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FIRE board members tackle free speech issues in today’s Wall Street Journal

By May 1, 2017

In The Wall Street Journal today, FIRE board members weigh in on two timely free speech issues.

Harvey Silverglate, FIRE co-founder and board member, explains how “Trump and Congress Can Help Restore Campus Free Speech.”

Among his suggestions:

  • “Congress should deny funding to institutions with policies that violate free-speech rights.”
  • The Department of Education should ask its Office for Civil Rights to “rescind its ‘guidance’ undermining the right to free speech,” and guarantee that future mandates are “subject to open debate, as mandated by the Administrative Procedure Act.”
  • The department should also adopt the definition of harassment provided by the United States Supreme Court in 1999’s Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, which ensures speech is not unduly burdened by limiting actionable harassment “to conduct that is discriminatory, targeted and ‘so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive’ that it deprives the victim of access to educational opportunities.”

Separately, Daniel Shuchman, chairman of FIRE’s board of directors, reviews constitutional lawyer Floyd Abrams’ new book, “The Soul of the First Amendment.”

“Mr. Abrams’s engaging and plain-spoken reflections will be of interest to those already steeped in constitutional law as well as young readers curious about the nation’s founding ideals,” Daniel writes.

The book is a series of brief and compelling essays in which Mr. Abrams, the eminent constitutional lawyer, focuses on nine of the First Amendment’s 45 words—those that prohibit Congress from “abridging the freedom of speech or of the press.” His central theme is that the purpose of that passage is “anticensorial”—meant to protect Americans from government regulation that attempts, in the words of Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, to seize “guardianship of the public mind.” At its core is the principle that human beings can achieve individual fulfillment only when freedom of thought is absolute.

You can read Harvey’s op-ed and Daniel’s review in full by clicking over to The Wall Street Journal’s website (subscription required), or grabbing a copy of today’s print edition at your local newsstand.