Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Location: Blacksburg, Virginia
Website: http://www.vt.edu/
Type: Public
Federal Circuit: 4th Circuit

Speech Code Rating

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University has been given the speech code rating Yellow. Yellow light colleges and universities are those institutions with at least one ambiguous policy that too easily encourages administrative abuse and arbitrary application. Read more here.

  • Virginia Tech: Virginia Tech Threatens Student Newspaper’s Future over Protected Anonymous Comments on Its Own Website

    February 11, 2010

    In February 2010, Virginia Tech’s Commission on Student Affairs (CSA) threatened the future of its independent student newspaper, the Collegiate Times, because the newspaper allowed “irresponsible and inappropriate” comments to be posted anonymously on its website. The Commission on Student Affairs posited that allowing anonymous comments “counter[s] the Principles of Community,” and threatened to violate Virginia Tech’s contract by unilaterally ending financial support of the Collegiate Times, as well as threatening to disallow student organization funding for advertisements in the newspaper. After FIRE, the Student Press Law Center, and the ACLU of Virginia criticized these threats–and the Educational Media Company […]

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  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University: “Diversity” Requirement for Faculty Assessment Violates Academic Freedom and Freedom of Conscience

    March 25, 2009

    Since Virginia Tech first rescinded its ideological litmus test for faculty in its liberal arts college under pressure from FIRE, the school has slowly been making progress toward intellectual freedom. Most recently, Virginia Tech removed a politicized elaboration of “diversity accomplishments” from its university-wide tenure and promotion guidelines. A separate document still contains the diversity guidelines, however. The university also has yet to retract its demands that faculty demonstrate such “diversity accomplishments” when seeking raises, tenure, or promotion. These demands violate faculty members’ freedom of conscience and academic freedom by politicizing the consideration of their teaching, scholarship, and personal development […]

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  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech): Ban on Certain Viewpoints and Requirement of Prior Approval for Speech

    March 14, 2003

    The Attorney General of Virginia’s Office concluded that a new resolution from the Board of Visitors of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) that threatened freedom of speech and assembly at that public institution was unconstitutional and recommended that it not be implemented. The resolution would have declared that no individuals or organizations could meet on university property "if it can be determined that such persons or organizations advocate or have participated in illegal acts of domestic violence and/or terrorism," required all individuals or groups planning to hold a meeting to seek "approval [from] the President of the […]

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Yellow Light Policies
  • Hokie Handbook: Student Code of Conduct- Abusive Conduct 12-13

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies, Statement

    Assault -- Verbal/Non-verbal: Any use of words or acts which cause physical injury, or threaten any individual, or interfere with any individual’s rightful actions.

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  • University Facilities Usage and Event Approval 12-13

    Speech Code Category: Protest and Demonstration Policies, Statement

    Use of a facility must be scheduled and approved prior to the event.

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  • Acceptable Use of Information Systems at Virginia Tech 12-13

    Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies, Statement

    In making acceptable use of resources you must NOT: ... * use university systems for commercial or partisan political purposes, such as using electronic mail to circulate advertising for products or for political candidates. * use mail or messaging services to harass or intimidate another person, for example, by broadcasting unsolicited messages, by repeatedly sending unwanted mail, or by using someone else's name or userid.

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  • Virginia Tech Principles of Community 12-13

    Speech Code Category: Policies Restricting Freedom of Conscience, Statement

    [W]e adopt and practice the following principles as fundamental to our on-going efforts to increase access and inclusion and to create a community that nurtures learning and growth for all of its members: ... We reject all forms of prejudice and discrimination, including those based on age, color, disability, gender, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, and veteran status. We take individual and collective responsibility for helping to eliminate bias and discrimination and for increasing our own understanding of these issues through education, training, and interaction with others.

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  • Hokie Handbook: Student Code of Conduct- Sexual Harassment 12-13

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies, Statement

    Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature when ... 3. Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work or academic performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work or academic environment (e.g., a pattern of conduct that causes discomfort or humiliation, or both, such as sexually explicit statements, questions, jokes, anecdotes, visual materials, or literature).

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  • Sales, Solicitation and Advertising on Campus 12-13

    Speech Code Category: Posting Policies, Statement

    Informational activity is defined as the distribution of literature and/or petitioning for signatures in support of a
    point of view, such as political, environmental, religious, etc., where no fee is involved nor donations or
    contributions sought. Informational activities may be permitted if they are sponsored by a university-affiliated organization. Such
    activities require prior approval by the designated authorizing office and are subject to university policies and the
    reasonable guidelines of the authorizing official.

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  • SafeWatch Frequently Asked Questions 12-13

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Bias and Hate Speech, Statement

    Is the reporting system only for acts of violence?

    No, the reporting system is for any incidents of prejudice and discrimination regarding age, color, disability, gender, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, and veteran status as outlined in the Virginia Tech Principles of Community or any incidents that negatively impact the Virginia Tech community. ... [O]ne of the primary goals of SafeWatch is to promote involvement of the university and larger communities in dialogs and collaborative activities that foster a positive, supportive environment for all groups.

