Frat signs? No problem for Lexington

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On a spring day in Lexington, Va., fraternity row openly sports Greek letters without any apparent unease from town officials. In fact, two of these houses are across the street from the police station.   The “animal house” fraternity is around the corner.  Just how similar signs might — in some imaginary universe — represent a threat to the peace and dignity of the City of Radford is one of life’s mysteries.  Yet the city persists not only in maintaing its unconstitutional fraternity sign ban,  but also in refusing to discuss the issues.

The rise of the administrative university

By Glen Martin, for the RU AAUP, Oct. 2012

Books are beginning to appear about the nation-wide conversion of universities away from institutions dedicated to truth and knowledge and into a business model of education.  One such book is by Benjamin Ginsberg called The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why it Matters (2011). Ginsberg chronicles the demise of academic freedom, tenure, and the traditional faculty-driven conception of a quality curriculum and the independent pursuit of truth.

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WVU’s opinion on “free speech zones” around campus

Michael Bomford and Matthew Pow (students at WVU) founded the West Virginia Free Speech Consotorium and set a policy allowing only two free speech zones on campus. Police said that this violated the University’s free speech rights and abandoned the policy. West Virginia University’s Board of Governers replaced it and now uses the new policy of no censorship zones.

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Freedom of Association bills pass Virginia assembly

Both houses of the Virginia General Assembly have passed “Freedom of Association”  bills that allow religious and political groups at state colleges to restrict membership to individuals who are “committed” to the organization’s mission. Opponents of the legislation said the bills are thinly veiled attempts to let subsidized campus groups discriminate against gay students.

“It’s pretty simple: A Democratic club shouldn’t have to accept a Republican as a member and members of a religious group should be able to expect that their leadership will share the group’s core commitments,” Mark Obenshain, a state senator from Harrisonburg, told the Roanoke Times.

The idea of freedom of association was supported in a US Supreme Court case in 1995, Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston. But the case did not involve state funding of the groups in question, and the Supreme Court also said that Boston gays had a right to stage their own separate parade.

Higher Ed & the 1st Amendment


RU Speechless?

Freedom of speech is a  fundamental right guaranteed under the Virginia Constitution, the First Amendment of the US Bill of Rights and Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

But freedom of speech is often not recognized in the one place where it ought to be respected the most:  A college campus in the USA.

For centuries, and for generations, unpopular speech has been most protected on college campuses.  For instance, a photo of President Teddy Roosevelt (above) shows a speech he gave defending Professor John Bassett on the Duke University campus in 1903. Bassett  was about to be fired for saying he thought  Booker T. Washington (an African American leader) was the greatest person the South had ever produced except Robert E. Lee.

When the Duke board refused to fire Bassett, Roosevelt said:

“You stand for Academic Freedom, for the right of private judgment, for a duty more incumbent upon the scholar than upon any other man, to tell the truth as he sees it, to claim for himself and to give to others the largest liberty in seeking after the truth.”

It’s been a long time since any similarly strong defense of campus speech has taken place. Today many universities simply refuse to recognize First Amendment rights until they are forced to do so by a court. At Radford University, where this blog originates,  avenues for student expression are strictly limited in ways that are obviously unconstitutional. Continue reading