Being offended is what happens when you have your deepest beliefs challenged. And if you make it through four years of college without having your deepest beliefs challenged, you should demand your money back.
Greg Lukianoff | All Articles
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Greg Lukianoff is an attorney and the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
While they are rightfully accused of being hyper-politically correct, college campuses these days sometimes seem downright Victorian. Take, for example, the case of Isaac Rosenbloom, a student whose quest to complete college so he could become a paramedic was nearly ended after he complained to another student about an assignment after class. Rosenbloom told his classmate that the grade he got on the assignment was “going to fuck up my entire GPA.” When his professor overheard him, she threatened the 29-year-old father of two with (I kid you not) “detention.” Rosenbloom was brought up under the charge of “flagrant disrespect of any person” — an actual offense at Hinds Community College in Mississippi. Check out Isaac's story in this new video:
Looking for a challenging debate that includes an abundance of diverse opinions? If so, going to college isn’t your best bet. On today’s college and university campuses, students are repeatedly being punished for expressing the “wrong” opinion on just about any controversial topic.
If you feel that the quality of our national dialogue is at an all-time low, you’re not alone. But why, in a day and age when more of us are college educated than ever before, are we losing the ability to engage in informed, meaningful debate? Shouldn’t we be living in some kind of golden age of national dialogue?
While election season may seem especially surreal this time around — or maybe it just seems that way every four years — nowhere is it stranger than in the weird parallel dimension known as our college campuses.
This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the libertarian superconference in Las Vegas known as FreedomFest. My organization, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), was there in part because our short documentary “Don’t Mess with Firefly” was up for an award as part of the Anthem Film Festival. Daily Caller readers may remember the case from last fall in which a drama professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stout found himself in hot water for posting a beloved quote from that short-lived, Joss Whedon science-fiction series, and for mocking the bullying response of the campus chief of police to that posting. I wrote several articles about the case last fall, pointing out that there could be no question that Professor Miller’s speech was protected. Ultimately, the university backed down, but only in the face of the passionate response from Firefly fans across the planet, who were mobilized by FIRE with the help of the show’s stars, including Nathan Fillion and Adam Baldwin, and legendary science-fiction and fantasy author Neil Gaiman.
Despite my 10 years working to defend free speech on campus, university censors keep finding new ways to surprise me. This year a campus in the University of Wisconsin system managed to do something that offended me both as a First Amendment lawyer and as a sci-fi fan, two parts of my life that I thought would never intersect.
Last week I wrote about a remarkable case of censorship at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Stout Professor James Miller was threatened with “disorderly conduct” for posting outside his office door a quote from the beloved, yet short-lived sci-fi TV show Firefly and a second poster in which he mocked the college for its heavy-handedness. The fact that a college would overreact like this, violate the First Amendment, and then treat criticism of its handling of the case like a threat to the whole community was not really surprising to me. At this point in my career, I am well-acquainted with remarkable abuses of power by campus administrators. Earlier this week, my organization came out with a short video about five such abuses that make this case seem tame. Indeed, it’s not even the craziest overreaction to a wall post at a university in Wisconsin. That honor still goes to Marquette University, which censored a quote by humorist Dave Barry.
December 20th, 2002, is a date that lives in infamy to me and many of my fellow geeks. On that (presumably) dark and gloomy day, Fox aired the last episode of Joss Whedon's brilliant space western Firefly. The impatient network canceled the show after barely half a season of episodes --- aired in the wrong order, no less. With this reckless, senseless act all of my plans for the series --- weekly Firefly parties, my planned Reaver Halloween costume, my letter-writing campaign to link up the cast members with their soul mates the Phenomenauts, my ambitious scale model of the statue of Jayne from Jaynestown --- were dashed.
It was 9:10 am on September 11, 2001 when I landed safely at Philadelphia International Airport. I was visiting from San Francisco to find an apartment in my new city to start my life as director of legal and public advocacy at a young nonprofit, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). As everyone remembers, it was a gorgeous day. I had no idea there was anything amiss until I got into the shuttle to the hotel. I spent most of the rest of that day trying to get in touch with my sister, who had worked in the World Trade Center up until a few months before the attacks. In the panic, I couldn’t remember if she had switched jobs or not. Thankfully she had, but like so many Americans I spent that horrifying day in a fog of fear, grief and despair.
Yale University’s recent decision to punish a fraternity that made pledges chant offensive slogans was heralded by some as a blow against sexual harassment. But it may be the beginning of a new wave of campus censorship of politically incorrect speech. The reason lies in the relationship between the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which is in charge of policing the enforcement of antidiscrimination laws on campus, and the ever-growing ranks of campus bureaucracy.