FIRE Names The Ten Colleges That Most Abuse Freedom Of Speech. Yes, Harvard Is On It. Of Course It Is.

And yes, for the exact reason that caused me to turn my diploma to the wall.

Here are the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s 2020 selections as the 10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech:

Babson College (Wellesley, Mass.)

Babson College fired adjunct professor Asheen Phansey for a Facebook post parodying  President Donald Trump’s (dumb) tweet threatening to bomb 52 cultural sites in Iran. The professor’s satire wasn’t exactly Dave Barry, but it was obviously a joke:

“In retaliation, Ayatollah Khomeni should tweet a list of 52 sites of beloved American cultural heritage that he would bomb. Um… Mall of America? …Kardashian residence?”

The post was shared by a local gossip blog, and Babson administrators suspended Phansey pending an “investigation,” intoning that the college “condemns any type of threatening words and/or actions condoning violence” and that it was “cooperating with local, state and federal authorities.” That was some investigation: less than a day later, Babson  fired him.

FIRE  protested to Babson  earlier this month, pointing out that Phansey’s post was  obviously a criticism, not an endorsement, of threats of violence, mixed with sarcasm about American culture.

Ethics Alarms covered the incident here.

Jones College (Ellisville, Miss.)

Last spring, administrators and campus police at Jones College twice stopped student Mike Brown  when he tried to recruit students for a campus chapter of Young Americans for Liberty, telling him he needed the school’s explicit permission to speak on campus. When  Brown and two others displayed a sign inviting students to give their opinions about legalizing marijuana, a staff member called campus police. Brown was taken to the police chief’s office and, according to Brown, was told  he was “smarter than” to engage in such conduct on campus without permission. Two months earlier, a Jones administrator called campus police when Brown and a friend produced  an oversized beach ball they dubbed a “free speech ball” for students to write messages while Brown  talked to them about free speech and Young Americans for Liberty.  The Horror. Yes, the police told them they were not allowed to have a provocative beach ball on campus without permission from the school.

Brown has filed a First Amendment lawsuit with FIRE’s help. The Department of Justice has piled on, telling the school that its policies are unconstitutional.

Harvard University (Cambridge, Mass.)

Ethics Alarms covered the incident that nailed down Harvard’s disgrace here.

This, however, had already put the college on FIRE’s radar. The Crimson has made the yearly 10 worst five times

FIRE adds, “And just a few months ago, Harvard implemented a new speaker policy requiring that events deemed to involve “high profile, controversial speakers, or VIP guests” have a neutral moderator in place, ostensibly to prevent disruptions. Unfortunately, the policy is riddled with ambiguities, leading the Harvard Crimson student newspaper to label the policy “troublingly vague.”

University of Scranton (Scranton, Pa.)

Several dozen students at the University of Scranton sought to found a registered chapter of conservative group Turning Point USA on campus.

As they prepared to  present their proposal to the student government, the student government president posted on social media that the student government had the power  to review a proposed student organization and say “Yikes, nope, denied” based on  the group’s non-conforming viewpoint. When the students presented their application to the rest of the student government, they were interrogated regarding their political positions, their affiliation with national organizations, and whether they planned to host “stigmatizing” events on campus—that is, events that offended tender progressive souls. The group’s application was rejected.

Though FIRE wrote to Scranton President Scott Pilarz  to object to the student government’s obvious viewpoint discrimination and to demand that the university recognize the group and its students’ rights to freely associate around shared ideas, Scranton dodged and weaved, refusing to address the First Amendment issue.  FIRE’s position is that the university has  an obligation to explain why its published promises to support free expression on campus has apparently been abandoned.

Middlebury College (Middlebury, Vt.)

Just hours before controversial Polish scholar and politician Ryszard Legutko was set to speak at Middlebury College last Spring, campus administrators  unilaterally canceled the event, citing the usual “safety risks,” meaning that progressive students would try to disrupt the event.  Thus the school endorsed the heckler’s veto, and denied students  the opportunity to hear Legutko’s arguments.  (One political science seminar invited Legutko to address their class that  same day, and he did so  without any violence or even a disruption.)

