Rhode Island College

Location: Providence, Rhode Island
Website: http://www.ric.edu
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 1st Circuit

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Speech Code Rating

Rhode Island College has been given the speech code rating Yellow. Yellow light colleges and universities are those institutions with at least one ambiguous policy that too easily encourages administrative abuse and arbitrary application. Read more here.

  • Rhode Island College: Violation of Student’s Freedom of Conscience

    January 28, 2005

    At Rhode Island College, graduate student Bill Felkner was asked to publicly advocate “progressive” social changes that he did not believe in. Social work professor Jim Ryczek suggested to Felkner in an e-mail that if he did not agree with the school’s political philosophy, he should consider leaving or finding another line of work. Shortly afterwards, Felkner learned that RIC’s School of Social Work not only recommended that he adopt a particular ideology but also mandated that he lobby the Rhode Island Legislature for one of several policy positions that he did not support. FIRE wrote to the school, and […]

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  • Rhode Island College: Punishment of Professor for Refusal to Censor Speech

    August 2, 2004

    At Rhode Island College, Dr. Lisa Church was threatened with disciplinary action after refusing to punish two mothers for making constitutionally protected comments that offended another mother at RIC’s cooperative preschool, of which Professor Church is the coordinator. The offended mother filed a “discrimination” complaint with RIC asking for “some action to be taken” against Church and others at the preschool. RIC college counsel Nicholas Long initially expressed reservations about the legality of proceeding with hearings regarding the complaint, but he later mysteriously reversed himself. RIC then advanced the formal hearing process, informing Church that she faced charges of “hostile […]

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Sexual Misconduct and Relationship Violence Policy for Complaints Against Students

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
    Last updated: September 12, 2018

    Sexual Harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favors, and any other verbal, non‐verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when: … (3) Such conduct is so severe and pervasive that is has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s education, employment or participation in programs or activities at the College and/or creating an intimidating, hostile, offensive or abusive employment, academic, extracurricular or living or learning environment for the individual at the College.

    Examples of such conduct and behaviors that may lead to a finding of sexual harassment include, but are not limited to, the following: (1) Verbal: Sexual remarks, comments, jokes and innuendos, communicating unwelcome stories about someone’s social or sexual life, and propositions or pressure for social or sexual contact. (2) Non‐verbal: The display of sexually explicit stares, gestures or suggestive pictures, including secretly video recording sexual acts, and/or sharing sexual images via social media without consent. (3) Physical: Unwanted touching, patting, grabbing, pinching, including sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence stalking and rape. Sexual harassment need not be intentional. Examples may also include, persistent and inappropriate personal attention in the face of repeated rejection; unwelcome comments about an individual’s sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or gender expression; inappropriate written conduct containing comments, words, jokes, or images that are lewd or sexually suggestive or relate in an unwelcome manner to an individual’s sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or gender expression.

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  • Student Handbook: Residence Hall Policies & Procedures

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility
    Last updated: September 12, 2018

    The Office of Residential Life & Housing expects that in all relationships with each other, residents will be guided by a mutual concern for each other’s feelings, integrity, and the need to live in an environment conducive to academic and personal achievement. These interactions, whether between members of the same or opposite sex, between races, between members of different sexual orientations, or between residents and staff, will be tempered with sensitivity and a sense of responsibility towards others. Within each residential unit, there shall be a commitment to actively promote racial and cultural understanding and to deal honestly, openly, and equitably with all residents. It is expected that all residents will respect each other’s privacy and will not subject others to indecent exposure, inappropriate gestures, vulgarity, etc.

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  • Student Handbook: Student Conduct Code- Prohibited Behavior

    Speech Code Category: Bullying Policies
    Last updated: September 12, 2018

    Students may be subject to discipline if found to have committed, to have attempted to commit, or to have threatened to commit, or aided and abetted another person to commit the following:

    1. Violence, including physical abuse, fighting, verbal abuse, bullying or cyberbullying, threats of violence, intimidation, harassment, coercion and/or conduct that threatens or endangers the health or safety of any person.

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Green Light Policies
  • Office of Student Life: Student Bill of Rights

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
    Last updated: September 12, 2018

    Rhode Island College students possess and retain the inalienable rights granted them by the United States Constitution. Attendance at Rhode Island College does not revoke any of these rights.

