FIRE’s Lukianoff and Creeley Published in ‘Free Inquiry’

By July 23, 2010

We are proud to announce that FIRE President Greg Lukianoff and Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Will Creeley join a distinguished group of writers discussing free thought and free speech on campus in the August/September issue of Free Inquiry magazine. Their article is titled "Is Campus Censorship the New Normal?"

Greg and Will explore a number of the outrageous cases of censorship that FIRE has seen in recent years and develop five themes. First, campus censorship follows a "familiar pattern," in which "[o]ffense was taken and offical threats of censorship soon followed." A prominent example is the censorship of a campus t-shirt at Yale quoting F. Scott Fitzgerald saying, "I think of all Harvard men as sissies."

Second, the article returns to a theme Greg developed in "P.C. Never Died" in Reason magazine in February: campus censorship under the aegis of political correctness is still around and in many ways, it’s getting worse.

Third, speech critical of Islam is increasingly being censored. FIRE has taken cases ranging from an investigation of an anti-terrorism rally at San Francisco State University to Yale University Press’ refusal to publish the Danish Mohammed cartoons in a book about the Mohammed cartoons.

Fourth, while people on the political left are largely responsible for theories of censorship prevalent in the academy (such as hate speech, to use one example), no ideology has a monopoly on censorship. FIRE has intervened to halt conservative censors at the University of Maryland who targeted a student showing of Pirates II: Stagnetti’s Revenge, a pornographic film, in conjunction with a lecture by a Planned Parenthood representative, as well as at the University of Oklahoma, where the state legislature attempted to bar famed Oxford scientist Richard Dawkins from speaking.

Finally, religious students in particular face censorship for their views. The double standard for "offensive" speech when it comes to religion is striking. A community college in Florida would not allow a screening of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" because it was "controversial" and R-rated. At the same time, students were performing a play titled "Fucking for Jesus," which featured a scene where a student masturbates to a painting of Jesus. Further examples are legion.

We urge you to pick up a copy of this issue of Free Inquiry and read the article in full. It is an enlightening exposition on current trends in censorship on campus, and highlights the very real threat collegiate censorship poses to our democracy. As Greg and Will write,

By teaching students that they possess an illusory, extra-constitutional "right not to be offended," colleges and universities have privileged faux outrage over meaningful dialogue and romanticized censorship of unpopular speech as being not only effective and efficient, but in fact morally required. As a generation of college graduates trained to silence "offensive" speech assumes its station in our society, increased cultural polarization is an all but inevitable outcome.