A College Wars Against The Greek Alphabet

In a recent controversy at Dixie State University, a student group has been told that it may not use Greek letters in its name. Dixie State claims that restricting the expressive rights’ of its students is acceptable because the university has a “compelling interest” in avoiding a perception as a “party school.” Greg weighs in at the The Huffington Post today and explains how Dixie State is not alone in trampling students’ rights in attempts to undermine Greek life on campus:

Dixie State’s creative approach to keeping Greek organizations off campus is not surprising to those of us who work in student rights. Earlier this year, FIRE became involved at Trinity College in Connecticut after the administration instituted a new social code that requires opposite sex membership quotas for all campus groups and prohibits selective membership. Since most national fraternities and sororities are single-sex by charter and selective by nature, this effectively expels such organizations from campus. Trinity’s approach is one of the sneakier ways I’ve seen a college to try to placate former-Greek donors but at the same time undo the college’s Greek system. In contrast, Dixie State’s war on an entire ancient alphabet is remarkably direct.

Here is the whole story and here is a video of the controversy.

NSA And American Colleges: How Unlearning Liberty Doesn’t Stay On Campus

In The Huffington Post today, Greg highlights a recent article by fellow FIRE colleague Nico Perrino in The Guardian about the parallels between the NSA and the modern American campus:

One issue I did not heavily focus on [in Unlearning Liberty], however, is the issue of privacy on college campuses and how some campuses seem to be preparing a generation of students for life in a surveillance state. Thankfully, that topic has been excellently addressed by my colleague Nico Perrino in The Guardian today. In the column, Perrino covers the recent privacy outrage at Harvard University in which it became apparent that the administration accessed faculty emails after they realized an unflattering fact relating to a cheating scandal had been “leaked” to the press. He also points to shocking cases of surveillance involving Valdosta State University, Occidental College, St. Augustine College, and the University of Montana. In explaining all this, Perrino draws eerie parallels to the NSA and the growing culture of surveillance.

Greg points out this is just another example how modern college students are learning all the wrong lessons about what it means to live in a free society. Be sure to read Greg’s piece here and Perrino’s article here.

Greg Discusses ‘Unlearning Liberty’ and ‘Blurred Lines’ with Student Newspaper Across the Pond

Colleges in the United States and the United Kingdom share many great similarities, but an unflattering commonality they share is a tendency to censor what they consider offensive ideas. Although students in the UK don’t enjoy the same First Amendment protections as US students do, the principles that make free speech so beneficial and practical are universal.

 In response to six student union groups across the UK banning Robin Thicke’s hit song “Blurred Lines” this semester, Sam Dumitriu of The Mancunion, the UK’s largest student newspaper, recently interviewed Greg about Unlearning Liberty and his thoughts on colleges’ censoring potentially offensive material, like “Blurred Lines.” In the interview, Greg notes that,

 “Being offended is what happens when you have your deepest beliefs challenged, if you make it through four years of university without having your deepest beliefs challenged, you should ask for your money back.”

Greg goes on to say that pro-censorship student unions would do well to remember this important point. Check out the full interview here.

No Constitutions On Constitution Day?

Greg addresses the latest (and perhaps most outrageous) example of unlearning liberty in The Huffington Post today. A student at Modesto Junior College in California was forced to stop handing out Constitutions on campus—on Constitution Day! He was told by campus security officers and student life administrators that because of “time, place, and manner” restrictions, he must go “in front of the student center, in that little cement area over there” in order to pass out his materials. Greg writes:

Yes, it is true that campuses can impose what are known as “reasonable time, place, and manner” restrictions on speech. But under the law, these need to be reasonable, tied to the pedagogical interest of the college, narrowly tailored, and leave open ample avenues to engage in free speech. Modesto’s all-too-typical behavior here does not pass this test or conform with basic common sense. It almost seems like something Mark Twain would say; “This college is so daffy, I bet you they wouldn’t even let you pass out constitutions on Constitution day.” And amazingly, he would win that bet.

Check out the full article here and make sure to watch the video of the incident.

FIRE President Interviewed by TheBestSchools.org

Over the summer, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff sat down for an interview with TheBestSchools.org, an independent organization dedicated to covering issues in higher education and empowering individuals with a wide variety of resources to make prudent decisions regarding career and educational opportunities. The interview covers Greg’s early influences motivating his work in the First Amendment and civil liberties, his inspiration for writing Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate and the book’s central themes, and how Greg sees the future of higher education.

Here is a preview of Greg’s interview:

TBS: We found your book, Unlearning Liberty, to be frankly inspiring. It not only documents a large number of astonishing abuses, it also models throughout what civility in public discourse ought to be—through its fairness, its scholarly care, and above all its calm and even tone, which is maintained throughout, even when rising occasionally to genuine eloquence. Could you start by telling us what your chief aim was in writing the book?

GL: Thank you for your kind words about the book! I knew writing a book would be a challenge, but it was even more challenging than I expected.

I wrote the book for a number of reasons. First, I wanted a place to gather and relay a sampling of the shocking cases of censorship and violations of basic rights on campus I’ve seen in my decade with FIRE. I needed one place to demonstrate the scope and scale of the problem and, even though I only cover a tiny percentage of the cases I have seen over the years, I don’t think any reader would say I was short on examples.

Second, I aimed to explain why this matters, not only on campus, but also in how it affects our entire society. And finally, I wrote the book to raise awareness about the issue of censorship on college campuses and about FIRE. The kind of cases we deal with on a daily basis at FIRE should be well known in every household in the United States, but, sadly, they are not. Unfortunately, these days the media pay too little attention to stories of censorship that would have been front-page news to an earlier generation.

This wide-ranging interview provides an incisive analysis of the origins and implications of the censorship movement in higher education and highlights a number of cases demonstrating ‘unlearning liberty’ in an engaging video format.

Check out the full interview here.