Group Files Suit to End Campus Speech Codes

July 1, 2014

By Christine Rousselle at Townhall

FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, filed four lawsuits today against universities with restrictive speech codes on campus. The universities named in the suits are Ohio University, Chicago State University, Iowa State University, and Citrus College (Calif.).

“Unconstitutional campus speech codes have been a national scandal for decades. But today, 25 years after the first of the modern generation of speech codes was defeated in court, 58% of public campuses still hold onto shockingly illiberal codes,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “For 15 years, FIRE has fought for free speech on campus using public awareness as our main weapon, but more is needed. Today, we announce the launch of the Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project, an expansive new campaign to eliminate speech codes nationwide. We have already coordinated two lawsuits in the past nine months, and this morning we brought four more. The lawsuits will continue until campuses understand that time is finally up for unconstitutional speech codes in academia.”

The four schools each have a history of censoring student or faculty speech on campus. Citrus College, for example, has a “Free Speech Area” composed of 1.37 percent of its campus that is the only area on campus where free speech is actually permitted.

In 2013, FIRE filed a lawsuit against Modesto Junior College after a student was told he was not allowed to distribute copies of the U.S. Constitution on Constitution Day. The school settled for $50,000. A similar suit was filed against the University of Hawaii at Hilo, who also disciplined students for attempting to distribute the U.S. Constitution.

Free speech doesn’t end the second one steps upon a college campus. Students deserve full free speech rights like any other citizen — good for FIRE for holding these schools accountable.

Schools: Citrus College Chicago State University Ohio University Iowa State University Cases: FIRE’s Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project Citrus College – Stand Up For Speech Chicago State University – Stand Up For Speech Iowa State University – Stand Up For Speech Ohio University – Stand Up For Speech