May has traditionally been a big month for FIRE (and this month is no exception, as readers will see in the next few days). This time last year we finally resolved the extraordinary Steve Hinkle case:
May 6, 2004
FIRE Press Release
SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA
In a major victory for liberty and equal rights on campus, California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) has settled a free speech lawsuit. The case involved Cal Poly student Steve Hinkle, who was punished for posting a flier on a public bulletin board announcing a College Republicans-sponsored speech by a black social critic. Some students at the campus Multicultural Center found the flier “offensive.” Cal Poly has agreed to expunge Hinkle’s disciplinary record relating to the incident, to permit him to post fliers, and to pay significant attorney’s fees. The settlement of the lawsuit ends a year-long campaign organized by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) to restore the Bill of Rights and fundamental fairness to this public university.
Cal Poly is the poster school for how not to treat your students or handle a free speech controversy. They wronged a student, refused to fix it, took a drubbing in the media, an official there claimed groups like FIRE were lying about what happened, we produced a transcript that proved everything we said, they tired to back off somewhat, but did so incompetently thereby inviting a lawsuit that they had to pay $40,000 to settle. Now Cal Poly is featured in an increasingly well-known documentary about what is wrong with higher education. If they had only responded adequately to our first letter this whole painful odyssey could have been avoided. Stay tuned for another big May at FIRE.