year. Importantly, UC has confirmed to FIRE that its statement that it does “not support so-called ‘trigger warnings’” is not a ban on that practice. Critics today have charged that the statement might undermine academic freedom: If UC […]

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  • ‘So to Speak’ Podcast: Alice Dreger on Academic Freedom

    By on August 25, 2016 Category: Newsdesk, So To Speak

    Every year, we at FIRE put out our list of the 10 worst colleges for free speech. And this year, surprisingly, half of the schools on the list earned their spot because they threatened faculty’s right to speak out in some way. One institution on that list was Northwestern University. Last year, Northwestern made headlines for its extraordinary attacks on academic freedom on two separate occasions. Once for its 72-day Title IX investigation into Professor Laura Kipnis’ public writings and comments about sexual politics on campus. And on another occasion, for its censorship of a faculty-produced bioethics journal that Northwestern […]

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  • ‘Stacking the Deck’ Against Due Process at UCSD

    By on August 24, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    Among the more unusual and important due process cases FIRE is following this summer is one that began with an allegation that a University of California, San Diego (UCSD) student cheated on a chemistry exam in 2011. Why does this case stand out? Because what it suggests generally about UCSD’s views on due process could have implications far beyond any one exam room, affecting untold numbers of students. In May 2011, former UCSD student Jonathan Dorfman was accused of copying the Scantron sheet of another student during a chemistry exam. Following an academic disciplinary hearing, UCSD expelled him. Dorfman was […]

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  • Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne Earns FIRE’s Highest Free Speech Rating

    By on August 24, 2016 Category: Press Releases

    FORT WAYNE, Ind., August 24, 2016—Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) has revised all of its speech codes, earning the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE’s) highest, “green light” rating for free speech on campus. FIRE collaborated with the IPFW administration to reform its speech policies. IPFW now joins an elite group of colleges and universities that maintain policies respecting student and faculty free expression rights and meeting First Amendment standards. “I applaud IPFW for bringing its policies in line with the First Amendment and becoming a green light school,” said Azhar Majeed, FIRE’s director of policy […]

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  • Harvard to Student Club: Lie About Your Policies and You’ll Be OK

    By on August 16, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    Harvard University’s ill-conceived decision to blacklist students who join off-campus, single-sex social organizations continues to backfire, forcing administrators to make exceptions to the overbroad policy. The latest one would permit an off-campus women’s club to remain female-only without violating the policy that supposedly punishes “gender-based discrimination.” This strongly suggests that the real motivation behind the policy is not sex or gender discrimination at all—it’s that the Harvard administration simply doesn’t like certain groups and is willing to be as deceptive as is necessary to try to eliminate them. If you go to Harvard, beware: The Harvard Crimson reported yesterday on […]

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  • FIRE Announces 2016 Prometheus Society Inductees

    By on August 16, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    We’re pleased to announce that five new students were inducted into FIRE’s Prometheus Society at our recent Student Network Conference. in recognition of outstanding work promoting free expression on campus. This year’s crop of standout students—Andrew Zeller from Purdue University, Erin Dunne from the University of Michigan, Michael Kriete from the University of South Carolina, Zach Wood from Williams College, and Savannah Lindquist from Temple University—all participated in a wide variety of activism toward a shared goal of championing speech at their college or university. As a member of the Purdue University Graduate Student Government, Andrew Zeller worked tirelessly to […]

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  • Oklahoma Wesleyan Joins Lawsuit Challenging 2011 ‘Dear Colleague’ Letter

    By on August 15, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    Today, Oklahoma Wesleyan University (OKWU) became the first and only institution of higher education to challenge in court a 2011 mandate from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) that colleges and universities adjudicate sexual misconduct allegations using the low, “preponderance of the evidence” standard. This mandate for institutions governed by Title IX—all but a few colleges and universities nationwide, whether private or public—was first announced in OCR’s April 4, 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter (DCL). OKWU is joining a FIRE-sponsored federal lawsuit originally filed in June, which seeks to invalidate this provision of the DCL on the grounds […]

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  • FIRE Q&A: First Amendment Attorney Daniel Silver of Landmark Supreme Court Case ‘Healy v. James’

    By on August 12, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    Most law students can only dream that one day, a case they work on as a lawyer will end up before the Supreme Court of the United States. And that’s only, of course, after a long career working toward such a lofty goal. But for Daniel Silver, the recently-retired Connecticut First Amendment attorney, such a case was the very first one he ever worked on—first as a law student, and then as a young lawyer. That case was Healy v. James, 408 U.S. 169 (1972), in which the Court first affirmed that public college students have the same First Amendment […]

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  • ‘So to Speak’ Podcast: ‘The Trials of Lenny Bruce’

    By on August 11, 2016 Category: Newsdesk, So To Speak

    His trials began with a police bust at the Jazz Workshop in San Francisco in October 1961, and ended with an obscenity conviction in New York in November 1964. Stand-up comedy legend Lenny Bruce underwent 35 months—1,062 days—of nonstop persecution and prosecution for the content of his act. It was 50 years ago this month that an autopsy would report that Bruce died of an overdose of morphine on August 3, 1966. But anyone who knows his story knows it was more complicated than that. On the same day as his death, Bruce received a foreclosure notice on his home. […]

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  • FIRE, NCAC Disappointed with UW-Stout’s New Plan for Controversial Paintings

    By on August 9, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    The University of Wisconsin–Stout’s (UW-Stout’s) chancellor has changed his mind about relegating two historical paintings to storage amid worries they reinforce stereotypes of Native Americans and could have “a harmful effect on … students and other viewers.” But the new plan for the paintings—moving them to new locations where they can be viewed in a “controlled” manner, in one case by appointment only—isn’t much better. In an interview with Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) Friday, UW-Stout Chancellor Bob Meyer walked back his original plan to entirely remove the paintings—two recently restored, mid-1930s Cal Peters artworks, “Perrault’s Trading Fort” and “French Trappers […]

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  • RONALD K.L. COLLINS for ‘The Torch’: We Kill Comedians, Don’t We? The Lenny Bruce Story.

    By on August 3, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    We drove him into poverty and bankruptcy and then murdered him. We all knew what we were doing. We used the law to kill him. —Vincent Cuccia (one of Bruce’s New York prosecutors) He died before his death. It was apparent that Wednesday—February 9—in 1966 when Lenny Bruce spoke at the Associated Students Speakers’ Program at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He rambled; he misspoke; he struggled; and, yes, he bombed. Pathetic. That’s one word. Sad. That’s another. Predictable. Yet another word. In less than six months, he would be officially dead. Who could not see it coming? […]

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  • Following ‘#AllLivesMatter’ Post, University of Houston Student Leader Punished by Student Government

    By on August 2, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    Early last month, University of Houston student body vice president Rohini Sethi posted “Forget #BlackLivesMatter; more like #AllLivesMatter” on her Facebook account following the shooting deaths of five police officers during a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas. The controversy that has ensued continues this week, raising interesting questions about student government and the First Amendment. Sethi’s July 7 post generated outrage amongst her peers and sparked calls for her resignation from student government. Sethi deleted the post, but did not resign, explaining in a July 12 Facebook post that she hoped instead to “create the possibility of a culture […]

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  • When Comedy and Outrage Collide! ‘Can We Take a Joke?’ Available Today

    By on August 2, 2016 Category: Newsdesk, Press Releases

    Is edgy comedy on life support? In Can We Take a Joke?, top comedians like Gilbert Gottfried, Penn Jillette, Lisa Lampanelli, and Adam Carolla join together to explore what happens when comedy, hypersensitivity, and political correctness collide on and off campus. After nearly a year on the film festival circuit and screenings on over 240 campuses this past spring, the FIRE-supported documentary is now available for viewing by audiences nationwide. You can catch Can We Take a Joke? on iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon Instant Video, as well as in select theaters in New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington, […]

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  • FIRE EXCLUSIVE: Kelly Carlin, Rain Pryor, and Kitty Bruce Speak Out About Their Fathers and the Fight for Free Speech in Comedy (VIDEO/PODCAST)

    By on July 28, 2016 Category: Newsdesk, Video

    If you look up Comedy Central’s list of the 100 best stand-up comedians of all time, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, and Lenny Bruce sit atop it at one, two, and three, respectively. Rain Pryor, Kelly Carlin, and Kitty Bruce are the daughters of the godfathers of comedy, and today you can hear them speak out—for the first time ever together—about their fathers and the fight for free speech in comedy on and off campus. A few days from now, on August 3, it will be the 50th anniversary of Lenny Bruce’s death. He died of an overdose in 1966 after […]

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  • At Ole Miss, Free Speech Helps Heal Wounds of Segregationist Past

    By on July 27, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    At one time, the University of Mississippi was the setting for one of the most infamous efforts to keep public schools racially segregated. Today, with more than 50 years separating it from that grim past, Ole Miss is gaining notoriety for its sweeping efforts to foster diversity and inclusion on campus. And administrators say it’s an oft-overlooked ally helping make those important changes on campus: Free speech. “We do have a difficult history as a state, and certainly as a university,” Associate Dean of Students Valeria Beasley-Ross acknowledged in an interview with FIRE. Perhaps the most difficult moment in that […]

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  • ‘Can We Take a Joke?’ Hits Theaters This Week in NYC and LA

    By on July 25, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    It was more than a year ago when we first announced the release of Can We Take a Joke? The FIRE-supported documentary explores what happens when comedy collides with outrage culture on and off campus. Now, after a year on the film festival circuit, audiences can catch full theatrical runs of the movie in New York City and Los Angeles starting this Friday, July 29. July 29–August 4: ‘Can We Take a Joke?’ Theatrical Runs New York City Cinema Village (click to buy tickets) 22 E 12th St, New York, New York 10003 ** The screening on Friday, July 29 […]

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  • Recap: 2016 FIRE Student Network Conference

    By on July 19, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    More than 100 students from across the nation gathered in Philadelphia this past weekend for the 2016 FIRE Student Network Conference. Set at Drexel University and the National Constitution Center, the event gave students the opportunity to learn about their free speech rights on campus. In addition to comprehensive workshops led by FIRE staff members, students learned about the experiences of keynote speakers Alice Dreger and Jason Riley. Attendees of the 2016 FIRE Student Network Conference. Dreger kicked off the conference Friday evening with a rousing discussion of academic freedom and how students should approach free speech advocacy. Dreger drew […]

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  • ‘So to Speak’ Podcast: The FIRE Interns Hit the Streets to Ask About Free Speech

    By on July 14, 2016 Category: Newsdesk, So To Speak

    Nationwide polls on support for free speech are full of contradictions. Research conducted by Gallup, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the Newseum Institute earlier this year found widespread support from college students for free speech in the abstract. However, the same poll also found tepid support when students were asked about specifics. According to the poll, a majority of respondents believed colleges should be able to restrict intentionally offensive speech and costumes that stereotype minorities. Another more recent poll of the general population by the Newseum Institute and USA Today found a similar result. These studies, […]

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  • Harvard Faculty, Students, Alumni Condemn Social Club Blacklist (VIDEO)

    By on July 11, 2016 Category: Newsdesk, Video

    Harvard University’s announcement that it will blacklist students who join single-gender social organizations—banning them from holding leadership positions in Recognized Independent Student Organizations (ISOs), captaining sports teams, or even getting recommendations for some scholarships—has been criticized by students, faculty, and alumni, including some of Harvard’s biggest names. Economics professor and Harvard president emeritus Larry Summers; cognitive scientist and psychology professor Steven Pinker; and civil rights attorney, author, and FIRE co-founder Harvey Silverglate are among those who talked with FIRE for our latest video (above), and explained why Harvard’s attempt to foster “inclusion” and “address deeply rooted gender attitudes” by punishing […]

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  • Wisconsin Legislator’s Threat to Slash UW Budget Over Reading Assignment ‘Cuts to the Core of Academic Freedom’

    By on July 8, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    A Wisconsin legislator’s threat yesterday to cut the University of Wisconsin System’s budget over an “obscene” course reading assignment is the latest salvo in what is becoming a years-long war between the university and state lawmakers over academic freedom. State Senator Stephen Nass made the remarks in an email he sent Thursday to email lists for Republicans and Democrats in Wisconsin’s Senate and Assembly. In it, he criticized a reading assignment lecturer Jason Nolen gave in his UW-Madison sociology course titled “Problems of American Racial and Ethnic Minorities”: The reading assignment sparking Nass’ ire is the 2011 essay, “Not just […]

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  • FIRE’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project Turns Two

    By on July 1, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    FIRE launched one of its most ambitious projects two years ago today when it coordinated the filing of four free speech lawsuits against four public colleges and universities in one day. With the Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project (SUFS), FIRE has been able to challenge speech codes in courts nationwide, changing the incentive structure for universities by imposing a real cost for violating the First Amendment. Since last July 1, SUFS has sponsored two more lawsuits—one against the University of South Carolina, where students were investigated for holding an event about free speech, and one against Louisiana State University for […]

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  • ‘So to Speak’ Podcast: Aryeh Neier on ‘Defending My Enemy’

    By on June 30, 2016 Category: Newsdesk, So To Speak

    He has a glittering civil liberties résumé: co-founder of Human Rights Watch, president of the Open Society Foundations for nearly 20 years, professor of civil rights law. But before all of that, Aryeh Neier was the executive director of the ACLU during one of its most turbulent moments: when it came to the defense of neo-Nazis trying to exercise their constitutional rights to free speech and assembly in Skokie, Illinois in 1977. The ACLU’s defense of the Nazis in that case cost it thousands of members and fostered a national conversation about free speech in the modern era. To this […]

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  • Now Accepting Applications for FIRE Student Network’s Prometheus Society

    By on June 28, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    The FIRE Student Network is excited to announce that we’re accepting applications for FSN’s Prometheus Society. The Prometheus Society is named after the Titan from Greek mythology who stole fire from the gods on Mount Olympus and gave it to humankind. The purpose of the Prometheus Society is to recognize exceptional students at colleges and universities across the country who have demonstrated remarkable dedication to advocating for FIRE’s mission of protecting free expression and due process rights in higher education. These students have worked tirelessly with their peers, campus administrators, professors, and FIRE staff to develop strategies to reform speech […]

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  • Pledge Your Commitment to Free Speech With a Gift to FIRE’s 2015–16 Annual Fund Before June 30!

