Today’s Campus Alert coincides with our press release today announcing our new Red Alert feature—an “honor” we are awarding to institutions of higher education that have shown particularly severe and ongoing disregard for their contractual or constitutional commitments to uphold the fundamental rights of students and faculty. We devoted this week’s New York Post column in FIRE to one of our first Red Alert schools, Johns Hopkins University.
As Campus Alert stated:
No school demonstrated greater contempt for the rights of its students this past school year than Johns Hopkins University. In fact, Johns Hopkins nearly destroyed the academic career of one student this past fall—and all because of the student’s constitutionally protected speech on an outside Web site.
Torch readers undoubtedly remember our case at Johns Hopkins well. In November, junior Justin Park posted an invitation on Facebook.com that some found offensive, so the university suspended him for a year, required him to complete 300 hours of community service, attend a diversity workshop, read 12 books on diversity, and write a reflective paper on each book. The Johns Hopkins administration charged Park with harassment, intimidation, and failing to respect the rights of others. They followed up Park’s sham trial with the institution of a new “civility” code on campus, warning students that “[r]ude, disrespectful behavior is unwelcome and will not be tolerated.”
Park’s punishment was ultimately reduced following public pressure from FIRE and others. However, considering the university’s knee-jerk reaction—to throw the book at a student for making an obvious joke and institute a vague civility code leaving students subject to punishment for being rude, all while promising freedom of expression in its school policies—Johns Hopkins is obviously deserving of the title of a FIRE Red Alert institution.