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 to “freedom of discussion” and “the expression of dissent.” [...] » Read More
FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for August 2013: Florida Atlantic University (FAU).
Perhaps in response to some of the recent controversy at the university, FAU—a public university—has adopted a new policy on “Free Speech and Campus Civility” (PDF). That policy states, in relevant part:
Here at FAU, we encourage our campus community to exercise this cherished freedom in lively debate. In fact, we protect and promote that right. What we do insist on, however, is that everyone in the FAU community behave and speak to and about one another in ways that are not racist, religiously intolerant or otherwise [...] » Read More
FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for July 2013: the University of Central Arkansas (UCA). If you are applying to UCA, you had better make sure to brush up on your social skills, because UCA’s list of “Offenses Subject to Disciplinary Action” (PDF) includes “annoying” another person. This policy is overly broad because nearly all “annoying” speech is fully protected by the First Amendment. Indeed, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, the U.S. Supreme Court explicitly said as much in Terminiello v. Chicago, 337 U.S. 1, 4 (1949), when it held that “freedom of speech, [...] » Read More
FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for June 2013: Bemidji State University in Minnesota.
Bemidji State’s Student Code of Conduct prohibits:
engaging in any offensive, obscene or abusive language, or in boisterous or noisy conduct reasonably tending to arouse alarm, resentment, or anger in others on University-owned or controlled property or at University sponsored or supervised activities.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, speech and expression cannot be prohibited simply because others find it offensive. In Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397, 414 (1989), the U.S. Supreme Court held that "[i]f there is a [...] » Read More
FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for May 2013: Troy University in Alabama.
As FIRE’s annual speech codes report demonstrates, the percentage of colleges and universities maintaining unconstitutional speech codes has been on the decline for several years now. In our most recent report, the percentage of schools earning FIRE’s worst, “red light,” rating stood at just over 62%, down from a high of 75% five years ago.
One place where this change has been particularly evident is in university policies addressing harassment and discrimination. Over the years, an increasing number of schools have gotten the message that “harassment” [...] » Read More
FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for April 2013: Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL). Specifically, WUSTL’s Residence Life Policies and Procedures define “harassment” as:
any behavior or conduct that is injurious, or potentially injurious to a person’s physical, emotional, or psychological well-being, as determined at the sole discretion of the University. Such behavior is subject to disciplinary action.
While many speech codes open the door to administrative abuse of discretion, few are so shameless about it. In fact, the only similar policy that comes to mind is Northeastern University’s Appropriate Use Policy (PDF)—another former [...] » Read More
FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for March 2013: the University of Texas at San Antonio.
According to the university’s Handbook of Operating Procedures (PDF),
Anonymous publications are prohibited, and any individual or organization publishing or aiding in publishing, or circulating or aiding in circulating, any anonymous publication will be subject to disciplinary action.
However, the Supreme Court of the United States has repeatedly held that bans on anonymous publications violate the First Amendment, by which the University of Texas at San Antonio—a public university—is legally and morally bound. In Talley v. California, 362 U.S. 60, 64 (1960), the [...] » Read More
FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for February 2013: Wesleyan University.
Although Wesleyan is a private university, it claims to value free speech. Its Student Handbook states that (PDF) “Academic institutions exist for the transmission of knowledge, the pursuit of truth, the development of students, and the general well-being of society. Free inquiry and free expression are indispensable to the attainment of these goals.” Moreover, the handbook also contains a statement (PDF) on the “Responsibility of the University to Its Members” which explicitly provides that
It is the responsibility of every member of the University to [...] » Read More
Another year, a dozen more ridiculous speech codes. To kick off the new year, FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for January 2013: Auburn University at Montgomery (AUM).
AUM’s Policy Regarding Harassment and Discrimination of Students (PDF) prohibits harassment, which at AUM includes “jokes or other graphic or physical conduct relating to a student’s race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, sexual orientation, disability or veteran status.” After years of writing this monthly feature, I often feel like a broken record, but I will keep repeating myself so long as universities continue not to understand: a public [...] » Read More
FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for December 2012: the University of North Dakota (UND).
UND defines “harassment” (PDF) as:
[U]nacceptable behavior, which can range from violence and bullying to more subtle behavior such as ignoring an individual at work or study. It subjects an individual or a group to unwelcome attention, intimidation, humiliation, ridicule, offense or loss of privacy. It is unwanted by the recipient and continues after an objection is made.
The policy further provides that:
This definition includes sexual and racial harassment, and bullying as well as any other form of personal harassment arising from disability, sexual orientation, [...] » Read More