    By on June 22, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    The climate on today’s college campuses has reached peak crisis. Students are told not only what kinds of T-shirts they can wear or what types of clubs they can join, but also, far too often, what opinions they can hold. Schools continue to enforce blatantly unconstitutional policies and indulge in dangerous new forms of illiberalism that encourage peer-initiated censorship and ideological conformity. And sadly, many students have become willing participants in this culture. More and more, we see students who believe they have a right not to be offended, who call for emotional “safety” over free speech, and who demand […]

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  • What If Our Constitution Were Written Like Campus Speech Codes? (VIDEO)

    By on June 21, 2016 Category: Newsdesk, Video

    Administrators at college campuses routinely use speech codes to launch investigations into campus newspapers, prohibit religious symbols, and silence support for political candidates.  Instead of fostering a marketplace of ideas at the university, faculty and students often push to disinvite controversial speakers and entertainers. College administrators have used speech codes to prohibit biased speech, disrespectful speech, and “inappropriately directed laughter,” and to restrict all questionable speech to “free speech zones.” The University of California System has decided that statements like “America is a melting pot” or “America is the land of opportunity” are examples of microaggressions and should not be […]

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  • Former UVA Student Challenges Unlawful Sexual Misconduct Mandate in Federal Lawsuit

    By on June 16, 2016 Category: Press Releases

    WASHINGTON, June 16, 2016—A former University of Virginia School of Law student filed a federal lawsuit today challenging the Department of Education’s unlawful mandate that colleges abandon due process protections and try sexual misconduct cases using the lowest standard of evidence. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is sponsoring the lawsuit. FIRE and other civil liberties advocates have continually objected to the Department of Education’s “preponderance of the evidence” mandate since its Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced the requirement in a 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter (DCL). Advocates have warned that the letter diminishes accused students’ due process […]

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  • ‘So to Speak’ Podcast: 2015–16 School Year in Review

    By on June 16, 2016 Category: Newsdesk, So To Speak

    The 2015–16 school year was a headline-grabbing year for free speech on campus. Even President Barack Obama felt compelled to weigh in on the conversation. Multiple times. In this episode of FIRE’s So to Speak: The Free Speech Podcast, we chat with FIRE President and CEO Greg Lukianoff and FIRE Director of Policy Research Samantha Harris—two of FIRE’s longest-serving employees—about what made this past year so unique. What were the biggest campus free speech stories? What did we see coming? What took us by surprise? And what do we anticipate for next school year? We tackle these questions and more […]

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  • New York Bill Would Bar Funding to Student Organizations Involved in ‘Hate Speech,’ ‘Intolerance,’ or Encouraging Boycotts of Israel and Other Nations

    By on June 14, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    On June 6, New York state Senator Jack M. Martins (R-Nassau County) introduced Senate Bill S8017. [Update (June 16, 2016): The New York State Senate yesterday passed Senator Martins’ bill. It has now been referred to the Committee on Higher Education in the New York State Assembly. FIRE will continue to monitor the progress of this patently unconstitutional abdication of students’ First Amendment rights.] The bill would bar state universities, city universities, and community colleges from funding any student organization that “promotes, encourages, or permits” boycotts against certain nations or permits “intolerance” or “hate speech.” The bill as written is […]

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  • Alice Dreger and Jason Riley to Headline FIRE Summer Conference

    By on June 14, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    FIRE is thrilled to announce Alice Dreger and Jason Riley as the keynote speakers for our 2016 FIRE Student Network Summer Conference, which will take place from July 15–17 in Philadelphia. This year, both of the keynote speakers have faced controversy and censorship due to their published works. Alice Dreger, Ph.D., is an American historian of medicine, sex, and science, and a mainstream nonfiction writer. Her recent memoir, Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and One Scholar’s Search for Justice (Penguin Press), was named an Editors’ Choice by The New York Times Book Review and has been praised in The New […]

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  • Mizzou Ignores Warnings, Censors T-Shirts Advocating Marijuana Legalization

    By on June 10, 2016 Category: Press Releases

    COLUMBIA, Mo., June 10, 2016—Despite repeated warnings that it is violating the First Amendment rights of its students, the University of Missouri (Mizzou) refuses to allow a recognized student group to create T-shirts featuring a cannabis leaf and the university’s name. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has twice warned Mizzou that its treatment of the campus chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (MU NORML) violates the First Amendment. “Mizzou flatly told MU NORML that it was censoring the group’s T-shirt artwork because of the message it could appear to express. That’s viewpoint discrimination, […]

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  • Watch the ‘Can We Take a Joke?’ Trailer!

    By on June 7, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    Yesterday, iTunes released the trailer for the FIRE-supported documentary Can We Take a Joke?, a film about what happens when outrage and comedy collide. Check it out! The film is due to hit select theaters July 29, and will be available to download from iTunes August 2. For more information about the film, please visit www.canwetakeajoke.com. You can also “like” the film on Facebook and follow @CanWeTakeaJoke on Twitter.

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  • FIRE Retains Coveted Four-Star Rating from Charity Navigator!

    By on June 3, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    We’re delighted to announce that FIRE has once again earned Charity Navigator’s four-star charity rating—its highest possible! Charity Navigator, America’s premier charity evaluator, uses a variety of tools to determine the financial health, accountability, and transparency of charitable organizations. By designating FIRE a four-star charity, Charity Navigator recognizes that FIRE “exceeds industry standards and outperforms most charities in its Cause.” Charity Navigator’s excellent rating of FIRE’s accountability and fiscal responsibility underscores our tireless and effective work on behalf of students and professors across the country. We are so grateful to have such dedicated supporters and proud that our rating publicly […]

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  • ‘So to Speak’ Podcast: David Baugh on ‘Defending My Enemy’

    By on June 2, 2016 Category: Newsdesk, So To Speak

    Why would a black criminal defense attorney—who fought against segregation in high school and battled racism in the courtroom—volunteer to defend the First Amendment rights of an Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan? “It is important that the First Amendment be preserved,” said Richmond, Virginia-based attorney David Baugh during an interview for the latest episode of FIRE’s So to Speak: The Free Speech Podcast. “So as a criminal lawyer, I said, ‘I’ll take the case.’ Little did I know it was going to be so big.” That “big” case went on to become the landmark Supreme Court decision in […]

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  • As ‘The Koala’ Files Lawsuit Against University of California, San Diego, Public Records Reveal Administration’s Censorship

    By on June 1, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    Last November, a student-run satirical newspaper at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), The Koala, was one of thirteen student publications whose funding was cut by the UCSD student government—just days after The Koala published an article satirizing “safe spaces.” At the time, Dominick Suvonnasupa, president of the UCSD student government, claimed that “the vote was not about The Koala, but was only about addressing the most efficient use of student funds.” That claim was dubious at best, and now Suvonnasupa—along with UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla—is being sued by The Koala, represented by the ACLU of San Diego & […]

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  • University of Oregon on ‘Bias Response Team’: Nothing to See Here

    By on May 27, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    This month, a number of commentators have criticized the University of Oregon’s (UO’s) bias incident reporting system—an online tool to report perceived incidents of “bias” to campus administrators—and some of the university’s “Bias Response Team’s” (BRT’s) responses to those reports. In March, FIRE filed a public records request with UO, seeking documents about students’ complaints and whether the BRT’s handling of those complaints has the potential to chill or infringe on First Amendment rights. UO, however, is resisting public scrutiny. In its response on April 1, 2016, the university told FIRE that it would not benefit the public to produce […]

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  • ‘Newsweek’ Devotes Cover Story to Threats to Student Rights

    By on May 26, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    This morning, Newsweek published the online version of its latest cover story, “The Battle Against ‘Hate Speech’ on College Campuses Is Harboring a Generation That Hates Speech.” Author Nina Burleigh draws upon FIRE’s work to explain the climate for free expression and due process on today’s college campuses. In a time when threats to student and faculty rights are coming fast and furious, it is significant to have a prominent media outlet like Newsweek put those threats front and center. In our new cover story @ninaburleigh shows how colleges fail students in the Age of Trump https://t.co/UkxFmR1xUC pic.twitter.com/SRb0s5FT6s — jim […]

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  • Harvard Faculty and Former President Oppose University’s Threat of Sanctions for Independent Club Members

    By on May 25, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    Two weeks ago, FIRE wrote Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust to express our grave concern over the institution’s plan to impose harsh sanctions on students who join independent, single-sex, off-campus organizations. Under the plan, students who join those groups would be prevented from serving in leadership roles in officially recognized organizations or from receiving recommendations for scholarships and fellowships.   Today, The Harvard Crimson reports that Harvard faculty have joined FIRE in publicly criticizing the new plan, submitting a sharply-worded motion arguing that students must be able to “exercise their civil right to free assembly without fear that Harvard […]

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  • From Black Armbands to the Supreme Court: Mary Beth Tinker and Student Free Speech Rights

    By on May 23, 2016 Category: Newsdesk, Video

    Her journey started with wearing a black armband to school and proceeded to the landmark Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District (1969), but it by no means stopped there: Mary Beth Tinker, namesake of the Tinker decision, continues to be a free-speech icon.   Interviewed by Robert Corn-Revere, the eminent First Amendment attorney who represents FIRE’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project plaintiffs, Tinker sheds light on her case and the state of student speech rights today, connecting the past with the present. Tinker sets the scene by noting that she and her siblings were raised […]

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  • Special Treatment? Harvard Exempts ‘The Harvard Crimson’ from Single-Gender Club Policy

    By on May 20, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    Harvard University has exempted the school’s daily student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, from its new policy banning members of unrecognized single-gender social organizations from holding leadership positions in Recognized Independent Student Organizations (ISOs). One of the many inevitable implications of Harvard’s recent attack on freedom of association is that without such an exemption, the policy would have allowed Harvard administrators to exert control over the leadership of the school’s best-known independent student newspaper, thereby compromising its editorial independence. According to Crimson president Mariel Klein, however, despite being explicitly listed as an ISO, the paper received an exemption from Dean Rakesh […]

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  • ‘So to Speak: The Free Speech Podcast’: Glenn Greenwald on ‘Defending My Enemy’

    By on May 19, 2016 Category: Newsdesk, So To Speak

    Growing up gay led Glenn Greenwald to question orthodoxy. It also led him to a lifelong passion and appreciation for free speech and open debate. “Once life in some way leads you to start questioning pieties and orthodoxies, you realize how wrong pieties and orthodoxies can be,” said Greenwald during an interview for the latest episode of FIRE’s So to Speak: The Free Speech Podcast. “The only real outlet for challenging them and correcting their wrongness is to have the freedom to question them and argue against them no matter how many people believe them to be true.” Greenwald is […]

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  • Bloomberg and Koch in ‘The Wall Street Journal’: ‘Stop stifling free speech’

    By on May 13, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    This month, before venturing forth beyond campus for good, graduates nationwide are receiving words of wisdom from commencement speakers offering advice about how the new degree-holders might achieve their full potential. In that spirit, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chairman and CEO of Koch Industries Charles Koch join forces today in an opinion article for The Wall Street Journal to offer “urgent advice”—not for students, however, but for college administrators: Our advice is this: Stop stifling free speech and coddling intolerance for controversial ideas, which are crucial to a college education—as well as to human happiness and […]

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  • ‘Gravely Concerned’ Over Social Club Sanctions, FIRE Writes to Harvard

    By on May 12, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    FIRE has asked Harvard University to reverse the “illiberal and chilling new policy” aimed at students who join unrecognized single-sex social organizations. The policy would prohibit student-members of an array of clubs—from Harvard’s “final clubs” to any fraternity or sorority—from holding leadership positions in recognized student organizations or on athletic teams and render them ineligible for a dean’s endorsement for the prestigious Rhodes and Marshall scholarships and other post-graduate scholarships and fellowships. We outlined our serious concerns about Harvard’s new policy in a letter sent to Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust today. FIRE’s letter criticized Harvard’s encroachment on the autonomy […]

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  • President Obama’s Howard Commencement Address: “Let Them Talk” (VIDEO)

    By on May 9, 2016 Category: Newsdesk, Video

    On Saturday, President Obama spoke to Howard University’s graduating class of 2016. Over the years, the historic institution, which was established by the Freedmen’s Bureau after President Lincoln delivered the Emancipation Proclamation, has provided a platform for an array of voices, including artists, doctors, and civil rights activists. It’s therefore only natural that President Obama would choose to reflect on free speech during his commencement address there. After reflecting on improvements in race relations since his own college days, the president offered the class of 2016 advice. “In particular, it requires listening to those with whom you disagree, and being […]

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  • Harvard Brings Back the Blacklist for Final Club, Fraternity, Sorority Students

    By on May 6, 2016 Category: Press Releases

    BOSTON, May 6, 2016—In a stunning attack on freedom of association, Harvard University announced today that members of independent, single-sex, off-campus organizations will be blacklisted from Rhodes and Marshall scholarships and banned from leadership of on-campus organizations or athletic teams. Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust stated that next year, members of fraternities, sororities, and “final clubs” will begin to be denied these opportunities in an effort to foster “inclusion” and “address deeply rooted gender attitudes.” According to Dean Rakesh Khurana, who recommended the changes, such organizations have been independent from Harvard since 1984. They operate as off-campus entities and do […]

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  • A Lifetime in ‘The Truth Business’: FIRE Honors the Exceptional Career of Wisconsin Professor Donald Downs

    By on May 6, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    Editor’s Note: University of Wisconsin Professor Emeritus Donald Downs is a longtime friend of FIRE. Coincidentally, I worked for him as a teaching assistant when I attended the University of Wisconsin Law School. I was recently invited back to campus on FIRE’s behalf to report on a conference in Downs’ honor. In the frame, in the basketball stadium, two players are reaching for the ball. “That’s Bill Russell. He was my first athletic hero.” Donald Downs—emeritus professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin – Madison (UW)—turns once again to the photograph he’s looked at a thousand times, and […]

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  • FIRE Launches ‘So to Speak: The Free Speech Podcast’

    By on May 5, 2016 Category: Newsdesk, So To Speak

    The fight for free speech has many stories. That’s why FIRE is proud to launch So to Speak: The Free Speech Podcast, in which we will take an uncensored look at the world of free expression through personal stories and candid conversations. This morning, we released the first of our bi-weekly episodes, featuring our own President & CEO Greg Lukianoff and long-time FIRE friend and Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Jonathan Rauch. New episodes of So to Speak will be posted every other Thursday morning. In 1993, a young Rauch published Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought. It was […]

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  • Victory: Texas College Settles Free Speech Lawsuit After Telling Student That Gun Rights Sign Needs ‘Special Permission’

    By on May 4, 2016 Category: Press Releases

    HOUSTON, May 4, 2016—Yesterday, the Blinn College Board of Trustees agreed to settle a First Amendment lawsuit filed last year by a student who was told that she would need to jump through numerous bureaucratic hoops to express herself on campus and would need “special permission” to display a gun rights sign. The settlement is the ninth consecutive victory for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE’s) unprecedented and undefeated Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project. As part of the settlement agreement, Blinn College agreed to revise the restrictive policies targeted in the lawsuit to comply with the First […]

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  • FIRE Debates at U. of Chicago: Should the Second Amendment Be Amended?

