Brown University

Location: Providence, Rhode Island
Website: http://www.brown.edu
Type: Private
Federal Circuit: 1st Circuit

Speech Code Rating

Brown University has been given the speech code rating Red. A red light university has at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech. Read more here.

  • Brown University: Wrongful Suspension of Religious Student Group

    October 27, 2006

    Brown University inexplicably suspended one of its largest religious student organizations, with shifting and unclear reasons for its decision. Brown ignored requests from Trinity Presbyterian Church’s campus fellowship for an explanation of its suspension and the student group finally sought help from FIRE. Brown University finally lifted its semester-long suspension of the Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) student group after months of public pressure from FIRE.

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Red Light Policies

  • Brown University Health Services: Health Education – Sexual Harassment 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Examples of sexual harassment include:

    * Uninvited touching or hugging
    * Requesting sexual favors for rewards related to school or work
    * Suggestive jokes of a sexual nature
    * Sexual pictures or displays
    * Continuing unwelcome flirtation or propositions
    * Obscene gestures or sounds
    * Written notes of a sexual nature

    Hostile environment harassment occurs when unwelcome sexually harassing conduct is so severe, persistent or pervasive that it affects a student’s ability to participate in University activities or creates an intimidating, threatening or abusive educational environment. If a supervisor (or coworker or fellow student) makes sexual jokes, obscene gestures and/or posts sexual pictures that make people uncomfortable, this is called “hostile environment” sexual harassment.

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Information Technology: Acceptable Use Examples 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies

    Other Inappropriate Activities … You download, store, print and/or display materials that could be perceived by others as contributing to an intimidating, hostile, or sexually offensive working environment. … You send out unauthorized and unsolicited email messages to other Brown community members.

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  • Office of Institutional Diversity: Sexual Harassment Policy 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Sexual harassment may involve the behavior of a person of either sex against a person of the opposite or same sex, and occurs when such behavior constitutes unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favors, and other unwelcome verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature where: … Such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s welfare, academic or work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, offensive education or work environment.

    Examples of the kinds of conduct that may constitute sexual harassment include, but are not limited to:
    1. Unwelcome sexual propositions, invitations, solicitations, and flirtations. …
    3. Unwelcome verbal expressions of a sexual nature, including graphic sexual commentaries about a person’s body, dress, appearance, or sexual activities; the unwelcome use of sexually degrading language, jokes or innuendoes; unwelcome suggestive or insulting sounds or whistles; obscene phone calls.
    4. Sexually suggestive objects, pictures, videotapes, audio recordings, computer communications, or literature placed in the work or study area, that may embarrass or offend individuals.

    Important: Sexual Harassment need not be intentional. Under Brown’s sexual harassment policies, the intent of the person who is alleged to have behaved improperly is not relevant to determining whether a violation of Brown’s policy has occurred. The relevant determination is whether a reasonable person could have interpreted the alleged behavior to be sexual.

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  • Student Rights and Responsibilities: Harassment – Sexual or Racial 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Racial harassment is generally defined as the subjection of an individual or group to abusive or threatening actions based on race. Brown regards all incidents of racial harassment, whether verbal, written or physical as violations of the University’s Tenets of Community Behavior.

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  • Student Rights and Responsibilities: Computing Policies 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies

    Use appropriate standards of civility when using computing systems to communicate with other individuals. University guidelines prohibit harassing email, electronic chain mail, pyramid schemes (also illegal in Rhode Island), “spamming” (Any unwanted or unsolicited email, usually propaganda for scams, web sites, goods, and services).

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  • Student Rights and Responsibilities: Standards of Student Conduct 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Offenses: … Subjecting another person or group to abusive, threatening, intimidating, or harassing actions, including, but not limited to, those based on race, religion, gender, disability, age, economic status, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

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  • Information Technology: Acceptable Use Policy 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies

    Other prohibited activities include: … Use of Brown’s computing services and facilities for political purposes.

