NEWS | The Right to Free Speech and Firefly on Campus Image

Malcolm Reynolds, FireflyHave you heard the story about the college professor who was harassed by campus police over a poster of Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly that he put up outside of his office?

I happened to be visiting FIRE’s website today and noticed a video about the story. I first heard about this story a couple of months ago but for some reason didn’t write about it here at the time. It’s a particularly interesting news story for me because it occurred at the intersection of three of my interests: libertarianism, science fiction, and (higher) education. FIRE is the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, whose mission is defending said rights in higher education.

For those who might have missed the story, and in the interests of curating it here, I might as well do a “news” post about it now, eh?

To make a long story short, the campus police at the University of Wisconsin–Stout had a policy of censoring posters that were suggestive of violent threats. James Miller, a professor of theater and speech had put up a poster of Mal with a line of his from the pilot episode of Firefly:

You don’t know me, son, so let me explain this to you once: If I ever kill you, you’ll be awake, you’ll be facing me, and you’ll be armed.

The incident escalated from there, to the point that Miller contacted FIRE for help. Then the SF community got involved. Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin, and even Neil Gaiman notified their million-plus Twitter followers about the case. The university at first defended the censorship (free speech in academia!, eh? only for PC speech), but eventually folded under the mounting pressure from free speech advocates and Firefly fans.

If you want to learn more about the case, FIRE has extensive coverage. But for a brief introduction beyond my short summary, check out this video by FIRE featuring Neil himself:

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About the Author

Geoffrey Allan Plauché Executive Editor

Geoffrey is an Aristotelian-Liberal political philosopher, an adjunct instructor for Buena Vista University, the founder and executive editor of Prometheus Unbound, and the webmaster of The Libertarian Standard. His work has appeared in Libertarian Papers, the Journal of Libertarian Studies, the Journal of Value Inquiry, and Transformers and Philosophy. He lives in Edgewood, KY with his wife and two children.

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