A week ago today, FIRE launched its Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project, coordinating lawsuits against Chicago State University, Ohio University, Citrus College (Calif.), and Iowa State University. At a press conference in our nation’s capital, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff, attorney Robert Corn-Revere, and several student-plaintiffs explained why litigation is necessary to fight back against censorship on campus. If you haven’t watched the press conference yet, I urge you to do so.
Today, we’re proud to release FIRE’s newest video, titled “Don’t Shut Up—Stand Up For Speech!,” to further introduce some of the principled and impressive students who fought back when their schools stifled their expression.
You will hear from Robert Van Tuinen, the Modesto Junior College student stopped from handing out copies of the Constitution on Constitution Day, and Christopher Morbitzer, the University of Cincinnati student threatened with arrest for trespassing if he tried to solicit signatures for a ballot initiative outside of his university’s tiny “free speech zone.” Both Robert and Christopher brought suit against their respective institutions with help from FIRE, achieving victories through settlement and court order.
You will also meet Merritt Burch, the University of Hawaii at Hilo student who was stopped from handing out Constitutions and told to limit her protest against NSA spying to the university’s free speech zone because “it’s not the ’60s anymore.” Merritt’s case is ongoing, but UH Hilo suspended its terrible policies a few weeks after she filed her lawsuit.
As FIRE’s Litigation Coordinator, it has been my great honor to work with the plaintiffs in most of these cases, seemingly ordinary students who had the courage to go into court to stop college officials from silencing them. FIRE is proud to stand by their side as they vindicate their constitutional rights—and the rights of their fellow students. Because these students chose to stand up, colleges and universities nationwide are on notice that they may be forced to answer for their unconstitutional speech codes in court.
Like all FIRE employees, I look forward to the day when “the right to think the unthinkable, discuss the unmentionable, and challenge the unchallengeable,” as the historian C. Vann Woodward put it, is the norm on college and university campuses. Watch the video and ask yourself how you can stand up for speech. If you’re a student interested in challenging your institution’s policies, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.