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Green Light Policies
  • Office of Institutional Diversity: Discrimination/Harassment Policy 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Unlawful harassment is harassment that refers to or is based upon the protected status of the person or persons being harassed. Unlawful harassment in the work and educational environment is created if conduct of another person is sufficiently serious that it interferes with an employee’s ability to perform their job or denies or limits a student’s ability to participate in or benefit from the University’s programs. Factors to be considered in determining whether and the extent to which a hostile work or learning environment has been created include, but are not limited to, the frequency, severity and pervasiveness of the conduct, whether it is physically threatening, the degree to which the conduct interfered with an employee’s work performance or a student’s academic performance and/or full enjoyment of the academic/campus programs and services, the relationship between the alleged harasser and the subject or subjects of the harassment, the welcomeness or unwelcomeness of the conduct, etc. The severity and pervasiveness of the conduct is considered from both subjective and objective perspectives (the conduct is viewed as hostile and abusive by both a “reasonable person” and the person who is subjected to the conduct).

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  • Office of Institutional Diversity: Discrimination/Harassment Policy 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression

    The faculty and Corporation, in 1966, adopted the following statement of principles regarding academic freedom and freedom of expression: “Academic freedom is essential to the function of education and the pursuit of scholarship in universities. Therefore, Brown University, mindful of its historic commitment to scholarship and to the free exchange of ideas, affirms that faculty and students alike shall enjoy full freedom in their teaching, learning, and research. Brown University also affirms that faculty and students shall have freedom of religious belief, of speech, of press, of association and assembly, of political activity inside and outside the University, the right to petition authorities, public and university, to invite speakers of their choice to the campus and that students and faculty as such should not be required to take any oath not required of other citizens. The time, place and manner of exercising these rights on campus shall be subject to reasonable regulation only to prevent interference with the normal functions of the University.”

    In an academic community the response to ideas believed to be distasteful or offensive should be other ideas and relevant evidence rather than administrative sanctions.

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  • Student Rights and Responsibilities: Protest and Demonstration Guidelines 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression

    The University must be a place where ideas are exchanged freely. By asserting their rights to protest, individuals cannot decide for the entire community which ideas will or will not receive free expression.

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  • A New Year for Student Rights

    January 9, 2014

    by Joseph Cohn We would like to think of American universities as the first place where young adults come into their full freedom — rationally run institutions where students challenge themselves intellectually and broaden their horizons. Unfortunately, too many campuses fail to measure up to these ideals. Over the past year, my organization — the nonpartisan, nonprofit Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) — has worked hard to defend student rights like free speech, due process, and religious liberty on campuses across the country. The threats to student rights came from all directions: overzealous campus administrators, students seeking to silence peers’ […]

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  • Free Speech at Brown (Again)

    November 7, 2013

    by Scott Jaschik In 2001, The Brown Daily Herald accepted an advertisement questioning the idea that black people in the United States are owed reparations. Students called the ad racist, and responded by trashing 4,000 copies of the newspaper. Brown was accused of fostering an intolerant environment, where protest of controversial ideas turns into the squelching of some views altogether. Last month, Brown was slated to have a lecture by Ray Kelly, the New York City police commissioner and architect of the controversial “stop and frisk” approach to policing, which many see as racist. Kelly showed up, but he was interrupted so […]

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  • Political divide hurts college free speech: Column

    November 6, 2013

    by Patrick Maines The great and widening political divide in the land, marked by hyperbolic rhetoric and personal attacks, is rued by many. And why not? Most everyone would agree that ours would be a more serene and nurturing country if the political differences between us were not so great. But it is precisely because of our differences about the correct social, economic and foreign policies that it’s so important to protect the right to free speech for all, especially in our colleges and universities. Unfortunately, that imperative is being honored these days more in the breach than the observance, […]

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  • The AHA’s Double Standard on Academic Freedom

    August 9, 2013

    by David Beito, Ralph Luker and Robert “K. C.” Johnson Perspectives (American Historical Association)   Has the AHA turned its back on academic freedom? In January, members present at its business meeting rejected a resolution to condemn attacks on academic freedom, whether from the right or from the left. Instead, they passed a weaker resolution that selectively condemned only threats coming from the right.We weighed into this controversy as part of a three person “left/right” coalition for academic freedom. Our chances were slim and we knew it. Only in December did we learn that the AHA business meeting would consider […]

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  • Reasons for Christian group’s suspension unclear, leader says

