Orrin Hatch Introduces Bill to Protect Free Speech on College Campuses

Feb 07 2018

Washington, D.C.— Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the senior Republican in the United States Senate, introduced the FREE Act, legislation to protect free speech on college campuses.

Justice Department Files Statement of Interest in California College Free Speech Case

“My proposal would require public colleges and universities to provide clear guidance on their efforts to protect free speech and the free exchange of all ideas,” Hatch said. “Students on campus should know that any regulation of speech remains content-neutral, apolitical, and narrowly tailored. They should be able to trust that their campuses will foster free speech, not stifle it.”


He wrote more about this critical issue and how his legislation would help bolster free speech in an op-ed this afternoon in National Review:

 Protecting Free Speech Where It Matters Most, on the College Campus

By Senator Orrin G. Hatch


FIRE names America’s 10 worst colleges for free speech: 2018

PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 12, 2018 — Each year, colleges across the country find dubious ways to silence student and faculty expression. In the last year, administrators became embroiled in litigation for telling a student he couldn’t hand out Spanish-language copies of the U.S. Constitution outside a free speech zone, continued a years-long effort to ban a group from campus due to its political viewpoint, and even investigated a professor for a satirical tweet — eventually driving him to resign.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has identified America’s 10 worst colleges for free speech, published today with detailed descriptions on FIRE’s website.
This year’s list includes the following institutions, in no particular order:
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, N.Y.)
  • Drexel University (Philadelphia, Pa.)
  • Harvard University (Cambridge, Mass.)
  • Los Angeles Community College District (Los Angeles, Calif.)
  • Fordham University (New York, N.Y.)
  • Evergreen State College (Olympia, Wash.)
  • Albion College (Albion, Mich.)
  • Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.)
  • University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, Calif.)
  • Texas State University (San Marcos, Texas)
The institutions on FIRE’s annual list of worst colleges include one university that threatened the funding and editorial process of its independent student newspaper, another that erected fences around campus to keep peaceful student demonstrators out of sight of donors, and yet another that put a student through a months-long investigation and a four-hour hearing for a joke. (That student is still waiting to learn his fate!)
“College administrators, and sometimes even students, are going to greater and greater lengths to justify muzzling expression on campus,” said FIRE Executive Director Robert Shibley. “This type of censorship makes for a sterile environment where lively debate and discussion can’t thrive. The public deserves to know which colleges will defend free expression — and which ones will go to seemingly any length to silence it.”
For the first time, FIRE also awarded a Lifetime Censorship Award to one university that threatens the free speech rights of its students and faculty so often that it deserves individual infamy: DePaul University.
DePaul earned the 2018 Lifetime Censorship Award in recognition of its decade-long rap sheet of suppressing speech at every turn. From denying recognition to a student organization criticizing marijuana laws, to forcing the DePaul Socialists, Young Americans for Freedom, and College Republicans to pay for security in order to host speakers at their meetings and events, to forbidding a group from using the slogan “Gay Lives Matter,” DePaul has staked out a leadership position in stifling campus expression.
FIRE’s 2018 list includes both public and private institutions. Public colleges and universities are bound by the First Amendment. Private colleges on this list are not required by the Constitution to respect student and faculty speech rights, but explicitly promise to do so.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending liberty, freedom of speech, due process, academic freedom, legal equality, and freedom of conscience on America’s college campuses.

Emory University earns FIRE’s highest rating for free speech

ATLANTA, Dec. 5, 2017 — Emory University has removed language from its policies that chilled free expression on campus, earning it the highest, “green light” rating for free speech on campus from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
After working to ensure that the policies across all of its departments reflect the university’s commitment to free speech, Emory has become the first green light institution in the state of Georgia — and just the 37th institution nationwide to earn FIRE’s most favorable rating.
“We are excited to welcome Emory to the ranks of green light institutions,” said FIRE Executive Director Robert Shibley. “As one of only 37 schools in the country to earn a green light rating from FIRE, Emory is now positioned to become a national leader in protecting free speech on campus.”

To earn its green light rating, Emory revised its undergraduate conduct code, as well as policies governing campus bias incidents and the use of information technology resources. FIRE worked on the changes with Alexander “Sasha” Volokh, chair of Emory’s Open Expression Committee and a professor at Emory University School of Law.

“Once these policies were brought to our attention, everyone basically agreed that it was a matter of mistaken or outdated language that did not reflect the values of Emory’s Open Expression Policy,” Volokh said. “The credit really belongs to Emory’s administrators, from President Claire Sterk on down, who strongly support open expression on campus — as well as to the University Senate that adopted the Open Expression Policy five years ago.”

“It was a pleasure to work with Emory on these revisions,” said FIRE Vice President of Policy Research Samantha Harris. “We hope other institutions both in Georgia and across the country will follow Emory’s lead and adopt policies that fully protect students’ free speech rights.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending liberty, freedom of speech, due process, academic freedom, legal equality, and freedom of conscience on America’s college campuses.

Guantanamo Bay Art Exhibit Stirs Controversy: Opportunity to Sign Petition

Muhammad Ansi, Crying Eye (Mother), 2015.



