University of Wisconsin reverses its decision in ‘Firefly’ censorship case

October 8, 2011

It takes a great school to admit when it’s wrong. I guess University of Wisconsin, Stout is just a good school. Well… they’re all right. 

This week the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has announced that the University of Wisconsin, Stout has reversed their decision in the case of the censorship of UW-Stout professor James Miller. For those of you following along at home, you can read the backstory behind this ludicrous violation of First Amendment rights here. For those who want a summary, it goes like this: 

Professor Miller had a poster on his door featuring Nathan Fillion as Captain Malcolm Reynolds and a quote from Firefly. The university tore down the poster because it referred to killing and violence. Miller replaced it with a poster reading, "Warning: Fascism." In a monumental and willing lack of understanding, the school removed the second poster, threatened Miller with criminal disorderly conduct charges, and reported him to the campus "threat assessment team." That’s when Professor Miller got in touch with FIRE to help him fight against censorship. 

The irony of a situation in which the character of Malcolm Reynolds–a man who risked life, limb, and loved ones to fight censorship in the movie Serenity–is at the center of a fight over whether or not something is censorship is not lost on this Firefly fan.

FIRE helped Professor Miller fight back, and this week it was announced that the University of Wisconsin, Stout has admitted its mistake (after previously claiming that the issue had nothing to do with censorship… though it clearly was) and dropped all punitive measures against Professor Miller. It even looks like Miller will be able to put his Firefly poster back up on his office door. 

In an official statement, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said:

"FIRE is pleased that UW-Stout has decided to abandon its previous position and reopen the door to free speech and common sense on its campus. This victory would not have been possible without the outpouring of support from people across the country on news sites, blogs, and social media. FIRE would especially like to thank Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin, Neil Gaiman, and my fellow Firefly fans."

UW-Stout has said that it will develop new policy to handle such issues of free speech on its campus. While it would seem that they came to their senses only after pressure from FIRE and such well-known personalities as Fillion, Baldwin, and Gaiman, UW-Stout is still to be commended for reaching the right decision and supporting their faculty’s First Amednment rights. Congratulations to Professor James Miller and FIRE, for successfully battling censorship.