    August 9, 2013

    by Mary-Catherine Lader The Brown Daily Herald   The University suspended the Christian student group Reformed University Fellowship earlier this semester, though the group’s president said the reasons for suspension remain unclear and have not been communicated adequately to him.The group, which is led by Ethan Wingfield ‘07, is one of 110 RUF chapters across the country and, Wingfield believes, the first to be suspended or “kicked off campus” by a university. RUF’s parent organization, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, encourages its members to “uniquely engage (their) community in the gospel” and “grow as ambassadors of God’s grace,” […]

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  • The case of Brown University: A culture of ‘contempt and dishonesty’

    August 9, 2013

    by Richard A. Zeller The Providence Journal   The assertion that a group of people constitute a “culture of contempt and dishonesty” is a serious assertion. Such an assertion, whether true or false, drives a stake into the heart of the concept of community. For a community is a culture of respect and honesty. To maintain a community culture of respect and honesty, contempt and dishonesty need to be expelled. The problem, of course, is determining whether the assertion that members of a group of people constitute a “culture of contempt and dishonesty.” In totalitarian states, anyone who takes issue […]

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  • Ex-Student Sues Brown Over Rape Accusation

    April 14, 2010

    The New York Times A former student has sued Brown University in federal court, saying university officials interfered with his efforts to clear his name after another student, the daughter of a prominent Brown alumnus and donor, accused him of rape. In documents unsealed Monday, the former student, William McCormick III, said the university had failed to follow its own disciplinary policies and sent him home to Wisconsin after the woman’s father made calls to top university officials. The rape accusation was never reported to the police by Brown or the woman, according to the lawsuit. Within a month, Mr. […]

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  • Christian conservatives at odds with liberal R.I. university

    November 23, 2006

    Leaders of a conservative Christian student fellowship suspended from using campus resources at Brown University are wondering whether they were singled out for their beliefs. They’re pressing school officials to explain the punishment. Brown University has not publicly explained why it suspended the Reformed University Fellowship, which is allied with the conservative Presbyterian Church in America. A Brown spokesman says the group failed to follow university guidelines — but he didn’t say which ones. In an e-mail sent to students, one Brown chaplain complained the group’s leaders were contemptuous, dishonest and generally wasted administrators’ time, patience and energy. The fellowship […]

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  • Brown bans evangelical organization of students

    November 20, 2006

    An evangelical student group that has been banned from advertising or meeting on the Brown University campus has enlisted the help of a national organization that defends the free-speech rights of students on college campuses. The Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education announced last week that it is supporting the 100-member Reformed University Fellowship, which was notified in a Sept. 13 e-mail from the university’s chaplain, the Rev. Janet Cooper Nelson, that its status as a recognized student organization had been withdrawn. Leaders of the group say they were given different reasons for the action. At first, they were […]

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  • Christians kicked off campus at Brown University

    November 18, 2006

    A civil rights organization has joined forces with a Christian student group at Brown University in an attempt to find out why the school has banned the Christians from meeting on its campus. “A university that respects its students cannot capriciously suspend student groups,” said Greg Lukianoff, the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. “Suspension of any student group is a serious matter and should be accompanied by a serious explanation. Yet Brown has consistently skirted questions about the suspension, calling into question both the university’s motives and the legitimacy of the punishment.” FIRE said the members […]

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  • Reforming Brown

    December 2, 2003

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  • Big mandate on campus

    September 17, 2002

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  • Agitation Ad

    April 10, 2001

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  • FIRE Statement on Brown University President’s Letter to Brown Community

    November 6, 2013

    Today, Brown University President Christina H. Paxson sent a letter to the Brown University community regarding the October 29 cancellation of a lecture by New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. The letter, available in full on Brown’s website, makes a powerful argument for freedom of expression at Brown: I strongly believe that Brown must be a place that supports the free exchange of ideas, even if it means making space for points of view that are controversial or deeply upsetting. The central mission of Brown is to discover, communicate and preserve knowledge and understanding in a spirit of free inquiry. […]

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  • Three Reasons to Debate, Not Silence, Opposing Views

