16.2.07

BRING IT. Some temporary functionary at Wisconsin-Eau Claire suggests the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is a pack of paper tigers.

UW-Eau Claire is once again feeling the heat from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which said the university's sexual harassment policy violates the Constitution.

FIRE released the Spotlight on Speech Codes report in December, which rated university policies from more than 300 colleges across the nation on their levels of freedom of expression."FIRE's research focuses in particular on public universities because public universities are legally bound by the First Amendment to protect students' right to free speech," Samantha Harris, director of Legal and Public Advocacy for FIRE, said in an e-mail to The Spectator.

Eau Claire was one of 229 universities that severely restrict freedom of expression, according to the report.

Steve Tallant, interim provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, said that while he acknowledges FIRE's right to have an opinion on university policies, he questions the"standards and methodology" behind their analysis."

They say our policies are unconstitutional," Tallant said. "If (the policies) were unconstitutional, they would be in court right now."

The tigers are prepared to spring some papers.
Mr. Tallant is incorrect. The reason that UWEC’s and hundreds of other schools’ policies are not in court is not because they are constitutional, but simply because no one has come forward to challenge them. To bring a lawsuit against a college or university over an unconstitutional speech code, there must be a student or faculty member at that university who wants to act as a plaintiff in the lawsuit. That individual need not have actually been punished under the school’s policies—in First Amendment law, merely being forced to live under a policy that unlawfully restricts your freedom of speech is an injury that gives you the right to bring suit.

If you are a student or faculty member at a public university who is interested in challenging your school’s speech code, FIRE wants to help. Through our Legal Network, we have already coordinated lawsuits at several universities that have led to the demise of unconstitutional speech codes (for example, take a look at the 2003 suit against Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania). We would like nothing more than to help bring down unlawful speech codes at other colleges and universities, but we need students and faculty at those schools who are willing to stand up for their rights. If you fit the bill, please get in touch with us and help us show misguided administrators like Mr. Tallant the error of their ways.
Do I have time to do something about the Northern Illinois red light?

(Via Phi Beta Cons.)

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