FIRE backs students after professor censors free-speech wall

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is supporting Sam Houston State University students whose free-speech wall was censored by a professor.

As FIRE describes the incident:

“To protest a controversial new social media policy, four SHSU student groups organized a ‘free speech wall,’ a large field of paper with a wooden frame, upon which students could write the message of their choice. Someone wrote ‘FUCK OBAMA’ on one section of the wall, and other students replied in kind: ‘FUCK BUSH’ followed, as well as other comments.

“But what happened next is what’s so outrageous. An SHSU faculty member offended by the insult to President Obama reportedly used a box cutter to cut the expletive out of the wall after students refused to accede to his demand to censor that particular speech. The shocked students were advised by an SHSU dean to contact the campus police, and they did so. But after the students called the campus police to report the vandalism, they were threatened by a campus police officer with charges of disturbing the peace and required to remove all profanity from the wall, or else take it down! Under this pressure, the students dismantled their ‘free speech wall’—and then contacted FIRE.”

FIRE sent a letter to the university’s president, expressing concern that the students’ First Amendment rights had been violated. President Dana Gibson wrote in response that the incident was being investigated.

Read more on FIRE’s website.