Visit exhibit online at https://www.artfromguantanamo.com/

Detainees at the United States military prison camp known as Guantánamo Bay have made art from the time they arrived. The exhibit will display some of these evocative works, made by eight men: four who have since been cleared and released from Guantánamo, and four who remain there. They paint the sea again and again although they cannot reach it.

Free and open to all. Enter at 899 10th Avenue (at 59th Street) and proceed to the President’s Gallery, on the 6th floor of Haaren Hall. Open Monday-Friday 9-5 pm.

Abdualmalik Abud, Yemen, 2015.
Ammar Al Baluchi, Vertigo at Guantanamo.
Ghaleb Al-Bihani, Lighthouse, 2016.
Djamel Ameziane, Interior, 2010.
Khalid Qasim, Large Sailboat on the Ocean, 2017, paint over gravel mixed with glue.
Muhammad Ansi, Hand Holding Red Flowers, 2015 (color photocopy of original and reverse, showing stamps indicating approval for release from Guantánamo).
Muhammad Ansi, Hands Holding Flowers through Bars, 2016.

NCAC Condemns Government Policy Depriving Americans of Access to Art by Guantanamo Detainees

New York, NY, 11/28/2017–An art exhibition at John Jay College in New York has provoked an abrupt change to government policy regarding art created by detainees held at Guantanamo Bay. The Pentagon and Department of Defense have declared that all art created by detainees will henceforth become the property of the US government and may no longer be removed from the prison, even upon a detainee’s clearance and release. It has been suggested that the art will be destroyed. The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) vehemently objects to the violation of the public’s right to access this work and thus fully participate in the political conversation around Guantanamo. The new directive also violates the human rights of the detainees under international norms and further destruction of the work would impermissibly suppress documents of historical importance.

Since all art that leaves Guantanamo is subject to intense scrutiny by military officials, the new directive serves no legitimate national security purpose. The only purpose it appears to serve is to block the American public’s access to detainees’ artistic expression and stifle the public’s full participation in a national conversation about the US government’s policies in Guantanamo. Recognizing that the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, most of whom remain held without charge, possess human imagination may inspire an uncomfortable empathy, but Americans have a right to fully examine their government’s policies and their effects. The American public now and in the future deserves access to such documents.

NCAC and the undersigned organizations fully support the curators at John Jay College and are intervening directly with the Pentagon and Department of Defense. This baseless policy change uses art as a political football in an effort to prevent these works—and a deeper understanding of those who created them—from informing public discussion of the policies the US government makes in its citizens’ names. We condemn this attempt to obstruct the American public discourse essential to a democratic and open society.

Co-signed by:

National Coalition Against Censorship

Aica International

Association of University Presses

College Art Association

Defending Rights & Dissent

Electronic Frontier Foundation


Free Speech Coalition

Harvard Islamic Society’s Anti-Islamophobia Network

Media Freedom Foundation

PEN America

Project Censored

T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights

Woodhull Foundation

Add your name to curator Erin Thompson’s petition to stop the destruction of art at Guantanamo.

Cody High School Urged to Keep Acclaimed Book in School Library

New York, NY 11/30/2017- Cody District Public Schools will convene a committee in early December to determine whether Tanya Stone’s acclaimed novel,A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl, will remain in the Cody High School library after a single parent complaint led to an appeal for its removal. The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) and co-signing organizations are urging Tim Foley, Assistant Superintendent of Cody District Public Schools, to keep the novel on library shelves. Allowing the views of one parent to influence what books belong in the school library privileges the subjective beliefs of one over the education of all and threatens students’ First Amendment rights.

In early November, a single parent complained about sexual content in A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girland demanded its removal from Cody High School Library. The school district plans to convene a complaint committee to review the book. NCAC and the assembled coalition of literary and educational organizations have sent a letter to Mr. Foley, as well as the Cody District Public Schools Governing Board, in advance of the upcoming committee meeting to offer guidance on their review of the book.

Decisions about what books to offer in school libraries should be based primarily on pedagogical principles and the expertise of trained educators, not the personal beliefs of community members. The educational and literary merits of a challenged book must be carefully considered. In this case, the novel in question has appeared on distinguished literary lists from the American Library Association, New York Public Library and School Library Journal.

As NCAC’s Youth Free Expression Program Manager, Abena Hutchful, explains, “Literature holds a unique place in helping young people cope with the challenges of growing up and books like A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl can provide a safe space to explore those challenges and develop empathy for others facing similar problems.”

While not every book is right for every reader, the role of school libraries is to allow students and parents to make choices according to their own interests, experiences and family values.  However, no parent, student or community member may impose their views, values and interests on others by restricting an entire community’s access to particular books.

NCAC has offered support and guidance to Cody District Public Schools in addressing this current attempt to censor student reading and in setting clearer guidelines for handling such book challenges in the future. The removal of this novel from the Cody High School library would limit student access to a necessary voice for many readers based on the disapproval of a vocal minority, setting a dangerous precedent for ignoring students’ First Amendment rights in the district.