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  • Student Forced to Lobby for Progressive Policies is Still Fighting Back

    January 6, 2017

    By Ashe Schow at Watchdog.org. In 2004, William Felkner was a graduate student in the social work program at Rhode Island College. While taking “Social Work 531,” a class about “social work policy and organizing to achieve social justice,” Felkner was required to lobby the Rhode Island General Assembly on a topic chosen by the school. Read more here.

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  • “Only Progressives Need Apply”

    December 28, 2016

    By Ilya Shapiro and Devin Watkins at The Cato Institute William Felkner was a student at Rhode Island College, a state school, studying social work. The school’s faculty explained that as a profession “we do take sides” and are “devoted to the value of social and economic justice.” Accordingly, the professors required the students to lobby the state legislature for progressive policies… Read more here.

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  • Campus Alert: Think like us–or else

    June 4, 2007

    Columbia University’s Teachers College is one of America’s most prestigious education schools. For many students, it’s probably the best—but not if you don’t buy the school’s definition of “social justice.” Teachers College evaluates students in part on the basis of so-called “dispositions,” defined as “observable behaviors” that “involve the use of certain skills.” One “disposition” is the student’s “Respect for Diversity and Commitment to Social Justice.” This warps the discussion of whether a student might make a good teacher into whether that student has the “correct” personal, religious or political beliefs. Evaluating students’ aptitude for teaching based on their commitment […]

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  • Course Requirement or Loyalty Test?

    December 16, 2005

    James Ryczek, an adjunct professor of social work, thought he was only setting the record straight last fall when he suggested that a student at Rhode Island College might consider leaving the college — and the field of social work altogether — if he disagreed with his professors. “Social work is a value-based profession that clearly articulates a sociopolitical ideology about how the world works,” Mr. Ryczek, who is director of field education for the social-work program, wrote in an e-mail message to the student, Bill Felkner. “By and large as a profession, we do take sides.” Mr. Ryczek went […]

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  • Liberating America’s Intellectual Gulags

    April 15, 2005

    David French knows what intimidation is. French, the new President of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, graduated from Harvard Law School in the early 1990s. One might say that anyone with similar credentials ought to know the definition of intimidation – but French’s experience is a bit more personal than that.“As a pro-life, Christian conservative, I received death threats in my campus mailbox, was shouted down by students and (once) was even shouted down in class by my own professor,” he says about his years in Cambridge. French now spends much of his time explaining to university general […]

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  • ‘Lyle’ Portends Life Without Freedom, ‘Friends,’ ‘Seinfeld’

    March 10, 2005

    Every year when I attend a national conference of administrators for America’s colleges and universities, one message comes through loud and clear: claims of harassment, sexual or otherwise, are out of control. At this conference, experts review harassment case law, recent suits and settlements from across the country. They also tell horror stories of absurd harassment accusations they have battled and quote statistics placing the cost of defending just one of these suits, no matter how frivolous, at hundreds of thousands of dollars, with the average award to plaintiffs equally high. In my work at the Foundation for Individual Rights […]

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  • Grad Student Allegedly Downgraded for Conservative Stance

    February 28, 2005

    Rhode Island College is under fire for allegedly forcing a student to lobby the state legislature for college-approved policies. Master’s student Bill Felkner says the School of Social Work at Rhode Island College (RIC) threatened to reduce his grades if he did not lobby for the school’s position on welfare issues. David French with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) says the trouble began when Felkner objected to the showing of Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 9/11 in Professor James Ryczek’s social work class last Fall.   French explains that when Felkner wrote the professor about his liberal ideological […]

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  • Freedom at RIC

    September 30, 2004

    With its decision this month to drop action against a professor who failed to regulate students’ conversation, Rhode Island College appears to have come down on the side of free speech.The case centered on Lisa Church, a professor of accounting and computer-information services, who did not punish two RIC students for having made racially insensitive remarks to another RIC student, at the college’s preschool. The professor was not on hand when the remarks were made, but was dragged into the affair because she is the preschool’s coordinator. RIC President John Nazarian insisted that the matter “was not an issue of […]

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  • RIC drops complaint against professor

