The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, FIRE, has asked the new President for a little help:  FIRE Pens Open Letter to President Obama
Asks for Help Fighting Unconstitutional Speech Codes on College Campuses

WASHINGTON, January 20, 2009—This Inauguration Day, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has sent President Barack Obama an open letter requesting that, as a constitutional lawyer and the leader of the nation’s executive branch, he and his administration join the fight against college and university speech codes that are infringing on the rights of millions of our nation’s college students.

“Millions of American students are being taught that colleges have the power to censor and punish speech that the Bill of Rights protects,” Greg Lukianoff, FIRE’s president, said. “Failing to educate an entire generation about our constitutional ideals of liberty—and, still worse, actually teaching students that they have a duty to censor opinions with which they disagree—means that it will not be long before these illiberal attitudes result in severe consequences for our Republic.”

Aren’t colleges supposed to be bastions of free thought?  Apparently not:

For example, at Valdosta State University in Georgia, a student was expelled for creating a satirical online collage to peacefully protest the university’s plans to construct campus parking garages. At Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, a student-employee was found guilty of racial harassment for reading a book with pictures of Klansmen on the cover, despite the fact that the book was celebrating the defeat of the Ku Klux Klan. FIRE is also fighting on behalf of a student government leader at Michigan State University who was found guilty of violating the school’s spamming policy simply for sending an e-mail to a group of faculty encouraging them to weigh in on proposed changes to university policy.

Private colleges are also failing to uphold the promises of freedom of expression they have made to students and faculty. At Brandeis University, FIRE is fighting for a professor found guilty of racial harassment because he used the term “wetbacks” in order to explain and critique the term in his Latin American Politics class. At Tufts University, FIRE has been fighting to overturn a finding of racial harassment against a student newspaper for printing factual information about Islam as part of a satirical advertisement.

Use the bully pulpit:

“If President Obama simply speaks out against speech codes, colleges will get the message that they must finally begin to obey the law,” Lukianoff said.

Advertisements