This Week in the News: Adam’s Vanderbilt Speech Still Provoking Discussion

March 11, 2011

Torch readers will remember that Adam delivered a speech at Vanderbilt University on February 23rd about Vanderbilt’s restrictive policies and free speech violations at other institutions. Trevor Williams of The Vanderbilt Torch (no relation) was the most recent author to write about Adam’s critique of Vanderbilt’s sexual harassment policy, community creed, and other speech-restrictive policies.

Out west, the Idaho State Board of Education voted to suspend the Idaho State University (ISU) Faculty Senate on February 17, just one week after the Faculty Senate recorded a vote of no confidence in ISU President Arthur C. Vailas. A recent post in The Chronicle of Higher Education mentioned FIRE’s letter to President Vailas, in which we called the state board’s suspension of the Faculty Senate a "dire threat to academic freedom and faculty governance."

The Supreme Court of the United States ruled last week in Snyder v. Phelps that the First Amendment protected the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) from civil liability for staging an anti-gay, anti-soldier, and anti-you-name-it protest at a military funeral. This week, FIRE Board of Advisors member Nat Hentoff commended the Court’s decision and praised FIRE for its support of WBC’s right to free speech in an article published at WorldNetDaily. FIRE was concerned that a poorly reasoned decision in that case would compromise free expression on campus.

In a similar vein, Robert’s recent Pajamas Media column used the establishment of a "civility" institute at the University of Arizona as an opportunity to remind readers that while civility may be valuable, it cannot be mandated without censoring much speech the First Amendment was designed to protect.

Finally, Adam warned readers about the possibility of behavioral intervention or threat assessment teams being used to squelch unpopular speech on campus in an article by Jennifer Reeger in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (reprinted in Campus Tolerance and TribLive) about the recent prominence of these teams on our nation’s campuses.

Schools:  Idaho State University University of Arizona Vanderbilt University