    By on April 29, 2016 Category: Press Releases

    CHICAGO, April 29, 2016—After every mass shooting, the debate over the meaning of the Second Amendment is rehashed in the media and in the court of public opinion. Much of the conversation centers around what the nation’s Founding Fathers intended when the Second Amendment was written over 200 years ago—but would gun control advocates be better off working to amend the Second Amendment? On Tuesday, May 3, at 6 p.m. Central time, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) will host a debate on the motion “The Second Amendment should be amended” at the University of Chicago. This Oxford-style […]

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  • University of Chicago Reforms All Speech Codes, Earns FIRE’s Highest Free Speech Rating

    By on April 26, 2016 Category: Press Releases

    CHICAGO, April 26, 2016—The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is excited to announce the latest university to earn its highest, “green light” rating for free speech: the University of Chicago (UC). In cooperation with FIRE, UC revised all of its speech codes to join an elite group of colleges and universities that maintain policies respecting student and faculty free expression rights and meeting First Amendment standards. “The University of Chicago has been a leader for free speech on college campuses with the Committee on Freedom of Expression’s exemplary free speech policy statement, and now I’m happy to say […]

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  • Department of Justice: Title IX Requires Violating First Amendment

    By on April 25, 2016 Category: Press Releases

    WASHINGTON, April 25, 2016—The Department of Justice now interprets Title IX to require colleges and universities to violate the First Amendment. In an April 22 findings letter concluding its investigation into the University of New Mexico’s policies and practices regarding sex discrimination, the Department of Justice (DOJ) found the university improperly defined sexual harassment. DOJ flatly declared that “[u]nwelcome conduct of a sexual nature”—including “verbal conduct”—is sexual harassment “regardless of whether it causes a hostile environment or is quid pro quo.” To comply with Title IX, DOJ states that a college or university “carries the responsibility to investigate” all speech […]

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  • FIRE Wins The Heritage Foundation’s Salvatori Prize for Citizenship

    By on April 21, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    FIRE has won The Heritage Foundation’s 2016 Salvatori Prize for American Citizenship for its “fierce and principled dedication to defending individual rights at America’s colleges and universities.” FIRE President and CEO Greg Lukianoff accepted the $25,000 prize on FIRE’s behalf yesterday at a ceremony in Philadelphia. FIRE President and CEO Greg Lukianoff (center), with former United States Senator Jim DeMint (left) and The Heritage Foundation’s David Azzerad (right), after accepting the 2016 Salvatori Prize on behalf of FIRE. “Last year, free speech was threatened as never before on campuses across America,” said David Azerrad, director of Heritage’s B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles […]

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  • University of Wisconsin – Superior Conducting ‘Investigation’ Into Student Newspaper’s April Fools’ Edition

    By on April 21, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    At college newspapers across the country, there’s an annual tradition of publishing an irreverent, often-satirical edition on April Fools’ Day. And, almost every year, a college launches an investigation, or a student government freezes funding, as a result. While schools typically back off these censorship attempts under pressure from groups like FIRE, there always seems to be at least one school every year who’s willing to learn this lesson the hard way. This year is no different, thanks to administrators at the University of Wisconsin – Superior (UW-Superior) who took issue with some April Fools’ jokes in the college paper. […]

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  • University of Delaware Police to Students: Self-Censor ‘Free Speech Ball’

    By on April 15, 2016 Category: Press Releases

    NEWARK, Del., April 15, 2016—Today, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) sent a letter to the University of Delaware (UD) voicing concerns about expressive rights on campus after a UD police officer confronted students on Wednesday and told them to self-censor a “free speech ball”—a large, plastic beach ball on which they encouraged other students to write their thoughts. The officer informed students that a drawing of a penis and the word “penis” on the ball could violate the university’s sexual misconduct policy. FIRE’s letter urges UD to ensure its police understand and respect the First Amendment rights […]

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  • Williams College’s Zach Wood Won’t Back Down on Free Speech (VIDEO)

    By on April 15, 2016 Category: Newsdesk, Video

    In February, Williams College President Adam Falk unilaterally disinvited controversial writer John Derbyshire from the school’s student-run “Uncomfortable Learning” speaker series. The reason, according to President Falk, was that Derbyshire’s views—which have been called racist and sexist—made people too uncomfortable. In short, Adam Falk missed the point. Uncomfortable Learning’s president, Williams sophomore Zach Wood, wrote an op-ed for FIRE criticizing what was then the second such disinvitation in as many semesters. Wood recently sat down with FIRE to talk about the importance of combating bad ideas with good ones, and how he experienced backlash for encouraging that difficult-but-necessary dialogue. “There […]

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  • FIRE-supported Documentary ‘Can We Take a Joke?’ Acquired by Samuel Goldwyn, Set for Release this Summer

    By on April 5, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    Can We Take a Joke?, the FIRE-supported documentary featuring free speech experts and comedy heavyweights like Gilbert Gottfried, Penn Jillette, and Adam Carolla talking about the collision of comedy and outrage culture, has been acquired by Samuel Goldwyn Films.  No joke, we’re releasing @CanWeTakeaJoke by @tedbalaker this summer. Read more about this #docu via @Variety https://t.co/cWmAVGU3C4 — Samuel Goldwyn Films (@GoldwynFilms) April 3, 2016 News of the film’s acquisition and summer release date spread to Hollywood’s trade publications late last week and was quickly picked up by outlets like Vanity Fair. “Outrage culture” doc ‘Can We Take A Joke?’ to infuriate […]

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  • FIRE Aims to Challenge Legality of Federal Sexual Misconduct Mandate

    By on April 4, 2016 Category: Press Releases

    WASHINGTON, April 4, 2016—Five years ago today, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced sweeping new requirements for colleges and universities adjudicating allegations of sexual misconduct. By unilaterally issuing these binding mandates via a controversial “Dear Colleague” letter (DCL), OCR ignored its obligation under federal law to notify the public of the proposed changes and solicit feedback. To correct this error, and to begin to fix a broken system of campus sexual assault adjudication that regularly fails all involved, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) seeks a student or institution to challenge OCR’s abuse of […]

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  • Georgetown Law’s New Political Activity Policy: A Good Start, But Far From Finished

    By on April 1, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    At the start of the school year, when classmates and I decided to promote Bernie Sanders for President at Georgetown University Law Center, we assumed that our biggest challenge would be convincing our peers of the merits of Sanders’s campaign. Instead, our primary obstacle has been convincing Georgetown that we should be permitted to engage in this type of political discourse at all. Over six months ago, our group was denied a reservation for a table on campus to engage in campaign-related outreach. I quickly learned that, with the exception of wearing a campaign pin or placing a sticker on […]

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  • Harvard Law School Administration Enables, Assists Students in Censoring Peers

    By on March 31, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    The 2015–2016 academic year has undoubtedly been one of the busiest for student activism in recent memory, and with that has come free speech triumphs as well as free speech follies. Unfortunately, news from Harvard Law School (HLS) this morning falls squarely in the latter category. In Fall 2015, a group of students calling themselves “Reclaim Harvard Law” (Reclaim) issued a list of demands intended to address race relations on campus to the HLS administration. In mid-February, unsatisfied with HLS’s response, Reclaim began to occupy the lounge in Harvard Law School’s Caspersen Student Center, calling it “Belinda Hall,” until its […]

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  • Marquette Continues to Earn ‘Worst School’ for Free Speech Label With New Punishments for McAdams

    By on March 25, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    A suspension through the fall 2016 semester and a compelled apology: that is the punishment reportedly imposed on Marquette University Professor John McAdams yesterday. The punishment stems from his 2014 online criticism of a graduate student instructor who told a student not to oppose same-sex marriage in her class at the Catholic university. This development comes as the result of recommendations made to Marquette President Michael Lovell by a faculty hearing committee in January. However, according to a report today from Inside Higher Ed, a lawyer for McAdams claims that the faculty panel never recommended, in its confidential 123-page report, […]

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  • WATCH LIVE Tonight: FIRE Debates Series Focuses on ‘Hashtag Activism’

    By on March 23, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    Tonight at 7 p.m. EDT, the third installment of the FIRE Debates series will stream live from the University of Pennsylvania’s Harrison Auditorium. For this debate, techno-sociologist Zeynep Tufekci and community organizer Zellie Imani will debate the motion “Hashtag activism garners attention but is not enough for outcomes.” If you’re in Philadelphia, the debate is free and open to the public. Tickets are still available, but going fast—get yours now! Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. EDT. You can follow, or even contribute to, the debate on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #FIREdebates.

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  • Welcome to FIRE’s New Philadelphia Headquarters! (PHOTOS)

    By on March 18, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    For more than 10 years, FIRE has been headquartered in the historic Curtis Center in the heart of Philadelphia. Today, we’re excited to announce that FIRE has finally settled into our new home at One Washington Square, which—fittingly—overlooks even-more-historic Independence Hall. To say FIRE outgrew our previous office is quite an understatement! Our relocation was born of necessity, as FIRE has evolved over the years from a small group of dedicated First Amendment advocates, into a proven, multi-faceted organization of dozens. We have been quite busy as of late. After vastly expanding many of our programs, our staff has tripled […]

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  • Achieving ‘Social Justice’ Means Embracing Free Speech

    By on March 11, 2016 Category: Newsdesk

    Cases of college students demanding restrictions on free expression are making the news on a weekly basis. While much criticism has been directed at student calls for “trigger warnings,” “safe spaces,” and the “right not to be offended,” less has been said about the impetus behind this advocacy. If we assume the best of those who support restrictions on free expression, we can understand their efforts as a means to a desirable end: a more equal society. Promoting equality at the expense of liberty, however, only serves to undermine both. The truth is, you can’t have social justice—however you define […]

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  • FIRE Announces 10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech: 2016

    By on February 17, 2016 Category: Press Releases

    PHILADELPHIA, February 17, 2016—Nearly half of America’s top colleges maintain speech codes that blatantly violate First Amendment standards. But every year the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) takes a closer look at the past year’s incidents of college censorship to determine the nation’s 10 worst abusers of student and faculty free speech rights. This year’s list of the 10 worst colleges for free speech—published with detailed descriptions at The Huffington Post—includes many public colleges or universities bound by the First Amendment. Some of them, on the other hand, are private colleges that, though not required by the Constitution […]

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  • WATCH LIVE Tonight: ‘College Students Should Be Allowed to Take Smart Drugs’

    By on November 2, 2015 Category: Newsdesk

    Tonight, four of the world’s most renowned doctors and bioethicists will square off in the second event in our FIRE Debates series—“College students should be allowed to take smart drugs”—at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The debate will begin at 6 p.m. EST. You can watch the debate live on Intelligence Squared U.S.’s website or on the IQ2US app. It will also air soon after as part of the syndicated public radio show and podcast Intelligence Squared U.S. If you’re in the D.C. area, seats are still available. Tickets are $30 for the public and free for students (with valid […]

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  • UC Davis Reverses Punishment of Student Club That Used University Name

    By on August 27, 2015 Category: Press Releases

    DAVIS, Calif., August 27, 2015—The University of California, Davis (UC Davis) has reversed its punishment of a student club, concluding that the Ayn Rand Society at UC Davis (ARS) did not violate the university’s trademark policy by using the university’s name in its club title and Facebook page Web address. The about-face comes after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) wrote to UC Davis last year, asking university officials to review and retract the punishment because it violated the students’ First Amendment rights. “FIRE is pleased that UC Davis took this opportunity to examine its policies and develop […]

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  • ‘Standstill Order’ Bars Chicago State University From Censoring Blog During FIRE-Led Lawsuit

    By on July 30, 2015 Category: Press Releases

    CHICAGO, July 30, 2015—Yesterday, a federal judge ordered Chicago State University (CSU) not to “take any steps to shut down the CSU Faculty Voice blog or interfere with its operation in any way.” Although the order does not address the ultimate merits of the First Amendment claim, it allows the case to proceed without any ongoing threat of retaliation for speech critical of CSU’s administration. The order results from a lawsuit filed last year alleging that CSU was waging a targeted campaign to shut down the CSU Faculty Voice because it criticized the university administration. The suit is part of […]

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  • Texas Christian University Tramples Student’s Rights in Order to Appease Angry Internet Mob

    By on July 29, 2015 Category: Press Releases

    TCU suspended a student for social media posts made about current events A non-student in Maryland urged her Tumblr followers to write TCU about the student’s posts TCU suspended the student and banned him from campus residence halls despite policies explicitly promising students free speech rights FORT WORTH, Texas, July 29, 2015—Texas Christian University (TCU) has abandoned its stated commitments to free speech and due process after a group of Internet commenters were offended by one student’s social media posts and complained to university administrators. TCU suspended student Harry Vincent for commentary posted to his personal Facebook and Twitter profiles […]

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  • Crafton Hills College Ditches Disclaimer After FIRE, Coalition Warning

    By on July 9, 2015 Category: Newsdesk

    Yesterday, California’s Crafton Hills College (CHC) chose to support academic freedom in deciding not to include a trigger warning on an English class syllabus. FIRE hopes CHC’s quick and forthright response to criticism from FIRE and a coalition of groups including the National Coalition Against Censorship sets an example for other schools considering the use of similar disclaimers. The resolution comes after student Tara Shultz complained that material used in Professor Ryan Bartlett’s English course on graphic novels—including Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll’s House—was “garbage” and sought to have it censored for containing […]

