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This Month in FIRE History: Victory at RIC, Part 1

It’s hard to believe it’s already been a year, but last September we announced our victory in Professor Lisa Church’s case at Rhode Island College:

PROVIDENCE, R.I., September 10, 2004—Rhode Island College (RIC) Associate Dean Scott Kane stated in a decision released yesterday that he believes no “further formal action” is required in the college’s trial of Dr. Lisa Church, a professor who refused to censor constitutionally protected speech.

“While the decision is welcome news for Professor Church and her family, RIC still has not recognized the unconstitutionality and injustice of its actions. RIC was clearly trying someone for ‘discrimination’ for refusing to punish another person’s speech,” said David French, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which wrote to RIC on the professor’s behalf and brought intense media and public scrutiny to the college’s actions. “This hearing never should have happened.”

We would love to be able to say that RIC learned from its mistake and showed greater respect for basic rights from then on, but, sadly, that is not the case. Last spring we brought the outrageous case of Bill Felkner to the public attention. As we reported:

PROVIDENCE, R.I., May 26, 2005—Rhode Island College’s (RIC’s) School of Social Work is requiring a conservative master’s student to publicly advocate for “progressive” social changes if he wants to continue pursuing a degree in social work policy. RIC’s appalling disregard for student Bill Felkner’s freedom of conscience is the latest in an ongoing string of abuses by RIC administrators and faculty members that violate the right to fundamental freedoms protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Felkner’s case is still not resolved. Anyone concerned about the lack of respect for free speech at RIC should contact President John Nazarian and ask him if RIC plans to ride roughshod over basic rights this year as it did last year.

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