RU Free Speech protest May 1

To protest Radford University policies restricting freedom of speech on campus, students and faculty rallied outside the Hurlburt student on May 1, 2013.

With the Faculty Senate, the Council of Deans and the Student Government Association all demanding reform of RU’s archaic prior restraint policies, and legal analysis showing clear faults in the policies, the RU administration has consistently shown bad faith in refusing to discuss issues.

The highlight of the protest was the signing of a large poster by dozens of students (right in the first photo) and an attempt by Prof. Kovarik to hand a flyer to Ken Bonk, the administrator who is in charge of enforcing anti-free speech policies at RU. Not only did Bonk refuse to accept the flyer, but he fled rapidly into the building while shouting something about errors in the flyer that he refused to discuss.


The crew of the May 1 protest (photo by Prof. Martin, who was also present).






Ken Bonk flees from Prof. Kovarik, who is attempting to hand him a flyer about Free Speech rights on campus, during the May 1 protest.


Suggestion: more bulletin boards

bulletin.board.RUHere’s one suggestion:  If the bulletin board space is so crowded at RU that it has to be censored, then why not expand the opportunities to post bulletins without censorship?

Details on the RUspeechless Facebook page.

They would only cost a few hundred dollars each.  And here’s what an outdoor bulletin board would look like.


AAUP flyer on the May 1 protest

This is the American Association of University Professors flyer which The First Amendment / Higher Education class did not create.  However, who would argue that the AAUP does not have every right to create and distribute this flyer on campus?   Is it overstated?  Obviously.  But  sometimes that’s the point of the “vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials” protected in the New York Times v Sullivan decision.    — Prof. Kovarik.


(1) “Free speech zones” that limit speech to tiny designated areas.

(2) Censorship of all postings on bulletin boards for faculty and students, requiring pre-stamping.

(3)  Censorship of everything posted in the dorms.

(4) Offering only about 12 “public” bulletin boards (limited to pre-stamped postings) on the entire campus located in out of the way places where students rarely go like the basement of Heth Hall.

(5)  Tight control of all email lists (but open to commercial interests).

(6) Prohibition of anyone handing out flyers or other materials anywhere on campus except from pre-approved tables in and around the Bonnie.

(7)  Collaboration with the city to limit the signs students can place on student housing.

[Co-sponsored by RU Chapter of the AAUP]


Mayday:  Wed. May 1st

Bonnie Plaza 10 AM to 1


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.

Continue reading

Plaid avenger strikes again!

Plaid.photoMonday, Feb. 18, 2013.

  • 07:30 — Sharp eyed university censors notice half a dozen unauthorized communications chalked into sidewalks. “#PlaidSwag” looks suspicious.  Superiors notified.
  • 09:30 — University censorship action group (UCAG) concludes that a non-cyber information attack is underway.
  • 9:45 — Vehicles parked over information attack sites to deter spread of dangerous ideas.
  • 10:00 — Criminal incident information recorded.
  • 10:15 — University powerwashing crews swiftly deployed.
  • 10:45 — Non-cyber information attack threat diluted.
  • 4:45 — Report on effective use of human resources forwarded to Superiors.
  • Unfortunately, this is all true, except the part about the UCAG — we actually don’t know what they call themselves or what they call unauthorized chalkings.


In November, 2012,  Radford University received a  “yellow light” rating on free speech  from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

What this means is that a formal outside review has found RU policies deficient.  At the begining of the Spring 2013 semester, no move to change RU policies was apparent on the part of the Radford University administration.

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