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  • Northwestern Risks Academic Freedom (Again) by Censoring Bioethics Journal with ‘Bad Girls’ Theme

    By on June 16, 2015 Category: Press Releases

    CHICAGO, June 16, 2015—Academic freedom is apparently no longer a part of Northwestern University’s “brand.” For over 14 months, administrators at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine (FSM) censored Atrium—a faculty-produced bioethics journal—because an issue featured content with a “Bad Girls” theme deemed too salacious for the university’s image. Northwestern is now requiring that future journal content be reviewed by university administrators prior to its publication. This is the second time in less than a month that Northwestern finds itself at the center of an academic freedom controversy over issues of sex and gender. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education […]

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  • College Declares Haymarket Riot Reference a Violent Threat to College President

    By on June 8, 2015 Category: Press Releases

    CHICAGO, June 8, 2015—Oakton Community College (OCC) is insisting that a one-sentence “May Day” email referencing the Haymarket Riot sent by a faculty member to several colleagues constituted a “true threat” to the college president. Lawyers for the Chicago-area college argue that the email, which noted that May Day (May 1) is a traditional time for workers to remember the riot, threatened violence. Last month, OCC demanded that the now former faculty member “cease and desist” from similar communications in the future or face potential legal action. May Day is celebrated every year on May 1 by the international labor […]

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  • FIRE President to Testify at House Judiciary Committee Hearing Regarding Free Speech on Campus

    By on June 1, 2015 Category: Press Releases

    UPDATE (6/2/15): Today’s hearing will be webcast live on the House Judiciary Committee’s website. WASHINGTON, June 1, 2015—Tomorrow, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) President and CEO Greg Lukianoff will address the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice on the state of free speech on America’s public college campuses. Lukianoff will be joined by attorney and author Wendy Kaminer; Kim Colby, Director of the Christian Legal Society’s Center for Law and Religious Freedom; and Professor Jamie Raskin of American University Washington College of Law. The hearing will begin at 2 p.m. ET in room […]

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  • FIRE’s Statement on Northwestern’s Lengthy, Unwarranted Title IX Investigation of Laura Kipnis

    By on June 1, 2015 Category: Newsdesk

    On Friday evening, Northwestern University finally cleared Professor Laura Kipnis of wrongdoing after a 72-day investigation into her public writing and comments about sexual politics on campus. The lengthy investigation was launched by the university’s Title IX Coordinator after two students filed complaints alleging that Kipnis’s essay published in The Chronicle of Higher Education discussing already-public details about sexual harassment investigations and lawsuits at Northwestern constituted “retaliation” and “chilled” students’ willingness to report harassment. As we at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) detailed on Friday, Kipnis exposed the investigation and the university’s unfair treatment towards her in […]

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  • Student Sues Texas College After Being Told Gun Rights Sign Needs ‘Special Permission’

    By on May 20, 2015 Category: Press Releases

    HOUSTON, May 20, 2015—Blinn College student Nicole Sanders filed a First Amendment lawsuit against the public institution near Houston today after being told by an administrator last February that she would need “special permission” to display a gun rights sign and collect signatures for her student group on campus. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) assisted Sanders in filing the federal lawsuit, the tenth lawsuit filed as part of FIRE’s national Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project. The lawsuit challenges Blinn’s policy of restricting speech to a tiny “Free Speech Area,” as well as the process that led the […]

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  • Purdue University Eliminates All of Its Speech Codes, Earns FIRE’s Highest Rating

    By on May 15, 2015 Category: Press Releases

    WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., May 15, 2015—The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is pleased to announce that Purdue University has earned FIRE’s highest, “green light” rating for free speech. With help from FIRE, Purdue revised its speech-related policies to comply with the First Amendment. Purdue further affirmed its commitment to academic freedom and freedom of expression by adopting a statement similar to the University of Chicago’s laudable statement on academic freedom, endorsed by FIRE in January. “We’re proud to add Purdue to the growing list of green light institutions,” said Azhar Majeed, Director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Education Program. […]

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  • Speech Code of the Month: Lake Superior State University

    By on May 11, 2015 Category: Speech Code of the Month

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for May 2015: Lake Superior State University (LSSU) in Michigan. LSSU’s Posting Policy, found in the Student Handbook, requires that all postings be approved by the university’s Campus Life Office and provides that “[p]ostings deemed offensive, sexist, vulgar, discriminatory or suggestive will not be approved.” The potential sanctions for violating the policy include not only removal of one’s flyers, but also “disciplinary sanctioning of the individual(s) involved.” Under this policy, students face potential disciplinary action for advertising controversial events or opinions. One need only look through FIRE’s case history to see how […]

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  • Dixie State U., Cal Poly Pomona Suspend Restrictive Speech Codes in Wake of FIRE-Led Lawsuits

    By on May 7, 2015 Category: Press Releases

    PHILADELPHIA, May 7, 2015—Dixie State University in Utah and California State Polytechnic University, Pomona have both agreed this week to suspend numerous policies that substantially restrict students’ free speech rights on campus. The policy suspensions result from lawsuits filed this year as part of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE’s) Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project, an unprecedented and undefeated national effort to eliminate unconstitutional speech codes from the nation’s public colleges and universities. “FIRE has been warning colleges for years that the Constitution is clear—there is no place for speech codes on a public college campus,” said […]

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  • Western Michigan U. Settles Boots Riley ‘Speech Tax’ Lawsuit, ‘Stand Up For Speech’ Scores Fifth Victory

    By on May 4, 2015 Category: Press Releases

    GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., May 4, 2015—Western Michigan University (WMU) has agreed to settle a First Amendment lawsuit that alleged the university taxed controversial speech by making student organizers pay for extra security to host rapper and social activist Boots Riley on campus. The lawsuit, filed in October 2014 as part of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE’s) Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project, also challenged WMU’s posting and space reservation policies. Following settlement talks overseen by a federal magistrate judge, WMU has agreed to revise its policies to comply with the First Amendment and pay $35,000 in damages […]

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  • The George Washington University Tramples Free Speech, Ignores Context in Suspending Student for Indian Swastika Posting

    By on April 28, 2015 Category: Press Releases

    WASHINGTON, April 28, 2015—The George Washington University (GWU) has ignored both context and its own promises of free expression by suspending a Jewish student for placing a souvenir Hindu swastika obtained on a trip to India on his residence hall’s bulletin board. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), along with the student’s attorneys and the Hindu American Foundation, are calling on GWU to revoke the suspension. On March 16, the student placed a small, bronze, Indian swastika on a bulletin board at GWU’s International House residence hall. He intended to educate his friends and co-residents about the symbol’s […]

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  • With New Law, North Dakota Guarantees College Students’ Right to Attorney

    By on April 22, 2015 Category: Press Releases

    BISMARCK, N.D., April 22, 2015—Today, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple signed SB 2150 into law, providing students enrolled in the state’s public colleges and universities the right to be represented at their expense in non-academic suspension and expulsion hearings. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) worked with a bipartisan group of state legislators to enact the protection into law. “Thanks to this bipartisan legislation, students enrolled in North Dakota’s public colleges and universities will now have the right to secure legal representation when facing allegations of serious misconduct,” said FIRE Legislative and Policy Director Joe Cohn. “This new […]

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  • George Mason University Earns FIRE’s Highest Rating for Free Speech

    By on April 21, 2015 Category: Press Releases

    WASHINGTON, April 21, 2015—George Mason University (GMU) has eliminated all of its speech codes, earning the highest, “green light” rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). After working with FIRE to ensure its policies comply with the First Amendment, the Virginia university has joined a select group of colleges and universities nationwide to earn FIRE’s most favorable rating for free speech on campus. “We commend George Mason University for improving its policies and fully upholding the First Amendment rights of its students and faculty members,” said Azhar Majeed, Director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Education Program. “GMU is […]

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  • Thanks to FIRE, Faculty Unionization Petitions No Problem at St. Charles Community College

    By on April 20, 2015 Category: Press Releases

    ST. LOUIS, April 20, 2015—Adjunct faculty members attempting to unionize at a community college outside of St. Louis are now free to gather signatures for a petition asking the college’s administration to remain neutral in their unionization effort. A St. Charles Community College (SCC) administrator had initially denied faculty members their right to gather signatures before reversing course earlier this month. SCC’s about-face on petitioning comes after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) wrote to the administration, urging it to allow the St. Charles Community College Organizing Committee to gather signatures for its petition. FIRE explained that SCC’s […]

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  • Speech Code of the Month: Florida A&M University

    By on April 14, 2015 Category: Speech Code of the Month

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for April 2015: Florida A&M University (FAMU). According to FAMU’s Student Code of Conduct, “disorderly conduct” includes not only things like public drunkenness, but also the “use of profanity in public” and the use of “insulting” language. This policy is a clear violation of FAMU students’ First Amendment rights. The Supreme Court has made clear that a blanket ban on the public use of profanity is unconstitutional. In Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971), Paul Robert Cohen, a Vietnam War protester, walked into a county courthouse wearing a jacket emblazoned with […]

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  • Colleges Rush to Violate Free Speech, Due Process in Response to Speech Controversies

    By on April 9, 2015 Category: Press Releases

    PHILADELPHIA, April 9, 2015—In the wake of the University of Oklahoma’s unconstitutional decision to summarily expel students involved in a racist fraternity chant, colleges and universities across the country are in a “race to the bottom” to violate the rights of students at the center of campus controversies involving speech deemed offensive, heedless of either context or the precedent set by censoring unpopular speech. Last week, the University of South Carolina (USC) suspended a student who used a racial slur when writing a list of reasons “why USC WiFi blows” on a white board. Shortly after a photo of the […]

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  • Student Animal Rights Activist Sues Cal Poly Pomona for Requiring Permit to Speak

    By on March 31, 2015 Category: Press Releases

    LOS ANGELES, March 31, 2015—College student Nicolas Tomas filed a First Amendment lawsuit today against California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, with assistance from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). The lawsuit targets university policies that restrict where, when, and how students can exercise their free speech rights. The lawsuit alleges that on February 4, a Cal Poly Pomona police officer stopped Tomas from handing out flyers on a campus sidewalk. The officer directed Tomas to the Office of Student Life to obtain a “permit,” namely a badge that he would have to wear while distributing any written material. […]

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  • Ex-Chicago State Admin: I Was Pressured to File False Harassment Claim Against Faculty Critic

    By on March 20, 2015 Category: Press Releases

    CHICAGO, March 20, 2015—A former high-level administrator at Chicago State University alleged in a statement filed yesterday 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. According to the declaration of former Chicago State Vice President for Enrollment Management LaShondra Peebles, Watson was determined to silence Beverly by shutting down the blog, CSU Faculty Voice, which Beverly had founded. Contributors routinely posted documents that supported their allegations of mismanagement by the administration. After pretextual accusations of trademark infringement failed to intimidate […]

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  • FIRE Releases New ‘Guide to Due Process and Campus Justice’

    By on March 10, 2015 Category: Press Releases

    PHILADELPHIA, March 10, 2015—The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is proud to announce the publication of the second edition of our Guide to Due Process and Campus Justice. Originally released in 2003 as the Guide to Due Process and Fair Procedure on Campus, the newly updated edition provides readers with a detailed understanding of student rights in college and university disciplinary hearings. It focuses on the evolving challenges to due process rights on today’s campuses at both public and private universities, including a new section on student rights in sexual misconduct hearings and an overview of legislative, judicial, […]

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  • Speech Code of the Month: Marquette University

    By on March 9, 2015 Category: Speech Code of the Month

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for March 2015: Marquette University. If you’ve been following higher ed news or reading The Torch recently, you are probably aware that Marquette University is no friend of free speech. In fact, FIRE recently named Marquette one of the ten worst abusers of free speech for its “chilling campaign to revoke the tenure of political science professor John McAdams due to writings on his private blog.” It may not surprise you to learn, therefore, that Marquette also maintains highly restrictive speech codes. While Marquette’s policies impermissibly restrict a variety of student speech, […]

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  • Students Sue Dixie State U. Over ‘Free Speech Zone,’ Censorship of Bush, Obama, Che Flyers

    By on March 4, 2015 Category: Press Releases

    ST. GEORGE, Utah, March 4, 2015—Students filed a First Amendment lawsuit today against Utah’s Dixie State University, with assistance from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). The lawsuit challenges numerous unconstitutional restrictions that Dixie State, a repeat offender against freedom of speech, has placed on the First Amendment rights of Dixie State students. The lawsuit alleges that Dixie State refused to approve promotional flyers produced by the Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) student group that featured images negatively portraying Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara. Dixie State administrators told student plaintiff William […]

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  • FIRE Announces 10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech in 2014

    By on March 2, 2015 Category: Press Releases

    PHILADELPHIA, March 2, 2015—More than half of America’s top colleges maintain speech codes that blatantly violate First Amendment standards. But every year the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) takes a closer look at the previous year’s incidents of college censorship to determine the nation’s 10 worst abusers of student and faculty free speech rights. This year’s list of the 10 worst colleges for free speech—published with detailed descriptions at The Huffington Post—includes many public colleges or universities bound by the First Amendment. Some of them, on the other hand, are private colleges that, though not required by the […]

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  • FIRE Launches New Resource Page for Student Journalists

    By on February 19, 2015 Category: Newsdesk

    As we celebrate Free Press Week here at FIRE, we’re happy to announce the launch of our new resource page for student journalists. Defending the freedom of the collegiate press is a significant part of FIRE’s mission and work, and we hope our new resource page will play a role in our advocacy by helping to inform student reporters and editors about their rights under the First Amendment. Our resources include tips for student journalists, past writings from FIRE on free press issues, examples of FIRE cases involving student newspapers and media outlets, and much more. We hope student journalists […]

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  • U. of Tulsa Suspends Student for Someone Else’s Facebook Post

    By on February 12, 2015 Category: Press Releases

    TULSA, Okla., February 12, 2015—In a triple blow to free speech, due process, and freedom of the press, the University of Tulsa (TU) arbitrarily banned a student from campus until 2016 for Facebook posts that someone else admitted to writing and then attempted to intimidate student journalists who were trying to cover the story. “The University of Tulsa’s speech police are putting in some serious overtime on this case,” said Peter Bonilla, Director of the Individual Rights Defense Program at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). “Punishing someone for the speech of a friend or relative might be […]

