Here’s an easy New Year’s resolution that Brandeis University, Bucknell University, Colorado College, Johns Hopkins University, Michigan State University, and Tufts University can make: get off of FIRE’s Red Alert list of America’s worst violators of campus liberty!
This week, FIRE sent the presidents of each of the six Red Alert schools a letter reminding them of their schools’ serious and ongoing violations of student and faculty rights, and just how easy it is for each of them to remedy their mistakes and reaffirm their commitment to freedom of expression.
FIRE also included with each letter a copy of the current “America’s Best Colleges” edition of U.S. News & World Report, featuring FIRE’s full-page ad calling the worst offenders to task. We also made sure to send copies of the letter and ad to each school’s public and alumni relations offices, since nothing screams “healthy public image” and “alumni donations” like seeing your school blasted in the pages of the year’s most widely read higher education publication.
How can these schools see themselves off FIRE’s Red Alert List? Briefly:
- Bucknell can ensure that student expression is not caught in the net of its slippery “Sales and Promotions” policy and reverse its efforts to exile debate on controversial issues—such as the Bucknell University Conservatives Club’s “affirmative action bake sale”—from the public areas of the campus.
- Brandeis can remove the letter from Professor Donald Hindley’s file in which the veteran professor was found guilty of making “inappropriate, racial, and discriminatory” statements after discussing the term “wetbacks” in his class on Latin American politics.
- Colorado College can reverse the convictions of two students found in violation of the college’s “violence” policy for posting a harmless satirical flyer.
- Johns Hopkins can get rid of its awful, Victorian-era throwback “Principles for Ensuring Equity, Civility and Respect for All,” enacted in response to a Facebook.com party invitation deemed “offensive.”
- Michigan State can correct its threatening “spamming” policy to protect the expression of personal views using university-provided student e-mail accounts.
- Tufts can remove the finding of harassment levied against the student newspaper The Primary Source on the basis of its content.
For Brandeis President Jehuda Reinharz and Bucknell President Brian C. Mitchell, both of whom have announced their retirements at the end of this academic year, taking these steps can inspire confidence as their colleges plan their futures. Johns Hopkins President Ronald J. Daniels, still relatively new to the scene, has an opportunity to make a clean break with the disastrous free speech record of his predecessor (much like, as Adam wrote yesterday, Benno Schmidt did at Yale University in the 1980s).
Regardless, the time for excuses is long past for these six schools and their presidents. Come on, guys—start 2010 off right!