    November 1, 2013

    Today in The Huffington Post, Michael Meyers, executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition, shared a letter he wrote to the Brown University community about New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly’s policies and about Brown students’ preventing Kelly from speaking at the school Tuesday night. While expressing strong disagreement with Kelly’s policies, Meyers contrasted students’ attitudes with those of students in the free speech movement of the 1960s: [S]tudents back then protested university regulations that had restricted outside political speakers. So, it is more than ironic, then — indeed, it is unnerving and appalling — that, in 2013, when free […]

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  • Quinnipiac Administrator: Skimpy Nurse Costumes ‘As Offensive As Writing the “N-word” on a Blackboard’

    October 31, 2013

    Administrators at Quinnipiac University appear to have taken the crusade against insensitive Halloween costumes to a new level, according to an article in The Quinnipiac Chronicle: “Costumes that exaggerate, stereotype, generalize a particular ethnic culture [or] gender, [are] insensitive,” Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Chief Diversity Officer Diane Ariza said. This includes dressing up in “blackface, or as a Mexican, hooker, gangster or promiscuous nurse,” Ariza said. These costumes all have negative stereotypes attached to them and paint ethnicities or genders in a negative light, according to Ariza. “It is as offensive as writing the ‘N-word’ on a blackboard or a […]

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  • At Brown, Free Speech Loses as Hecklers Silence NYPD Commissioner

    October 30, 2013

    Freedom of expression at Brown University received a black eye last night, as protesters chose to answer speech they dislike with volume rather than reason—a tragic outcome for a university expressly committed to the peaceful exchange of ideas. New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was scheduled to deliver remarks yesterday evening to Brown’s Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions. As The Brown Daily Herald reports, campus protests preceded the event, as students voiced objection to Kelly’s presence and New York Police Department policies: Student protest actions leading up to the event included creating a petition and holding a vigil in honor of […]

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  • It’s Free Speech Week, and Students Are Speaking Out

    October 21, 2013

    October 21­–27 is Free Speech Week, a celebration of Americans’ First Amendment right to free expression. You can celebrate by sharing information about constitutional rights with your friends, planning a free speech event, or even speaking your mind about the news of the day. Students especially should take this week to find out just how free speech is respected on their campuses and urge their classmates and administrators to make sure this fundamental right is fully protected. In the spirit of Free Speech Week, American University (AU) student Sarah Harvard took to student newspaper The Eagle last Friday to do just that. Harvard conducted a survey of AU students that addressed their […]

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  • ‘Brown Daily Herald’: Promote the Marketplace of Ideas

    December 4, 2012

    In a thoughtful, well-written editorial published yesterday, the Brown Daily Herald at Brown University calls on students to protect the marketplace of ideas on campus and to engage with each other in a real and meaningful exchange of viewpoints.  Echoing points we make all the time at FIRE, the editorial discusses the benefits of seeking views different from one’s own in order to challenge and sharpen those beliefs, rather than staying within the relative comfort of those who hold the same views. In relevant part, the editorial states: A varied discourse is crucial to our learning. How can we form […]

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  • Brown University’s Sexual Misconduct Policy Threatens Fundamental Fairness

    March 19, 2012

    About a month ago, Brown Daily Herald journalist Hannah Abelow wrote about changes to Brown University’s sexual misconduct policy. Things aren’t looking good for justice at Brown. First, as Abelow notes, students who have alleged sexual misconduct are now allowed to appeal even if the accused is found to be innocent. Far from being a “minor” change as stated in the article, this change creates a “double jeopardy” situation, as FIRE has noted before, where a student can be tried a second time for an offense of which he or she has already been found not guilty. It’s hard to […]

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  • Former FIRE Intern in ‘Brown Daily Herald': New President Must Respect Individual Rights

    November 14, 2011

    In today’s Brown Daily Herald (Brown University’s student newspaper), Campus Freedom Network member and 2011 FIRE intern Oliver Rosenbloom pens an apt and well-written column outlining the importance of keeping students’ individual rights and due process issues in mind as Brown seeks a new university president. As Oliver points out, Brown’s embrace of due process has been tenuous at best and, at worst, outright nonexistent. Indeed, according to FIRE’s recently issued Standard of Evidence Survey, Brown’s policies employ a “reasonable basis” evidentiary standard for judiciary proceedings. Whatever that is, it’s almost certainly lower even than the recent “preponderance of the […]

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  • Due Process at Brown University? At All?

