This Month in FIRE History: Dave Barry Speaks Out on College Censorship

July 30, 2010

Exactly one year ago, FIRE released a video of Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry in which he discusses the value of free speech on college campuses. The video, which now has over 24,000 hits, shows Barry’s perspective on FIRE’s work and why it’s so important.

In 2006, Barry’s writing was the subject of a FIRE case when a Ph.D. student at Marquette University posted a quote from one of Barry’s columns on his office door that the administration deemed “patently offensive”—a legal term of art usually used in the context of evaluating hardcore pornography. The quote read, “As Americans we must always remember that we all have a common enemy, an enemy that is dangerous, powerful, and relentless. I refer, of course, to the federal government.” Even after extensive press coverage and alumni outrage, Marquette has stood by its decision.

In the video, Barry makes the point that free speech is vital to humor and, like FIRE always says, no one has the right not to be offended. As he says in the video, “The whole point of learning about journalism, learning about writing is putting [your opinion] out there and then dealing with the reaction you get from it. … There shouldn’t be a referee declaring what’s acceptable speech and what’s not.”

Since the release of the Dave Barry video last year, we have been working hard to produce more videos about our mission and absurd cases. In the past year we have released three—Reflecting on 10 Years of FIRE, New Threats to Freedom, and Empty Holsters—and, with the help of our Sweidy Stata Video Fellow, more are on the way!

Schools:  Marquette University

Cases:  Marquette University: Political Quote Banned from Office Door