Earlier today, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) issued a letter to Raj K. Chopra, President/Superintendent of SWC, regarding the suspension of four instructors.
According to its mission statement, FIRE exists "to defend and sustain individual rights at America's colleges and universities." This is no flaky fringe group: the staff, Board of Directors, and Board of Advisors represent some of the most influential names in law, legal scholarship, and civil rights studies.
After an independent investigation, FIRE states that it
is deeply concerned about Southwestern College's (SWC's) violations of the First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly of its faculty and students. SWC has unconstitutionally suspended three professors who did nothing more than join a group of students who peacefully protested SWC decisions and requested an audience with you. FIRE is also concerned about reports that the campus police have been used to intimidate faculty members and students and that students are being declared guilty of offenses for exercising their constitutional rights at SWC. Finally, FIRE has determined that SWC maintains and enforces an unconstitutional "free speech zone" policy restricting freedom of expression. SWC's policies and actions have chilled and restricted freedom of expression, making a mockery of students' and faculty members' constitutional guarantees of free speech and free association—rights that SWC, as a public institution, is bound by the First Amendment to protect.
The letter goes on to detail each of the above charges and concludes with the following statement:
Please spare SWC the embarrassment of fighting against the Bill of Rights—a statement of both law and principle by which the university is legally and morally bound. FIRE hopes to resolve this matter amicably and swiftly, but we are committed to using all of our resources to restoring justice at SWC.
The letter is lengthy, but if you are interested in an informed legal perspective on recent events, then please read it in its entirety. We also have a pdf version of the original letter.
And for other recent press updates, please see The Writer's Washroom, which continues to do an excellent job compiling recent coverage.