Speech Codes of the Year: 2007

By on December 27, 2007

As Torch readers know, each month FIRE singles out a particularly egregious speech code for our Speech Code of the Month award. While all twelve Speech Codes of the Month for 2007 were both tragic and laughable, I would like to highlight a few that deserve special mention as our Speech Codes of the Year:

  • Northeastern University in Boston. Northeastern’s Appropriate Use of Computer and Network Resources Policy provides that no student may use Northeastern’s information systems or facilities to “[t]ransmit or make accessible material, which in the sole judgment of the University is offensive….”
  • McNeese State University in Louisiana. McNeese State maintains what is possibly the most restrictive free speech zone policy FIRE has ever seen, with the possible exception of Texas Tech’s infamous free speech gazebo: The “Public Forum Regulations” provide that students may exercise their right to speak and demonstrate—a right guaranteed to students of this public institution by the First Amendment—in just two “zones.” Even within those zones, students may only speak in the zones once per week, for a maximum of two hours; student groups may only demonstrate “once during each Fall, Spring, and summer session in the assigned demonstration zone only”; applications to use the zones must be received at least 72 hours in advance; and the zones may only be used from dawn to dusk, Monday through Friday.
  • Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho. Lewis-Clark’s student harassment policy prohibits “Any practice by a group or an individual that…embarrasses…a member of the College community…” on college-owned or controlled property. This is reminiscent of one of last year’s Speech Codes of the Year, Jacksonville State University, which at the time prohibited “offending” anyone on university property.
Since Speech Code of the Month became a regular feature in June 2005, seven universities have fully revised the policies that earned them the dubious distinction. It is our hope that in 2008, yet more universities—including those named here—will make the changes necessary to give their students the freedom they deserve. Happy holidays, and look for 2008’s first Speech Code of the Month next week!