Yesterday I mentioned Peter Robinson's letter to The Dartmouth, along with my promise to respond to the challenge of Dartmouth Alumni Association official John Engelman '68 "to produce a copy of 'speech code.'" As promised, I penned a response that was scheduled to appear in The Dartmouth newspaper tomorrow. Unfortunately, before it was actually published there, I sent a copy to my friend George Leef at Phi Beta Cons who was planning a post on this issue and who, who printed it there this morning so now The Dartmouth won't run it.
So here's the letter:
In his April 29 contribution, John Engelman challenges me "to produce a copy of [Dartmouth's prior] 'speech code.'"
I accept his challenge.
The website of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education — experts on campus speech codes — substantially documents the actions and policy statements by Dartmouth administrators that originally led Dartmouth to be classified with a "red light" or "poor" rating on speech and why it subsequently upgraded Dartmouth to one of only a handful of colleges and universities in America with a "green light" rating (see http://www.thefire.org/index.php/article/5621.html).
As FIRE stated in a February 2005 letter to Dartmouth Trustee T.J. Rodgers, http://www.thefire.org/index.php/article/5471.html, referring to a letter in 2001 by President Wright, "The May 10, 2001, letter, if issued by the president of a public university, would constitute an unconstitutional speech code."
That policy was rescinded just months later and the punishment meted out has been reversed. Dartmouth now has a green light rating on free speech from FIRE, an accomplishment for which I give President Wright (and T.J. Rodgers) great credit.
Perhaps — as Mr. Engelman suggests — FIRE simply imagined the actions and statements at Dartmouth that led to the original "red light" rating and perhaps it then later imagined that these initial imaginary restrictions had been lifted, thereby earning Dartmouth a "green light" rating.
Or perhaps it is Mr. Engelman, not I, who is "play[ing] fast and loose with the facts."
Todd J. Zywicki Professor of Law Editor, Supreme Court Economic Review George Mason University School of Law
As if there were any doubt at all on this, the folks at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) have now weighed in with a thorough, comprehensive history of the whole affair. FIRE's case is extensive and well-documented. Here's the conclusion:
In sum, Engelman's contention that Dartmouth did not maintain a speech code is the real "canard." Prior to 2005, Dartmouth maintained policies that restricted protected speech.