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  • SafeWatch 12-13

    Speech Code Category: Policies on Bias and Hate Speech, Statement

    Incidents that create a hostile, unsafe, unwelcome, or insecure environment should be reported to SafeWatch.

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Green Light Policies
  • Anti-Discrimination and Harassment Prevention Policy 12-13

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies, Statement

    Discrimination/ Harassment includes the following behaviors: ... Conduct of any type (oral, written, graphic, electronic or physical) that is based upon a person’s age, color,
    disability, gender (including pregnancy), national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation,
    or veteran status and unreasonably interferes with the person's work or academic performance or participation
    in university activities, or creates a working or learning environment that a reasonable person would find
    hostile, threatening or intimidating.

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  • Hokie Handbook: University Policies for Student Life- Demonstrations and Picketing 12-13

    Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression, Statement

    As an academic community, Virginia Tech values the rights of free expression and peaceable assembly and does not intend to restrict the exercise of these rights.

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  • Critics challenge diversity language in Virginia Tech’s tenure policy

    August 7, 2013

    by Robin Wilson The Chronicle of Higher Education   Virginia Tech has come under criticism from some outside groups for a set of new guidelines that, the critics say, appear to require faculty members to show a commitment to diversity as part of their bids for tenure and promotion. The critics, including the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, say the guidelines establish a “loyalty oath” that violates professors’ academic freedom. The guidelines at issue govern faculty members in the university’s College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. They say that a promotion and tenure committee “expects all dossiers to […]

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  • Diversity’s role in tenure questioned

    August 7, 2013

    by Riley Prendergast CollegiateTimes.com This is the first installment in a three part series regarding Virginia Tech’s new policies and plans to focus on diversity in the institution. Related: FIRE’s letter, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences guidelines After sustaining brief but spirited criticism in regard to the role of diversity in professors’ tenure hearings within the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, Virginia Tech is exploring ways to clarify the language used regarding the role diversity initiatives play in the faculty selection process. As the guidelines stand in a March 9 draft for promotion and tenure review, […]

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  • HINKLE: You Can’t Say That Here — This Is a University!

    August 6, 2013

    by A. Barton Hinkle Richmond Times-Dispatch   Teresa Sullivan has been in the president’s office for only a brief period, but the University of Virginia already has made a tremendous improvement on her watch. The Foundation for Individ ual Rights in Education (FIRE), an organization dedicated to protecting free speech on campus, reports that it has conferred its green-light award on Mr. Jefferson’s university. UVa thereby becomes one of only 13 colleges in the nation — William & Mary is another — to receive the rare designation, which the Charlottesville school earned by revising its egregious speech codes. Those speech […]

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  • Virginia Tech and the freedom to hold a candlelight vigil

    December 13, 2011

    At universities across America, thousands of students are routinely subjected to unconstitutional and illiberal speech regulations that require burdensome notice or wait time requirements to assemble on campus. Thursday’s shooting of a police officer (and the later suicide of the shooter) at Virginia Tech provides another example of how these unconstitutional policies are morally wrong and, if applied, can be downright cruel. Policies restricting assembly are unconstitutional (on publicly funded campuses) for good reason. It’s one of our fundamental rights as Americans to gather together to mark important events or show our support or disapproval of various issues. When my […]

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  • UVa plans to revise sexual misconduct policy

    May 5, 2011

    The University of Virginia plans to revise its sexual misconduct policy to broaden the scope of offenses and to lower the standard of evidence necessary to find a student guilty. Under the policy, sexual misconduct would become the umbrella term to include any unwelcome sexual behavior. The revision more precisely defines what constitutes assault, harassment and exploitation, including offenses such as cyberstalking, the recording of sexual images and the knowing transmission of a sexually transmitted infection. The policy also would eliminate the geographic limit on UVa’s jurisdiction, which under current policy covers university property or a student or employee residence […]

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  • Va. Tech threatens to pull funding from campus newspaper

    February 12, 2010

    A leader at Virginia Tech’s campus newspaper said the organization will sue in court if the university goes forward with a threat to cut its funding and disrupt its advertising revenues. The Collegiate Times was notified in writing this week by the Commission on Student Affairs that it may be in violation of the university’s “Principles of Community” for allowing anonymous online comments to be posted to its Web site. In a letter to Kelly Wolff, general manager of the Educational Media Company at Virginia Tech, dated Feb. 8, commission chairwoman Michelle McLeese laid out a proposal that, if approved, […]

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  • University should not pressure faculty to alter their research

    October 14, 2009

    Virginia Tech is trying to walk a fine line when it promotes “diversity” as strongly as possible. Unfortunately, the university often crosses the line when it coerces faculty members to conform to the university’s “diversity” mission. Last month, my organization, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, sent the university’s Board of Visitors a 15-page letter with with 13 enclosures demonstrating that the university administration has, over the past few years, persistently increased pressure on faculty members to alter their research, teaching and personal development activities in order to show “diversity accomplishments.” FIRE has no position on the university’s diversity […]

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  • Virginia Tech, Round 2: Staging Diversity

    April 27, 2009

    Just weeks after the president of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) ordered the provost to cancel a controversial policy, the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences is maneuvering to reinstate it.   The discarded policy made tenure and promotion contingent on a faculty member’s demonstrated loyalty to a “diversity” dogma.  The new policy appears set to do much the same thing-but to hide this intent behind a wall of academic jargon.                 Avowing that, “our commitment to equity and inclusive excellence has never been stronger,” Dean Sue Ott Rowlands, says the College’s “soon-to-be-unveiled strategic […]

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  • U.S. Universities: Education or Indoctrination?

