FIRE is pleased to announce that Jordan Fischetti, a graduate of Hamilton College, has joined FIRE's Philadelphia office to work for our Individual Rights Defense Program. Jordan arrives at FIRE through the Koch Associate Program, which provides extensive education and training over the course of a year while the associate works on location. On his interest in working at FIRE, Jordan writes:
While I never have been disciplined for my speech, it has always annoyed me that some people think they can bring in the authorities to control what constitutes acceptable speech. My dissatisfaction with the stifling of free speech was exacerbated my first year at Hamilton College. When Ward Churchill was invited by the Kirkland Project to speak on campus, there was great debate about whether he should have been invited due to his extremely controversial comments that workers in the World Trade Center were the moral equivalent of Nazis and had deserved to die in the terrorist attacks. There was also great debate about whether Hamilton should officially withdraw a speaking invitation to someone who had been officially invited. (This was before the charges of plagiarism against Churchill had come to light.) I was looking forward to the chance to challenge his views in public, or perhaps find a kernel of truth in what he was invited to discuss—prisons and Native American rights. Although the president of Hamilton College sent out a letter expounding the importance of free speech, the invitation was rescinded.
Since then, Hamilton has been involved in more controversies over free speech, and my fellow students have tried to use the college's power to crack down on speech they dislike or find offensive. The more I read about FIRE's involvement in cases ranging across the political spectrum, the more I realized how necessary its work was to the functioning of a free society. College is supposed to be a time when people explore and challenge their beliefs through intellectual debate with fellow students and faculty members. However, when freedom of speech is abridged on campus, people are unable to fully develop intellectually. Even worse, they often leave college thinking that repressive speech codes are necessary for society to function. Through my work with FIRE, I hope to help reverse this trend and remind Americans that a free society is unattainable without freedom of speech.