ASU Named as Campus with Threats to Free Speech, Individual Rights


ASUFreeSpeechA recent article in The Atlantic titled “The Glaring Evidence That Free Speech Is Threatened on Campus” lists Adams State University (ASU) as a campus on which individual rights are in danger. Citing policy data provided by The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), The Atlantic article describes nation-wide trends in academia that curtail the free exchange of ideas in favor of policies purportedly designed to ensure safety, civility, and curtailing offensive speech.

The FIRE goes further, providing a comprehensive list of campuses and the threats to individual free expression at each. Overall, ASU received a Red Light from The FIRE, defined as: “A red light institution has at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech. A clear restriction is one that unambiguously infringes on what is or should be protected expression. In other words, the threat to free speech at a red light institution is obvious on the face of the policy and does not depend on how the policy is applied.”

In the case of ASU, the Sexual Harassment Policy in the Student Handbook received a red light. In addition, the Student Handbook’s Declaration of Tolerance, Peaceful Assembly, ASU Affirmations, and Code of Conduct policies all received Yellow Lights, as well as the Residence Life Handbook’s Decorations policy. A Yellow Light is defined as “one whose policies restrict a more limited amount of protected expression or, by virtue of their vague wording, could too easily be used to restrict protected expression.”

Aside from handbook policies, The FIRE also reports on campus news relevant to threats to individual rights. The FIRE covered the banning of former professor Danny Ledonne from campus in their October 27th, 2015 article University Threatens Former Professor for Showing up at President’s Meetings. The FIRE has also written two commentary pieces on the topic, What Does It Take to Get Barred from Adams State University? Not Much and Barred from Adams State, Former Faculty Member Sues over an Utter Lack of Due Process.

Previously, a 2005 case at then Adams State College was also covered by FIRE, citing the removal of posters promoting a KASF student radio DJ. The DJ’s handle was “Pimp-Smackin’ McCracken” and ASC housing authorities removed the poster because they found the word “pimp” inherently demeaning to women. Former English professor Dr. David Mazel is quoted extensively in the article.

Beneath the headlines, threats to the free expression of ideas on university campuses remains a contentious issue across the United States and the ASU campus is no exception.