Last Friday, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser celebrated Merritt Burch and Anthony Vizzone, the successful student-plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the University of Hawaii at Hilo, part of FIRE’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project.
As part of a feature on “Heroes Next Door,” the paper takes nominations for “true unsung heroes” from the community, seeking to “shine a light on their good works.” The article commends the pair of students for defending the right to free expression:
Those who take stands in the defense of free speech usually frame it as a protection of substantive and important expressions and ideas.
Merritt Burch and Anthony Vizzone, who sued to uphold the First Amendment on the University of Hawaii’s Hilo campus, fall into this category: Theirs was a fight for the general freedom to speak out, which should have been sacrosanct in any college setting.
Burch and Vizzone clearly realize this, which is why they are so deserving of selection as one of the Star-Advertiser’s “Heroes Next Door.” Their issue was a protest of surveillance by the National Security Agency, and they were stopped while distributing, of all things, copies of the Constitution on campus. They sued and won, setting a precedent for other campuses and causing a change in UH policy.
We’re proud to have worked with Merritt and Anthony, who settled their case against the university earlier this month. Because of their brave stand for student rights, Merritt and Anthony secured a settlement that included system-wide policy change and $50,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees. FIRE joins the Star-Advertiser in celebrating their successful defense of free speech.