Press Release

UMass Amherst Stands by as Student Newspaper is Stolen and Censored


Student Government Senator Ejected for Trying to Uphold First Amendment on Campus

Multiple First Amendment violations have rocked the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus in recent days. UMass has done nothing about the videotaped theft of and, later, the student government's official censorship of The Minuteman, a conservative campus newspaper that mocked a student government official. Worse, last night, when a student senator offered a bill to reverse the unconstitutional censorship of The Minuteman, the Senate's speaker had the UMass police throw him out (video of this incident is expected soon). These assaults on free speech came in the wake of last month's disgraceful episode in which a speech by columnist Don Feder was shouted down by hecklers while UMass police officers did nothing. The many aggrieved parties on this out-of-control campus have come to FIRE for help.
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Read More About University of Massachusetts at Amherst: Student Newspapers Stolen While Police Officer Watches »
Read More About University of Massachusetts at Amherst: Student Government Tries to Punish Conservative Newspaper »

Press Release

Victory for Freedom of Conscience at Virginia Tech: New ‘Diversity’ Requirements for Tenure and Promotion No Longer Under Consideration, But Problematic Policies Remain

The president of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) has announced that proposed new guidelines for faculty assessment, which would have mandated reporting of "diversity" activities in violation of academic freedom and freedom of conscience, are no longer under consideration. FIRE had called on President Charles W. Steger to rescind the proposed guidelines after a tenure-track faculty member came to FIRE for help.
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Update: April 15, 2009, Read More About Virginia Tech: ‘Diversity’ Requirement for Faculty Assessment Violates Academic Freedom and Freedom of Conscience »

The Torch

FIRE Vice President Pens Op-Ed for ‘The Boston Globe’: ‘Why no one should be silenced on campus’

Today's Boston Globe features an op-ed from FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley on the disruption of Don Feder's speech at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. This incident is indicative of a larger problem on college campuses, where students have begun to resort to disruption and violence to preempt speech with which they disagree. All too often, university policies actually make this "heckler's veto" possible, denying students the opportunity to hear speakers with diverse views. As Robert's column persuasively points out, the real casualty of the heckling 'arms race' fostered by such policies is the possibility of getting a truly liberal education.
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Update: April 16, 2009, Read More About University of Massachusetts at Amherst: Student Group Charged Unconstitutional Security Fee for Controversial Speaker »

Press Release

New Virginia Tech ‘Diversity’ Requirements for Tenure Violate Academic Freedom, Will Be Comprehensively Reviewed by Board of Visitors

The Board of Visitors at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) has agreed to fully review the school's tenure and diversity policies. Virginia Tech's College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences defines "diversity" as "the desirability and value of many kinds of individual differences while at the same time acknowledging and respecting that socially constructed differences based on certain characteristics exist within systems of power that create and sustain inequality, hierarchy, and privilege." Faculty members who do not document their "involvement in diversity initiatives" in their teaching, research, and personal development put their ability to achieve merit raises, promotion, and tenure in jeopardy.
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Update: April 15, 2009, Read More About Virginia Tech: ‘Diversity’ Requirement for Faculty Assessment Violates Academic Freedom and Freedom of Conscience »

The Torch

Video: ‘Think What We Think... Or Else: Thought Control on the American Campus’

In the fall of 2007, the University of Delaware's Office of Residence Life employed mandatory dormitory activities to coerce students to change their thoughts, habits, and values to conform to a highly specific ideological agenda. Following FIRE's campaign, which called the attention of the national media to the Orwellian program and outraged people from all over the political spectrum, UD President Patrick Harker terminated the program. Today, FIRE releases a documentary—produced by FIRE and Free to Choose Media—that explains the program's invasive thought-reform activities, the horrified reactions of students and faculty, and FIRE's response.
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Read More About University of Delaware: Students Required to Undergo Ideological Reeducation »

The Torch

Speech Code of the Month: San Jose State University

FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for April 2009: San Jose State University (SJSU). SJSU's housing department maintains a policy on "harassment and/or assault" which prohibits, among other things, "publicly telling offensive jokes," and which provides—in direct violation of the law—that "the conduct is evaluated from the complainant's perspective." SJSU is a public university, bound by the First Amendment. What's more, it is a part of the California State University system, several of whose speech codes have already been the subject of a successful federal lawsuit. Thus, the fact that SJSU maintains this egregious harassment policy is simply indefensible.
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The Torch

FIRE Calls on Virginia Tech to Abandon New Political Litmus Test for Faculty

FIRE is calling on Charles W. Steger, President of Virginia Tech, to abandon proposed new guidelines for faculty assessment that would seriously violate faculty members' academic freedom and their constitutional right to freedom of conscience. The proposal would force faculty members in Virginia Tech's College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences to adhere to an ideological loyalty oath to an entirely abstract concept—"diversity"—that can represent vastly different things to different people. Faculty are to be evaluated with "special attention" to the candidate's "involvement in diversity initiatives." If adopted, this requirement will inevitably interfere with faculty members' moral and intellectual freedom by requiring them to adhere to Virginia Tech's current ideological perspectives on bias, race, gender, and culture.
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Update: April 15, 2009, Read More About Virginia Tech: ‘Diversity’ Requirement for Faculty Assessment Violates Academic Freedom and Freedom of Conscience »

Press Release

Controversial Speakers Face Huge Security Fees at Berkeley and Colorado

Open discussion of Israeli-Palestinian issues can now resume unburdened at the University of California at Berkeley, which has slashed a "security fee" that would have kept a controversial speaker off campus. Meanwhile, students at the University of Colorado at Boulder are nervously awaiting a promised $2,200 security bill for a speech by controversial professors William Ayers and Ward Churchill. Students at both universities have turned to FIRE for help.
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Update: April 9, 2009, Read More About University of California at Berkeley: Prohibitive Security Fee Charged for Controversial Speaker »
Update: March 29, 2009, Read More About University of Colorado at Boulder: Prohibitive Security Fee Charged for Controversial Speakers »

The Torch

Special Announcement: FIRE to Hold 10th Anniversary Celebration in New York City

This year, FIRE celebrates our ten-year anniversary. To commemorate our first decade of defending constitutional rights on campus, we will be hosting a dinner in New York City for our supporters. Renowned columnist, historian, and music critic Nat Hentoff will give opening remarks and serve as the honorary dinner chairman, contributing editor for The Atlantic and FIRE Board Member Virginia Postrel will be the hostess for the evening, and Eugene Volokh, noted UCLA law professor and creator of the widely-read blog "The Volokh Conspiracy," will deliver the keynote address. The event will take place at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on the evening of October 22, 2009. We look forward to celebrating our past successes and to connecting with new and old audiences to find even more partners in the fight for liberty at our nation's college and universities. We hope you can make it!
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The Torch

Victory for Individual Rights at Pomona College: No-Trespassing Order Reversed for Two Students Who Asked “Disruptive” Questions

Pomona College has reversed a no-trespassing order issued against two Claremont McKenna College (CMC) students who asked several questions and videotaped a public discussion on campus led by a Planned Parenthood representative during Abortion Awareness Week. Two Pomona deans called the questions "disruptive" and ordered the students banned from Pomona's campus without giving the students a hearing or any chance to refute the allegations levied by hostile witnesses. After receiving advice from FIRE, the students vindicated themselves in an impromptu hearing, and CMC's president publicly apologized for the denial of the students' rights to due process and freedom of speech.
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