Letter to the Editor

December 2, 2005

To the Editor:

I write to clarify two statements attributed to me in Wednesday’s article "Free speech at center of nude-photo controversy."

First, the article has me saying that a private university has great legal ability to limit rights but will not generally choose to wield it. If only this were true! What I said was that universities do not want to be seen to abandon their commitments to academic and fundamental freedoms because it would destroy their credibility as educational institutions. All too many of them do abandon these commitments when they think they can do it in secret.

Second, my statement that "a university … can greatly restrict free-speech rights … as long as it does not hold itself out as a place where freedom of expression and academic freedom are valued" applies only to private universities. FIRE often points out that students at a prestigious school like Penn should not have fewer rights than students at a public community college. Penn’s policies strongly protect free speech; it should live up to them.

Robert Shibley

Program Manager, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education

Schools: University of Pennsylvania

Letter to the Editor

September 8, 2005

Free speech under attack

I appreciate the Centre Daily Times’ recent coverage of the Foundation for Individual Rights In Education. This nonpartisan group is at the forefront of ensuring our campuses remain places of open and vigorous exchange of ideas.

While the article was just an Associated Press report, a visit to the FIRE Web site by a CDT staffer would have added that FIRE gives Penn State one of its worst ratings with regard to freedom of speech.

Why? Penn State has some pernicious speech codes that make John Ashcroft seem downright moderate.

One of these codes regards any perceived criticism of "protected classes." This sounds Orwellian in the sense that "all are created equal, but some are more equal than others."

If you are a staff member, do you know how such speech codes put your career at risk? If you’re a parent, do you know how such speech codes put your child at risk?

A visit to www.thefire.org will give you an idea of the widespread restrictions on speech that are a part of today’s campus life.

Next time you hear a wild-eye professor or doe-eyed student complain about civil liberties and the Patriot Act, gently suggest they try to clean up their own house first.

Schools: University of Pennsylvania