New Book by FIRE President Greg Lukianoff Reveals Dangers of Campus Censorship

Ann McClure's picture

PHILADELPHIA, October 23, 2012-With Free Speech Weekupon us, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is proud to announce the release of Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate, the new book by FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. In Unlearning Liberty, available wherever books are sold, Lukianoff explores how a generation of campus censorship has impoverished not just higher education but American discourse more broadly. All royalties from sales of the book will support FIRE's work defending individual rights on campus.

"Liberal arts colleges and universities will never be the same in the post-Unlearning Liberty era. They can still censor the speech, and seek to control the thoughts, of their students, but Greg Lukianoff has made it impossible for them to carry out their destructive designs in the shadows. The sunlight of this book will have an enormous impact on the effort to disinfect our institutions of higher learning," said FIRE Chairman, co-founder, and Boston civil liberties attorney Harvey A. Silverglate. With University of Pennsylvania professor Alan Charles Kors, Silverglate co-authored The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America's Campuses, the book that fourteen years ago launched the movement that became FIRE.

Released to coincide with Free Speech Week 2012, which runs from October 22-28, Unlearning Liberty is drawing rave reviews from intellectuals and civil libertarians from across the political spectrum. Harvard psychology professor and author Steven Pinker calls it an "alternately entertaining and shocking book." Columnist, author, and civil libertarian Nat Hentoff deems the book "enlightening and revelatory," and recommends it to "anyone concerned about the future of higher education." Author and Brookings Institution scholar Jonathan Rauch says, "Here's a book full of sunlight-the best disinfectant for campus censorship." And Nadine Strossen, ACLU president from 1991-2008, calls the book "beautifully written and powerfully argued."

In Unlearning Liberty, Lukianoff walks readers through the life of today's college student, from orientation to the end of freshman year. Through this lens, he describes startling violations of free speech rights: a student in Indiana punished for publicly reading a book, a student in Georgia expelled for an environmentalist collage he posted on Facebook, students at Yale banned from putting an F. Scott Fitzgerald quote on a T-shirt, and students across the country banished to tiny "free speech zones." But Lukianoff goes further, demonstrating how this culture of censorship is bleeding into the larger society. As he explores public controversies involving Juan Williams, Rush Limbaugh, Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins, and Lawrence Summers, along with campus uproars in which humorist Dave Barry and Jon Stewart's The Daily Show played a role, Lukianoff paints a stark picture of our diminishing ability as a nation to rationally discuss important issues.

"Whether you have children still in grade school or haven't set foot on a college campus for decades, Unlearning Liberty explains why censorship on campus and the bad lessons students are learning about living in a free society affect every single one of us," author Greg Lukianoff said. "Speech codes and supposedly 'well-intentioned' censorship on campus have faded into the background of the national consciousness, but in my book, I reveal how repression on campus not only poses a long-term threat to all of our freedoms, but also impedes and distorts the way we talk to each other as Americans."