FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for June 2014: Bates College.
Bates, which is located in Lewiston, Maine, prohibits “bias incidents,” which it defines as follows:
A bias incident is any event of intolerance or prejudice, not involving violence or other criminal conduct, intended to threaten, offend or intimidate another because of the other’s race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age or physical or mental disability. Examples of bias incidents include hate speech, gay bashing, racist epithets, religious slurs, sexist jokes or cartoons, hate mail, offensive graffiti, or disparaging remarks on social media [...] » Read More
FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for May 2014: Wake Forest University.
Wake Forest’s policy on “Campus Posting” (PDF) explicitly restricts student postings on the basis of their viewpoint and has the potential to significantly impact political speech on campus. Specifically, the policy provides:
All signs/posters/flyers displayed on campus must be in good taste, consistent with University policies, and must not contain sexist, racist, profane or derogatory remarks, or nudity.
Moreover, while most university posting policies simply allow for the removal of prohibited posters, Wake Forest’s goes much further, providing that “[v]iolators may be subject to [...] » Read More
FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for April 2014: Colorado Mesa University.
Colorado Mesa’s policy on “Free Speech” (PDF) provides:
In an effort to support the rights of students and others, a Free Speech Zone has been designated within the perimeter of the University. The concrete patio adjacent to the west door of the University Center has been designated the Free Speech Zone. The location is a central pedestrian thoroughfare for daily campus life and easy access to classroom, residential, and activity centers on campus.
Wow, a whole concrete patio just for expressive activity? Thanks, Colorado [...] » Read More
FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for March 2014: Western Kentucky University.
Western Kentucky’s (WKU’s) Computing Ethics Policy (PDF) prohibits the use of university email resources for “[t]ransmitting statements, language, images or other materials that are reasonably likely to be perceived as offensive or disparaging of others based on race, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability, religious or political beliefs.” The policy also prohibits the use of university email for “advocating religious or political opinions.”
This policy effectively shuts down open discourse over the university’s email system and threatens academic freedom by severely restricting [...] » Read More
FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for February 2014: the University of Richmond.
The University of Richmond’s Standards of Student Conduct (PDF) prohibit “disruption,” which includes, among other things, “inappropriate behavior or expression.” This extraordinarily broad and vague prohibition gives the university administration carte blanche to punish, as allegedly disruptive, virtually any expression it finds inconvenient or unwelcome.
While the University of Richmond is private, it claims (PDF) to value freedom of inquiry and speech. It cannot, consistent with these values, simply prohibit any expression that another party subjectively deems inappropriate. First, most “inappropriate” [...] » Read More
FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for January 2014: the University of West Alabama (UWA).
The University of West Alabama has a new policy prohibiting “Cyberbullying and Cyber Harassment” (PDF) that subjects virtually every student and faculty member on campus to punishment. That is because the policy defines cyberbullying to include not only unlawful conduct and unprotected speech, but also “harsh text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles.”
Go ahead and read that one again: “harsh text messages or emails.” Given that a “harsh” [...] » Read More
FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for December 2013: Virginia State University.
According to Virginia State’s Student Code of Conduct (PDF), “[s]tudents shall not injure, harass, threaten, offend, or degrade a member of the University community” (emphasis added). Any violation of this provision “is subject to disciplinary sanctions including, but not limited to warning, probation, loss of privileges, fines, restitution, residence hall suspension, residence hall expulsion, Virginia State University suspension, and Virginia State University expulsion.”
So here we have a public university, legally bound by the First Amendment, threatening to expel students if they “offend” another student on campus. [...] » Read More
FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for November 2013: Rogers State University.
The Student Code (PDF) at Oklahoma’s Rogers State University includes a policy on “Campus Expression” that provides, in relevant part:
In order to protect the rights of all concerned individuals, any students or student organizations wanting to hold a peaceful protest must register with the Office of Student Affairs by filling out a “Campus Expression Form” at least three (3) days prior to the event. A meeting will be arranged with the event organizers, Office of Student Affairs and the Office of Campus Police to facilitate [...] » Read More
FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for October 2013: Salem State University.
The Guide to Living on Campus for Massachusetts’ Salem State includes a Policy Against Racism (PDF) that applies to all students living in the university’s residence halls, spaces where students often speak the most freely. That policy “prohibits racism, anti-Semitism and ethnic or cultural intolerance.” It also prohibits
all actions or omissions—including all acts of verbal harassment or abuse—that deny or have the effect of denying anyone his or her rights to equality, dignity and security on the basis of his or her [...] » Read More
FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for September 2013: Syracuse University.
Syracuse has just one “red light” speech code on its books, but it’s a doozy. The university’s Computing and Electronic Communications Policy (PDF) prohibits using its computer systems to send “offensive messages,” including “sexually, ethnically, racially, or religiously offensive messages.” This broad policy could apply to virtually any online expression that another person finds offensive, including earnest discussions of politically charged topics like immigration, affirmative action, and gay marriage. As such, it is wholly inconsistent with Syracuse’s commitment [...] » Read More