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  • Speech Code of the Month: Lyndon State College

    By on February 9, 2015 Category: Speech Code of the Month

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for February 2015: Lyndon State College (LSC) in Vermont. LSC’s “Civility Policy” prohibits “uncivil, disrespectful, or disruptive expressions of opinions including obscenities.” As someone at LSC surely must know, most “obscenities” (commonly understood as curse words) and disrespectful or uncivil language are wholly protected by the First Amendment, which LSC—as a public college—may not violate. Regarding profanity, the Supreme Court of the United States has explicitly held that the state, of which the LSC administration is a part, may not ban the use of curse words. The Court noted that while the […]

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  • After Gay Marriage Flap, Marquette Moves to Fire Tenured Prof

    By on February 5, 2015 Category: Press Releases

    MILWAUKEE, Wisc., February 5, 2015—Disregarding freedom of speech, academic freedom, and its own policies, Marquette University will attempt to revoke Professor John McAdams’s tenure and fire him. Marquette is taking action against McAdams, a political conservative and frequent critic of the administration, supposedly in response to his online criticism of a graduate student instructor who told a student not to oppose same-sex marriage in her class. Marquette had previously suspended McAdams without due process, treated him as though he presented a violent threat, and cancelled his current semester’s classes. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has called for […]

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  • Students, FIRE Go Four-for-Four as Ohio U. Settles Speech Code Lawsuit

    By on February 2, 2015 Category: Press Releases

    ATHENS, Ohio, February 2, 2015—In a settlement signed today, Ohio University (OU) agreed to revise several policies that restricted free speech on campus rather than fight a student-led First Amendment lawsuit in court. This marks the fourth victory in a row for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE’s) Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project. Student Isaac Smith sued OU in July 2014 after OU administrators ordered Smith and other members of the Students Defending Students (SDS) campus organization to stop wearing T-shirts with the three-decade-old slogan, “We get you off for free.” SDS provides free assistance to students accused […]

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  • Speech Code of the Month: Georgia Southern University

    By on January 14, 2015 Category: Speech Code of the Month

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for January 2015: Georgia Southern University (GSU). As we begin a new year, we want to keep the focus squarely on the incursions on free speech by the federal government—specifically, by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). Last month, we highlighted a policy change at Pennsylvania State University that tracks the recommendations made by OCR in its May 2013 agreement with the University of Montana, which OCR described as a “blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country to protect students from sexual harassment and assault.” In the […]

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  • Barnes Is Back! Eleventh Circuit Restores First Amendment Claim

    By on January 12, 2015 Category: Press Releases

    ATLANTA, January 12, 2015—This morning, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit revived the First Amendment retaliation claim of former student Hayden Barnes, marking another victory in his long-running case. Barnes, who was expelled from Georgia’s Valdosta State University (VSU) in 2007 for posting a collage on Facebook, had already emerged victorious on due process grounds and been awarded $50,000, with former VSU president Ronald Zaccari held personally liable for the rights violation. Today’s opinion gives Barnes his day in court on the First Amendment claim and makes important attorneys’ fee rulings favorable to Barnes, opening Zaccari to […]

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  • FIRE Endorses University of Chicago’s New Free Speech Statement

    By on January 7, 2015 Category: Press Releases

    CHICAGO, January 7, 2015—Today, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) endorses the free speech policy statement produced by the Committee on Freedom of Expression at the University of Chicago. Yesterday, the Committee, chaired by esteemed law professor Geoffrey Stone, released this powerful new report on the importance of freedom of expression on campus. The Committee’s statement declares: “Because the University is committed to free and open inquiry in all matters, it guarantees all members of the University community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn. … [I]t is not the proper role of the […]

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  • Judge Rejects Every Argument in Iowa State’s Motion to Dismiss Free Speech Case

    By on January 7, 2015 Category: Press Releases

    AMES, Iowa, January 7, 2015—Yesterday, an Iowa federal judge denied Iowa State University’s (ISU’s) motion to dismiss a First Amendment lawsuit filed by students. Chief Judge James Gritzner of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa rejected every one of ISU’s arguments in his 19-page order. This is the first time a judge has ruled in a case brought as part of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE’s) Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project. Three other lawsuits in the project have already been settled in favor of free speech, for a total of $210,000 in […]

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  • Highlights and Lowlights for Campus Rights in 2014

    By on December 29, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    PHILADELPHIA, December 29, 2014—For reasons both good and ill, 2014 will enter the history books as a major year for free speech, due process, and individual rights at our nation’s colleges and universities. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) won more meaningful victories for student and faculty rights than ever before and even published a book, Freedom From Speech, addressing new attacks on campus freedom and their causes. But opponents of those rights also found powerful new allies in the federal Departments of Education and Justice, driven by the explosive issue of sexual assault on campus. “There’s no […]

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  • Speech Codes of the Year: 2014

    By on December 24, 2014 Category: Speech Code of the Month

    Each month, FIRE singles out a particularly reprehensible campus speech code for our Speech Code of the Month designation. While all of 2014’s Speech Codes of the Month flagrantly violated students’ or faculty members’ right to free expression, two of them were so egregious that they deserve special mention as 2014’s Speech Codes of the Year. University of Richmond The University of Richmond’s Standards of Student Conduct (PDF) prohibit “disruption,” which includes, among other things, “inappropriate behavior or expression.” This extraordinarily broad and vague prohibition gives the university administration total discretion to punish virtually any speech that another person subjectively […]

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  • FIRE, NCAC Call on University of Iowa to Defend Rights of Censored Faculty Artist

    By on December 17, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    DES MOINES, Iowa, December 17, 2014—In a letter sent last Friday, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) joined in criticizing the University of Iowa’s (UI’s) chilling censorship of faculty artist Serhat Tanyolacar. UI forced Tanyolacar to remove his artwork from an outdoor campus area after some students claimed they were disturbed by its imagery, consisting of newspaper clippings reporting on racial violence printed onto a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood. UI also publicly denounced the artwork, ignoring its anti-racist intent and its success in facilitating dialogue on race relations among its […]

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  • NEW REPORT: Most U.S. Colleges Violate Students’ Free Speech Rights

    By on December 13, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    PHILADELPHIA, December 13, 2014—The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) released its 2015 report and interactive infographic on campus speech codes across America today. FIRE’s findings show that more than half of the 437 schools analyzed maintain policies severely restricting students’ right to free speech. “Most universities continue to enforce speech codes that don’t satisfy First Amendment standards,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “For the seventh consecutive year, however, the percentage of speech codes has dropped, and we’re happy to see that. But the federal government’s efforts to address sexual harassment on campus are leading a number of universities […]

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  • INFOGRAPHIC: Free Speech in Danger on America’s Campuses

    By on December 12, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    Every year, FIRE rates over 400 colleges and universities around the country on how well they respect free speech on their campuses. This year, the results are once again disturbing. Check out the static infographic below (or, better yet, check out the interactive infographic) to see what we found this year. Facts to share: Only 19 of rated U.S. colleges fully allow #freespeech on campus. – Tweet this! 55% of rated schools clearly restrict campus #freespeech. – Tweet this! 39% of rated schools have ambiguous #freespeech policies. – Tweet this! Only 4% of rated schools do not restrict #freespeech in […]

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  • Emily Yoffe on ‘The College Rape Overcorrection’

    By on December 8, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    Emily Yoffe has thoroughly examined and thoughtfully considered the complex issue of how colleges and universities handle allegations of sexual assault, and the result is a must-read article published yesterday in Slate. Yoffe starts by detailing the case of Drew Sterrett, a former University of Michigan student who is claiming in a lawsuit (PDF) against the university that it punished him for an alleged sexual assault without a fair hearing and despite significant exculpatory evidence. This account may not surprise readers familiar with John Doe’s pseudonymous lawsuit against Occidental College (which Yoffe also discusses in her piece), or the case […]

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  • Speech Code of the Month: Pennsylvania State University

    By on December 8, 2014 Category: Speech Code of the Month

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for December 2014: Pennsylvania State University (Penn State). At Penn State, “Sexual Harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is unwanted, inappropriate, or unconsented to.” This is a staggeringly broad definition that includes a tremendous amount of protected speech. According to the plain language of this policy, a single off-color joke or comment is sufficient to constitute sexual harassment if someone subjectively finds it inappropriate, or merely doesn’t consent to hearing it. This is a clear violation […]

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  • ‘Rolling Stone’ Developments Underline Need for Professional Response to Campus Sexual Assault

    By on December 5, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    This afternoon, new reporting from The Washington Post called into serious question the veracity of a Rolling Stone story regarding an alleged 2012 gang rape at the University of Virginia (UVA). Following publication of the Post’s story, the UVA fraternity identified by Rolling Stone as home to the alleged gang rape’s perpetrators released a statement disputing key facts of the account. In response, Rolling Stone has now issued a note stating that the magazine has concluded that its trust in Jackie, the young woman at the center of the story, was “misplaced,” and apologizing to “anyone who was affected by […]

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  • Second Victory in 24 Hours: College that Suppressed Anti-NSA Petition Settles Lawsuit

    By on December 3, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    LOS ANGELES, December 3, 2014—Today, Citrus College in California agreed to settle a student’s free speech lawsuit for $110,000, marking the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE’s) second victory for the First Amendment in 24 hours. Student Vincenzo Sinapi-Riddle filed the federal lawsuit in July as part of FIRE’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project. Sinapi-Riddle was threatened with removal from campus for soliciting signatures for a petition against domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA) outside of Citrus’s tiny “free speech area.” In addition to the monetary settlement for Sinapi-Riddle’s damages and attorneys’ fees, Citrus has revised […]

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  • U. of Hawaii Settles Lawsuit Over Handing Out Constitutions

    By on December 2, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    HONOLULU, December 2, 2014—In a victory for free speech, the University of Hawaii (UH) agreed today to settle a First Amendment lawsuit filed by two students at UH’s Hilo campus. Students Merritt Burch and Anthony Vizzone sued UH after one administrator stopped Burch from passing out copies of the U.S. Constitution and another told both of them to restrict their protest against National Security Agency (NSA) spying to a tiny, flood-prone “free speech zone.” Burch and Vizzone turned to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which coordinated the lawsuit as part of its Stand Up For Speech Litigation […]

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  • Has Title IX Failed in Dealing with Campus Sexual Assault?

    By on December 1, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    In TIME magazine’s “Ideas” section today, I argue that it has. The recent account in Rolling Stone of a chilling, premeditated, seven-perpetrator gang rape that allegedly occurred at the University of Virginia (UVA)—and that went unreported to police for two years—has led many to question how a major felony report on campus could go without serious (or, according to the article, virtually any) investigation for so long. The UVA case provides a stark illustration of the often-ignored downside of encouraging alleged victims to use the processes universities have set up to try to comply with Title IX: Foremost is the […]

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  • Victory for Freedom of Conscience at UC Davis: University Removes Coercive Slide from Sexual Assault Training Materials

    By on November 20, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    Last month, FIRE wrote to the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) about a module in the university’s online sexual assault training that required students to identify certain types of speech as “problematic” in order to complete the training and register for classes. The module contained a section on “Harmful Language,” which informed students that phrases such as “I’d hit that!” or “I stalked him/her on Facebook” can “have a significant impact on normalizing violence.” Students were then asked to complete an activity in which they matched those words and phrases with “why they are problematic.” As FIRE wrote in […]

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  • FIRE, ADF File ‘Amici’ Brief in Eighth Circuit for Student Expelled for Facebook Posts

    By on November 20, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    Yesterday, FIRE and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed an amici curiae (“friends of the court”) brief (PDF) with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, arguing that a federal district court incorrectly dismissed former Central Lakes College (CLC) student Craig Keefe’s First Amendment lawsuit against the school. Keefe was a nursing student at the public Minnesota college when he landed in trouble for comments he posted on Facebook expressing negative feelings towards his classmates. While his posts included profanity, all of them fell far outside the narrowly defined categories of speech unprotected by the First Amendment, such as […]

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  • Speech Code of the Month: University of Central Missouri

    By on November 12, 2014 Category: Speech Code of the Month

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for November 2014: the University of Central Missouri. While restrictive speech codes are on the decline nationwide, the University of Central Missouri (UCM) adopted several new, unconstitutional speech codes last year—a move that earned UCM FIRE’s worst, “red light,” rating for severely restricting students’ free speech rights. One of those new policies is found in the “Student Rights and Responsibilities” section of UCM’s Guide to Good Decision-Making (PDF). Pursuant to the “Right to Non-Discrimination, Equal Access, and Fair Treatment” (PDF), students can face unspecified consequences for constitutionally protected speech if someone else […]

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  • Harvey Silverglate on the [Ableist Slur] Response to Smith College Panel on Free Speech

    By on November 10, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    Back in September, lawyer and FIRE Board of Advisors member Wendy Kaminer was accused of committing “an explicit act of racial violence” when, in a panel discussion on free speech hosted by Smith College, she said the word “nigger” out loud. Speaking about the word itself and not directing the slur at anybody, she argued that, in many contexts, censorship of the word serves no purpose. Yesterday in The Wall Street Journal, FIRE co-founder and chairman Harvey Silverglate put critics’ responses to Kaminer in context, writing about the hypersensitivity pervading college campuses and chilling open debate. He wrote: On campuses […]

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  • VIDEO: The Fight for Free Speech at Citrus College

    By on November 5, 2014 Category: Video

    Today, FIRE released a new video that chronicles Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project plaintiff Vincenzo Sinapi-Riddle’s fight for free speech at Citrus College in California. As Torch readers may recall, Sinapi-Riddle’s troubles with Citrus College began September 17, 2013—Constitution Day—when he asked another student to sign a petition protesting the National Security Agency’s surveillance program outside of the school’s designated free speech zone. A campus administrator at Citrus threatened Sinapi-Riddle with removal from campus for engaging in this conversation outside of the “free speech area,” which comprises just 1.37 percent of the Citrus campus. With FIRE’s help, Sinapi-Riddle sued […]

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  • UNC, Halloween, and the ‘Professionalism’ Threat to the First Amendment

