“this school has shown neither brains nor heart as it continues to punish students and faculty for their protected expression”
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education recently released a list of major free speech failures in higher education. It gave Syracuse University a special distinction.
From the FIRE blog:
Lifetime Censorship Award: Syracuse University (Syracuse, N.Y.)
Just over 150 years after Syracuse University opened its doors by proclaiming that “brains and heart shall have a fair chance” at earning a college degree, this school has shown neither brains nor heart as it continues to punish students and faculty for their protected expression.
Since 2005, when then-Chancellor Nancy Cantor shut down HillTV, a student-run TV station, over its satirical “Over the Hill” show, Syracuse’s unrelenting disdain for expressive rights has earned four separate black marks on this list. Despite welcoming matriculating students with buildings emblazoned with the First Amendment, a motto translated to “Knowledge crowns those who seek her,” and numerous institutional promises to protect student rights, Syracuse’s actions continually betray its words, playing for fools students seeking to speak out about anything remotely controversial.
For example, in 2010, its College of Law investigated law student Len Audaer for his alleged involvement with the anonymous, satirical blog SUCOLitis, about life in law school. That same year, the university’s Department of Public Safety threatened discipline against students for wearing “offensive” Halloween costumes.
A brand new decade brought the same old script from Syracuse. In 2012, its School of Education expelled graduate student Matthew Werenczak after he complained on Facebook about a racially charged comment made in his presence by a community leader, an egregious free speech violation that the university deemed a “standard” practice at the time.
Even inaugurating a new chancellor in 2014 did not stem the tide of student rights abuses — Kent Syverud oversaw the dismantling of an entire engineering fraternity and the expulsion of several members in 2018 over their private satirical “roast.” Syracuse claims that the voluntary skit constituted “conduct that threatens the mental health” of others once it was leaked to the public — an assertion so preposterous that it led to lawsuits in state and federal court, where university attorneys attested, under oath, that the school’s speech promises are, in fact, worthless. Syracuse concluded the decade by rejecting a Young Americans for Freedom chapter over its conservative viewpoints, banning all fraternity social activity despite no evidence of misconduct by any of the students, and, most recently, placing a professor on leave for writing “Wuhan Flu or Chinese Communist Party Virus” on his course syllabus.
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