The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has taken out a full page advertisement highlighting a student who was expelled for exercising his 1st Amendment rights in the college rankings issue of U.S. News and World Report.
The advertisement features Hayden Barnes, a former student at Valdosta State University in Georgia, who was expelled by the university’s then-president for protesting the building of two parking garages on campus. Barnes’ “offense” was posting a collage on Facebook.com that mocked the university president and expressed opposition to the building project. With FIRE’s help, the Georgia Board of Regents eventually overturned Barnes’ punishment, but a federal lawsuit against Valdosta State for its treatment of Barnes continues.
“Every year, millions of students and parents turn to U.S. News and World Report to see the latest college rankings,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “They deserve to know if their school of choice ignores fundamental rights. Schools on FIRE’s Red Alert list must understand that we will not stop exposing their illiberal behavior until they honor their obligations under the First Amendment and their own promises of freedom of expression.
FIRE defends students from schools that impose restrictive speech codes, limit the exercise to “free speech zones”, or otherwise punish student’s 1st Amendment rights. If your school is a violator and seeks alumni donations, let them know you have donated to FIRE instead.
Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist. That, of all rights, is the dread of tyrants. It is the right which they first of all strike down. They know its power. Thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers, founded in injustice and wrong, are sure to tremble, if men are allowed to reason ~ Frederick Douglass