FIRE representative Joseph Cohn to visit RU

Photo of Joseph Cohn, FIRE

Joseph Cohn, FIRE

Conversations about individual rights and free speech on campus are taking place at Radford University and schools across the country.

RU will have a special chance to examine these issues with the visit of Joseph Cohn, legislative and policy director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), on Sept. 23.

Cohn will spend the day visiting classes and speaking with students and faculty about the constitutionally protected rights that all members of a campus community hold. He will also give a public lecture about the state of individual rights in education in the Covington Center auditorium at 6:30 p.m.

"We’re seeing an era where schools are turning to speech codes more than ever, and students acting more as self-censors than they had in the past," Cohn said. "We're also seeing new focuses on campus judiciaries and even a lot of people who feel they need 'freedom from speech' on campus. These are all import issues to understand and discuss."

FIRE works to defend individual rights at America’s colleges and universities. According to the organization, these rights include freedom of speech, legal equality, due process, religious liberty and sanctity of conscience.

FIRE works with students and faculty around the country to examine particular issues on their campuses. It also offers guides to free speech for those interested in learning more about rights afforded all campus citizens.

Cohn's visit to RU comes at a time when the university is making strides to modernize its policies and protections for individual rights. At the 2014 Faculty Convocation in August, President Penelope W. Kyle announced that new free speech policies suggested by RU students and faculty will bring the university more in line with many of FIRE's suggestions for an open campus.

Furthermore, RU has embraced changes made by the Commonwealth. In April, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed legislation that prohibits institutions of higher education from restricting free speech and individual rights in the public, open spaces of campus.

“University campuses simply must be places where free expression is celebrated as one of the most important elements of our democracy," said Sam Minner, RU provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. "For that reason, I am thrilled that we have made such progress in the revision of our First Amendment policies and that Mr. Cohn will be on our campus to help us celebrate and deepen the progress we’ve made.”

Cohn's visit is sponsored by the RU Scholar-Citizen Initiative, which encourages students to seek experiences that will develop connections between their academic experiences and their personal, professional and civic lives. For more information about Cohn's visit to RU, visit the Scholar-Citizen Initiative website.


Sep 16, 2014