    September 12, 2004

    Rhode Island College has dropped a discrimination complaint against a professor who refused to discipline two students who allegedly made racist remarks.The professor, Dr. Lisa Church, had told the school it should drop the complaint, made by a student, arguing she did not violate school discrimination policies or other standards.After conducting a closed hearing Sept. 3 – at which both Church and a student complainant testified – Associate Dean Scott Kane recommended the complaint be dropped. “It was determined at the first level of the process that the matter in question was not an issue of free speech, the First […]

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  • College discusses next move in discrimination case

    September 3, 2004

    Rhode Island College officials were discussing Friday how to proceed with a discrimination complaint against a professor who refused to discipline two students who allegedly made racist remarks.The professor, Dr. Lisa Church, wrote to administrators this week, saying she believes the college should drop the complaint and not conduct any meetings on the matter.A college spokeswoman said the school hoped to decide by Friday what would happen next, but was obliged to investigate every complaint filed. The discrimination complaint stems from an incident on Feb. 19, when two students, with children in RIC’s preschool, allegedly made racist remarks in conversation […]

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  • Professor faces deadline for hearing on discrimination complaint

    September 3, 2004

    A Rhode Island College professor called in for a hearing for failing to discipline two students who allegedly made racist remarks has not scheduled the meeting and wants the college to call off its probe.The deadline for Lisa Church to schedule the meeting that college administrators have requested is Friday.Church wrote to administrators this week, saying she does not think the meeting should take place. “I acted both reasonably and responsibly in refusing to consider any kind of punishment of anyone involved in the conversation,” Church said in the letter. “To have punished the participants in the conversation in any […]

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  • Attacking speech at RIC

    August 31, 2004

    A FRIEND of mine is in the middle of the bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehran. It’s the story of a teacher in Iran who meets in secret with seven students to read forbidden Western texts — all the time fearing raids by Islamic morality squads who are out to enforce ideological conformity and purge wayward professors.I’d like to believe that this ugly side of human nature — the will to force everyone to think and believe alike, for the common “good” — is a problem confined to the Islamic world, far from the land of liberty. But something akin to […]

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  • Professor accused of not punishing students for racist remarks

    August 27, 2004

    A Rhode Island College professor has been called in for a hearing for failing to punish two students who allegedly made racist remarks, and her case is drawing the attention of civil liberties advocates.The professor, Lisa B. Church, could face disciplinary action for her alleged failure to appropriately respond to a student’s complaint, but the college says the initial hearing is merely a fact-finding proceeding.The complaint against Church, a professor of accounting and computer information services, was brought to the college administration by a student and mother at the college who claims that Church responded inappropriately when told about racist […]

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  • RIC hearing focuses on free speech

    August 27, 2004

    PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island College will hold a hearing to determine whether a professor violated college policy for refusing to punish speech that many consider protected by the First Amendment — and prompting a national civil liberties advocacy group to cry foul.   The professor at the center the controversy, Lisa B. Church, could face disciplinary action for her alleged failure to appropriately respond to a student’s complaint. But the college insists that at this point, the hearing is merely a fact-finding proceeding “and discipline is not the focus of the complaint filed in this instance.”   The complaint against […]

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  • Joined by Cato and NAS, FIRE Files Brief in Support of Student Compelled to Lobby State Lawmakers

    December 30, 2016

    Earlier this month, FIRE filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Rhode Island Supreme Court in the case of Felkner v. Rhode Island College, et al. on behalf of William Felkner, a former student of social work at Rhode Island College (RIC). The brief, submitted jointly with the Cato Institute and the National Association of Scholars, argues that Felkner’s First Amendment rights were violated when faculty compelled him to lobby state lawmakers in support of policy positions that he did not hold. Here’s the crux of Felkner’s complaint, as laid out in the brief: The entirety of the record shows that […]

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  • Speech Codes of the Year: 2009

    December 23, 2009

    As Torch readers know, each month FIRE singles out a particularly reprehensible speech code for our Speech Code of the Month award. While all 12 Speech Codes of the Month in 2009 flagrantly violated students’ right to free expression, three were so egregious that they deserve special mention as 2009’s Speech Codes of the Year. New York University. NYU’s Anti-Harassment Policy prohibits “insulting,” “teasing,” and even “inappropriate jokes” based on categories such as race and religion. Although NYU is private, its policies purport to protect the right to free speech, providing that “[f]ree inquiry, free expression, and free association are […]

