Rights in the News: FIRE’s First Amendment, Speech Code Efforts Continue to Make Impact

January 31, 2009

Those who have been following The Torch know that this week was a good one in FIRE’s fight for First Amendment rights on campus.

As you read Wednesday, Michigan State University finally dropped ‘spamming’ charges against student government leader Kara Spencer. And as you’ve read today, FIRE’s efforts have brought about a clarification of the Penn State Principles at Penn State University, and the University at Buffalo has promised a similar clarification to the Statement of Civility in effect in the university’s residence halls.

FIRE’s various efforts have continued to garner mention in the wider press as well, highlighted this week by Peter Schmidt’s reporting on FIRE’s victory at Michigan State in the Chronicle of Higher Education. P2PNet News reports on the latest developments there as well.

WorldNetDaily and Digital Journal, meanwhile, are the latest to pick up on FIRE’s letter to President Barack Obama, who we hope will join FIRE’s efforts to guarantee the constitutional freedoms of our nation’s college and university students.  

The Flat Hat, a student newspaper at The College of William & Mary, has taken notice of FIRE’s massive campaign to raise awareness of unconstitutional speech codes in effect in America’s colleges today. As Adam pointed out in The Torch earlier this week, Flat Hat reporter Kelly McEvoy put President Taylor Reveley in the uncomfortable position of having to defend the policies at William & Mary that have earned the college its "red light" rating from FIRE. Fortunately, Reveley told The Flat Hat that the college is reviewing its policies to make sure they are compliant with the First Amendment. Hopefully we can take the former dean of William & Mary’s law school at his word.

And as Luke previously reported, Texas A&M University (TAMU) held a free speech workshop this week, featuring the distribution of 500 of FIRE’s Guide to Free Speech on Campus. Though no FIRE representative was present, TAMU’s student paper, The Battalion, paints a very promising picture of the well-attended workshop. Hopefully others will follow at TAMU’s peer institutions. Those who have seen FIRE’s current Spotlight on Speech Codes report know they can sure use the help.