PHILADELPHIA, August 25, 2009—The 2010 edition of U.S. News & World Report‘s America’s Best Colleges issue, released today, includes a full-page advertisement from FIRE highlighting the colleges and universities that have earned FIRE’s Red Alert distinction for being the “worst of the worst” when it comes to liberty on campus. Brandeis University, Colorado College, Johns Hopkins University, Michigan State University, and Tufts University are listed in the print ad, while Bucknell University, a late addition to the list, will be prominently featured in Facebook ads and in the school’s own newspaper. In the coming weeks, FIRE will also run ads in U.S. News‘ bestselling guidebook, every Red Alert school’s newspaper, and the papers of the top 25 largest and most prestigious universities in the nation, while drawing even greater attention to these schools through Facebook and Twitter.
“FIRE is using every medium at its disposal to warn students and parents about colleges that have shown ongoing and unapologetic disregard for basic rights,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “From the U.S. News Best Colleges issue and its year-round guidebook to aggressive campaigns in more than 30 of the nation’s top student newspapers and through social networking sites, FIRE will be talking about the issue of free expression on campus everywhere students and parents turn this fall.”
This year’s U.S. News advertisement highlights the shocking story of Keith John Sampson, a student at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) who was found guilty of racial harassment simply for reading a book about how Notre Dame students defeated the Ku Klux Klan in a 1924 street fight. Sampson ultimately cleared his name with FIRE’s help, but the fact that an American university was willing to call reading a book “harassment” highlights the disturbing repression that is all too common in academia today.
The schools on FIRE’s Red Alert list have refused to remedy their own egregious offenses against fundamental rights. Bucknell University, the newest addition to the list, repeatedly used flimsy or patently false excuses to censor a conservative group’s satire of President Obama’s stimulus plan and an “affirmative action bake sale” protest. Brandeis University found a professor of nearly 50 years guilty of racial harassment for using the word “wetbacks” in his Latin American Politics class—in the context of criticizing the term. Colorado College found two students guilty of “violence” simply for posting a flyer that satirized another flyer circulated by a student group.
Johns Hopkins suspended a student for what it deemed to be an “offensive” Halloween party invitation posted on Facebook, and then passed a repressive “civility” code over the protests of student leaders. Michigan State found a student government leader guilty of “spamming” after she e-mailed eight percent of the faculty to encourage them to express their views on a proposed shortening of the school calendar. And Tufts University found an entire student newspaper guilty of “harassment” for publishing two pieces satirizing affirmative action and Islamic Awareness Week. The latter of these two pieces included only factually verifiable information about Islam, as well as quotes from the Koran.
In the first issue of the school year, the newspapers of the six Red Alert institutions will run large advertisements from FIRE intended to remind students about their institutions’ attacks on their freedom and warn new students about the repressive culture on campus. Newspapers at 25 of America’s largest and most prestigious universities will run FIRE ads inviting students and professors to become members of FIRE’s Campus Freedom Network, where they can join thousands of others working to reform their campuses for liberty. Readers of the official U.S. News college guidebook, which will be on newsstands for twelve months, will see an advertisement for FIRE’s Spotlight speech code database, where they can discover the state of free speech at more than 400 universities. FIRE will also harness the power of the Internet and utilize Facebook, Twitter, USNews.com, and our blog, The Torch, to spread our message to the public. This unprecedented public awareness campaign was made possible in part by a grant from the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation.
“One of the challenges in FIRE’s work is overcoming skepticism that atrocious abuses of freedom of speech and expression could be taking place in those institutions which claim to honor them the most: our colleges and universities,” said Lukianoff. “I ask every reader out there to forward the facts about Sampson’s case and cases at the Red Alert schools to their friends, relatives, colleagues, and classmates. The more who understand how badly student rights are abused on campus, the more powerful will be the movement for reform and the protection of student and faculty rights. FIRE can only achieve its goals with your help.”
FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, due process, freedom of expression, academic freedom, and rights of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty on campuses across America can be viewed at thefire.org.
Greg Lukianoff, President, FIRE: 215-717-3473; email@example.com
Jehuda Reinharz, President, Brandeis University: 781-736-3001; firstname.lastname@example.org
Brian C. Mitchell, President, Bucknell University: 570-577-1515; email@example.com
Richard F. Celeste, President, Colorado College: 719-389-6700; firstname.lastname@example.org
Ronald J. Daniels, President, Johns Hopkins University: 410-516-8068; email@example.com
Lou Anna K. Simon, President, Michigan State University: 517-355-6560; firstname.lastname@example.org
Lawrence S. Bacow, President, Tufts University: 617-627-3300; email@example.com