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  • Speech Code of the Month: Rhode Island College

    July 6, 2009

    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for July 2009: Rhode Island College. Rhode Island College, a public college, has so many restrictive policies that it could be our Speech Code of the Month several times over. One policy in particular, however, really takes the cake—the Code of Social Responsibility for the college’s residence halls. That policy provides that [T]he Office of Residential Life & Housing will strongly support the Rhode Island College Sexual/Racial Harassment policies, and will not tolerate actions or attitudes that threaten the welfare of any of its members. (Emphasis added.) The policy further states that […]

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  • This Month in FIRE History: Victory for Freedom of Conscience at Citrus College; Coerced Student Anti-War Letters Repudiated by Administration

    March 13, 2009

    As we at FIRE often say, as dangerous as it is to tell citizens what they can and cannot say, it is far worse to tell them what they must say and, worse still—what they must believe. Unfortunately, we have far too many examples of colleges doing exactly that. In February of 2003, Citrus College joined a list of schools that have coerced students to lobby the government for beliefs that they did not agree with. The case began when Professor Roslyn Kahn offered extra credit to students who wrote letters to President Bush protesting the war in Iraq. Several […]

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  • FOX News Reports on FIRE Case at Rhode Island College

    December 17, 2008

    FOX News reported yesterday on student William Felkner’s lawsuit against Rhode Island College’s (RIC’s) School of Social Work for denying him a master’s degree in social work for his conservative views: Felkner said his problems with his professors began in his first semester, in the fall of 2004, when he objected in an e-mail to one of his professors that the school was showing and promoting Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” on campus. He said he objected because no opposing point of view was presented. He said Professor James Ryczek wrote to him on Oct. 15, 2004, saying he was proud […]

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  • Rhode Island College Settles Student Group Lawsuit Over Posting Signs on Campus

    September 27, 2007

    Earlier this week, Rhode Island College (RIC) settled a First Amendment lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island (ACLU) on behalf of an RIC student group, the Women’s Studies Organization (WSO). The settlement—which ends a dispute dating back to December 2005 over signs posted by the WSO and removed by RIC—requires RIC to pay $5,000 to the WSO, as well as $6,350 in attorney’s fees to the ACLU. Specifically, the dispute began when the WSO posted signs bearing pro-choice messages near the entrance road to RIC’s campus. The signs were subsequently criticized by a visiting Catholic […]

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  • RI Board of Governors to RIC Lawyers: Knock It Off!

    February 8, 2007

    Yesterday, Rhode Island College’s (RIC’s) lawyers made the shocking argument that a First Amendment challenge to the school’s sign policy should be dismissed because the school was not a state actor and therefore not bound by the Constitution. As I discussed yesterday, this incredible argument relied on a narrow line of reasoning imported from a string of Eleventh Amendment decisions dealing not with First Amendment protections, but rather with whether or not Rhode Island’s public colleges enjoyed sovereign immunity from lawsuits as an “arm of the state.” Had the federal district court hearing the present case accepted this slick gambit, […]

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  • Rhode Island College: Not a Public School?

    February 7, 2007

    Back in early December, I wrote about a federal lawsuit brought by the Rhode Island American Civil Liberties Union (RI ACLU) against Rhode Island College (RIC) alleging a violation of the First Amendment rights of the Women’s Studies Organization (WSO), a student group at RIC. The suit claims that RIC removed signs communicating support for reproductive rights placed on campus by the WSO, while other student groups were allowed to post signs freely. The suit asks that both the specific removal and RIC’s sign policy in general be declared unconstitutional.   The trial has started—and it’s shaping up to be […]

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  • ACLU Brings Suit Against Rhode Island College

    December 4, 2006

    The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Rhode Island today announced the filing of a federal lawsuit against Rhode Island College (RIC), contending that the school’s sign policy is unconstitutional. Specifically, the suit alleges that the college violated the First Amendment rights of the Women’s Studies Organization (WSO), a student group at RIC. According to the ACLU’s press release, exactly one year ago campus police acted on the request of RIC President John Nazarian and removed signs expressing support for reproductive rights posted by the WSO. The signs, located near RIC’s entrance road, were noticed by a priest driving onto […]

