Rutgers Conviction Goes Too Far

The New Jersey Star Ledger has a piece out today in which Paul Mulshine discusses the recent conviction of Dharun Ravi. Ravi shared a Rutgers dorm room with Tyler Clementi, a gay student who later committed suicide, and faced charges stemming from his setting up a camera to spy on Clementi. In comments I made for the article, I suggest that while Clementi's privacy rights were clearly violated by Ravi's camera setup, the New Jersey legislature's attempt to create new hate crime and anti-harassment laws in response to the Rutgers case is an overreaction that violates the principle of equal application of the law. This case should have been a matter of a fundamental violation of privacy rights. Instead, the New Jersey legislature and Rutgers administrators are fighting an ideological battle to make political correctness the law of the land.
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2011 Muzzle Awards: Another year of crushing free spirits at our colleges and universities

Every year, around July 4th, Dan Kennedy and I collaborate on the Boston Phoenix’s annual “Muzzle Awards,” recognizing those people and organizations that have done the most in the prior 12 months to further the cause of censorship. Kennedy selects the “winners” of the award out in the world at large, and I focus on academic institutions and people who are responsible for censorship in the world of higher education (notwithstanding, of course, that old quaint notion of “academic freedom”).

This year, Wesleyan University and Yale College have each earned a Muzzle (Yale is on the list for the second year in a row), while repression at Widener School of Law has earned the Wilmington, Delaware institution a dubious Double Muzzle. And UMass-Amherst, for proposing a Draconian change to its student code, gets a Muzzle warning. What were the other infractions on student liberty? Find out, here.

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Liability Reigns Supreme at the Corporate University

Campus administrators, alas, have become true believers in the mantra of "risk management." But in guarding against every potential exposure to threats of litigation, no matter how specious, university lawyers and administrators squeeze important elements out of academic life and learning, as well as moral and educational principles, from the collegiate experience. Enter the Department of Education's "Dear Colleague" letter sent nationwide earlier this month, which mandates changes in how universities should investigate instances of sexual harassment--including those that involve student speech.

Now, at the intersection of protected speech and so-called verbal "harassment," administrators have all the more incentive to favor the latter at the expense of the former, I write on Rather than fight these incursions into the academic enterprise, we can count on academic leaders and administrators, and their lawyers, to fold. The days of principled stands by academic leaders appear to have ended because of those leaders' modern-day obsession with making every student's college experience pleasant.

"Liability Reigns Supreme at the Corporate University," (April 22, 2011)

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Comments (0) Bullying Free Speech

On, I take on the renewed effort by federal lawmakers to ratchet-up anti-harassment measures on campus. As FIRE has learned in its decade of experience, charges of "harassment" are already easily the most abused tool to punish speech on campus. Even if well-intentioned (and, alas, much of the ruination of today's liberal arts institutions of higher education have resulted from initially good intentions), this proposal, with restrictions that are redundant and broad, will doubtless serve to further impede student discourse.

"Bullying Free Speech," (January 6, 2011)

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Eliminating Free Thoughts in the Name of False Safety

Administrators at the University of Rhode Island, in an attempt to make their campus more "welcoming" and "safe," recently agreed to implement "sensitivity training" in response to a student protest that centered on campus GLBT issues. A closer look at the events preceding the protest makes clear that the accommodations do more harm than good. As I explain on Minding the Campus, not only do they disrespect the intelligence, maturity and backbone of GLBT students at URI, but they fail to prepare students for the real world where the sometimes-unpleasantness of a free society is, thankfully, protected by the First Amendment.

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