On Wednesday you read about all of the tools that FIRE uses through our Individual Rights Education Program to prevent injustice on campus. Today, I’ll tell you about how we can help once students’ rights have already been violated, and how this work sets apart from others.
Reason #3 to support FIRE:
FIRE is often the only place students and professors can turn for protection when their rights are violated by their universities’ highest authorities–and we don’t let them down. FIRE takes on and wins cases for individuals and student groups, restoring justice so that they may freely continue to pursue their interests and their academic and professional careers.
FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program is our response to the immoral and often illegal actions of colleges and universities. Repeatedly when a case is brought to FIRE, those bringing it have exhausted every other course of action and have nowhere left to turn. We are proud to be there to help; pointing out that the law is on their side, and explaining how they can clear their names. Many of our cases are solved by something as simple as a letter to a college administrators, while others end up before a panel of federal judges. FIRE wins most of the cases it takes on, and we do it though a simple tactic: exposing the university’s actions to public critique. We rely on the fact that offending schools simply cannot defend in public what they do and what they believe in private.
Take a look at some of our most appalling cases from this year:
- Hinds Community College barred Isaac Rosenbloom, an EMT pursuing advanced paramedic training, from class and withdrew his financial aid after he used a swear word on one occasion in the vicinity of a college professor. In contravention of the First Amendment, HCC bans "public profanity, cursing and vulgarity." With FIRE’s help, this ridiculous punishment was reversed. FIRE wrote HCC President Clyde Muse on April 27, pointing out not only that HCC’s policy is unconstitutional but also that it was applied unconstitutionally to punish Rosenbloom for his protected speech outside of class.
- University of Georgia charged student Jacob Lovell with "disorderly conduct" and "disruption" after he sent an email in jest to Parking Services asking for a better place to park his scooter on campus. Lovell was asked to make a disciplinary appointment or risk being "flagged," rendering him unable to add, drop, or register for classes. FIRE wrote UGA President Michael F. Adams, explaining that Lovell’s grievance was protected by the First Amendment, and the university quickly withdrew its charges.
- The University of California at Los Angeles refused to reappoint environmental health sciences professor Dr. James Enstrom after he engaged in successful whistle blowing against a prominent department member and after many years of disagreement between Enstrom and some of his colleagues over research on air pollution. UCLA told Enstrom he was being let go because his controversial research failed to accord with the department’s "mission." After FIRE and others got involved, UCLA granted Dr. Enstrom an eight-month reprieve while he seeks justice in his case. But, as FIRE President Greg Lukianoff says, "UCLA still has a lot of explaining to do. How is it possible that environmental health research is outside the mission of the Environmental Health Sciences department?"
FIRE will continue to fight to protect college students and faculty members who find themselves in situations such as these, but none of it would be possible without you. We ask for your support to keep winning cases in 2011.
Now that we’re halfway through the Top 5 Reasons, we’d like to thank you for all you’ve done to preserve individual rights in education, and wish you and yours a happy holiday season!
Stay tuned for our #2 reason to donate to FIRE!