Who’s Violating Students’ Rights?

By February 11, 2009

America’s colleges and universities continue to reach new lows when it comes to censoring those who speak out against the repressive and doctrinaire culture on campus. Just last week, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) fought and won a case in which a student was punished by her school administrators simply for sending an e-mail to a selected group of professors. It wasn’t even the usual political fare—just a protest against the administration’s decision to change the academic calendar. For this, the student was labeled a "spammer" and officially punished—an outrageous action to take against a student who carefully targeted her e-mail only to individuals with the ability to affect the changes.

Likewise, FIRE is e-mailing you because we need your help to fight the politically correct censorship and speech codes in place at the overwhelming majority of campuses across America—and we all have a stake in this fight. The fact is that the authoritarian takeover of America’s institutions of higher education has had frightening consequences for our nation. Millions of students graduate from college every year not only knowing little about our basic liberties but actually having been taught that they are too dangerous to put into practice—and these students are destined to be our future leaders in politics, business, and science.

Every day, FIRE sees college and university administrators overstepping their bounds and ignoring the Constitution by denying students and professors their right to free expression. Indeed, while they may seem too unbelievable to be true, these are some cases FIRE has fought in the past year alone:

  • A student-employee was charged with racial harassment for reading a book available in his university’s own library that celebrated the defeat of the KKK in a street fight. Check out the video about this case!
  • A famous university found a professor guilty of racial harassment and placed a monitor in his classroom for criticizing an epithet in his Latin American Politics class.
  • A student was expelled from a public university for posting a collage on Facebook that the university president found offensive.
  • One of the nation’s largest public universities subjected all students living in its dormitories to a mandatory reeducation program to fix "incorrect" attitudes and beliefs about controversial topics such as race, politics, sexuality, and environmentalism.

College campuses should be places of free and open debate, where new ideas flourish and community members can exercise the rights guaranteed to them by the First Amendment—not places where meddling administrators control the discourse according to their own agenda. The ever-growing P.C. culture is transforming these onetime havens of free expression into overregulated Orwellian camps—funded in large part by your tax dollars.

FIRE is committed to defending and sustaining individual rights at America’s colleges and universities. Freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty, and sanctity of conscience are the essential qualities of individual liberty and American dignity—and FIRE will not rest until these fundamental rights are restored to our campuses.

Over the past ten years FIRE has fought—and won—hundreds of cases for wronged students and professors. However, we know that thousands more injustices are taking place in silence because students and faculty do not know where to turn for help. Your donation to FIRE is urgently needed to help us reach more students—but that’s not all you can do. Please visit FIRE’s website, where you can learn more about FIRE, sign up to receive e-mail alerts about current cases, write a university president about an egregious case, find out how a specific school rates on individual rights, and let others know about FIRE’s work. And should someone you know become a victim of unjust or unconstitutional repression on campus, urge him to contact FIRE!