    April 27, 2009

    It’s difficult to find anyone to publicly admit they believe our nation’s institutions of higher education should not serve as free marketplaces of ideas, where any and all topics can be openly discussed. After all, such an opinion runs counter to the basic nature of the university ideal and would be massively unpopular with the public. Nobody wants to think that he or she is paying for his or her children to be indoctrinated rather than educated. Unfortunately, on campuses across the country, the line between indoctrination and education is being blurred and ignored on a daily basis. Even more […]

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  • A diversity step too far

    April 19, 2009

    Even in the age of Obama, race and other issues related to inclusiveness continue to confound officials at many of the nation’s universities. Virginia Tech is a prime example, where well-meaning officials made the mistake of appearing to require professors to show an “active involvement in diversity” for promotion and consideration for tenure in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. They should have known better than to step on this third rail in academia. As a member of a minority group and as a former college teacher, I wish the Virginia Tech folks had used better judgment and […]

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  • Virginia Tech drops diversity requirement from tenure policy

    April 15, 2009

    The president of Virginia Tech has asked the provost to remove from the university’s new guidelines on tenure and promotion a requirement that professors show an “active involvement in diversity,” which some conservative groups had criticized as a violation of academic freedom. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and other groups had complained that the condition amounted to a political litmus test and that it had nothing to do with professors’ academic accomplishments. It did not belong, they said, in guidelines on tenure and promotion. The foundation, which is known as FIRE, wrote to Charles W. Steger, Virginia Tech’s […]

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  • Virginia reviews diversity rule

    April 12, 2009

    The Board of Visitors at Virginia Tech announced last week that it would review the university’s tenure and diversity policies after claims by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education that academic freedom was under threat.” Promoting one’s own view of diversity is one thing but making narrowly defined and politicised views about diversity an ideological requirement for faculty members is quite another,” FIRE* President Greg Lukianoff said. “Political litmus tests have no place in higher education and the Board of Visitors must help defend individual conscience and academic freedom at Virginia Tech.” Lukianoff claimed that over the past three […]

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  • Commitment to diversity as a job requirement

    March 27, 2009

    This week in The Chronicle, Robin Wilson has a story on the “diversity” factor in tenure and promotion guidelines at Virginia Tech. According to the guidelines, the promotion and tenure committee “expects all dossiers to demonstrate the candidate’s active involvement in diversity.” The provost at Virginia Tech claims that the guideline does not “require” professors to join diversity activities, but only “encourages” them to do so. The diversity criterion goes back to a few years ago, he adds, when the university wanted to make sure that people who did pursue diversity activities were valued for their efforts. This is a […]

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  • Suitable for framing

    March 26, 2009

    Last week, NAS wrote about how Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) has made “diversity” service a requirement for faculty promotion and tenure. There, we showed that   “Diversity” is not a category of academic accomplishment equivalent to high-quality teaching or success in scholarly research and publishing. “Diversity” is an ideology. The term summarizes a set of objectives popular on one part of the political spectrum. Virginia Tech, which is a public university, has no business turning a partisan political credo into a test that must be passed for faculty members to win tenure or to advance in rank.   The promotion and […]

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  • Big mandate on campus

    September 17, 2002

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  • Virginia Tech Supports the Troops and the First Amendment at the Same Time

    September 6, 2013

    My favorite bumper sticker is an American flag with the caption: “Think. It’s patriotic.” That’s essentially what Steven Salaita, a professor of English at Virginia Tech, was trying to say when he posted commentary on Salon arguing against uncritical support of the military. But he chose to do so in a deliberately provocative way, framing his essay as an explanation for why he declined to donate his change (18 cents) from a convenience store purchase “to support the troops.” The result, according to The Washington Post, was a “backlash” against him that has grown from “outrage on social media into calls […]

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  • Why can’t students say ‘guns’ in school?

    August 7, 2013

    by Glenn Garvin Miami Herald   Media snicker of the day: those crazy gun nuts, worried that the government is out to snatch their constitutional rights along with their AK-47s. 60 Minutes is the latest to have a chuckle, playing a commercial for a Washington, D.C.-area firearms show that that urges viewers to “Celebrate the Second Amendment and get your guns while you still can!” My own hunch is that the sheer number of Americans who own guns (the low estimate is something over 40 million) will keep their Second Amendment rights off the endangered-species list for the foreseeable future. […]

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  • Virginia Tech and Student Expression Rights in ‘The Daily Caller’

