Rights in the News: Videos, Blogs, Federal Harassment Law, and Fire Crotch!

October 22, 2010

It has been quite a busy week at FIRE.

We kicked off the week by announcing Greg’s discussion of speech codes and student rights on campus with Reason.tv’s Ted Balaker. Greg lamented the sad state of student liberties on campus and discussed absurd examples of administrative abuse, ranging from the censorship of a cartoon depicting Mohammed in a book about censorship at Yale University to the expulsion of a student without a hearing for protesting the proposed construction of two parking garages at Valdosta State University. The video has already been viewed nearly 12,000 times on YouTube and has generated 10 pages of comments (almost all positive)! J.P. Friere, Associate Commentary Editor at the San Francisco Examiner and former FIRE intern, mentioned the video and posted it in the Examiner‘s Opinion section and, of course, Reason mentioned it on its blog.

This week we also reported Adam’s interview with the Pelican Institute about free speech violations at Grambling State University (GSU), our October Speech Code of the Month. The Pelican Institute’s story was reprinted by The Daily Caller.

At Syracuse University College of Law (SUCOL), student Len Audaer was told he is being investigated for harassment by SUCOL and the Judicial Affairs Office because of anonymous posts in the explicitly satirical blog SUCOLitis. An article in SU’s student newspaper The Daily Orange quotes Adam defending the right to free speech, and the paper’s editorial board also published a statement in support of student expression. Stay tuned for more on this story, which also was picked up by Above the Law‘s Elie Mystal.

Meanwhile, DePaul University, despite its promise to support “robust debate and exposure to differing points of view,” has refused to grant official recognition to Students for Cannabis Reform. DePaul based its decision on “[c]onsiderable research indicat[ing] that the use of cannabis does not contribute to healthy decision-making, particularly in college-age populations.” FIRE’s recent press release and Adam’s blog post criticize the DePaul administration for not abiding by its own free speech promises, especially since DePaul has recognized over 200 other student organizations with conflicting views. This is far from the first time that DePaul has censored students and even professors. Several publications nationwide have come to the defense of Students for Cannabis Reform and have cited FIRE in their articles, including Daniel Luzer of Washington Monthly and Eugene Volokh of The Volokh Conspiracy, as well as The Huffington Post.

In response to a legislator’s idea for new federal harassment legislation, we have some important criticism (click here and here) because federally funded colleges are already mandated to address and prevent discriminatory harassment and such legislation seems poised to chill a lot of controversial speech if it goes beyond existing law. Debra Saunders of the San Francisco Chronicle cites Robert in her article criticizing such legislation.

Finally, there’s “Fire Crotch,” a drawing on a student’s dry erase board at the University of Georgia (UGA) that prompted a resident advisor to call the UGA police. (Perhaps it is the Cockness Monster’s cousin.) The RA apparently is required to call the cops under UGA’s Acts of Intolerance policy, which prohibits any drawing or comment that might subjectively be interpreted as intolerant. This policy prompted Peter to write a must-read blog post exorciating this policy’s blatant unconstitutionality. UGA newspaper The Red & Black also published an article about the policy, citing FIRE’s Samantha Harris.