Banned in Marquette: No free speech zone for the words of Dave Barry

September 29, 2009

I worked for three years on the sixth floor of One Herald Plaza and never bumped into the infamous Dave Barry. He never invited me up to the roof to fire potatoes into Biscayne Bay from his gas-powered spud gun. I worked for the afternoon Miami News and he for the morning Miami Herald.

I did sit at home on Sunday mornings and laugh till I cried over his humor column in the Tropic Sunday supplement section of the Miami Herald. I especially enjoyed his surprised discovery of the unique flora and fauna of Dade County when the paper finally insisted he move from Pennsylvania and actually live in the community he was writing for.

He discovered land crabs and palmetto bugs and fire ants. Really funny stuff.

Image my surprise to find the funnyman at the center of a First Amendment firestorm, so to speak.

A student at Marquette University had the audacity to post on his door a quote from that radical political rabble-rouser Barry:

"As Americans we must always remember that we all have a common enemy, an enemy that is dangerous, powerful, and relentless. I refer, of course, to the federal government."

Truth should amount for something, but the university administration called the quotation "patently offensive." One administrator curiously said that "while I am a strong supporter of academic freedom, I’m afraid that hallways and office doors are not ‘free-speech zones.’"

I did not know free speech was limited to certain zones.

Neither did the folks at Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, FIRE for short, who came to the student’s defense. Despite numerous letters from FIRE and from Barry, as well as news stories and angry alumni, Marquette never admitted it did anything wrong.

Now FIRE has named Barry an honorary vice chairman for its 10th anniversary celebration and released a video of the "patently offensive" insurrectionist talking about free speech.

Schools: Marquette University Cases: Marquette University: Political Quote Banned from Office Door