    December 13, 2011

    In The Daily Caller today, FIRE Senior Vice President Robert Shibley discusses how unconstitutional policies on the books at Virginia Tech actually prohibit spontaneous gatherings like the candlelight vigil that university members organized after the shooting death of a campus police officer last week. Although the vigil was not shut down, it could have been, and that’s the point: “free speech zone” policies and other burdensome requirements for university approval should not exist in the first place. Robert writes:  The reason that Virginia Tech did not bother enforcing these burdensome requirements on Thursday night is obvious: the university would have […]

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  • Virginia Tech Vice President Worries about New OCR Guidance

    June 29, 2011

    Fighting for civil liberties on campus can sometimes be a lonely job, but FIRE has been buoyed by the outpouring of concern in recent weeks about the new mandates handed down in April by the federal Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). It seems like we’re not the only ones concerned by the rights-eroding regulations coming out of Washington, D.C.; just ask these commentators what they think about the threats to due process and free speech presented by the new regulations. And it’s not just FIRE and the punditocracy speaking out—add Virginia Tech Vice President for Student Affairs […]

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  • Virginia Newspaper Touts Growing Number of ‘Green Light’ Schools

    February 8, 2011

    With only 14 “green light” colleges and universities in the entire country, the state of Virginia should be proud to be home to two of them. Writing in the Daily Press (Hampton Roads, Va.), Michael F. Cochrane commends the University of Virginia (UVa) and The College of William & Mary for preserving free speech on campus: As Virginians we can be justly proud that our state has some of the top colleges and universities in the nation. We have colleges that are ranked nationally in sports and academic achievement. But now we have a new reason for pride: The Foundation […]

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  • More Praise for UVA’s New ‘Green-Light’ Rating

    January 17, 2011

    In a column for Townhall.com, Mike Adams praises the University of Virginia (UVA) for going from a red-light to a green-light school by eliminating the last of its unconstitutional speech codes back in October. Adams describes how FIRE staff encouraged Dean Allen Groves to implement the essential policy reforms: FIRE began working with UVA administrator Dean Allen Groves in April 2010 after Adam Kissel gave a lecture on free speech that was hosted by two UVA student groups – Students for Individual Liberty and Liberty Coalition. Shortly thereafter, Dean Groves received a letter from FIRE, which provided detailed objections to […]

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  • ‘Volokh Conspiracy’ and Local Media Decry Virginia Speech Codes

    November 3, 2010

    Ever since the University of Virginia (UVa) eliminated all four of its speech codes to earn FIRE’s coveted “green light” rating, local and national media have put the spotlight on the speech codes remaining at other public universities in Virginia. When FIRE announced the news, we noted that UVa joins The College of William & Mary as two Virginia institutions in an elite group of 13 “green light” schools and that we are now turning our attention to three more Virginia public universities: George Mason, rated “red light,” and James Madison and Virginia Tech, both rated “yellow light.” How bad for free speech are these three […]

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  • Virginia ACLU Petitions Supreme Court to Overturn Restrictions on Alcohol Advertising

    August 27, 2010

    The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia has filed a petition asking the United States Supreme Court to review a recent decision by the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit allowing for the restriction of alcohol-related advertisements in collegiate newspapers. The ACLU of Virginia, which filed the petition (.pdf) on Monday, is challenging the Fourth Circuit’s decision (.pdf) in Educational Media Company at Virginia Tech v. Swecker on behalf of The Collegiate Times and The Cavalier Daily, student newspapers at Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia, respectively. The Times and the Daily have challenged this regulation—instituted by Virginia’s […]

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  • Facing Criticism, Virginia Tech Disavows Efforts to Censor Student Paper

    February 15, 2010

    In the face of mounting criticism, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) administrators distanced themselves on Friday from efforts to cut the funding of the Collegiate Times, the school’s independent student newspaper, because of the paper’s refusal to eliminate anonymous comments from its website. University spokesman Larry Hincker told The Roanoke Times that Virginia Tech does not support ending the school’s contract with the Collegiate Times or its parent company and is not contemplating a ban on advertising in the newspaper: “This is a student issue. These are students raising this issue with their fellow students” and not […]

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  • ‘Roanoke Times’ Covers Press Censorship at Virginia Tech; Gets FIRE Totally Wrong

    February 12, 2010

    The Roanoke Times (Va.) is covering Virginia Tech’s recent shameful foray into press censorship, which Adam discussed at length yesterday on The Torch. Writer Tonia Moxley’s coverage is actually pretty good and worth a read, but unfortunately Ms. Moxley seems to have a very erroneous idea about the nature of FIRE. Regarding FIRE, she writes: The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education is a conservative advocacy group opposed to affirmative action and diversity initiatives on colleges [sic] campuses. In April, the group objected to discussion of diversity policies that might have affected employment decisions at Tech. Moxley got our name […]

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  • Virginia Tech Threatens Student Newspaper’s Future Because it Allows Anonymous Online Comments

    February 11, 2010

    Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University‘s (Virginia Tech’s) Commission on Student Affairs has threatened the future of its independent student newspaper, the Collegiate Times, because the newspaper allows “irresponsible and inappropriate”—wait for it—anonymous comments on its own website. Virginia Tech contends that allowing anonymous comments “counter[s] the Principles of Community,” a set of ideological rules that, applied in this way, violate the First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of the press. According to a February 8, 2010, letter from Michelle McLeese, Chair, Commission on Student Affairs, to the Educational Media Company at Virginia Tech, Inc. (EMCVT)—the organization […]

