Editorial: Make sure rules are clear at FGCU

July 18, 2008

Rules can be a work in progress. But getting them right is important, especially when freedom of speech is involved in a setting that is supposed to nurture lively exchanges.

Florida Gulf Coast University, barely a decade old, owes a "thank you” to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education ( FIRE), a watchdog organization over campus free speech around the country.

The group has spotted vague wording in at least areas three which could be interpreted as infringing on rather than protecting rights.

n First example: A ban on "expressions deemed inappropriate.” That has been refined by FGCU to mean violence or direct threats of violence or verbal assault.

n FIRE goes on to say FGCU could do better with its ban on communications – phone calls and e-mails, for example – that are "annoying, abusive, excessive, threatening or obscene.”

The organization as well as students see the problem there. Annoying? Could that mean text messages in upper and lower case, which are annoying to some? Or e-mails from campus organizations?

n Third, FIRE aims at harassment and FGCU’s ban on "offensive or demeaning language or treatment of an individual, where such language is based typically on prejudicial treatment.”

That means what?

When new students come to campus, the rules ought to be clear so everyone knows what is expected. Plus, when there are problems on campus the rules have to be there for resolutions.

Thanks, FIRE. Your input is extremely educational.

The outside review goes to show what can be gained from a fresh set of eyes with a different perspective. This one can be used as FGCU does routine reviews of what is and is not in the school’s best interests.

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Schools: Florida Gulf Coast University