NOTE: The article excerpted on this page is from an outside publication and is posted on FIRE's website because it references FIRE's work. The viewpoints expressed in this article do not necessarily represent FIRE's positions.
This past week saw some tremendous victories in the world of higher education – in Michigan free speech advocates witnessed the dismantling of a thought reform program, the state of Oregon passed a bill that would protect students from censorship, a Kentucky university decided to protect their students freedom of expression, and a Philadelphia university provost spoke out against a professor’s propaganda. Could May be the turning point for the state of affairs in higher education?
Several months ago, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) exposed a controversial thought reform program at Michigan State University (MSU). The Student Accountability in Community program was called an “early intervention” counseling session to educate students on “perceptions that result in [their] advantage and/or another’s disadvantage.”
For those of you uninitiated in the far left rhetoric employed by many college administrators, whenever you hear or see the word “advantage” when referring to bringing awareness to, it’s generally code for anti-white heterosexual male propaganda; many lefty academics believe that whites have inherent advantages and privileges that minorities do not have. As FIRE President Greg Lukianoff explains, this program was about thought reform: “The Student Accountability in Community” program encroached upon students’ freedom of conscience, forcing them to comply with a set of principles they might not hold to be true.”
Students at Temple University in Philadelphia were exposed to similar propaganda from the administration, this time in the form of anti-war posturing. According to Students for Academic Freedom, an email from a staff member on the official Honors Department listserv was promoting the attendance of an anti-war protest that called our country’s actions an “occupation” that resulted in “butchery in Iraq.” Members of the College Republicans quickly wrote their Provost, alerting him to the misuse of this college listserv, by a college employee to promote his own political views. The listserv is meant only for Honors Department notices. In this instance, the Provost’s action was swift. He wrote, “The posting of this announcement was the clear result of error by a staff member” and “asked our Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies to review the appropriate processes for listserv postings with all staff and administrators in the Honors Program.”
Now that we have some thought reform and propaganda taken care of, we can move to free speech and free expression rights. The Oregon state House of Representatives Judiciary Committee passed a bill that would prevent high school and college students from being censored. According to the Student Press Law Center, the final vote on the bill is expected to take place before end of session. Then, we have to hope the Oregon state Senate passes it. For those of you in Oregon, it is very important that you contact your local representatives to demand quick passage of this integral free speech bill.
Finally, students at Northern Kentucky University successfully fought back against a proposed “free expression” policy that would actually curb free expression. The Cincinnati Post reported that this new policy would “ban messages chalked on campus sidewalks and to prohibit demonstrations inside campus buildings.” Chalked messages are common forms of expression by students – on any college campus you’re likely to find sidewalk and quad chalking promoting club meetings, upcoming speeches, and other campus events. They are also used to speak out on a number of controversial issues.
Luckily, students decided to fight back against this ridiculous policy. They “persuaded the regents to delay their vote on the policy and prompted the administration to solicit more opinion from students, faculty and staff on the issue,” which resulted in “a revised free expression policy that permits chalking and demonstrations inside buildings was forwarded by the administration to the regents, and Wednesday they unanimously approved it.”
Four major victories in the span of a week? Could this be an indication that the tide is turning – that administrators are finally “getting it” when actually respecting the rights of their students is at issue? Only time will tell.