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  • ‘The Diversity Religion at Virginia Tech’

    October 28, 2009

    “Pushing professors to conform to any set of beliefs is inappropriate,” writes Carey Stronach, president of the Virginia Association of Scholars (VAS), in a very good article yesterday for the Pope Center’s Clarion Call. Stronach writes about FIRE’s case at Virginia Tech, where professors have been increasingly pressured to demonstrate “diversity accomplishments” when being assessed for the quality of their work. Diversity sounds like a lofty goal. Who (this side of the Ku Klux Klan) is opposed to diversity? Who still favors excluding people just because of race or other innate characteristics? Those of us who marched with Dr. King in […]

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  • Rights in the News: With FIRE’s Help, Students Standing Up to Their Speech Codes

    October 16, 2009

    FIRE was elated to begin the week with the announcement that The College of William & Mary had reformed the last of its troublesome speech codes and become one of just eleven colleges to earn a “green light” rating in FIRE’s Spotlight database. Perhaps the fever has spread to neighboring James Madison University, where the focus has intensified on JMU’s policy on “Obscene Conduct” since it was named FIRE’s Speech Code of the Month. Not surprisingly, heightened awareness of the policy sowed discontent among the student body–enough so that this week JMU’s student newspaper The Breeze reported that JMU has […]

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  • Mandatory ‘Diversity Accomplishments’ at Virginia Tech Violate Faculty Rights; FIRE Details Violations in 15-page Letter to Board of Visitors

    September 16, 2009

    FIRE has sent Virginia Tech’s Board of Visitors a 15-page letter with 13 enclosures detailing how administrators have begun to demand “diversity accomplishments” from faculty members across the university over the past several years. Professors are expected to alter their own research, teaching, and personal intellectual development in order to prove their loyalty to Virginia Tech’s political agenda. Those who lack the right “diversity accomplishments” will see diminished career prospects, including for tenure and promotion. FIRE is calling on the Virginia Tech’s board to rescind the coercive elements of its diversity agenda. In FIRE’s September 14, 2009, letter to John R. Lawson, […]

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  • Bit by Bit, Virginia Tech Softens Ideological ‘Diversity’ Requirements for Faculty; Much More To Be Done for Freedom of Conscience

    July 8, 2009

    After Virginia Tech rescinded its ideological litmus test for faculty (pending further review) in its liberal arts college under pressure from FIRE, the school has recently removed a long, ominous explanation of “diversity accomplishments” from its university-wide tenure and promotion guidelines. A separate document still contains the diversity guidelines, however. The university also has yet to retract its demands that faculty demonstrate such “diversity accomplishments” when seeking raises, tenure, or promotion. These demands violate faculty members’ freedom of conscience and academic freedom by politicizing the consideration of their teaching, scholarship, and personal development activities, forcing them to demonstrate allegiance to […]

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  • FIRE’s Letter to the Editor of ‘The Roanoke Times’

    May 18, 2009

    Last week, I discussed the inaccuracies and distortions contained in an editorial published by The Roanoke Times attacking FIRE. Specifically, the paper dismissed FIRE’s concerns about the constitutionality of Virginia Tech’s proposed guidelines for evaluating candidates for promotion and tenure, labeling FIRE a “conservative group that oppose[s] campus diversity efforts across the country.” In addition to discussing the significant problems with the editorial here on The Torch, I also penned a letter to the Times‘ editors, correcting their misapprehensions. Unfortunately, the paper has failed to publish our letter, thus denying us the opportunity to set the record straight. We are […]

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  • Getting it Wrong: ‘Roanoke Times’ Editorial Mischaracterizes FIRE and Problems with Virginia Tech’s Diversity Requirements

    May 13, 2009

    An editorial in today’s edition of The Roanoke Times attacks FIRE for criticizing Virginia Tech’s proposed hiring guidelines for evaluating candidates for promotion and tenure. The guidelines, now withdrawn, would have required candidates to demonstrate a commitment to an abstract, ideologically loaded concept—”diversity”—that means many different things to different people. While perhaps well-intentioned, imposing the guidelines would have meant that regardless of their own beliefs, candidates would have had to pledge allegiance to the school’s conception of “diversity,” or risk losing their job or promotion. As we’ve explained at length in this space and in our letter to VT, that’s […]

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  • At Tech, an ideological dispute over diversity

    May 9, 2009

    A letter from Virginia Tech’s president reaffirming the university’s commitment to diversity has reignited an ideological dispute over political correctness on campus. Tech officials last month backed away from a proposed policy that critics said tied promotion and tenure to participation in diversity initiatives. An array of mostly conservative organizations had lobbied against the guidelines, calling them an affront to academic freedom and a political litmus test for promotion. Tech maintained the proposal had been mischaracterized by off-campus groups. But the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education said it took up the cause at the request of a tenure-track faculty […]