This kind of censorship is  SOP at  Middlebury. Says FIRE, “The unilateral cancelation of Legutko’s speech was one of the most troubling infringements on student and faculty free speech and open inquiry rights we saw last year.”

Long Island University Post (Brookville, N.Y.)

Students published a “Common Sense” flyer—you know, like Thomas Paine?— featuring  parodies and poems criticizing LIU Post administrators and President Kimberly Cline. Presient Cline doesn’t like being mad fun of. Only three days before his graduation, senior Jake Gutowitz, who was the main force behind the flyers,  was notified that he was under investigation for his role in distributing these flyers in December of 2018.

An “anonymous student” had reported that he or she saw Gutowitz post the flyers on campus and reported him to on-campus safety officers.   graduated, but the incident was never resolved. This should be in the dictionary as an example of “chilling speech.”

FIRE has aked the university cease its practice of investigating students for protected expression, which contradicts its promise to “support[] the rights of individuals, clubs and organizations … to free speech and peaceful assembly.”  There has been no response.

University of Connecticut (Mansfield, Conn.)

Here’s a game I was blissfully unaware of in my college days:  one student says a taboo word, the other repeats it a bit louder, and the competition is to  see who is has the guts to say–scream?– the word the loudest. Two students at the University of Connecticut started the game with “penis” (having exhausted “pee-pee”) while walking through a parking lot late at night,  and another  student recorded a video of the pair. The recording  caught them escalating the game by shouting“nigger.” (They should have made things really interesting by shouting “N-Word!”)

Naturally the student posted the video, and naturally it went viral. Even though the word wasn’t directed at anyone, campus police investigated as if they were  tracking down rapists or robbers. They found the idiots and charged them with a criminal offense under a century-old (and unconstitutional)  dead letter statute outlawing race-based “ridicule” in commercial advertisements.  Then UConn  brought disciplinary charges against the pair,although a federal court order had previously prohibited the university from enforcing hate speech policies in violation of the First Amendment.

Syracuse University (Syracuse, N.Y.)

Syracuse University landed in FIRE’s 10 Worst list for the fourth time after punishing  a conservative student organization for… being conservative .

The university denied recognition to the Young Americans because it found the group’s ideology “inflammatory.” It set as a condition for approval that the group abolish its requirement that prospective members embrace  conservative values.

FIRE asked Syracuse to explain why it deemed this requirement by a conservative group “unreasonable and not inclusive,” despite allowing every other student group to set membership criteria. I think the answer is  rather obvious.

Later in the year, Syracuse  suspended all fraternity activities for the rest of the semester in response to alleged use of a racial slur by a non-fraternity member. Though the university admitted that most, if not all, of the student groups had nothing to do with what happened, Syracuse decided to punished all fraternities, even minority ones.

In its commentary, FIRE notes that Syracuse is on the verge of earning  a Lifetime Censorship Award.

Doane University (Crete, Neb.)

Doan investigated and suspended a faculty librarian for displaying the university’s own historical photos. The small liberal arts college in Nebraska punished  librarian Melissa Gomis for curating a historical photo display called “Parties of the Past,” consisting of photos selected from the university’s own archival photo collection. The timely display, considering the national debate concerning Halloween  costumes and Governor Northam’s blackface yearbook photos, included two university-owned photographs of Doane students  in blackface. As in so many of these stories,  a student complained, and the administration didn’t have the integrity to tell the censorious student to pound sand.  Gomis was placed on  leave having been charged with “discriminatory harassment,” which showing students the past is obviously not.

C-ing the school’s A, Doane President Jacque Carter issued a campus-wide email discussing the controversy and Doane administrators told the news media that the display lacked “appropriate educational context.” You know: harassment.

Eventually Gomis was reinstated, and only Stockholm Syndrome explains why she would continue to work for such spineless hypocrites.

This school, like the other private institutions on the list, promise academic freedom and respect for free expression, and then capitulate to political correctness and historical airbrushing when the time comes to walk the talk.

Portland State University (Portland, Ore.)

At this school, in the heart of the one of the most obtrusively progressive cities in the nation,   a single protester, armed with a cowbell, was allowed to shut down a College Republicans meeting.

