Because NIU is a state institution, it also legally has an obligation to restrict access to sites that promote hatred. In the case of the blocked Wikipedia page that triggered the news firestorm, the reddit user was searching for 'Westboro Baptist Church.' It turns out that this particular wikipedia page linked back to the Church's site and this html "alerted" the new firewall.Let's leave aside for the moment that state-sponsored education is censorship per se, and that some of higher education's radical stance might accordingly be a valuable corrective to the propaganda that used to make up the common schools' curricula. And let's leave aside for the moment that a state university is subject to Constitutional provisions more directly than any private university. (A Liberty University or a Jesuit institution might rule some areas of inquiry out of bounds, if at risk of losing enrollments.) As I used to ask students, "if you can't play around with ideas, including bad ideas, in college, where can you?"
Here's Mr Cohn.
College students are overwhelmingly adults, entitled to the full protection of the First Amendment at a public institution like NIU. And not only is their access to the full marketplace of ideas legally required, but it is arguably even more essential, as students are expected to develop critical thinking skills and prepare themselves for imminent integration into broader society. An argument to the contrary would turn our system of higher education on its head.Indeed, although the latest retention initiative from headquarters is offering the latest freshmen an opportunity to get a free t-shirt and help lead the football program onto the field Thursday night. (Yes, week-night football starts early, although there are relatively few classes offered Friday and it's a get-away day for the long weekend, Corn Fest or not.)
[T]he problem runs deeper than NIU’s failure to clearly distinguish between students and employees in implementing its network policy. (To be clear, faculty employees at a university should not face Internet restrictions either.) The burden is on NIU—not its students—to ensure that its policies comply with the law. The university must revise both the network use policy and its implementing tools immediately in order to ensure that they clarify and respect the constitutional rights owed to NIU students.Indeed. We'll see if the Faculty Senate or University Council take up the administrative usurpation.