FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for December 2014: Pennsylvania State University (Penn State).
At Penn State, “Sexual Harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is unwanted, inappropriate, or unconsented to.” This is a staggeringly broad definition that includes a tremendous amount of protected speech. According to the plain language of this policy, a single off-color joke or comment is sufficient to constitute sexual harassment if someone subjectively finds it inappropriate, or merely doesn’t consent to hearing it. This is a clear violation of students’ First Amendment rights, which Penn State—as a public university—is legally bound to uphold.» Read More
FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for November 2014: the University of Central Missouri.
While restrictive speech codes are on the decline nationwide, the University of Central Missouri (UCM) adopted several new, unconstitutional speech codes last year—a move that earned UCM FIRE’s worst, “red light,” rating for severely restricting students’ free speech rights.» Read More
FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for October 2014: the University of New Mexico.
The University of New Mexico’s (UNM’s) Sexual Harassment Policy (PDF) states that “[e]xamples of sexual harassment which shall not be tolerated” include “suggestive” letters, notes, or invitations. The policy also prohibits “displaying sexually suggestive or derogatory objects, pictures, cartoons, or posters,” albeit with the vague disclaimer that such displays will be “evaluated for appropriateness such as art displayed in museums … .”» Read More
FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for September 2014: Boise State University.
Boise State’s Information Technology Resource Use policy (PDF) prohibits the use of university IT resources for “displaying, transmitting, retrieving, or storing inappropriate or offensive material,” unless “identified and pre-approved in writing by the [Vice President for] Academic Affairs and Provost as part of legitimate research, teaching, or academic pursuits.”
According to the plain language of this policy, faculty whose courses include discussions of sensitive topics must obtain advance administrative approval before they send any potentially “offensive” course-related material to a class listserv or discussion group. And [...] » Read More
FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for August 2014: Arkansas State University.
Arkansas State’s Standards of Student Conduct (PDF) include a set of “principles [that] are part of the collective expectation of the members of this community relative to personal conduct.” One of those principles is “civility,” which Arkansas State defines as follows:
Members of a learning community interact with others in a courteous and polite manner. Members of the community are expected to respect the values, opinions or feelings of others.
Lest there be any question as to whether these “principles” are aspirational or mandatory, the policy goes [...] » Read More
FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for July 2014: Armstrong State University, a public university in the University System of Georgia.
Armstrong’s list of student conduct offenses (PDF) includes, among other things:
Sexual harassment (i.e., unwelcome sexual advances or conduct, creation of a hostile environment as perceived by the complainant, or the demand for sexual favors in return for some benefit.)
This prohibition is so broad that a wide range of constitutionally protected speech—including controversial speech on political or social issues—may be punished by the university as sexual harassment.
One of the critical elements of sexual harassment in the educational [...] » Read More
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 [...] » 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 fines and/or disciplinary [...] » 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 Mesa! I’m sure [...] » 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 what students and [...] » Read More