FIRE writes,

“Two incidents illustrate that censorship knows no ideological boundaries, as pressure from both the right and left led Portland State University’s police to censor socialist and conservative students alike. In January 2019, the Portland State International Socialist Organization, a student group, planned to hold a meeting about capitalism, climate change, and socialism. Joey Gibson, the non-student founder of the conservative “Patriot Prayer” group, took to Facebook to announce that he would show up uninvited, hoping to make the students answer for “antifa.”

This led campus police to cancel the meeting, later claiming that the students agreed to the cancellation. (They had not.)… In March, a protester armed with a cowbell filibustered a meeting of the College Republicans, which had convened to hear a conservative blogger speak about the Second Amendment. Four campus police officers stood by while the protester prevented the meeting from taking place.”

You know the excuse by now, I assume. The University was concerned about “safety.” Ideas, after all, leave a mark.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, N.Y.)

Finally, FIRE awarded a Lifetime Censorship Award to RPI.

 Security officers and staff members were repeatedly captured on camera tearing down “Save the Union” flyers (there is an ongoing controversy with the school over the regulation of the student union) before prospective students, parents, or donors visited the campus, and recordings captured security officers explaining that on “orders from the top,” they had to remove flyers critical of the administration on “Accepted Students Day.”

“The school has required students to ask permission to hold peaceful demonstrations,” writes FIRE, ” repeatedly denied permission when asked, and erected fences to keep student demonstrators out of sight of a black-tie fundraiser.”

Final thoughts:

  • How are college students expected to learn about this nation’s values and rights if the schools charged (and paid large sums) to teach those values and rights neither understand them nor accept them?
  • Parents and students have the tools to research the schools on FIRE’s list, and are irresponsible and negligent not to do so, particularly with the strong evidence that ideological indoctrination competes with education on so many college campuses.
  • In most of these cases, the breach of civil rights was prompted by an anti-speech student snitch. Apparently the anti-First Amendment indoctrination is taking hold, either in college or earlier.
  • Anti-speech policies in colleges and universities will stop when schools discover that their enrollments are falling, as they should and must.
  • Harvard, as the only elite private liberal arts college on the list and supposedly the most prestigious undergraduate school in the nation, should be humiliated by appearing among FIRE’s “10 Worst” with a bunch of tiny private colleges, state institutions, and an engineering school.
  • FIRE, as always, is an Ethics Hero and a national treasure.

13 thoughts on “FIRE Names The Ten Colleges That Most Abuse Freedom Of Speech. Yes, Harvard Is On It. Of Course It Is.

  1. Well Harvard’s illustrious presidential candidate wants to make speech she deems disinformation subject to criminal and civil penalties. I suppose Warren’s ideaa are as Hahvahd goes so goes the nation.

    • Ah, yes. Lizzie is showing her totalitarian side again. She’s mad Bernie is better at it and has higher ratings. Sorry, Lizzie, methinks 2020 is just not your year. Try again next time.


      PS: Lizzie, I won’t be voting for you then, either. At least I am consistent.

  2. The saddest part…none of this is even slightly odd or surprising.

    Makes me feel embarrassed to be a Maxwell School (Syracuse) grad. You should read the school’s magazine sometime. It’s often quite frightening.

    • I went to Newhouse (also Syracuse).

      I throw everything away the school send to me.

      And laugh so hard when they ask for money that they haven’t asked in about seven years.

      • Maxwell ’84 here. Fondly recall Marshall Square and Hungry Charlie’s 15¢ beer Sunday nights. The endless leftist garbage didn’t really kick in until Dean Guthrie Birkhead retired in ’88.

        Often wonder how much of ESPN’s politics emanates from Newhouse grads.

  3. I think a good follow up would be for FIRE to produce a list of Universities/Colleges that have the most reasonable protections for students engaging in free speech.

  4. I cannot believe its this bad. Every single one of those is an obvious on it’s face violation of speech rights. Some of them even involved officers of the law who are sworn to uphold those very same rights. I literally just setup a monthly donation to FIRE, they’re doing the dirty and unglamorous but righteous work that the ACLU has abandoned.

      • To be fair, if you setup a subscribe star or paypal, I’d sign up there too. A couple six packs a month is the least I could do for how valuable you and the community here have been in developing my understanding or right, wrong, and reason.

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