A few commenters on my latest post for The Volokh Conspiracy have been riffing on the theme that the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE, where I work) is only able to show a few examples of censorship on campus, and therefore it must not be that big of a problem.
Here’s my erudite response: hogwash.
First of all, it takes a very rare brave and/or motivated student to even bother fighting back against his or her college or university administration. Nonetheless, FIRE, which is not exactly a household name, receives about 450 requests for help every year from students or faculty members who believe their free speech or due process rights have been violated. Because of our size, we don’t actually have the capacity to handle all of the case submissions we receive. Some cases we refer to attorneys, while other cases are settled in private. The cases that we talk about publicly are only those about which we have been given permission to speak. But even with all these limitations, here’s a short list of just some of the cases we have fought over the past few years:
- California State University – San Marcos: Disciplinary Investigation of Humor Magazine
- Catawba Valley Community College: Student Banned from Campus after Protesting College’s Deal with Debit Card Company on Facebook
- Middlebury College: Students Threatened With Punishment for Satirical Press Release
- North Carolina State University: ‘Civility Statement’ Prohibits Constitutionally Protected Speech
- Ohio University: Political Flyers Censored in Dorms
- Rutgers University: Bias Investigation of Satirical Newspaper
- Saint Augustine’s College: Student Prohibited from Walking at Graduation Due to Facebook Post
- Sam Houston State University: Faculty Member Takes Box Cutter to Students’ Free Speech Wall; Police Threaten Students with Misdemeanor
- Sinclair Community College: Police Ban Signs at Religious Freedom Rally
- Sinclair Community College: Unconstitutional