Firing Back

May 7, 2007

In this week’s issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education (May 11, 2007), FIRE President Greg Lukianoff and Vice President of Operations Robert Shibley issue a stinging rebuttal to the charges levied against FIRE by Jon B. Gould in a previous issue (links available to nonsubscribers until tomorrow; after that, subscription required).
In this formal response, Greg and Robert echo the six substantive counterarguments FIRE’s staff has made in response to Gould’s piece here on The Torch (available here, here, here, here, here, and here). Greg and Robert meet Gould’s attack head on, and thoroughly debunk each of Gould’s claims with facts, legal precedent, and common sense. For example, in response to Gould’s call for FIRE’s close, Greg and Robert write:

Gould concludes his essay by flippantly calling for FIRE’s dissolution. He callously disregards FIRE’s unparalleled success in defending basic rights on campuses. Since its inception in 1999, FIRE has won public victories (as distinguished from the many cases that we resolve in private or through informal means) at 82 colleges and universities with a total enrollment of 1,627,637 students and a total of 143,288 faculty members. FIRE is directly responsible for changing unconstitutional or repressive policies that affect more than 942,726 students at 40 of those universities.
Many of the students and faculty members we have helped would be happy to attest that their academic careers would have been ruined if not for FIRE. Yet Gould sees only an organization that disagrees with his research. While we are accustomed to this kind of academic myopia, we still find Gould’s dishonest attacks on us deeply disappointing.

Given the attention garnered by Gould’s attack—for example, in Stanley Fish’s recent post to his New York Times blog, and the First Amendment Center’s discussion of the dispute—FIRE is pleased to be able to formally “return fire,” as it were, in the same space as Gould’s rant was originally aired. When considered in connection with our extensive online refutations of Gould’s attack, linked above, we at FIRE feel confident that this printed rebuttal provides more than enough evidence of the flimsiness of Gould’s contentions, exposing his aggressive charge as little more than a half-baked hack job.