    By on October 31, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    This being Halloween week, we’ve seen a few cautionary notices from universities warning of the potential for hurt feelings and emotional harm caused by culturally “insensitive” Halloween costumes. To cite one example, the University of Minnesota (UM) cautioned students to “keep in mind that certain Halloween costumes perpetuate racial, cultural, and gender stereotypes” and that such costumes “can depict identities in ways that are offensive or hurtful to others.” Many of these university statements function as reaffirmations of institutional values, such as diversity, tolerance, and inclusion, and obviously universities are more than free to issue them. UM gave some common […]

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  • Victory: College Backtracks After Punishing Professor for ‘Game of Thrones’ Picture

    By on October 28, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    NEW YORK, Oct. 28, 2014—In a victory for free speech, New Jersey’s Bergen Community College (BCC) has rescinded its punishment of an art professor it placed on leave and forced to undergo a psychiatric evaluation for posting a picture of his daughter wearing a Game of Thrones T-shirt. After learning of BCC’s outrageous actions, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) connected Professor Francis Schmidt with FIRE Legal Network member Derek Shaffer, a partner at the law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, and Gabriel Soledad, an associate at the firm. In a recent letter to Schmidt, BCC Director […]

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  • FIRE Celebrates 15 Years of Defending Rights on Campus

    By on October 23, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    NEW YORK, October 23, 2014—Today, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is joining civil liberties luminaries and supporters at the Mandarin Oriental to mark 15 years of defending student and faculty rights on America’s college and university campuses. Harvard University professor and bestselling author Steven Pinker and legendary First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams will speak at the dinner to celebrate FIRE’s 297 victories for liberty (and counting) at 206 colleges and universities across our nation, affecting nearly 4.6 million students. FIRE has released a short film highlighting our work over the past 15 years. The film serves as […]

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  • Lawsuit! Student Group Sues After Western Michigan U. Taxes Controversial Speech

    By on October 20, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    WASHINGTON, Oct. 20, 2014—A Western Michigan University (WMU) student organization has filed a First Amendment lawsuit against the university today with assistance from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). The lawsuit stems from WMU’s demand that the Kalamazoo Peace Center (KPC), a registered student organization, pay a hefty security fee before hosting rapper and social activist Boots Riley for a speech on campus last spring. The suit is the seventh First Amendment lawsuit filed as part of FIRE’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project. “Western Michigan University’s censorship relied on an old trick: Having realized that it could […]

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  • Harvard Law Faculty Members Blast New Sexual Harassment Policy; National Debate Rages Over ‘Affirmative Consent’ Law

    By on October 15, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    BOSTON, Oct. 15, 2014—Today, 28 members of the Harvard Law School faculty released a statement in The Boston Globe strongly objecting to Harvard University’s new sexual harassment policy. The Harvard faculty’s open letter reflects growing concerns among many commentators about new laws, federal guidance, and campus policies that sacrifice due process and constitutional values like “innocent until proven guilty” in order to address sexual misconduct on campus. “We are gratified to see so many Harvard Law faculty members speak out against Harvard University’s participation in what is a continued and inexcusable disregard for student and faculty due process rights,” said FIRE […]

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  • New FIRE Video: Nat Hentoff on Free Speech, Jazz, and FIRE

    By on October 8, 2014 Category: Video

    NEW YORK, October 8, 2014—Today, FIRE is proud to announce the release of our newest video, an interview with legendary critic and civil libertarian Nat Hentoff. In the interview, recorded this past April at his New York City residence, Hentoff explains the unique power of the First Amendment, discusses his lifelong love of jazz, and emphasizes the importance of FIRE’s work on our nation’s campuses. “The reason FIRE is important is no other organization—and I’ve been reporting about FIRE almost since the day it was born—focuses so entirely on making the new generation, and thereby the generations to follow, aware […]

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  • Speech Code of the Month: University of New Mexico

    By on October 1, 2014 Category: Speech Code of the Month

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for October 2014: the University of New Mexico. The University of New Mexico’s (UNM’s) Sexual Harassment Policy (PDF) states that “[e]xamples of sexual harassment which shall not be tolerated” include “suggestive” letters, notes, or invitations. The policy also prohibits “displaying sexually suggestive or derogatory objects, pictures, cartoons, or posters,” albeit with the vague disclaimer that such displays will be “evaluated for appropriateness such as art displayed in museums … .” This policy prohibits far more than the type of severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive conduct that actually constitutes sexual harassment in the […]

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  • After Denial, Group Opposing Same-Sex Marriage Approved at Notre Dame

    By on September 30, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    NOTRE DAME, Ind., September 30, 2014—Months after being rejected on the grounds that it was considered “redundant,” the University of Notre Dame student group Students for Child-Oriented Policy (SCOP) has finally won official recognition. Notre Dame denied the group recognition earlier this year following student opposition to SCOP due to its stance against same-sex marriage. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) called on Notre Dame to abandon its dubious rationale for SCOP’s rejection. “We commend Notre Dame for finally getting things right and allowing SCOP its rightful place among Notre Dame’s recognized student organizations,” said Robert Shibley, FIRE’s […]

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  • FIRE Urges UC Berkeley to Honor ‘Free Speech Movement’; FIRE President to Speak at 50th Anniversary Event

    By on September 26, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    BERKELEY, Calif., September 26, 2014—As the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) celebrates the 50th anniversary of the historic Free Speech Movement this fall, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) sent the university a letter today urging it to revise its six speech codes to comply with the First Amendment. FIRE President Greg Lukianoff will also be speaking at a campus event commemorating the Free Speech Movement on Saturday, September 27. “The University of California, Berkeley should be proud of the Free Speech Movement’s legacy and happy to celebrate this momentous occasion 50 years later,” said Lukianoff. “However, […]

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  • VIDEO: Students Pass Out Constitutions on Constitution Day, Campus Does Not Implode

    By on September 18, 2014 Category: Video

    Citrus College in California, like many other colleges and universities around the country, enacted policies to quarantine student speech to a tiny—and unconstitutional—“free speech area.” Last year, student Vincenzo Sinapi-Riddle was even threatened with removal from campus by an administrator for asking a fellow student to sign a petition protesting NSA surveillance of American citizens outside the college’s “free speech area.” That’s why FIRE announced a lawsuit against Citrus College this July, challenging this policy and others that limited free speech on campus. The college has put enforcement of its unconstitutional speech codes on hold while litigation is in process. […]

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  • On Constitution Day, FIRE Mails First Amendment Warning to More Than 300 Colleges

    By on September 17, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 17, 2014—In a national certified mailing sent today, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) warns the leaders of more than 300 of our nation’s largest and most prestigious public colleges and universities that they risk First Amendment lawsuits by continuing to maintain speech codes that violate student and faculty rights. The letters are being mailed from the main post office near Independence Hall in Philadelphia today to mark the 227th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. “58 percent of our nation’s public colleges and universities restrict student and faculty speech with blatantly unconstitutional policies, […]

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  • Plymouth State University Earns FIRE’s Highest Rating for Free Speech

    By on September 12, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    PLYMOUTH, N.H., September 12, 2014—Plymouth State University (PSU) has eliminated all of its speech codes, earning the highest, “green light” rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). After working with FIRE to ensure its policies comply with the First Amendment, PSU has become the 20th institution nationwide—and the second institution in just two months—to earn FIRE’s most favorable rating for free speech on campus. “Plymouth State is to be commended for its commitment to free speech,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “As one of only 20 schools to earn a green light rating from FIRE, Plymouth State is […]

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  • Speech Code of the Month: Boise State University

    By on September 10, 2014 Category: Speech Code of the Month

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for September 2014: Boise State University.
    Boise State’s Information Technology Resource Use policy (PDF) prohibits the use of university IT resources for “displaying, transmitting, retrieving, or storing inappropriate or offensive material,” unless “identified and pre-approved in writing by the [Vice President for] Academic Affairs and Provost as part of legitimate research, teaching, or academic pursuits.”

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  • FIRE President Takes On Berkeley Chancellor in WSJ; Releases New Book, ‘Freedom From Speech’

    By on September 9, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    WASHINGTON, September 9, 2014—Today, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) announces the release of President Greg Lukianoff’s second book, Freedom From Speech, as well as his latest op-ed in The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), in which he criticizes the University of California, Berkeley chancellor’s weak defense of campus free speech. In Freedom From Speech, Lukianoff describes how threats to free speech are likely to increase both in the U.S. and abroad due to the marginalization of free speech as a cultural value. Lukianoff points to censorship overseas, “trigger warnings,” and the disinvitation of controversial speakers on campus as […]

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  • Students Return to Campus Censorship, But Fight Back with FIRE

    By on September 2, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    PHILADELPHIA, September 2, 2014—As millions of college students arrive on campus this fall—many for the first time—few of them realize that nearly 59 percent of our nation’s colleges maintain policies that clearly and substantially restrict speech protected by the First Amendment. Too many students will realize that the rights they took for granted as Americans have been denied to them only after they face charges and disciplinary action for speaking their minds. But this year, campus censorship faces a new deterrent: FIRE’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project, which aims to finally bring an end to unconstitutional and illiberal speech […]

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  • Victory: University of Oregon Drops Charges Against Student for Joke

    By on August 28, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    EUGENE, Oregon, August 28, 2014—In a victory for free speech, the University of Oregon (UO) dropped the unconstitutional conduct charges it filed against a student based on a four-word joke wholly protected by the First Amendment. UO’s reversal comes barely 24 hours after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE’s) press release drew national attention to the university’s embarrassing treatment of the student. “We’re pleased that the student is no longer weighed down by these chilling disciplinary charges and can focus on her education,” said Peter Bonilla, Director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program. “UO’s quick action here illustrates […]

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  • Four-Word Joke Results in Five Conduct Charges for University of Oregon Student

    By on August 26, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    EUGENE, Oregon, August 26, 2014—The University of Oregon (UO) has filed multiple, blatantly unconstitutional conduct charges against a female student who jokingly yelled “I hit it first” from a dormitory window. The student, who wishes to remain anonymous, contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help. FIRE is calling on UO to immediately dismiss all charges against the student and reform its unconstitutional speech policies. “The University of Oregon’s absurd overreaction is the real joke here, and it’s not very funny,” said FIRE Senior Vice President Robert Shibley. “Using an unconstitutional speech code to punish a student […]

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  • FIRE Op-Ed Part of ‘New York Times’ Debate on Campus Sexual Assault

    By on August 13, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    Torch readers are well aware that FIRE has played a lead role in the national debate about how colleges and universities should properly respond to sexual assaults on campus. Yesterday, an op-ed by FIRE’s Samantha Harris was included in a series in The New York Times on this important issue, designed to present a variety of approaches to the problem.

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  • University of Florida Earns FIRE’s Highest Rating for Free Speech

    By on August 13, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    GAINESVILLE, Fla., August 13, 2014—The University of Florida (UF) has eliminated all of its speech codes, earning the highest, “green light” rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). After working with FIRE to ensure its policies comply with the First Amendment, UF has joined a select group of colleges and universities nationwide to earn FIRE’s most favorable rating for free speech on campus.

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  • Speech Code of the Month: Arkansas State University

    By on August 4, 2014 Category: Speech Code of the Month

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for August 2014: Arkansas State University.

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  • Pre-Order ‘Freedom From Speech’ Today!

    By on August 1, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    Not two years after the release of Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff is releasing a new (short) book. In this “broadside,” Freedom from Speech, Greg covers several disturbing trends over the past year, from colleges punishing individuals for offensive utterances to the phenomenon of “disinvitation season.”

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  • New FIRE Video: Don’t Shut Up—Stand Up For Speech!

    By on July 8, 2014 Category: Video

    Today, we’re proud to release FIRE’s newest video, titled “Don’t Shut Up—Stand Up For Speech!,” to further introduce some of the principled and impressive students who fought back when their schools stifled their expression.

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  • Speech Code of the Month: Armstrong State University

    By on July 8, 2014 Category: Speech Code of the Month

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for July 2014: Armstrong State University, a public university in the University System of Georgia.
    Armstrong’s list of student conduct offenses (PDF) includes, among other things:
    Sexual harassment (i.e., unwelcome sexual advances or conduct, creation of a hostile environment as perceived by the complainant, or the demand for sexual favors in return for some benefit.)

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  • Gun Rights Activist’s Speech Draws Unconstitutional Security Fees at Boise State

    By on July 7, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    BOISE, Idaho, July 7, 2014—The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has intervened at Boise State University after the college charged a student group hundreds of dollars in unconstitutional security fees for hosting a speech by a gun rights activist. Boise State forced the campus chapter of Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) to pay the fees or else face the last-minute cancellation of an event featuring Dick Heller, the named plaintiff in a well-known 2008 Supreme Court case regarding the possession of firearms. “You could hardly ask for a clearer violation of a student group’s First Amendment rights,” said Peter […]

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  • FIRE Brings Four Free Speech Lawsuits in One Day

    By on July 1, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    WASHINGTON, July 1, 2014—This morning, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) coordinated the filing of lawsuits against Ohio University, Chicago State University, Iowa State University, and Citrus College (Calif.). The filings launch FIRE’s new Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project, a national effort to eliminate unconstitutional speech codes through targeted First Amendment lawsuits. The project and lawsuits were announced today at a press conference at the National Press Club. FIRE has retained preeminent First Amendment attorney Robert Corn-Revere of the national law firm Davis Wright Tremaine as counsel for students and faculty members participating in the Stand Up […]

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  • Notre Dame Defends Rejection of ‘Redundant’ Student Group Amid Controversy

    By on June 19, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    NOTRE DAME, Ind., June 19, 2014—The University of Notre Dame is standing by its decision to reject the prospective student organization Students for Child-Oriented Policy (SCOP), claiming the group would be “redundant” in light of other existing groups on campus. Notre Dame rejected the group following student opposition to SCOP due to its stance against same-sex marriage. FIRE has intervened on SCOP’s behalf. FIRE sent Notre Dame a letter on May 23 calling on the university to reverse its decision. Notre Dame responded on June 6 with a defense of SCOP’s rejection, citing the same questionable “redundancy” rationale. “It is […]

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  • In Unanimous Ruling, Supreme Court Protects Ability to Challenge Restrictions on Speech

    By on June 17, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    Back in March, FIRE filed an amicus curiae brief (PDF) with the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus after the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit’s ruling in the case threatened to create a significant hurdle for those wishing to challenge restrictions on speech in court. FIRE is happy to report that yesterday, the Supreme Court unanimously reversed the Sixth Circuit’s judgment (PDF) and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Court’s ruling reaffirmed that the threat of punishment may allow for a First Amendment challenge to a law, even if that law has not yet been enforced against the speaker.