    October 11, 2011

    Last year The New York Times quoted me in a story about William McCormick III, a former student at Brown University who has sued Brown in federal court, claiming the university failed to give him even the minimal due process it promises in cases like his. According to McCormick, Brown basically just sent him home after a fellow student accused him of rape and her very wealthy father, Richard Dresdale (a Brown alumnus and donor), intervened. McCormick is also suing Dresdale, who, McCormick claims, procured a settlement agreement under duress (“the implied threat of false criminal rape charges”) that was designed […]

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  • 2011 FIRE Intern Promotes Free Speech at Brown University

    September 7, 2011

    In an opinion piece published in The Brown Daily Herald today, Brown University junior and 2011 FIRE intern Oliver Rosenbloom makes principled arguments against restrictive speech codes and in favor of free speech on campus. Oliver writes: There is no guarantee that the campus orthodoxies of today will always hold sway. While conservatives used to rule the academy, today the prevailing standards on college campuses align with liberal beliefs about race, gender, class and sexual orientation. Even if you share these specific political beliefs, you should not support the silencing of opposing beliefs. Power changes hands, and prevailing orthodoxies often […]

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  • Brown University on Full Disclosure (or Lack Thereof)

    April 27, 2011

    Say you’re accused of a heinous crime. If one of the main witnesses against you—in a campus disciplinary matter with serious repercussions for your academic career as well as the rest of your life—just happened to have your accuser’s father as a career mentor, would you think that was relevant to disclose in a hearing or trial? Yeah, me too. But Brown University doesn’t really care. A very interesting article in today’s Brown Daily Herald explores the predicament of a student who was in just this position and is now suing Brown: [The accused student's residential counselor's] nondisclosure of a […]

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  • Brown University Students Unlearn Liberty

    February 15, 2011

    At Brown University, an act of political protest came to a disappointing end when students apparently opposed to the protest’s message simply removed it from view. The Brown Daily Herald reports: A banner reading “Corporate Criminals Run Brown” appeared on Wayland Arch [of Wayland House, a Brown dormitory] facing Wriston Quadrangle Friday evening, a day before this weekend’s meeting of the Corporation. Less than 24 hours later, the banner had been taken down. The banner included a small “TM” for “trademark” beside the word “Brown.” The banner was a reference to Steven J. Rattner, a fellow of the Corporation of […]

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  • The State of Free Speech on Campus: Brown University

    March 17, 2009

    Throughout the spring semester, FIRE is drawing special attention to the state of free speech at America’s top 25 national universities (as ranked by U.S. News & World Report). Today we review policies at Brown University, which FIRE has given a red-light rating for maintaining a policy that clearly and substantially restricts free expression on campus. Brown is a private university, but it promises students and faculty the right to free speech, both inside and outside of the classroom. Brown’s policies provide that: Brown University, mindful of its historic commitment to scholarship and to the free exchange of ideas, affirms […]

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  • Robert L. Shibley: Fighting for free speech on 2 R.I. campuses

    January 18, 2008

    It’s no secret that the climate on America’s campuses for fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and religion can be grim. College students often face opposition to exercising their rights that most Americans never encounter in their daily lives. Consider two recent and well-publicized controversies in the Ocean State. While these incidents should never have happened, they certainly offered students, administrators and the public valuable lessons in American liberty. Brown University was home to one of the most mysterious cases that the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has ever seen—mysterious because the university never explained why it […]

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  • Spring 2007 ‘FIRE Quarterly’ Now Available

    May 24, 2007

    Check out our latest, newly re-designed issue of The FIRE Quarterly, which contains news updates on FIRE events and victories in cases at universities across the country.   Some highlights from this edition include a look at our victory at San Francisco State University (SFSU), where FIRE stepped in to defend SFSU’s College Republicans after the school tried to punish them for stepping on makeshift Hezbollah and Hamas flags at an anti-terrorism rally. We also report on FIRE victories for freedom of association for Christian student groups at Brown University and at Pace University, and a victory for freedom of […]