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  • FIRE Critic on ‘Chronicle of Higher Education’ Blog Acknowledges Error

    May 8, 2009

    I reported on April 16 that University of Pennsylvania professor John L. Jackson Jr. had attacked FIRE in a blog entry published on The Chronicle of Higher Education blog, Brainstorm, over FIRE’s successful efforts to keep Virginia Tech from violating its faculty members’ freedom of conscience and academic freedom. Jackson had erroneously stated that FIRE would “reject any and all nods to affirmative action or other diversity initiatives” and had averred that “Maybe FIRE’s hidden concern is that ‘active involvement in diversity’ could serve as another way of justifying tenure to otherwise undeserving minority scholars.” In fact, FIRE has never […]

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  • Rights in the News: FIRE’s Thought Reform Efforts Continue to Resonate

    May 1, 2009

    It seems like every week we’re reporting that FIRE’s short film on the University of Delaware’s experiment in thought reform has doubled the amount of views received on YouTube from the week before—a trend I’m all too happy to continue. This week the folks at Reason (which—throwback!—published Alan Charles Kors’ article “Thought Reform 101″ back in 2000) gave FIRE an extra hand by blogging about the video on their website, helping to push it toward 50,000 views. Thought reform at Delaware was also the subject of Robert’s article this week for Pajamas Media. Robert also discussed Virginia Tech’s efforts at […]

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  • Rights in the News: FIRE on a Roll with Numerous Victories and Successful Videos

    April 24, 2009

    The past week at FIRE has been filled with victories for free speech on campus, and the media has responded. After FIRE’s victory for freedom of conscience at Virginia Tech, the St. Petersburg Times published a column by Bill Maxwell entitled “A diversity step too far.” In it, Maxwell agrees with FIRE’s efforts to protect freedom of conscience at VT, writing: Although diversity is a worthy goal, suggesting that evidence of it is required as one of the activities in professors’ annual report for advancement and tenure is wrong. As a former professor, I would not want to be forced […]

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  • Rights in the News: A Good Week for FIRE at Virginia Tech

    April 17, 2009

    I blogged on Wednesday on the press generated by FIRE’s successful effort to get Virginia Tech President Charles Steger to shelve a requirement that would have more deeply ensconced a “diversity” requirement for tenure and promotion for the university’s arts and sciences faculty. FIRE’s efforts and success at Virginia Tech were reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required) and the Richmond Times-Dispatch as well as several blogs. You also may have noticed that there was a bit of a ruckus kicked up by University of Pennsylvania professor John L. Jackson, Jr., in a post on Brainstorm, a blog […]

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  • FIRE Attacked on ‘Chronicle of Higher Education’ Blog over Virginia Tech

    April 16, 2009

    University of Pennsylvania professor John L. Jackson Jr. has attacked FIRE in a blog entry published on The Chronicle of Higher Education blog, Brainstorm, over FIRE’s successful efforts to keep Virginia Tech from violating its faculty members’ freedom of conscience and academic freedom. FIRE is used to criticism from all corners of the political arena. Indeed, we view much of this criticism as evidence that we’re doing our job effectively. But Jackson’s attack warrants response because it unfairly distorts our concerns with Virginia Tech’s pressure on faculty candidates for promotion and tenure to demonstrate a commitment to “diversity.” First, Jackson […]

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  • Victory at Virginia Tech: Good News Travels Fast

    April 15, 2009

    News of FIRE’s victory for freedom of conscience at Virginia Tech has been spreading quickly—unsurprising, given the proposed “diversity” requirement’s chilling implications for the academic freedom of the Virginia Tech faculty. The Chronicle of Higher Education is among the publications to report on Virginia Tech President Charles Steger’s decision to rescind the requirement, which had been roundly criticized by FIRE, the National Association of Scholars, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, and Virginia Tech’s own student paper, The Collegiate Times, among others. The Richmond Times-Dispatch should be pleased to hear the news as well, having published a good editorial […]

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  • FIRE Co-founder Commends Virginia Tech President for Withdrawing Ideological Litmus Test

    April 15, 2009

    FIRE Co-founder and Chairman Emeritus Alan Charles Kors e-mailed the president of Virginia Tech last night to commend him on his school’s decision to withdraw its ideological “diversity” requirements for promotion and tenure.  Alan writes: Dear President Steger, You have intervened where it is most appropriate, to preserve and protect the most cherished of freedoms:  freedom of conscience and belief.  It is frightening that individuals, however well-intentioned, thought to coerce ideological uniformity, but it is a wonderful thing that you have done in the exercise of your responsibilities and obligations as the president of a free institution in a free […]

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  • Victory for Freedom of Conscience at Virginia Tech: New ‘Diversity’ Requirements for Tenure and Promotion No Longer Under Consideration, But Problematic Policies Remain

    April 14, 2009

    Today’s press release announces what the Virginia Tech faculty appear not even to know, yet: the proposed new guidelines for faculty assessment in Virginia Tech’s College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, which would have mandated reporting of “diversity” activities in violation of academic freedom and freedom of conscience, are no longer under consideration. FIRE had called on President Charles W. Steger to rescind the proposed guidelines after a tenure-track faculty member came to us for help. This is an important first step towards preserving faculty rights, but much more needs to be done. Over the past three years, Virginia […]

