Faced with a federal lawsuit, Georgia Tech recently decided to drop its unconstitutional speech code. The policy, which banned “hate-based conduct” and “denigrating written/verbal communications,” has been rescinded and Georgia Tech will need the permission of the court if it desires to change its speech policy in the next five years.
This is very similar to what happened at Penn State, which also recently avoided federal court by dropping its speech code
in an out-of-court settlement.
Why did these universities buckle so quickly? Maybe university lawyers are no longer willing to attempt to defend the indefensible and recognize that the legal argument over the constitutionality of speech codes is over. Every argument made in support of speech codes has been decisively defeated. The case law is sound and perhaps universities now realize that overbroad and vague speech restrictions at public universities are blatantly unconstitutional.
Maybe the speech code defeat at Georgia Tech will make more colleges realize that there is more then a moral obligation to preserve free speech on campus, but also a legal obligation to do so. Universities would be wise to voluntarily revise their speech codes instead of being forced to do it by a federal judge.
Georgia Institute of Technology