Shippensburg University: Speech Code Litigation

Category: Free Speech
Schools: Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania

In April 2003, FIRE Legal Network attorneys David A. French and William Adair Bonner filed a complaint against Shippensburg University, challenging the legality of its speech code, on behalf of two unnamed students. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania later issued a preliminary injunction ordering Shippensburg to cease enforcement of certain aspects of the speech code. The attorneys reached an out-of-court settlement with Shippensburg in 2004, in which the school agreed to replace unconstitutional provisions of its Code of Conduct and to rewrite its Racism and Cultural Diversity Policy. Four years later, Shippensburg reinstated several unconstitutional provisions from the speech codes, in violation of the agreement. After the Alliance Defense Fund filed suit on behalf of several Shippensburg students in May 2008, the university again settled out of court, eliminating its unconstitutional speech codes once again.

  • Complaint claims Shippensburg U. ‘speech codes’ discriminated against religious group

    May 8, 2008

    by Don Aines Herald-Mail   The Alliance Defense Fund on Wednesday filed a complaint in federal court against Shippensburg University, claiming the university violated a 2004 settlement with a First Amendment advocacy group through “speech codes” that discriminated against a campus religious group. The complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, states the university violated the 2004 agreement with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) when it “reinserted unconstitutional provisions into current university policy,” according to a press release from FIRE. That included “in many cases utilizing language copied seemingly verbatim from […]

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  • Shippensburg sued for reinstating speech codes

    May 8, 2008

    Shippensburg University, located outside Harrisburg, is back in court four years after officials agreed to settle a lawsuit by repealing its controversial speech codes, which civil rights advocates argued infringed on the First Amendment rights of students. Claiming the university breached a previous settlement agreement, civil rights attorneys filed another lawsuit against the university Wednesday claiming the school reinstated a number of unconstitutional speech codes, some containing the exact language of those originally challenged. “Shippensburg’s ‘courthouse conversion’ several years ago, when it promised to respect the First Amendment and change its ways, has now proven insincere,” said ADF senior legal […]

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  • When Speech Becomes a Crime

    June 28, 2006

    Roman Catholic Robert Smith is fired from an appointment on the Washington Metro transit authority board by Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich for the crime of saying that he doesn’t approve of homosexuality. Journalist and author Oriana Fallaci cannot visit her native country of Italy for fear of being thrown in prison because of a lawsuit brought against her by the Italian Muslim Union for the crime of “defaming Islam.” British neo-Nazi David Irving is sentenced to three years in prison in Austria for a 1989 speech in which he committed the crime of Holocaust denial. College Republican Steve Hinkle is […]

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  • Campus Conscience Police?

    December 21, 2005

    “Over one’s inner mind, and self, no one has coercive power.” So write attorneys Jordan Lorence and Harvey A. Silverglate, authors of the just-published Guide to First-Year Orientation and Thought Reform on Campus from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). The Guide is yet another indication that political correctness is faltering on campuses across North America. To those who value the right of individuals to a conscience—that is, to judge right and wrong for themselves—this is welcome news. Political correctness is the belief that certain ideas and attitudes are improper and, so, should be discouraged or prohibited by […]

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  • Bad Frog Beer to ‘intelligent design’

    October 17, 2005

    Until he was assigned Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones 3d was probably best known, if at all, for some controversial decisions while presiding over Pennsylvania’s state-run liquor system. As chairman of the Liquor Control Board for seven years, Jones spearheaded then-Gov. Tom Ridge’s failed campaign to privatize the state stores and banned the sale of Bad Frog Beer because he thought that the label broke the boundaries of good taste. The offending label featured a frog flipping the bird. Today, Jones is presiding over the most closely watched trial in America. Kitzmiller v. […]

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  • Wronging student rights

    September 3, 2005

    By Greg Lukianoff in The Boston Globe As summer ends and college students return to campus, a number of dreadful court decisions may cause them to wonder if their rights have taken a permanent vacation. While the past decades have hardly been a golden age for student rights, there was good reason to be optimistic in recent years. Speech codes fell at colleges from New York to California, the Department of Education finally clarified that “harassment” does not mean just being offended, and Texas Tech University had to admit that its lone 20-foot-wide “free speech gazebo” was inadequate space for […]

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  • Liberating America’s Intellectual Gulags

