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Claremont Consortium Responds to FIRE’s Letter via School Newspaper

As we reported on The Torch last Friday, there have been several challenges to free expression at The Claremont University Consortium. FIRE wrote a letter to Robert A. Walton, CEO of The Claremont University Consortium, questioning the efforts by several Claremont administrators to censor speech and although we never heard back directly from the administration, they responded through one of Claremont's student newspapers, The Student Life. In the article, Pomona President David Oxtoby acknowledges FIRE's commitment to free speech, but also "feels these email notifications of bias related incidents do not suppress free speech at all and that these actions are necessary to publicly condemn the actions." He continues by declaring:

We're not trying to reduce or cut back on free speech. We're not going to stop you from saying anything you want to, but recognize that when you say something or do something it has consequences on other people.

The article's sub-headline reads "Group Said to Threaten Legal Action Against 5Cs." As we said before, FIRE does not litigate and has no plans to. In our letter to Walton, we wrote:

To prevent speech at The Claremont Colleges from being impermissibly chilled, we ask that you clarify to students and administrators at all of the colleges that protected expression may never and will never be investigated or punished. Because of the demonstrated threats to free speech outlined above, we request a response from you by April 8, 2008.

In fact, you can read the entire letter here and find no mention of FIRE threatening to take the Claremont Colleges to court.

The Claremont Conservative has also been following the case and has a posted a blog entry dissecting the entire Student Life article. In response to Oxtoby's statement above, the Conservative writes:

Oxtoby says they aren't going to do anything to you if you speak up. Little does he know that few students are going to speak out with the cards stacked against them and a fear that Dean Wood or whoever will stick a permanent black letter in their file.

Oxtoby tries to downplay, but we all know it's true. After all, the consequences seem to only be for the people who speak out and not the people who overreact.

FIRE will continue to monitor this situation at the Claremont Consortium.