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  • Victory for Freedom of Conscience at Virginia Tech: New ‘Diversity’ Requirements for Tenure and Promotion No Longer Under Consideration, But Problematic Policies Remain

    April 14, 2009

    BLACKSBURG, Va., April 14, 2009—The president of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) has announced that proposed new guidelines for faculty assessment, which would have mandated reporting of “diversity” activities in violation of academic freedom and freedom of conscience, are no longer under consideration. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) had called on President Charles W. Steger to rescind the proposed guidelines after a tenure-track faculty member came to FIRE for help. “By shelving mandatory ‘diversity’ requirements for tenure and promotion candidates, President Steger has taken an important first step towards preserving faculty rights,” FIRE President […]

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  • Adam’s Letter to the Editor at Virginia Tech on Mandatory ‘Diversity Accomplishments’

    April 10, 2009

    FIRE’s Adam Kissel wrote a letter to the editor of the Collegiate Times, Virginia Tech’s student newspaper, in response to a column last week by Ellington Graves challenging FIRE’s criticism of Virginia Tech’s diversity requirements for faculty members and accusing FIRE of rendering a “poorly reasoned analysis.” Adam sets the record straight. Readers should examine the policy documents and FIRE’s analysis for themselves at www.thefire-dev.wp.eresources.ws. In particular, they should read Provost McNamee’s May 29, 2008, memo to all department heads and to promotion and tenure committees, in which he demands, “Candidates must do a better job of participating in and […]

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  • Editorial: Making financial aid a priority will improve campus diversity

    April 8, 2009

    For high school seniors, available financial aid packages have long served as important precursors for making up one’s mind about where to attend college. At Virginia Tech, potential students can expect to receive their financial aid offering a few days after they’ve received their acceptance notifications. It is very important for Tech to stay competitive with other state colleges when it comes to distributing financial aid. The last thing we would ever want would be to lose qualified applicants to other schools because we failed to put our financial aid offering out there fast enough. For many students, a hefty […]

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  • New Virginia Tech ‘Diversity’ Requirements for Tenure Violate Academic Freedom, Will Be Comprehensively Reviewed by Board of Visitors

    April 6, 2009

    After being alerted to mandatory “diversity” requirements for faculty tenure, promotion, and personal development, the Board of Visitors at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) has agreed to fully review the school’s tenure and diversity policies, FIRE’s press release reports today. Over the past three years, Virginia Tech’s provost, Mark McNamee, has increasingly demanded ideological conformity in the form of “diversity accomplishments” from the school’s faculty. Last year, in a memo to all department heads and promotion and tenure committees, he insisted that candidates for promotion or tenure “do a better job of participating in and documenting their […]

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  • New Virginia Tech ‘Diversity’ Requirements for Tenure Violate Academic Freedom, Will Be Comprehensively Reviewed by Board of Visitors

    April 6, 2009

    BLACKSBURG, Va., April 6, 2009—After being alerted to mandatory “diversity” requirements for faculty tenure, promotion, and personal development, the Board of Visitors at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) has agreed to fully review the school’s tenure and diversity policies. “Promoting one’s own view of diversity is one thing, but making narrowly defined and politicized views about diversity an ideological requirement for faculty members is quite another,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “Political litmus tests have no place in higher education and the Board of Visitors must help defend individual conscience and academic freedom at Virginia Tech.” Over […]

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  • Greg in ‘Huffington Post’ on ‘Hell Week for Campus Free Speech’

    April 3, 2009

    Defending free speech is often an exhilarating and rewarding experience, fighting the good fight in an uphill battle for constitutional rights against an industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars. But sometimes, and this was one of those weeks, that hill looks pretty steep. Greg writes in his latest column on The Huffington Post on the “hell week for campus free speech.” FIRE broke the story of newspaper theft at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where students stole copies of a conservative student paper right in front of a campus police officer (all caught on tape). The University of […]

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  • FIRE Reaches Virginia Tech Community with Column in ‘The Collegiate Times’

    April 1, 2009

    Yesterday on The Torch, Adam wrote convincingly about how Virginia Tech’s efforts to impose vague requirements of a commitment to “diversity” on faculty for tenure and promotion is every bit as much a violation of academic freedom and freedom of conscience as requiring a commitment to similarly amorphous ideals, such as “patriotism” or “Christianity.” The Collegiate Times, the student newspaper of Virginia Tech, has published a version of Adam’s Torch entry in its editorial section today, helping FIRE’s concerns about this invasive and unconstitutional threat to reach the constituency most in need of hearing them: the more than 30,000 students […]

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  • Virginia Tech to Demand ‘Diversity’ Conformity by Vote

    March 30, 2009

    Suppose the provost at your college started a new “patriotism” initiative. In the first year, he would permit faculty members to self-report their “patriotism accomplishments.” In the second year, faculty members would be strongly encouraged to report their “patriotism accomplishments” on their annual reports of their activities. In the third year, faculty members would be told that “patriotism accomplishments are especially important for faculty seeking tenure and promotion,” and dossiers for tenure and promotion would include a multi-part section on “patriotism.” There would be a list of kinds of activities that would count as sufficiently “patriotic.” Faculty assessment in the […]