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  • UNC Wilmington Hit With $700,000 Legal Bill for Violating Professor’s Speech Rights

    By on June 11, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    The protracted legal battle between the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNC Wilmington) and professor Mike Adams can be fairly characterized as a series of failures by the university to cut its losses and own up to its mistakes. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled against the university in 2011, holding that the professor’s academic speech was entitled to protection under the First Amendment. Yet the university pressed on. Then, a federal jury rejected the university’s defense that it didn’t deny Adams’ promotion based on the protected activity and found that UNC Wilmington had […]

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  • Sexual Assault Injustice at Occidental: College Railroads Accused Student

    By on June 4, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    LOS ANGELES, June 4, 2014—Under pressure from the federal government to take action on sexual assault, and in the wake of a multi-plaintiff lawsuit from attorney Gloria Allred last year, Occidental College has found a student “responsible” for sexual assault despite the fact that police refused to charge him with any crime and text message evidence indicates that both parties consented to having sex. Accused student John Doe has filed a pseudonymous lawsuit against Occidental College to invalidate its finding and contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help. “Disregard for due process on campus, prompted by […]

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  • A Closer Look at Senator McCaskill’s Second Roundtable on Campus Sexual Assault

    By on June 4, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    On Monday, Senator Claire McCaskill held the second of a series of three roundtables discussing sexual assault on campus in Washington, D.C. Joined by Senators Jon Tester and Richard Blumenthal, the discussion centered on Title IX and featured what Senator McCaskill deemed a “diverse group of stakeholders,” including representatives from victims’ rights advocacy groups like Know Your IX, college administrators involved in Title IX compliance, and Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Jocelyn Samuels from the Department of Justice.

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  • Stanford Student Government Steamrolls Club, Ignores Promises on Free Speech

    By on June 2, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    STANFORD, Calif., June 2, 2014—In the wake of its heavily criticized, viewpoint-based retraction of funding to the Stanford Anscombe Society (SAS) student group for a conference on traditional values and marriage, Stanford University’s student government has ruled that the government’s Graduate Student Council (GSC) did not violate the group’s rights under Stanford rules. Additionally, the student government maintains that there is “simply not enough money” to fulfill requests for funding such as SAS’s request for $600—despite the fact that the student government has amassed a “Graduate buffer fund” of more than half a million dollars.

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  • New FIRE Report: ‘Disinvitations’ Skyrocketing

    By on May 28, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    PHILADELPHIA, May 28, 2014—In the wake of high-profile controversies this month over withdrawn and disinvited commencement speakers including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, International Monetary Fund Director Christine Lagarde, and women’s rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has released its first formal report on the phenomenon known as “disinvitation season” on campus. FIRE’s report finds that since 2000, the number of reported disinvitations and demands that speakers be disinvited has skyrocketed—from six in 2000 to 29 in 2013, for a total of 192 such incidents. And while efforts to exclude speakers receive […]

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  • Victory for Student Rights: UT Austin Restores Transparency in Funding Student Organizations

    By on May 19, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    The assessment of mandatory student fees for the purpose of supporting a variety of student organizations and programming is commonplace at public universities. Distribution of these funds is often placed in the hands of students themselves, with the understanding—reinforced by multiple Supreme Court decisions—that this process must be content- and viewpoint-neutral. In the absence of transparency, however, the fair allocation of student fee funds can be threatened—as was until recently the case at the University of Texas at Austin (UT). Fortunately, in response to concerns raised by FIRE, UT is taking steps to ensure transparency is restored and funds are distributed even-handedly.

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  • U. of Hawaii at Hilo Suspends Restrictive ‘Free Speech Zone’ While Lawsuit Proceeds

    By on May 16, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    Facing a federal lawsuit from a student who was ordered to stop handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution on campus, the University of Hawaii at Hilo has announced that it will immediately take interim steps to stop requiring students to limit their spontaneous political expression to a tiny “free speech zone.” FIRE coordinated last month’s lawsuit against the university for this and other First Amendment violations on behalf of students Merritt Burch and Anthony Vizzone.

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  • Don’t Save the Date: NYT, WSJ, Fox, MSNBC, NPR Cover ‘Disinvitation Season’

    By on May 13, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    The Class of 2014 is preparing for graduation by buying their caps and gowns—but let’s hope they weren’t counting on having a speaker for the ceremony. The years-long, snowballing trend of protests against commencement speakers, which FIRE has termed “disinvitation season,” is getting major attention this year from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, MSNBC, and NPR, among many other outlets.

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  • Loyola University Chicago Backs Down from Demands That Students Censor Free Speech Wall

    By on May 12, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    In April, Loyola University Chicago informed a student group planning a “free speech wall” event that it would be required to censor any messages that were “grossly offensive” or “contrary to the University’s Catholic, Jesuit mission and heritage.” After FIRE wrote to remind Loyola of its obligation to honor its promises of broad expressive rights on campus, Loyola backed down from its demands that students censor each other, and the event transpired as planned. FIRE is pleased that Loyola ultimately respected its students’ free speech rights and hopes that it will continue to do so in the future.

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  • Racial Humor Among Friends Deemed ‘Harassment’ at Lewis & Clark College

    By on May 8, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    Lewis & Clark College has declared two students, one African-American and one white, guilty of creating a “hostile and discriminatory environment” after racially themed jokes spoken between the friends at a private party were overheard and reported to campus authorities. The students contacted FIRE for help. In the face of media scrutiny and growing faculty concern, the college has said only that it “may” respond to FIRE’s criticisms.

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  • Concern Grows over White House Task Force’s Recommendations

    By on May 6, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    In the week since the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault released its first report, commentators nationwide have echoed FIRE’s concerns about the Task Force’s recommendations.

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  • Speech Code of the Month: Wake Forest University

    By on May 5, 2014 Category: Speech Code of the Month

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for May 2014: Wake Forest University. Wake Forest’s “Campus Posting” policy explicitly restricts student postings on the basis of their viewpoint. Not only does the policy ban any postings subjectively deemed “sexist,” “racist,” “derogatory,” or not in “good taste,” but it threatens violators with fines and disciplinary action. With this policy, Wake Forest places an impermissibly heavy burden on students wishing to express controversial political or social opinions on campus.

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  • Where There’s Smoke, There’s FIRE: Two More Allegations of Rights Violations at Hawaii-Hilo

    By on May 2, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    Last week, two students, supported by FIRE, filed a lawsuit against the University of Hawaii at Hilo for violating their rights to free expression. Since the lawsuit was filed, other students have come forward alleging violations of their rights.

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  • FIRE Responds to White House Task Force’s First Report on Campus Sexual Assault

    By on April 29, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    Three months after its creation, the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault issued its first report today. Titled “Not Alone” and accompanied by a new website, NotAlone.gov, the report announces new recommended practices for colleges and universities nationwide, including a template for “campus climate surveys,” a model sexual misconduct policy, and a sample confidentiality policy. The report is accompanied by the issuance of a new guidance document regarding Title IX from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Taken together, the Task Force’s recommendations double down on a broken campus judicial system and raise troubling new concerns about the impartiality and fundamental fairness of campus proceedings.

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  • Lawsuit! Another Student Ordered to Stop Handing Out Constitutions on Campus Files Suit in Hawaii

    By on April 24, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    A student ordered by administrators to stop handing out copies of the U.S. Constitution at the University of Hawaii at Hilo has filed a lawsuit today in federal court. Merritt Burch is suing the University of Hawaii System for violating her First Amendment rights. She is joined as a plaintiff by fellow student Anthony Vizzone.

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  • Bergen Administrators Fear ‘Game of Thrones’ Quote, Censor Professor

    By on April 16, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    Brace yourselves; censorship is coming!

    Displaying a lack of both pop culture and First Amendment awareness, administrators at Bergen Community College in New Jersey placed Professor Francis Schmidt on leave this past January, requiring him to meet with a psychiatrist before returning to campus—just for posting a picture of his daughter in a T-shirt quoting the popular HBO television show Game of Thrones.

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  • EMT Instructor Deemed Insufficiently ‘Sensitive to Diversity’ Vindicated; Settlement Reached

    By on April 14, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    LOS ANGELES, April 14, 2014—A paramedics instructor at Antelope Valley College (AVC) has vindicated his First Amendment rights after being threatened with discipline for allegedly demonstrating insufficient “sensitivity to diversity” in class.

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  • Saint Louis University Kicks Political Speech Off Campus

    By on April 9, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    Last fall, Saint Louis University (SLU) demanded a student group take an event featuring former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown off campus. SLU justified its wrongful decision to prevent Brown from appearing on campus out of misguided concerns for its tax-exempt status. With the 2014 midterm elections on the horizon, FIRE calls on SLU to once and for all stop using this excuse to suppress political speech on campus.

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  • Virginia Bans Unconstitutional Campus ‘Free Speech Zones’

    By on April 7, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    On Friday, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed a bill into law effectively designating outdoor areas on the Commonwealth’s public college campuses as public forums where student speech is subject only to reasonable, content- and viewpoint-neutral time, place, and manner restrictions. Under this new law, college students at Virginia’s public universities will not be limited to expressing themselves in tiny “free speech zones” or subject to unreasonable registration requirements.

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  • Speech Code of the Month: Colorado Mesa University

    By on April 7, 2014 Category: Speech Code of the Month

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for April 2014: Colorado Mesa University. Colorado Mesa’s policy on “Free Speech” limits students’ expressive activities to just one “concrete patio” on the university’s 86-acre campus. While the university has the right to enact reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions, courts have held time and again that onerous restrictions like this one are not reasonable.

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  • Dept. of Education Rulemaking Session Ends on Positive Note for Student Due Process Rights

    By on April 2, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    Yesterday, the last of three “negotiated rulemaking” sessions over new requirements for campus safety rules imposed by last year’s Violence Against Women Act reauthorization closed with good news for student rights.

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  • Asnuntuck C.C. Punishes Student Speech, Ignores This Exculpatory Video

    By on April 1, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    FIRE has called on Asnuntuck Community College (ACC) to drop its disciplinary action against a student following a conversation on campus with Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy. Making matters worse, ACC deprived the student of crucial due process protections, even refusing to review exculpatory video evidence.

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  • Georgetown College Earns Highest Rating for Free Speech

    By on March 28, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    Georgetown College in Kentucky has eliminated all of its speech codes, earning the highest, “green light” rating for free speech from FIRE.

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  • Video: ‘The State of Free Speech in America’ with Lukianoff, Fish, Rauch, Posner, Rosen

    By on March 27, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    This Tuesday, FIRE hosted an event focused on “The State of Free Speech in America” at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. Check out the video recording of the complete event!

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  • Stanford Covers Security Fee, But Viewpoint Discrimination Remains

    By on March 21, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    FIRE received word yesterday evening that Stanford would cover the costs of security after all. As SAS announced, it was informed via email that the university had “[f]ound more funds to subsidize the full cost of the security”—a lucky break, given that Stanford is only a “$4.8 billion enterprise.”

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  • New FIRE Video: Dartmouth Student Runs Over Free Speech

    By on March 20, 2014 Category: Video

    FIRE’s newest video features Dartmouth College student Robert Smith, who talks about the afternoon a fellow Dartmouth student ran over his organization’s pro-life display with his car. The ironic twist? The car was sporting a “Coexist” bumper sticker on the back.

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  • Victory: Indiana U. Dismisses Conduct Charges Based on Student’s Single Email

    By on March 19, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    FIRE has successfully defended the First Amendment rights of Indiana University – Bloomington student Andrew Hsu, who was charged with “Personal Misconduct” on the basis of a single email sent to a faculty member. After FIRE intervened on Hsu’s behalf, making clear the university’s unconstitutional application of its misconduct policy to Hsu’s protected expression, the university dismissed all charges against Hsu and permanently closed his case. FIRE commends IU for taking prompt corrective action.

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  • Western Kentucky University Revises Speech Code of the Month Policy

    By on March 17, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    In some good news for free speech on campus, Western Kentucky University (WKU) has revised a “Computing Ethics” policy that drew condemnation from the university’s Student Government Association (SGA) and was named FIRE’s Speech Code of the Month for March 2014. Because this was WKU’s only “red light” policy, the university now earns an improved, “yellow light” rating in FIRE’s Spotlight database.

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  • ‘Unlearning Liberty’ Released in Paperback Today

    By on March 11, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is proud to announce the paperback release of President Greg Lukianoff’s Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate, which includes a new afterword and photo section. As with the hardcover edition, all royalties from sales of the book will support FIRE’s work defending individual rights on campus.

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  • A Closer Look at FIRE’s ‘Susan B. Anthony List’ Brief

    By on March 7, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    As announced earlier this week, FIRE filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief (PDF) with the Supreme Court of the United States on Monday in the case of Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus. Because the case is an important one for FIRE’s work challenging speech codes in court, it’s worth taking a closer look at the stakes and our arguments.

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  • Victory: Modesto Junior College Settles Student’s First Amendment Lawsuit

    By on February 25, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    Yesterday evening, California’s Modesto Junior College (MJC) agreed to settle a First Amendment lawsuit filed last October by student Robert Van Tuinen, whom the college prevented from handing out copies of the Constitution on Constitution Day. The videotaped incident drew national media attention.

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  • ‘Bait and Switch’ at Dept. of Education’s Negotiated Rulemaking Session

    By on February 24, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    Today, the Department of Education began the second of three sessions of negotiated rulemaking on changes to federal campus crime reporting requirements. Unfortunately, negotiators are attempting to advance regulatory measures specifically rejected by lawmakers in the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), including a requirement that campus judiciaries employ our nation’s lowest evidentiary standard in sexual harassment and sexual assault hearings.