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  • Why Private Schools Need to Follow Their Own Rules

    April 18, 2007

    While Robert’s latest blog discusses the difference between public schools and private schools in relation to sectarian institutions, I’d like to discuss the dichotomy in more depth, especially in regard to the schools which Jon B. Gould mentions in his piece (subscribers only) in the Chronicle—Brown, Johns Hopkins, and Pace.   FIRE’s Guide to Free Speech on Campus states: Liberal arts institutions that advertise themselves as welcoming the fullest pluralism and debate too often have little time, patience, or tolerance for students who dissent from the political assumptions of the institution. Unlike many schools that openly declare a religious or […]

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  • Truly Fostering Debate

    March 9, 2007

    Emily Ghods, on The New Criterion’s Armavirumque blog, posts about a recent luncheon featuring Brown Professor of Political Science John Tomasi. At the luncheon, sponsored by the Center for the American University under the Manhattan Institute, Professor Tomasi discussed the Political Theory Project, a center he runs at Brown, and his “effort at Brown to achieve what he calls ‘the specter of intellectual pluralism.’”   Discussing a conversation she had with Tomasi after the lecture, Ghods writes: He understands that to affect change from within, especially at Brown, patience and harmony are the only paths to victory. Contention and controversy […]

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  • ‘The New York Times’ Looks at Middle East Controversies on Campus

    February 26, 2007

    Karen Arenson has an article in The New York Times this morning about the film “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” which she calls “the latest flashpoint in the bitter campus debate over the Middle East.”   The film shows anti-Western clips from Arab television programming and documentary footage of suicide bombers, at times comparing militant Islam to the Nazi movement. Many campus groups—mostly Hillels and other Jewish student organizations—have organized showings of “Obsession” at their universities. As Arenson reports, both the film’s message and the pro-Israeli nature of the viewings have sparked debate among students about Middle Eastern […]

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  • Victory at Brown

    February 1, 2007

    The Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) at Brown University was restored to student group status last week and has held its first on-campus meeting of the school year. The group was wrongfully suspended under dubious circumstances last September by Brown’s Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life (OCRL). In a press release issued today, FIRE wrote: OCRL representatives changed their explanation of RUF’s supposed misdeeds several times, first saying that the RUF’s sponsoring church had withdrawn its sponsorship. When the church’s pastor refuted that claim, the OCRL then said the group had been suspended since the previous semester because its leader […]

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  • Victory for Religious Liberty at Brown University: RUF Reinstated

    February 1, 2007

    PROVIDENCE, R.I., February 1, 2007—Brown University has finally lifted its semester-long suspension of the Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) student group. As of last week, the RUF has been restored to its previous status as a recognized student group and held its first on-campus meeting of the school year on Sunday. Brown’s decision to reinstate the group came after months of public pressure from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). “We are pleased that Brown is letting RUF return to campus this semester,” FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley said. “Brown has still neither explained its actions nor acknowledged that […]

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  • Happy Holidays from FIRE

    December 22, 2006

    All of us at FIRE would like to wish our friends and supporters happy holidays. As universities wind down for winter break, students head home to their families, and we prepare for a restful holiday weekend, some students have plenty to celebrate. After a months-long wrongful suspension, the Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) at Brown University is on the verge of becoming re-affiliated, awaiting only a Brown administrator’s signature to make the re-affiliation official. For others, like Johns Hopkins student Justin Park, whose “offensive” party invitation on Facebook.com gained him a one-year suspension, the holiday season is considerably less celebratory. Unless […]

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  • RUF Initiates Re-affiliation Process at Brown

    December 4, 2006

    A few weeks back, FIRE reported that Brown University suspended the Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) without adequate explanation. Following Brown’s recent letter outlining the necessary procedure for gaining re-affiliation and the university’s statement vowing to “assist RUF in taking the necessary steps to have its affiliation restored,” the RUF has taken the first steps toward full reinstatement. The group submitted the necessary affiliation request and has written a letter to Janet Cooper Nelson, Director of the Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life (OCRL), stating that “RUF, its members and leaders, desire not only re-affiliation with the OCRL, but also […]

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  • Brown’s Rev. Cooper Nelson: Not Off the Hook Yet

