IU Students Advocating for Speech Code Reform Profiled in ‘Indiana Daily Student’

By on September 16, 2011

In the Indiana Daily Student this week, reporter Bailey Loosemore chronicles the ongoing efforts of Indiana University – Bloomington (IU) students to reform speech codes on their campus. Nico Perrino, an IU senior and former FIRE intern, started a committee with three other students last fall to challenge restrictive speech codes on IU’s campus. The article explains:

One IU policy lists Dunn Meadow as a spontaneous free speech zone. Another states organizations must register to use the space 24 hours in advance. Yet another policy calls for registration 10 days prior.

"Policies that force you to register ahead of time limit students’ ability to react to events," said senior Nico Perrino, an IDS columnist and former IU Student Association co-executive director of legal affairs. "What happened on Sept. 11? What if a group of students on Sept. 12 wanted to hold a vigil? The fact that they’d have to register 10 days in advance would inhibit something like that."

Nico and his group have appealed to several administrators, including the Student Affairs Committee (SAC), to talk about changing this and other campus policies. Sadly, the administrative response has not exactly been swift. The SAC told Nico that he would need to gain support from many other campus organizations as well as IU Student Legal Services before he and his group could meet with the Bloomington Faculty Council (BFC) to discuss potential changes. FIRE sent a letter to President pro Tempore Erika Dowell of the BFC, and then a second letter to IU President Michael McRobbie, urging them not to delay in changing unconstitutional policies. Loosemore explains:

When two months passed without a response from Dowell, Kissel sent a letter to President Michael McRobbie on July 25 again asking for policy revisions and a response from the administration by Aug. 15.

Kissel received a response three days before the deadline in which McRobbie wrote that he forwarded the letter and accompanying materials to IU Vice President and General Counsel Dorothy Frapwell.

On IU’s campus, however, Perrino said the silence from the administration ignores not only the IUSA committee’s requests, but also the law.

"Why IU is pushing back against students who are trying to fight for their rights is incomprehensible," he said.

FIRE prefers to work cooperatively with students and administrators to reform speech codes. Unfortunately, sometimes that approach results in this kind of foot-dragging. We remind IU to listen to its own students and make the policy changes necessary to meet its constitutional obligations.

Schools: Indiana University – Bloomington