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College Given FIRE Red Light Rating

Just when you thought that the Hanlon administration could not find a new way to outrage donors and other people who love Dartmouth, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has announced that that it has dropped the College down to its red light rating — the lowest one — for restrictive speech policies:

FIRE Dartmouth 2018 Comp.jpg

In 2005, following efforts by the College’s petition trustees, FIRE raised our speech rating from red to green, the highest rating — a level held in the Ivies at the time only by Penn. However, in March of 2016 our rating dropped to yellow due to the blanket nature of the College’s bias reporting policies.

Our red light rating stems from the Information, Technology and Consulting office’s new Acceptable Use Policy. You don’t have to have taken a course in constitutional law to see that this overbroad policy could be used to stifle all sorts of protected speech:

ITC Acceptable Use Policy Comp.jpg

Who the heck approved this set of rules? Was it our new College Counsel, Sandhya Iyer, or one of the nine other people working in the Counsel’s office? Did anyone even think of this policy in terms of its potential to limit free speech?

I bet that tomorrow you could gin up a case against each and every member of the College community for transmitting messages that are “harmful, offensive, obscene, abusive.” After all, who is to decide? A Dean? Certainly a person would leave themselves open for prosecution if they sent a Dartblog permalink on the College’s system.

Yet another embarrassment.

Addendum: Fire defines a red light rating as follows:

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.

Addendum: The Ivy schools’ free speech ratings are as follows: Green: Penn. Yellow: Columbia, Cornell, Yale, Brown. Red: Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth.

Addendum: A former member of the faculty writes in:

Saw this AM’s note about the Fire rating. Man… what’s astonishing is how much damage can be done in such a short time. If Hanlon manages to purge the College of private organizations, ban “offensive” speech, and follow Harvard in restraining rights of free association, Dartmouth as envisioned by folks like Daniel Webster is doomed.


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