    November 29, 2006

    While it looks like the Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) will be back on campus at Brown University sooner rather than later, it’s still far too early to let Brown—and more specifically, the Reverend Janet Cooper Nelson, Director of Brown’s Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life (OCRL)—off the hook.   As Luke pointed out yesterday morning, Cooper Nelson’s letter to RUF President Ethan Wingfield leaves a lot to be desired. Never mind the fact that the letter fails yet again to provide the RUF with a decent explanation of why they were suspended in the first place. What’s even more […]

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  • Brown University Agrees to Reinstate Suspended Religious Organization, But Concerns Remain

    November 28, 2006

    Brown University has promised to take the initial steps in helping the Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) gain reaffiliation with the University’s Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life (OCRL). A statement that Brown’s Media Relations office put up on the Brown website reads: The University welcomes the contributions RUF has made to the spiritual life of the campus and has offered to assist RUF in taking the necessary steps to have its affiliation restored. … The University hopes this process can be completed in the near future so that RUF will regain its affiliation before the beginning of next semester. […]

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  • Brown’s Hypocrisy

    November 27, 2006

    Richard Zeller, a sociology professor at Kent State University, discusses Brown University’s suspension of the Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) in today’s Providence Journal. Specifically, Zeller analyzes Brown’s assertion that the RUF “had become possessed of a leadership culture of contempt and dishonesty.”   After reviewing the facts of the case, Zeller concludes: A fair reading of this evidence is that Reverend Nelson, Reverend Callahan, and Vice President Carey… are making false accusations. They, not the members of the evangelical Christian fellowship of Trinity Presbyterian Church, are guilty of a “culture of contempt and dishonesty.”   I now ask: Why has […]

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  • Brown University Takes Step Toward Lifting Suspension, But Problems Remain

    November 21, 2006

    Since FIRE’s press release last week on Brown’s suspension of the Reformed University Fellowship (RUF), the Christian Union wrote an excellent letter to Brown, The Providence Journal reported on the suspension, FIRE staff members have spoken about the case on numerous talk radio programs, and FIRE’s President Greg Lukianoff appeared on The O’Reilly Factor to discuss Brown’s actions. Yesterday, Janet Cooper Nelson, the Director of Brown’s Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life (OCRL), sent a letter to RUF President Ethan Wingfield outlining how the group could apply for re-affiliation for the spring semester.   While this letter is a […]

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  • FIRE on ‘Up Front with Vicki McKenna’ Today

    November 21, 2006

    FIRE President Greg Lukianoff will be on Vicki McKenna’s Madison, Wisconsin radio show this afternoon at 4 p.m. ET to discuss our case at Brown University, where the Reformed University Fellowship has mysteriously been suspended from campus. You can listen online at wiba.com.

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  • Watch FIRE on ‘The O’Reilly Factor’ Tonight!

    November 20, 2006

    The media continue to cover our case at Brown University. To hear the latest, tune in to the Fox News Channel at 8 p.m. ET, where FIRE President Greg Lukianoff is scheduled to appear on tonight’s episode of “The O’Reilly Factor.” The case centers on the suspension of a Christian student group for vague and arbitrary reasons. FIRE has intervened on the students’ behalf to ask Brown for clarification.

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  • Why Are We So Afraid of Controversy?

    November 20, 2006

    According to an article in today’s New York Post, Brown University’s Hillel has rescinded a speaking invitation to Egyptian-born author Nonie Darwish after complaints from Brown’s Muslim Student Association. The Post’s Adam Brodsky writes: Darwish, who comes from Egypt and was born and raised a Muslim, was set to tell students at Brown University about the twisted hatred and radicalism she grew to despise in her own culture. A campus Jewish group, Hillel, had contacted her to speak there Thursday.   But the event was just called off.   Muslim students had complained that Darwish was “too controversial.” They insisted […]

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  • Brown University Case in ‘The Providence Journal’

    November 20, 2006

    Today’s edition of The Providence Journal covers the situation at Brown University, highlighting our involvement there and explaining the ambiguity that surrounds the university’s reasons for suspending the evangelical student group, Reformed University Fellowship (RUF). The article states:  Leaders of the group say they were given different reasons for the action. At first, they were told it was because their local sponsor, Trinity Presbyterian Church, had withdrawn its support, which it hadn’t. Then they were told that it was because the group’s former leader had been two months late in September 2005 when he submitted the group’s application to be […]

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  • FIRE on Rhode Island Radio to Discuss Brown University Case

    November 20, 2006

    Rhode Island Torch readers can tune into Talk Radio 920 AM-WHJJ today at 1:10 p.m. ET to hear FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley on the Howie Barte Show. Shibley will discuss FIRE’s recent case at Brown University, where one of the school’s largest religious student groups has been suspended without a clear explanation from Brown.

