‘Indiana Daily Student’ Highlights Problems with Speech Codes at IU

By on February 4, 2011

Connor Caudill at the Indiana Daily Student published a column this week highlighting FIRE’s recent memo explaining problematic speech codes at Indiana University-Bloomington (IU). Caudill was surprised to learn that "[m]any of the policies at IU that govern our free speech rights as students are prohibitive."

The article explains two major problems with IU’s policies. Caudill first discusses the Code of Students Rights and Responsibilities, noting that the IU definition of acceptable speech does not pass constitutional muster and that its "civility" language is mandatory rather than aspirational. (Public universities cannot constitutionally mandate that their students be "civil" at all times.)

He then cites the university’s free speech zones, which quarantine student expression to certain areas of campus:

Another major issue I take with the University’s policies on free speech is the areas designated as free-speech zones. Currently as students we are only allowed to organize protests and express freely in two areas of campus: Dunn Meadow and the Sample Gates.

Even more disheartening is the fact that the only place we can "spontaneously" assemble and express our opinions is Dunn Meadow, and we even have to register with IU to do so.

The article concludes with a call to action:

We can agree that the right to free speech is not absolute. Shouting fire in a crowded theater poses "a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil," as in the Court’s test in Terminiello v. Chicago.

But if the University has policies similar to ones that have been deemed unconstitutional by the highest court in the land, then they need to be changed.

IU student and 2010 FIRE intern Nico Perrino has been working with the IU Student Association to make these changes and achieve FIRE’s coveted green-light status for IU. Hopefully, Caudill’s article will raise awareness of student rights at IU and inspire more students to support Nico’s efforts.

Schools: Indiana University – Bloomington