Heads Up, California Universities: Adam on Tour

February 16, 2010

This week, Adam Kissel, Director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program, will speak at California State University-Sacramento, California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), and Merced College in California about the threats to liberty at California’s colleges specifically, and on American campuses generally. Of the thirty-eight California institutions of higher education rated in Spotlight, not one of them has a green light.

At 2:30 p.m. PT this afternoon, Adam will speak at CSU-Sacramento in conjunction with a showing of the film Indoctrinate U, a documentary about campus censorship. While the university has not been flagged by FIRE with any major cases, it is a red-light institution, meaning it has at least one policy that clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech. Mike Sertic, founder of CSUS Students for Liberty, is organizing the event.

Tomorrow night, Adam heads to Cal Poly, historically no friend to the First Amendment. While rated as a yellow-light institution (which means its policies are more narrowly illiberal than those of a red-light institution), Cal Poly has been unable to restrain itself from censoring its students. In 2003, Cal Poly attempted to punish student Steve Hinkle for posting a flyer in the Multicultural Center for an upcoming talk by author Mason Weaver about his book, It’s Ok to Leave the Plantation. After students in the Multicultural Center found Hinkle’s flyer offensive and complained to the university, Hinkle was subjected to a seven-hour hearing, found guilty of “disruption of a campus event,” and ordered to write letters of apology to the offended students. Only after FIRE sent two letters to the university and FIRE Legal Network attorney Carol Sobel filed a federal lawsuit against Cal Poly did the university relent, settling the lawsuit with Hinkle, agreeing to remove the incident from Hinkle’s record, and paying $40,000 in damages and attorney’s fees.

In 2009, Cal Poly attempted to institute a bias-reporting program called CARE-Net (short for Community Advocating REspect, a name that could have been pulled from an Orwell novel). CARE-Net targeted students and professors whose speech was “biased” or not “politically correct.” The program was quickly abandoned after FIRE intervened with a letter last summer.

Adam’s speech at Cal Poly will take place tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. PT. in Building 52, Room E37. The lecture is co-sponsored by the Cal Poly College Republicans and Student Affairs. Hopefully, some Student Affairs administrators will be able to make it out.

Thursday night, Adam will head over to Merced College, a community college in central California. Students for Justice are hosting Adam at 7:00 p.m. PT in Lesher 111.

Students, community members, and FIRE supporters in the area are invited to make it out to these events. If you would like to host a FIRE speaker on your campus, visit the CFN’s speakers page.