For Immediate Release · 19 October 2003

October 17, 2003
Contact: Sara Russo
202-969-2467

Students for Academic Freedom Protests Roger Williams University's Suppression of Free Speech

Students for Academic Freedom issued a call today for Roger Williams University to cease their suppression of free speech on campus. The president and administration of the school froze the funding of a conservative student publication, The Hawk's Right Eye, and publicly castigated the paper's editors for their viewpoints. The newspaper had printed articles criticizing the lack of diversity of opinion among university-sponsored speakers this fall.

In an email sent to the entire campus, University President Roy J. Nirschel stated that The Hawk's Right Eye had "crossed seriously over the lines of propriety and respect" and accused the editors of having "flirted with racist and anti-Islamic rhetoric."

Despite claiming to support the free speech rights of campus groups, the administration froze $2700 in funding granted to the Hawk's Right Eye to publish nine issues, effectively silencing them. The administration together with the student senate will now decide whether the paper should be permanently defunded.

"This is a direct assault on the right of students to express opinions and is a stain on the reputation of a university that bears the name of one of America's most famous defenders of freedom of conscience," said Sara Russo, the National Campus Director of Students for Academic Freedom. "The charges brought against these student journalists are baseless and President Nirschel's intervention in a dispute over controversial public issues violates the posture of organizational neutrality that an institution of higher learning ought to maintain."

Students at Roger Williams are currently in the process of registering an official chapter of Students for Academic Freedom which will defend the free speech rights of the editors of The Hawk's Right Eye and will urge the administration to adopt an Academic Bill of Rights.

Students for Academic Freedom is a new national initiative dedicated to restoring academic diversity and educational values to America's institutions of higher learning. The organization recommends that colleges and universities adopt an Academic Bill of Rights to ensure that these principles are respected. The Academic Bill of Rights is available on the organization's website at http://studentsforacademicfreedom.org/abor.html.
"An environment conducive to the civil exchange of ideas being an essential component of a free university, the obstruction of invited campus speakers, destruction of campus literature or other effort to obstruct this exchange will not be tolerated," states one clause in the Academic Bill of Rights which would have protected The Hawk's Right Eye from attempts at censorship.