Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog

1.23.2007

FIRE in a Crowded Campus

By Shawn Healy
I lamented about the lack of First Amendment freedoms at college campuses across the country in earlier postings. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) compiled a report titled Spotlight on Speech Codes 2006: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation's Campuses. The findings are chilling, as they-used a three-pronged classification system modeled after a traffic light.

Red-light institutions have at least one policy that "clearly and substantially" abridges the freedom of speech.

Yellow-light institutions are by no means out of the woods, for they have policies that could suppress speech in application.

Green-light institutions, as expected, have no offending policies, but are not necesarily firm proponents of the First Amendment.

Of the 334 institutions of higher learning reviewed, 229 of them were red-light offenders, 91 yellow-light suspects, leaving only 8 on firm First Amendment ground.

Public schools, even though they must abide by the dictates of the First Amendment, are actually more likely to suppress the freedoms its guarantees than their private peers.

Offending policies typically assume one of four forms:
1. Harassment policies.
2. Free speech zones.
3. Disorderly conduct policies.
4. Policies concerning tolerance, respect, and civility.

The institution where I currently attend graduate school, the University of Illinois at Chicago, is one of the guilty parties. It created four "free speech zones" on campus, restricting protests to these identified areas and requiring 48 hours advance notice to demonstrate.

I am not alone in my condemnation of such intolerance in institutions of learning founded for the very purpose of expanding our horizons. This editorial in the Indiana Daily Student News recognizes the importance of robust debate from all angles, and it's a bit puzzling that the PhD's in the ivory towers can't come to similar conclusions. I commend FIRE for their admirable efforts and hope you will join them in fanning the flames across our nations campuses.

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SHAWN HEALY

Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project


Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.



Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.


First Amendment journalism initiative


The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at



Dave Anderson
Vice President of Civic Programs
McCormick Foundation

Tim McNulty
Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project


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