KY School Responds to Call for Speech Policy Change

April 18, 2014

By Bob Kellogg at OneNewsNow

Western Kentucky University made the change after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and WKU’s Student Government Association challenged a policy that prohibited the use of school email resources for “[t]ransmitting statements, language, images or other materials that are reasonably likely to be perceived as offensive ….”

Robert Shibley, executive vice president of FIRE, says similar policies are commonplace on America’s university campuses these days.

“Over and over again, FIRE sees universities try to limit speech in an attempt to prevent anyone from being offended,” he tells OneNewsNow. “But unfortunately what they’re doing is limiting students’ ability to learn, to disagree with one another and to argue, and to really learn what they truly believe.”

Social media has recently become entangled in free-speech rights and issues because of its explosive growth – and at times, says Shibley, that poses a legal challenge.

“People are saying things on social media that they used to only say to their friends and family members – and now everybody in the world can see what they’re saying,” says the FIRE executive. “So it’s a difficult societal adjustment – but we need to remember the principles of free speech don’t change simply because we don’t like what we’re hearing.”

Shibley reports WKU has revised its “Computing Ethics” policy and no longer prohibits students from advocating religious or political opinion online. FIRE had designated that specific policy as its speech code of the month in early March. Shortly thereafter, the school announced the policy change.

Schools: Western Kentucky University