Tech rates low when it comes to campus free speech

February 8, 2012

College campuses in the Lone Star State got an "F" on a report card from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE. More than 80-percent of Texas college campuses, including Texas Tech received a red light rating. 

Director of Speech Code Research with FIRE Samantha Harris said Texas schools have a lot of work to do.

"Texas has a long way to go to when it comes to protecting student speech on campus," she said. "We rate universities by red light, yellow light, green light depending upon how much speech they restrict that would otherwise be protected by the First Amendment and the society at large." Red light rating is the worst rating."

Dean of Students Amy Murphy said for many years FIRE has raised freedom of speech issues at Texas Tech.

"Well I think it is disappointing how we are portrayed in FIRE’s recent report," she said.

The FIRE report puts the spotlight on several Tech policies. It states some policies violate freedom of speech. One policy in particular is under fire, it prohibits the use of "objectionable language" over email.

"First problem with this policy is its impossible to know in advance what is prohibited and to know an email you are sending is violating the policy," Harris said.

"I think a lot of our policies have actually already changed, and have been revised because of ongoing dialogue with FIRE and many other constituencies, about how to continue our policies," Murphy said. "We never want them to be really vague or really broad."

In 2004 Tech expanded its free speech zone, because of the legal challenge from FIRE.

Many Tech students said that is a key component in making sure their voice is heard on campus.

"A long time ago they used to restrict where you could speech to only the free speech area."

"I think if you have something to say they respect that. They kind of have it’s the First Amendment."

"There has been protests out there, that I don’t agree with, but its cool they have the chance to talk about it."

"We have interacted with them and have continuous dialogue in how to improve our policies, and maybe different interpretations of our policies.

Murphy also said Tech maintains its talks with FIRE, and will hopefully get that red light rating to a green.

Schools: Texas Tech University