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  • (Re)Introducing Will Creeley

    September 8, 2006

    Those of you who have followed FIRE’s work closely are probably already familiar with our new Senior Program Officer, Will Creeley. He has been working with FIRE since the summer of 2004, and in the spring of this year—while he was getting ready to graduate from NYU and take the bar exam—he began working part-time for FIRE. With law school and the bar exam behind him, he is now a full-time part of the team, and we are thrilled to have him on board. But enough from me—here’s Will: I am extremely proud to begin my professional career at FIRE. […]

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  • Daphne Patai on ‘Dispositions’

    December 20, 2005

    The invaluable Daphne Patai, who serves on FIRE’s Board of Directors, recently sent me some interesting thoughts on the abuse of “dispositions” and other vague, political standards in the modern academy. As loyal Torch readers know, students like Ed Swan at Washington State University and Bill Felkner at Rhode Island College have been the victims of universities’ attempts to require students to show a commitment to concepts like “social justice” seemingly without understanding that no two people likely agree exactly on what terms like that even mean. Such standards are an excuse for, and an invitation to, establishing official political […]

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  • Art and the Myth of the ‘Right Not to Be Offended’

    October 21, 2005

    Check out the fascinating story (“Censoring Art or Protecting Workers?”) about censored artwork in Inside Higher Ed. Apparently the University of Michigan at Flint is demanding that a graphic drawing called Hermaphrodite be removed from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Center because it is creating a “hostile environment” for workers. Anyone who pays attention to the battle for free speech on campus knows that “hostile environment” is the most abused rationale for silencing expression on campus. As I wrote in a recent column about a legal decision that threatens to badly expand what constitutes “hostile environment”: Claims of harassment […]

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

    September 13, 2005

    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’ […]

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  • Nontraditional Students

    August 18, 2005

    One of the more interesting aspects of our case submissions is that a disproportionately high number come from “nontraditional” students—those students who are older, married, or often have substantial work experience. Many of our more sensational and egregious cases—including the recent ban on showing The Passion of the Christ at a college in Florida, Scott McConnell’s expulsion from Le Moyne College in New York, Bill Felkner’s troubles at Rhode Island College, and Jihad Daniel’s case at William Paterson University—have involved students in their thirties, forties, and (in Daniel’s case) sixties.   I think there is a good reason for this […]

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  • This Month in FIRE History: Rhode Island College, Round 1

    August 12, 2005

    Well, it’s August again, and apparently that means it’s time for FIRE and Rhode Island College to have it out.   This time last year, FIRE was engaged in a public battle for the rights of RIC professor Lisa Church, who faced a trial for not punishing two adults for making “offensive” comments she did not even hear. Yes, you read right: Professor Church got guff from RIC administrators for upholding the First Amendment. As we wrote in an August 2004 press release: The planned hearing stems from an incident on February 19, 2004, in which three mothers of students […]

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  • Censorship as an Act of Civil Disobedience?

    May 27, 2005

    Despite spending much of my professional life defending students who are victims of the totalitarian academic culture, I can still be surprised by the stunning self-righteousness underlying much of the censorship on campus. Campus administrators and many faculty members know that they have all the right answers regarding issues of race, gender, sexuality, poverty, war, peace, etc., and it is their job to ensure that their students don’t just know those answers but believe them to be true. Dissent is a direct threat to their mission, and it must be stamped out—even when administrators know their actions are illegal. Earlier […]

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  • Rhode Island College Continues Campaign Against Conservative Social Work Student

    May 26, 2005

    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. “FIRE has dealt with hundreds of cases, but we have never seen anything quite like this,” stated David French, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights […]

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  • Providence speech patrol

    March 19, 2005

    It was hardly unusual for conservative Christians a generation ago to worry themselves silly that they’d lost the battle over free speech. Especially on America’s campuses in the 1960s and ’70s, outrageous public expressions that struck many as unpatriotic, blasphemous, or obscene regularly gained the protection of the courts. People shook their heads in wonderment. The irony of all that history is that the free-speech issue is being contested all over again these days on America’s campuses, although in a very different way. Now conservative Christians are the ones whose right to speak is being challenged—and way too often, they […]