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  • ‘Harvard Crimson’ Column: Time to Get Rid of Academic Freedom

    By on February 21, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    Harvard University student Sandra Y.L. Korn has a provocative column in The Harvard Crimson that has been making the rounds. The column has a bold thesis: We should get rid of academic freedom as our standard for what ideas should be admitted to the university sphere, and replace it with what she terms “academic justice.” In Korn’s concept of academic justice, “When an academic community observes research promoting or justifying oppression, it should ensure that this research does not continue.” The concept of academic freedom Korn seeks to supplant is long-established and enshrined in, among other statements, the American Association […]

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  • Ignoring Academic Freedom, South Carolina Legislators Aim to Punish Public Colleges for Choice of Books

    By on February 21, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    It seems like just minutes ago that I was writing about the Tennessee legislature’s ill-considered attempt to silence discussion on campus by prohibiting the payment of outside speakers. Wait a second—it was. Unfortunately, I’m not done, because there’s more deeply depressing news on the state legislative front this morning.

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  • Victory: Free Press Vindicated at University of Alaska Fairbanks

    By on February 11, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    In a victory for freedom of the press, the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) has cleared The Sun Star student newspaper of any wrongdoing following a prolonged investigation of the newspaper’s content prompted by repeated and meritless complaints from a UAF professor. UAF officials announced the end of the investigation in a letter to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which intervened after the situation had dragged on for more than eight months.

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  • Save the Date! FIRE Celebrates 15 Years on October 23

    By on February 10, 2014 Category: Events

    This year, FIRE turns 15! We are excited to announce that we will be celebrating this milestone with a gala dinner in New York City for our friends and supporters. The event will feature Steven Pinker and Floyd Abrams as well as some of the many students helped by our work. Join us on Thursday, October 23, 2014 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York City. For more information or to purchase tickets contact Alisha Glennon at 215-717-3473 or alisha@thefire.org. We look forward to celebrating with you in New York on October 23!

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  • New Look, Same Mission: FIRE’s New Website and Logo!

    By on February 5, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    2014 marks FIRE’s 15th anniversary, and we’re celebrating the occasion by unveiling a new website and a new logo! While FIRE’s commitment to defending individual rights on our nation’s college and university campuses will never change, we’ve spent the last few months working on a brand new website to more effectively reach the next generation of college students.

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  • Speech Code of the Month: University of Richmond

    By on February 5, 2014 Category: Speech Code of the Month

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for February 2014: the University of Richmond. The University of Richmond’s Standards of Student Conduct prohibit any “inappropriate behavior or expression,” giving the administration complete discretion to punish virtually any expression it finds inconvenient or unwelcome.

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  • ‘Kindly Inquisitors’ Anniversary Edition Now in Paperback

    By on February 3, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    The 20th anniversary edition of Jonathan Rauch’s influential book on the importance of freedom of inquiry, Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought, is now available in paperback. This March, Rauch will join National Constitution Center President and CEO Jeffrey Rosen, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff, and University of Chicago Law School Professor Eric Posner to discuss freedom of expression at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. Full details about this exciting event will be announced here on The Torch soon. March will also mark the paperback release of Lukianoff’s Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate. […]

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  • FIRE Announces Winners of 2013-2014 Essay Contest

    By on January 31, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    Today, FIRE is pleased to announce the winners of our 2013–2014 Freedom in Academia Essay Contest: Kanitta Kulprathipanja, a senior at Schaumburg High School in Schaumburg, Illinois, won first prize for her essay inviting readers to imagine what her essay would look like without freedom of speech. Kanitta will receive a $10,000 college scholarship. In her winning essay, published below, Kanitta argues that “[c]ollege brings huge changes in the life of a student. Students learn a lot during the years they spend there: about the past, about the world, and about themselves. Preventing free speech stunts their ability to gain […]

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  • FIRE President Lukianoff Named to Media Institute’s Advisory Board

    By on January 30, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    The Media Institute, a nonprofit organization specializing in freedom of expression and media policy issues, announced yesterday that FIRE President Greg Lukianoff has joined its First Amendment Advisory Council. The Council is chaired by Kurt Wimmer of Covington & Burling LLP and includes leading First Amendment attorneys such as Floyd Abrams, Kathleen Kirby, Ashley Messenger, and Robert Corn-Revere. “Through his work at FIRE, Greg reminds us all that the First Amendment belongs to everyone. We are honored that he accepted our invitation to join the Institute’s First Amendment Advisory Council,” said Media Institute President Patrick Maines in a press release […]

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  • University of Memphis Slashes Student Newspaper’s Funding [VIDEO]

    By on January 23, 2014 Category: Video

    On most college campuses, the student newspaper is entrusted with reporting on issues important to the campus community and with holding powerful campus authorities accountable. But after the student newspaper at the University of Memphis found its budget slashed by $25,000 because the student government and university administration didn’t like the paper’s critical, investigative reporting on their activities, The Daily Helmsman’s role as a campus watchdog was threatened. Chelsea Boozer was editor-in-chief of the Helmsman when the paper’s budget was cut in May 2012. In FIRE’s latest video, Boozer talks about the events leading up to the paper’s funding cut and how the actions taken by […]

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  • New Report: 59% of Campuses Maintain Severe Speech Restrictions–But That’s Actually an Improvement

    By on January 17, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    PHILADELPHIA, January 17, 2014—The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) released its 2014 report on campus speech codes today, finding that 59% of the 427 colleges and universities analyzed maintain policies that seriously infringe upon students’ speech rights. For the sixth consecutive year, however, this percentage has dropped. Despite this progress, confusing signals from the federal government have created an unacceptable tension between universities’ twin obligations to protect free speech and to prevent discriminatory harassment. Major findings from Spotlight on Speech Codes 2014: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation’s Campuses include: 59% (58.6%) of the 427 schools surveyed have speech codes that clearly and […]

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  • Virginia Legislature Considers Bills to Safeguard Student Rights

    By on January 15, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    Yesterday, we reported on Virginia Delegate Scott Lingamfelter’s bill that would prohibit public colleges in Virginia from misusing “time, place, and manner” restrictions in violation of the First Amendment. Today, we’re happy to bring you news of yet another Virginia bill that would safeguard the rights of students at Virginia’s public institutions of higher education. Following in North Carolina’s footsteps, Delegate Rick Morris has introduced a bill that would grant students facing serious non-academic disciplinary charges the right to be represented by an attorney or other advocate of the student’s choosing. HB 1123 provides, in part: Any student enrolled at a public institution of higher education […]

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  • Prof Returns to Class after CU ‘Harassment’ Claim Fails

    By on January 10, 2014 Category: Press Releases

    BOULDER, Colo., January 10, 2014—The University of Colorado (CU) has backed down from last month’s cancellation of Professor Patti Adler’s popular and long-running “Deviance in U.S. Society” class after claiming that a lecture on prostitution that involved voluntary student participation could be seen as “harassing.” The rowback comes only days after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the National Coalition Against Censorship, the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, and the Student Press Law Center issued a public statement to the university warning of the cancellation’s consequences for academic freedom. Adler will teach the course again this spring. “While we’re glad that Professor Adler will return […]

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  • FIRE, NCAC, ACLU-CO, and SPLC Urge CU-Boulder to Uphold Academic Freedom

    By on January 3, 2014 Category: Newsdesk

    Yesterday FIRE, the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado (ACLU-CO), and the Student Press Law Center (SPLC) released a statement urging the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU-Boulder) to reinstate Professor Patricia Adler’s course on “Deviance in U.S. Society” and to publicly reaffirm the boundaries between protected classroom discussion and sexual harassment. Last month, Adler was allegedly given the choice between resigning or discontinuing the “Deviance” course and was told that even if she stayed, she could be fired if anyone filed a complaint against her. As justification for this threat, Provost Russell Moore said that Adler’s teaching methods—particularly […]

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  • Speech Code of the Month: University of West Alabama

    By on January 2, 2014 Category: Newsdesk, Speech Code of the Month

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for January 2014: the University of West Alabama (UWA). The University of West Alabama has a new policy prohibiting “Cyberbullying and Cyber Harassment” (PDF) that subjects virtually every student and faculty member on campus to punishment. That is because the policy defines cyberbullying to include not only unlawful conduct and unprotected speech, but also “harsh text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles.” Go ahead and read that one again: “harsh text messages or emails.” Given that a “harsh” text or email […]

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  • 2013 in Review: Threats from Washington, Victories in the States

    By on December 30, 2013 Category: Press Releases

    As 2013 comes to a close, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) looks back on a year that was headlined by dire threats to free speech and student rights on campus.

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  • Speech Codes of the Year: 2013

    By on December 26, 2013 Category: Newsdesk

    Each month, FIRE singles out a particularly reprehensible campus speech code for our Speech Code of the Month designation. While all of 2013’s Speech Codes of the Month flagrantly violated students’ or faculty members’ right to free expression, two of them were so egregious that they deserve special mention as 2013’s Speech Codes of the Year. Troy University Troy, a public university in Alabama, defines harassment (PDF) as “any comments or conduct consisting of words or actions that are unwelcome or offensive to a person in relation to sex, race, age, religion, national origin, color, marital status, pregnancy, or disability or veteran’s status.” This […]

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  • California College Suspends Speech Restrictions Amidst Settlement Talks

    By on December 18, 2013 Category: Press Releases

    FRESNO, Calif., Dec. 18, 2013—Modesto Junior College (MJC) has agreed to suspend enforcement of its “free speech zone” as it negotiates an end to a federal lawsuit filed by a student prevented from handing out copies of the Constitution on campus on Constitution Day. A joint stipulation filed in federal district court yesterday by MJC and attorneys for student Robert Van Tuinen states that the parties have agreed on several significant revisions to the college’s “free speech policies and procedures,” pending final approval by the Yosemite Community College District, expected this spring. “FIRE welcomes this development as a sign that Modesto Junior College is […]

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  • Oregon State Earns Highest Rating for Free Speech Policies

    By on December 13, 2013 Category: Newsdesk

    Oregon State University (OSU) joins an elite group of colleges and universities by becoming just the 17th school in the country to receive FIRE’s highest, “green light,” rating for free speech policies. A college or university earns a green light when its written policies do not seriously imperil free speech. While the clear majority of the nation’s colleges maintain policies that clearly and substantially restrict freedom of speech, OSU is now a proud exception. It is Oregon’s first-ever green light school, and its policy change affects more than 27,000 students. “FIRE is thrilled to see another major state university eliminate its speech codes,” said […]

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  • Speech Code of the Month: Virginia State University

    By on December 11, 2013 Category: Newsdesk, Speech Code of the Month

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for December 2013: Virginia State University. According to Virginia State’s Student Code of Conduct (PDF), “[s]tudents shall not injure, harass, threaten, offend, or degrade a member of the University community” (emphasis added). Any violation of this provision “is subject to disciplinary sanctions including, but not limited to warning, probation, loss of privileges, fines, restitution, residence hall suspension, residence hall expulsion, Virginia State University suspension, and Virginia State University expulsion.” So here we have a public university, legally bound by the First Amendment, threatening to expel students if they “offend” another student on campus. Do you support […]

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  • Harvey Silverglate on Harvard’s Free Speech Fakery

    By on December 5, 2013 Category: Newsdesk, Video

    Growing up, Harvey Silverglate always had a natural inclination toward free speech. As he says, “We really used to say on the streets of Brooklyn, ‘Sticks and stones will break my bones but names can never harm me.’” After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1967, Harvey followed his passion for free speech to college campuses, where, as a lawyer, he defended Vietnam war protesters. His experiences defending student expression on campus eventually led him to co-found FIRE, where he now serves as Chairman of the Board. In FIRE’s latest video, we sit down with Harvey to discuss why it […]

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  • You Could Win a $10,000 College Scholarship from FIRE!

    By on November 26, 2013 Category: Featured stories, Newsdesk

    When applying to colleges, it’s important for high school students to learn about the extent to which their First Amendment rights will be respected or restricted at different schools. FIRE’s essay contest aims to teach high school students about their rights while giving them the opportunity to win thousands of dollars in scholarships! To enter, high school juniors and seniors should watch two FIRE videos—Silencing U: Five Outrageous Cases of Campus Censorship and What Every Student Should Know Before Starting College—and write an essay answering the question: “Why is free speech important at our nation’s colleges and universities?” Essays are due January […]

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  • ‘Blueprint’ No More? Feds Back Away from New Campus Speech Restrictions

    By on November 21, 2013 Category: Press Releases

    WASHINGTON, November 21, 2013—The federal government is backing away from the nationwide “blueprint” for campus speech restrictions issued this May by the Departments of Education and Justice. The agencies’ settlement with the University of Montana sought to impose new, unconstitutional speech restrictions, due process abuses, and an overbroad definition of sexual harassment and proclaimed the agreement to be “a blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country.” But in a letter sent last week to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the new head of the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), Catherine Lhamon, said that “the agreement in the […]

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  • U. of Wisconsin Regents Revise Systemwide Speech Code

    By on November 18, 2013 Category: Newsdesk

    There is very good news for free speech at Wisconsin’s public universities: The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents has revised a system-wide discriminatory harassment policy that previously contained language declared unconstitutional by a federal court. In April of this year, FIRE and two groups of University of Wisconsin (UW) faculty wrote to the Board of Regents urging them to reform Board of Regents Policy 14-6, which at the time was titled “Racist and Discriminatory Conduct.” That policy directed Wisconsin’s public universities to adopt policies against discriminatory conduct and offered sample policy language substantively identical to language struck down by a federal district court […]

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  • Students’ Free Speech Victory Upheld at Oregon State as Supreme Court Denies Cert Petition

    By on October 8, 2013 Category: Newsdesk

    Last October, my colleague Will Creeley wrote a post here on The Torch describing an important victory for students’ free speech rights from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Oregon State University Student Alliance v. Ray. That decision will now stand, as the United States Supreme Court denied defendants’ petition for certiorari in an order issued yesterday. As you may recall, the case arose when Oregon State University (OSU) administrators apparently attempted to push the Liberty, a conservative student newspaper, off campus—initially by removing and throwing out the Liberty’s newsbins (picture here), then by enforcing […]

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  • Is UW-La Crosse Prof Being Railroaded over ‘Partisan’ Speech?

    By on October 8, 2013 Category: Newsdesk

    A concerning report out of Wisconsin suggests that administrators at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (UW-L) have inappropriately pressured a professor there to apologize for sending her class an email critical of the government shutdown and to refrain from using “politically partisan language” in the future. According to The Daily Caller, UW-L geography professor Rachel Slocum sent her class the following email: hi everyone Some of the data gathering assignment will be impossible to complete until the Republican/tea party controlled House of Representatives agrees to fund the government. The Census website, for example, is closed. Please do what you can […]

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