UMass-Amherst abandons free-speech rights

April 21, 2009

An organization that defends individual liberty in education is taking issue with the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Last month UMass-Amherst came under fire for its treatment of conservative columnist Don Feder. Feder was invited by a conservative school club to give a presentation, but was unable to do so after student protestors heckled him off stage while university officials stood by. Now another censorship issue is brewing on the campus after student protestors stole copies of a conservative newspaper and blocked its distribution on campus.

Adam Kissel is the director of the individual rights defense program at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE.

“The student who came in for the most ridicule and negative press actually stood on a stack of papers and wouldn’t let people have access to them. And then when a police detective came over, the police detective finally persuaded the student to stop standing on the papers,” he explains. “Another student who was then trying to distribute the papers was about to start doing that and then she and some others stole the papers back from them right out of his hands while the police officer watched.”

Kissel says the paper was then forced to censor and then apologize after it ran a piece mocking the student who stole the papers. In response, a student senator tried to place a resolution that would have repealed the censorship and forced apology.

“And he wasn’t even allowed to get his resolution onto the floor,” Kissel adds. “Instead, the speaker of the student government at UMass-Amherst had him ejected from the student government meeting.”

According to Kissel, the student senator told them that if he was to be ejected, they had to hold a vote first. In response, the speaker of the student senate called the police and had the senator removed. Kissel believes everyone needs to know that UMass-Amherst is not a school that respects a person’s First Amendment rights.

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