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  • Occidental College’s Ongoing Shame: Part 1

    March 1, 2005

    One year ago this month, Occidental College radio show host Jason Antebi hosted his popular radio show Rant and Rave for the very last time. In this last show he mocked two student representatives who had previously tried to have him impeached from his student government position. The student representatives filed sexual harassment charges against him, the dean of students fired him from his radio show over the objections of the radio station’s student management, and the College found him guilty of violating federal sexual harassment laws. As shocking as this turn of events may be, it is hardly novel […]

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  • Are Things Getting Worse?

    February 25, 2005

    A FIRE supporter writes with an interesting question: Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that your two latest cases (and some of your other more recent reports from other campuses) almost seem to indicate a “ratcheting up” on the part of those who wish to squelch free speech on campus. The brazenness of their actions is breathtaking. The Summers incident at Harvard comes to mind as well. Do you think this might represent some “last gasp” from these folks? Are they trying to get a few more punches in before they lose whatever semblance of control they have left? Their […]

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  • Reveling in Bias

    February 24, 2005

    Daphne Patai, a member of FIRE’s Board of Directors and a brilliant teacher and scholar herself, has the following observations about FIRE’s case against Rhode Island College: What is most upsetting about cases such as that at Rhode Island College, as Professor Ryczek’s comments make clear, is the apparent failure of professors and schools to understand why it is entirely inappropriate for them to prescribe particular political positions to their students. Professor Ryczek’s proud claim to “revel in [his] biases” ought to be a deep embarrassment both to him and to the school that employs him. It’s bad enough that […]

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  • RIC Is Not the Only One

    February 24, 2005

    A FIRE supporter has written us and noted that forced lobbying is “quite common, and apparently accepted, in Social Work schools.” He goes on to say: At Washington University Social Work students also engaged in school-directed lobbying of the state legislature on behalf of University-approved positions as part of a course for credit. Since Washington is a private school, such lobbying could endanger the school’s tax-exempt status. If these practices are common, it is quite possible that many other students have had their rights of conscience violated and not known that FIRE could help. If there are any other readers […]

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  • Rhode Island College vs. Freedom—Again

    February 23, 2005

    FIRE unfortunately often deals with colleges and universities that repeatedly violate the fundamental rights of students or faculty members. The shining example of this is the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which keeps trampling on its students’ rights in almost the same way, confirming my suspicion as a Duke alumnus that UNC is up to no good. The University of Alabama also has been a notable example of a school that just seems unable to get a grasp on freedom. Yet a new contender for the title has arisen from the shores of the Ocean State—Rhode Island College […]

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  • Rhode Island College Violates Freedom of Conscience

    February 23, 2005

    PROVIDENCE, R.I., February 23, 2005—The School of Social Work at Rhode Island College (RIC) has threatened to reduce a student’s grades if he chooses not to lobby the Rhode Island legislature for policies with which he disagrees.  Last fall, master’s student Bill Felkner received a failing grade after protesting a professor’s admitted bias in class and after writing an essay in connection with a lobbying assignment that dissented from that professor’s approved perspective.   Felkner’s situation comes in the wake of RIC’s attempt to punish a professor for refusing to censor constitutionally protected speech. “Nobody should be coerced by the state […]

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  • The Censors’ Favorite Team

    February 4, 2005

    Tens of millions of people across America will watch the Philadelphia Eagles take on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX this Sunday night. In a gesture of magnanimity before the big game, those of us at FIRE’s headquarters here in Philadelphia would like to tip our hat to all the New England college administrators we’ve dealt with throughout the years. Not far from New England’s home of Foxboro Stadium near Boston lies Harvard University, home of the Crimson, censorship of business students, and a whole host of due process concerns. Meanwhile, Patriot-supporting administrators at nearby Tufts University in Medford have […]

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  • Fraternities Must Stand Up to Schools’ Squelching Free Speech

