Sunday, February 01, 2009

Can President Obama Do Anything About University Speech Codes?

Of course he owns the bully pulpit. But he also has a department of justice that might consider addressing this issue.

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."

FIRE's letter informed President Obama that "despite ten federal court decisions unequivocally striking down campus speech codes on First Amendment grounds from 1989 to 2008, the number of unconstitutional restrictions on campus speech actually has dramatically increased during that time." FIRE's detailed study, Spotlight on Speech Codes 2009: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation's Campuses, found that 77% of public colleges and universities maintain speech codes that fail to pass constitutional muster.

FIRE also pointed out that public universities frequently punish protected expression despite being forbidden to do so by the First Amendment.

This is not an abstraction. It's a very real threat to our liberty.


Anonymous said...

Remind us: What--specifically--did GW Bush do in this regard?

Darren said...

I'm curious--why did you make an anti-Bush point? This was an anti-anti-free speech post.

Or do you support the restrictions on free speech that universities place on students?

To answer your question: I don't know if President Bush did anything in this regard, and neither do I know if FIRE called on him to do anything or not.

What's your point? Should BH Obama (to use your naming convention) do only those things that President Bush did? That would be some interesting hopenchange.

Anonymous said...

You made a point frequenty and consistently of letting Bush off the hook for things that must have been beyond his control. They just happened to happen during his Reign of Error.

Now your asking Obama to tend to your every need. FIRE is by no means a torch-bearer of free speech. It's a right-wing political organization. So the question remains: if Bush didn't carry their water, why should Obama be expected to?

Darren said...

Since you're being a jerk (lefties must love cutesie-pie rhymes), I'll point out that "you're" is a contraction of "you are". It belongs in the first sentence of your second paragraph.

Second, *I* am not asking President Obama to do anything. I pointed out that FIRE is asking him to do so. You see no exhortation in my post directed at the President.

You apparently don't like FIRE because you're a leftie who doesn't support free speech unless it conforms to your fascist views.

Anonymous said...

You come unglued so easily. But I must confess your tendency to "light fuse and run" lost its novelty ages ago. I *am* glad you don't care one way or the other how Obama regards FIRE's open letter. That is a relief.

Darren said...

It's apparent, anonymous, that you view any statement with which you disagree as coming "unglued". But as you admit, you're a leftie, so that's to be expected.


rightwingprof said...

Why would Obama do anything, given that his campaign and his slobbering fan club did everything they could to squash free speech during the race?