Today FIRE is unveiling a new tool in our fight for liberty on America’s college and university campuses: FIRE’s Red Alert. Red Alert is our newly developed list of campuses that pose an ongoing and serious threat to the rights of current and future students and faculty. FIRE deals with some horrendous offenses against liberty on a daily basis, and even FIRE’s least serious case is an enormous problem for the person or group involved, as well as for the academic environment at the college or university where the abuse is taking place. But even so, some schools seem to go out of their way to distinguish themselves as places unfriendly to free expression, freedom of religion, due process, etc. FIRE’s Red Alert is a way of recognizing these dubious accomplishments.
In order to be placed on Red Alert, an institution must be an unrepentant offender against basic rights that it either promises or that are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, and have policies and/or practices that demonstrate a serious and ongoing threat to present and future students. Johns Hopkins University and Tufts University have the ignominious distinction of being named as the first two schools placed on Red Alert.
The Red Alert citations for Johns Hopkins and Tufts explain everything you need to know about their embarrassing attacks on fundamental freedom, and they link to FIRE’s case pages so that you can see the process of the cases and our underlying documentation. Take a look at them and see if you can figure out what possible legitimate motivation Hopkins could have had for throwing the book at a prodigy (Justin Park was a Hopkins junior at 18) for an un-PC joke, and then enacting a “civility” code that gives the lie to its promises of free expression. Or try to puzzle out why in the world Tufts would think it was a good idea to punish a publication for two satirical articles—and then fail to tell New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg what it did before he gave a commencement address at Tufts praising the university for its commitment to free speech!
Happily for these institutions, though, there is a way off of FIRE’s Red Alert list—all they need to do is address the problems they have caused. FIRE has written each school multiple times, giving them many chances to right these wrongs. We have also brought public awareness to the abuses they have perpetrated. Now, with Red Alert, we will have a place that all students and parents can go to see what colleges or universities are the worst of the worst when it comes to student and faculty rights. As we say in our press release, why risk tens of thousands of dollars of tuition at these schools when it could all be taken away in the blink of an eye—no college degree, and no refunds? FIRE’s Red Alert is only the first step in a strategy to get the word out to the public that some schools just aren’t worth the cost—not just in money, but to your own fundamental rights.