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  • Rights in the News: FIRE Stands up for Virginia Tech Faculty

    March 27, 2009

    As you may have read in The Torch this week, FIRE is leading the charge against requirements at Virginia Tech that tie tenure and promotion to a commitment to “diversity”—requirements that amount to a political loyalty oath for faculty members. Such requirements, as FIRE and others have written, are a serious threat to academic freedom and freedom of conscience. In addition to Adam’s coverage of FIRE’s efforts at Virginia Tech, Robin Wilson of The Chronicle of Higher Education has written on the growing criticism directed at the guidelines (subscription required). Ashley Thorne at the National Association of Scholars notes FIRE’s […]

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  • Mark Bauerlein on Virginia Tech Diversity Requirement for Faculty Assessment

    March 27, 2009

    Today CFN faculty member and Emory professor Mark Bauerlein adds his voice to that of FIRE, the National Association of Scholars, and others against Virginia Tech’s requirement of “diversity accomplishments” for faculty tenure and promotion. Bauerlein writes: This week in The Chronicle, Robin Wilson has a story on the “diversity” factor in tenure and promition guidelines at Virginia Tech. According to the guidelines, the promotion and tenure committee “expects all dossiers to demonstrate the candidate’s active involvement in diversity.” The Provost at Virginia Tech claims that the guideline does not “require” professors to join diversity activities, but only “encourages” them […]

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  • Virginia Tech Mandates ‘Diversity’ for Faculty Promotion, Despite Denial

    March 26, 2009

    Yesterday FIRE wrote Virginia Tech’s president, Charles Steger, calling on him to abandon proposed new guidelines for faculty assessment that would seriously violate faculty members’ academic freedom and their constitutional right to freedom of conscience. The proposal would force faculty members in Virginia Tech’s College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences to adhere to an ideological loyalty oath to an entirely abstract concept—”diversity”—that can represent vastly different things to different people. Faculty are to be evaluated with “special attention” to the candidate’s “involvement in diversity initiatives.” If adopted, this requirement will inevitably interfere with faculty members’ moral and intellectual freedom […]

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  • FIRE Calls on Virginia Tech to Abandon New Political Litmus Test for Faculty

    March 25, 2009

    Today FIRE has called on Charles W. Steger, President of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), to abandon proposed new guidelines for faculty assessment that would seriously violate faculty members’ academic freedom and their constitutional right to freedom of conscience. The proposal would force faculty members in Virginia Tech’s College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences to adhere to an ideological loyalty oath to an entirely abstract concept — “diversity” — that can represent vastly different things to different people. Faculty are to be evaluated with “special attention” to the candidate’s “involvement in diversity initiatives.” This includes “demonstrating […]

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  • FIRE Letter to Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University President Charles W. Steger

    March 25, 2009

    March 25, 2009 Dr. Charles W. Steger Office of the President 210 Burruss Hall Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Blacksburg, Virginia 24061 Sent by U.S. Mail and Facsimile (540-231-4265) Dear President Steger: As you can see from the list of our Directors and Board of Advisors, FIRE unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of liberty, due process, legal equality, freedom of association, religious liberty and, in this case, freedom of speech and conscience on America’s college campuses. Our website, www.thefire-dev.wp.eresources.ws, will give you a greater […]

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  • Political Litmus Test for Faculty at Virginia Tech

    March 18, 2009

    Peter Wood at the National Association of Scholars has drawn attention to a disturbing prospect at Virginia Tech—a requirement that all candidates for tenure and promotion display “active involvement in diversity,” threatening the academic freedom and freedom of conscience of Virginia Tech’s faculty. This new requirement is reminiscent of FIRE’s 2001 case at Bucks County Community College (BCCC), in which BCCC attempted to require applicants for new faculty to “provide a brief statement of your commitment to diversity and how this commitment is demonstrated in your work.” Under pressure from FIRE, BCCC dropped the requirement. Of the similar requirement now […]

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  • FIRE on the Virginia Tech Massacre

    April 17, 2007

    FIRE is saddened and horrified by the events at Virginia Tech yesterday, where 32 students and faculty were killed and yet more were injured by a fellow student. Words do not adequately capture the scale and tragedy of the loss. Parents, students, faculty members, administrators, and the Virginia Tech community have our deepest condolences.

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  • Virginia Tech to Reward Faculty For Promoting Diversity

    September 4, 2006

    The annual performance evaluations at Virginia Tech University will include a review of faculty members’ activities to promote diversity on campus. Virginia Tech President Charles Steger outlined a plan Aug. 28 to add diversity to the criteria used in evaluating university instructors. Faculty will report any diversity-related activities, such as advising a minority student group or conducting community outreach programs, each spring on their annual activity report. Academic departments use these reports to provide merit pay increases. In his memo, Stager noted that “creating a diverse and inclusive community is an important and long-standing priority for Virginia Tech.” The policy […]

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