FIRE to Biden: Let's work together for students' free-speech rights

Thursday, January 21, 2021
 | 
Chris Woodward (OneNewsNow.com)

free-speech zone (stop sign shape)A group committed to defending the rights of students and faculty at America's universities has invited the Biden administration to team up and work on crucial issues of civil liberties on college campuses.

The invitation from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) came in the form of a letter to President Joe Biden. "It's FIRE's tradition to write to presidents on their inauguration day," says Joe Cohn, legislative and policy director at FIRE. "We've done so for President Obama, President Trump, and now President Biden."

In its letter, FIRE emphasizes that freedom of speech and due process are in "serious need of protection" on college campuses:

"The threats of censorship are real and persistent," the letter argues. "Students and faculty of all political persuasions and demographic backgrounds are routinely censored and denied any semblance of a fair, impartial hearing. Continued assistance from the executive branch would be of significant benefit to FIRE's work in defense of individual rights on campus."

Cohn explains to One News Now: "We've known for a long time that access to higher education is really crucial for success in the modern economy; so, making sure that students have [that] access … is crucial. And due process comes into play to ensure that educations aren't cut short unfairly."

Cohn

He continues: "Free speech is crucial on college campuses because higher education is exactly the setting where we learn to debate and discuss and analyze ideas. It's where it is particularly crucial for the exchange of ideas to be unfettered."

According to Cohn, the Trump administration reached out to FIRE on a number of occasions for input on both campus free speech and due process. He says FIRE hopes to have a similar productive working relationship with the Biden administration.

"Everyone benefits from free speech and due process on college campuses," Cohn stresses. "There isn't any part of a political spectrum that doesn't benefit greatly when our institutions of higher education respect free speech and academic freedom, and also robustly protect due process rights."

FIRE's research indicates that 85% of top public colleges and universities it surveyed have speech codes that run afoul of the First Amendment. Cohn's group describes that as a "shameful prevalence of unconstitutional campus restrictions on expression."

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