Alpine Summit

Friday, January 13, 2006

Academic Freedom on Colleges

For all their barking about "free speech" and "censorship," liberals still try to stifle the expression of views with which they don't agree. I subscribe to an e-mailing list from Eagle Forum, a conservative group that often points out the latest idiocy of the left. Anyway, in their e-mail this week, they had this story:

DePAUL UNIVERSITY, Chicago, IL-January 6, 2006 — After Critics and pressure from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), DePaul University has lifted a ban on "propaganda" that was created in direct response to the student protest of professor Ward Churchill's appearance on campus.

"The revocation of the 'propaganda' ban is a step in the right direction for DePaul," said FIRE Interim President Greg Lukianoff. "Yet DePaul's disregard for freedom of expression reaches far beyond this one policy. The true test will be how DePaul reacts the next time students attempt to express dissenting opinions."

DePaul's College Republicans (CRs) opposed the university's invitation to Churchill to lecture and lead a student workshop last October. The CRs were careful to follow administrative rules by submitting fliers, they had produced to distribute in protest for approval. The administrator's response to this show of cooperation? They first tried to mislead the CRs into believing the event had been cancelled and when that didn't work they claimed that these fliers baring Churchill's own statements were propaganda and could not be distributed. The students rejected the claims and posted the fliers anyway which led to a formal warning. The entire controversy led to an "addition" to the policy stating that posters could be used only to promote events, not to protest them.

After being contacted by the CRs, F.I.R.E. sent a letter to the administration warning that the constant change in policy gave "administrators the unfettered power to censor student speech at will."

"The revocation of the 'propaganda' ban is a step in the right direction for DePaul," said FIRE Interim President Greg Lukianoff. "Yet DePaul's disregard for freedom of expression reaches far beyond this one policy. The true test will be how DePaul reacts the next time students attempt to express dissenting opinions." (F.I.R.E., 01/06/06)

You can find the link to the whole documentation by FIRE here. They put this in the "win" column, but I think this illustrates quite nicely a far more common trend than most academics are willing to admit.

The FIRE is a pretty cool organization. It's roots are in the left if I recall, and originally concentrated on oppression of leftist views being stifled. I'm glad to see, though, that their cause has become less political and more rights-based. They have great documentation on examples of speech being stifled on campuses all over the country. On the right side (heh) of the main page, you can find your school and see how it rates with FIRE.

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