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  • Our universities threaten our religion, our culture, and our national security (exhibit A: Brown)

    November 20, 2006

    Last month, Brown University suspended its largest evangelical organization, with over a hundred students the student group was one of the largest on campus. Rev. Janet Cooper Nelson, Director of Brown’s Office of Chaplains and Religious Life, justified the suspension as the result of the organization’s sponsoring church, Trinity Presbyterian Church, withdrawing its support for the organization. Within minutes of receiving the e-mail that Trinity had withdrawn its support David Sherwood, Trinity Senior Pastor, wrote to Brown’s Office of Chaplains and Religious Life to assert that Trinity had not withdrawn its support for the evangelical organization and was actually very […]

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  • Mystery Shrouds Brown’s Suspension of Religious Student Organization

    November 16, 2006

    Today’s press release explains how Brown University suspended one of its largest and most active religious student organizations for reasons that remain unclear. The Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life (OCRL) suspended the evangelical Christian ministry of Trinity Presbyterian Church on September 13, 2006.   OCRL Director Janet Cooper Nelson explained that she suspended the group because its local sponsoring body, Trinity Presbyterian Church, had revoked its sponsorship. But Trinity’s senior pastor, David Sherwood, corrected Cooper Nelson in an e-mail by saying that “Trinity Presbyterian Church has not, in any sense, withdrawn its sponsorship.” Trinity is one of the […]

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  • Brown Suspends Religious Student Group Without Explanation

    November 16, 2006

    PROVIDENCE, R.I., November 16, 2006—Brown University has inexplicably suspended one of its largest religious student organizations. After offering shifting and unclear reasons for its decision, Brown ignored requests from Trinity Presbyterian Church’s campus fellowship for an explanation of its suspension. The student group finally sought help from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which has asked Brown to either explain or revoke its suspension. “A university that respects its students cannot capriciously suspend student groups,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “Suspension of any student group is a serious matter and should be accompanied by a serious explanation. Yet […]

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  • Trumping Moses and Matthew

    November 7, 2005

    What do the Bible and the “The Vagina Monologues” have in common? Not much. But surely we can all agree that both are covered by the First Amendment, guaranteeing freedom of religion and freedom of expression. Well, that’s not so at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. At UWEC you can live in a dorm and watch a performance of “The Vagina Monologues,” but you can’t join a Bible studies group. Any resident assistant, or RA, as the live-in student counselors are called, can put on a performance of the play, and one has, but leading a Bible studies class in […]

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  • Consulting All Sides on “Speech Codes

    May 1, 2005

    Few controversies have polarized higher education more than that of Ward Churchill at the University of Colorado (CU). Many conservatives, including Governor Bill Owens of Colorado and Newt Gingrich, have demanded that Churchill be dismissed for characterizing the victims of 9/11 as “Little Eichmanns.” Professors and students at CU and elsewhere have responded with rallies and petitions to defend Churchill’s academic freedom. They emphasize that the health of the academy rests on the toleration of controversial, even repellant, ideas. Joining in, the faculty of Evergreen State College has boldly proclaimed that “to flourish, university life needs to be an environment […]

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  • Who’s Undermining Free Speech on Campus Now?

    April 13, 2005

    Freedom of speech is crucial both to a healthy democracy and the life of the mind. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits Congress from any act that would abridge it and the charters of most of our colleges and universities recognize that freedom of thought and speech are essential to a healthy academic community. Yet, freedom of speech has been a contested value since the birth of the Republic, most commonly in periods of war, from the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 through the USA Patriot Act of 2001. It isn’t surprising, then, that freedom of speech […]

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