The Torch

In 'Pajamas Media,' FIRE's VP Slams Yale Press Censorship of Mohammed Cartoons

August 14, 2009

In an article posted today on Pajamas Media, FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley sharply criticizes Yale University Press's decision not to publish controversial cartoons of the prophet Mohammed in the upcoming book The Cartoons That Shook the World, which deals directly with the controversy caused by their initial publication by a Danish publication in 2005. The press' decision continues the unfortunate trend in the academy of suppressing efforts to display and openly discuss the cartoons and, as Robert says, "has allowed the rage of the least rational and most violent to overwhelm the very real need for historical analysis of important events." Read Robert's whole article here. Read Full Article

The Torch

FIRE’s Summer Internship Program a Success

August 10, 2009

Friday was the last day of FIRE's successful 2009 summer internship program. For the last ten weeks, Jesse, Tim, Noah, John, Maureen, and Daniel joined the fight for liberty on campus in the Philadelphia FIRE office, and Alexandra, FIRE's Legal Intern, worked from our New York office. We thank all the interns for their great work this summer and we wish them the best as they return to their respective universities in the fall. Read Full Article

The Torch

Boston College Fails to Live Up to Its Free Speech Promises, Earns Dishonorable 'Red Light' Rating

August 7, 2009

Boston College (BC) promises that all of its students have the right "to learn, which includes the right of access to ideas, the right of access to facts and opinions, the right to express ideas, and the right to discuss those ideas with others." At the same time, BC undercuts those promises with other restrictive policies, and it has taken several actions to interfere with these rights. BC thus misleads students who count on its promises of fundamental intellectual rights, restricting speech that would be protected on a public campus. Although BC is a private college dedicated both to "intellectual excellence" and its "Jesuit, Catholic heritage," misleading students in this way is a serious problem, and BC has now earned FIRE's worst, "red light" rating. Unless BC openly admits that it is not truly dedicated to free expression (which is its right as a private college) or removes its speech restrictions, BC will keep its "red light" rating so that prospective students know that BC will not honor its stated commitments to freedom of expression should they choose to attend.     Read Full Article

The Torch

Speech Code of the Month: Northern Illinois University

August 5, 2009

FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for August 2009: Northern Illinois University (NIU). In the NIU Student Code of Conduct, "harassment" is defined as the "Intentional and wrongful use of words, gestures and actions to annoy, alarm, abuse, embarrass, coerce, intimidate or threaten another person." (Emphasis added.) NIU is a public university, which means it is legally obligated to protect its students' First Amendment rights, and this policy fails miserably. While the university may legitimately prevent students from threatening and intimidating one another, it most certainly cannot prohibit students from annoying and embarrassing one another, even intentionally. In fact, satire and parody-which are entitled to particularly strong constitutional protection-are frequently profoundly embarrassing and annoying to their targets. This policy is representative of the prevailing culture on so many college campuses nowadays, in which there is a presumed "right not to be offended"-a "right" that undermines the whole notion of a university as a "marketplace of ideas" where students learn by exposure to a variety of different opinions expressed in a variety of different ways-including opinions and forms of expression that may be offensive.     Read Full Article

The Torch

'Harvard Law Review' Gets Lazy: Prestigious Journal Publishes Article Ignoring Case Law, Defending Speech Codes

August 3, 2009

In its April issue, the Harvard Law Review (HLRanalyzes one of FIRE's favorite legal victoriesDeJohn v. Temple University—and contends the case was decided incorrectly. In fact, the student-edited law review takes the shocking position that speech codes on campus are constitutional. Even more surprising than HLR's conclusion, though, is the prestigious journal's shoddy analysis, which ignores case law and argues in favor of applying workplace harassment principles to college students, contradicting Supreme Court precedent. FIRE is saddened that HLR is willing to publish deceptive apologetics for campus censorship.

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Press Release

Dave Barry, Award-Winning Humorist, Speaks Out on College Censorship in New FIRE Video

July 30, 2009

Dave Barry, Pulitzer Prize-winning humor columnist and author of more than 30 books, is no stranger to critics trying to censor his writing. The nationally syndicated humorist has written some of our nation's funniest columnsand with the First Amendment on his side, he's been winning the battle for free speech for over 25 years. Today, FIRE releases a new video that features Barry discussing why freedom of expression is important to him and how today's politically correct college campuses are creating a culture of censorship that stifles humor writing and the opinions of millions of students across the country. Read Full Article