    October 11, 2004

    While there is no shortage of free-speech battles on college campuses, fraternities have the dubious honor of being at the center of many of the least-sympathetic controversies. From Halloween parties where brothers show up dressed as Ku Klux Klan members to fraternity newsletters that graphically relate a brother’s sexual exploits with named co-eds, fraternities sometimes express themselves in ways that are not exactly likely to win the battle for hearts and minds. However, although fraternities later may regret the actions of some of their brothers, they must not allow their rights to be stripped away by overzealous or opportunistic administrators. […]

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  • RIC faculty union challenges policy limiting speech

    October 2, 2004

    PROVIDENCE — Prompted by the recent furor over free speech at Rhode Island College, RIC’s faculty union has filed a grievance, asking that language it finds unconstitutional be removed from the college’s policies.   Sections of RIC’s equal-opportunity and affirmative action plan could have a chilling effect on free speech — the cornerstone of academic pursuit, said Prof. Daniel Weisman, a member of the union’s executive committee.   The college policy calls for “a positive climate where individuals may learn, teach and work free from discrimination”; and forbids “jokes or demeaning statements about a person’s gender, race/ethnicity, minorities, persons with […]

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  • Rhode Island College Union Files Free Speech Grievance

    October 1, 2004

    PROVIDENCE, R.I., October 1, 2004—In a welcome development for free speech on America’s campuses, the faculty union at Rhode Island College (RIC) has filed a grievance challenging RIC’s unconstitutional speech codes. Professor Jason Blank, president of the RIC/AFT Local 1819, filed the grievance in the wake of RIC’s decision to subject Professor Lisa Church to disciplinary hearings for her refusal to punish constitutionally protected student speech.   “This is an important moment in the ongoing battle against speech codes. The RIC/AFT has recognized that speech codes not only violate Constitutional and moral principles, but also prevent professors from effectively doing […]

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  • Breaking the Silence

    September 29, 2004

    Editor’s note: Last month, we ran an article entitled, “Backlash 101,” by GNN contributor Joshua Holland, editor of USC’s progressive paper, The Trojan Horse. Holland argued that heavily-funded conservative groups were taking advantage of an anti-political correctness backlash to make political gains among impressionable college students across the country. Not everyone agreed with Holland’s analysis. Minnie Quach, a program officer at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a group mentioned by Holland as having ties to powerful conservatives, contacted us with an alternative view. Here Quach argues that Holland painted a much too simplistic picture of the political […]

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  • Freedom of speech: RIC ends the inquisition, not the debate

    September 22, 2004

    BROOKLYN, N.Y. ON SEPT. 9, Rhode Island College tried to weasel out of an embarrassing free-speech controversy, in which it had tried a professor for doing nothing more than refusing to violate the First Amendment. And though RIC’s decision not to proceed with “further formal action” against the professor was welcome, it did nothing to convince civil-liberties watchdogs that free speech is secure at RIC. The professor, Lisa Church, was coordinator of RIC’s cooperative preschool. In February, a pupil’s mother went to her and alleged that in a private conversation another parent (both are students at RIC) had expressed racist […]

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  • Free Speech Victory at Rhode Island College

    September 10, 2004

    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 […]

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  • An Open Letter to President John Nazarian and Rhode Island College

    September 3, 2004

    Dear President Nazarian and the Rhode Island College Community:   Today marks the deadline for Professor Lisa Church to set up a meeting with Rhode Island College officials about her handling of an incident that has been much in the news in recent days. As you know, Dr. Church refused a request to punish two mothers for offensive remarks they allegedly made at RIC’s cooperative preschool. The offended person, a student and mother at RIC, charged Dr. Church with “discrimination” for her failure to punish the people who allegedly made the remarks. Despite Dr. Church’s reasonable attempts to handle the […]

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  • Rhode Island College to Try Professor for Refusing to Punish Protected Speech

    August 24, 2004

    PROVIDENCE, R.I., August 24, 2004—Rhode Island College (RIC), a public college in Providence, is planning a hearing this week to determine whether a professor violated college policies banning “hostile environment racism” and “intimidation” for refusing to punish speech protected by the First Amendment.   Professor Lisa B. Church, who was a coordinator for RIC’s cooperative preschool program, was not even present when two adult participants in the program allegedly made comments that another adult participant considered racially “offensive.” Professor Church refused to punish the offending participants based on a third-person report of constitutionally protected speech, or to make the private […]

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