Torch readers know there’s no shortage of colleges and universities trying to silence student expression that’s protected under the First Amendment. But it isn’t all bad news: The law is on our side! The Supreme Court has said time and time again not just that the First Amendment applies on campus but that universities especially should be places where open debate flourishes. That means that students who are willing to fight back against censorship and take their cases to court can gain victories that help preserve the free speech rights of thousands, potentially millions of their fellow students.
On Young Americans for Liberty’s (YAL’s) website, my colleague Will Creeley shared the stories of Modesto Junior College student Robert Van Tuinen and University of Cincinnati student Chris Morbitzer winning battles for free expression on campus after coming to FIRE for help. As Will explained, the process can be hard, but it’s worth it:
Robert and Chris were each brave enough to stand on principle. Being censored is stressful, and the idea of fighting back can be intimidating. But Robert and Chris seized their chance to defend not only their free speech rights, but the rights of all students. By filing federal lawsuits, Robert and Chris forced their schools to answer for their unconstitutional policies in court. Given the clarity of the law, the colleges didn’t stand a chance—and their losses have now put other colleges and universities nationwide on notice.
I’m proud of the fact that FIRE wins case after case, and we work hard to keep it that way. But the truth is that free speech on campus depends on students like you. If you don’t stand up for your free speech rights, nobody else will.
Check out the rest of Will’s inspiring message for students on the YAL website. And if you or someone you know has been censored on campus, or if you want to work with FIRE to get your school to change its “red light” policies, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org today!