    April 15, 2005

    David French knows what intimidation is. French, the new President of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, graduated from Harvard Law School in the early 1990s. One might say that anyone with similar credentials ought to know the definition of intimidation – but French’s experience is a bit more personal than that.“As a pro-life, Christian conservative, I received death threats in my campus mailbox, was shouted down by students and (once) was even shouted down in class by my own professor,” he says about his years in Cambridge. French now spends much of his time explaining to university general […]

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  • Beware of universities that wear diversity label

    April 14, 2004

    In far too many instances, what passes as college life and education today is no less than shameful. Under the name of diversity and political correctness, billions of taxpayer dollars and donor contributions are used to promote what might be charitably called enlightened racism, uniformity of thought and political proselytizing. Let’s look at some of it.The student code of Shippensburg University, in Pennsylvania, said that students had a “right to express a personal belief system” but only if such expression did not “demean,” “annoy” or “alarm” others. Thus, if a student expressed a distaste for race or sex preferences in […]

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  • Campus rules overreach

    March 3, 2004

    Following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, several students at Shippensburg (Pa.) University put up posters in their dorms depicting Osama bin Laden in a rifle’s crosshairs. But school officials ordered the posters removed. The students said they were told the signs might offend other dorm residents. In response to that bit of political correctness run amok, a group representing the students sued the university, claiming its code of student conduct limits free speech. A federal judge agreed. Last week, the school revised its code, which had banned ”any unwanted conduct which annoys, demeans or alarms.” The case illustrates how colleges’ […]

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  • The Philadelphia Inquirer, USA Today, and the Pasadena Star-News on FIRE

    March 3, 2004

    Universities still do not comprehend that their contempt for free speech places them far, far outside of the mainstream of American public opinion. In particular, they seem continually surprised that the media, who live or die by the Bill of Rights, understand freedom of expression full well. The March 1 lead editorial of The Philadelphia Inquirer, an editorial in today’s USA Today, and yet another editorial in the Pasadena Star-News offer a compelling textbook education, if academic administrators are willing to listen, in the relationship of higher education and freedom of speech.

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  • Free speech dilemmas; Free speech ‘zones’ and ‘codes’ go from campus to court

    January 12, 2004

    The free speech wars continue to be waged on university campuses, producing their fair share of First Amendment litigation.While campus “speech codes” that discipline students for offensive or so-called “politically incorrect” speech have been roundly condemned by the courts, they are still generating controversy.But still to be tested are “free speech zones,” which confine free speech activities to a specific area of a campus. Such zones are vulnerable to challenge if used as a kind of banishment that isolates speakers from their intended audience.Greg C. Lukianoff, director of legal and public advocacy for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, […]

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  • Confronting the campus radicals

    January 7, 2004

    David Horowitz thinks that anybody who cares about the future should confront the fact that U.S. colleges and universities are the fountainhead of financing for the radical movement in America. He has personally taken up the challenge to do something about this.Horowitz was a left-wing campus activist in the 1960s, but he says that men who were too radical even for him and Ramparts, the magazine he edited in the 1960s, now hold tenure at major universities. During the 1970s, these hardcore leftists achieved critical mass on university faculties, took control of hiring committees, and then saw to it that […]

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  • Survey: many college students fuzzy on first amendment rights

    January 1, 2004

    PHILADELPHIA — One out of four college students in a nationwide survey was unable to name any of the freedoms protected by the First Amendment, according to a free-speech watchdog group.“These survey results are disheartening, but they unfortunately are not surprising,” says Alan Charles Kors, president of the nonprofit Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).Even among campus administrators who were surveyed, from presidents to assistant deans, 11 percent couldn’t name any specific First Amendment rights, the survey indicated. And when asked which freedom the amendment addresses first, only 2 percent of the students and 6 percent of the administrators […]

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  • Speech Codes: Alive and Well at Colleges…

    August 1, 2003

    By Greg Lukianoff and Harvey Silverglate at The Chronicle of Higher Education Five years ago, a higher-education editor for The New York Times informed one of us, Harvey Silverglate, that Neil L. Rudenstine — then president of Harvard University — had insisted that Harvard did not have, much less enforce, any “speech codes.” Silverglate suggested the editor dig deeper, because virtually any undergraduate could contest the president’s claim. A mere three years earlier, the faculty of the Harvard Law School had adopted “Sexual Harassment Guidelines” targeted at “seriously offensive” speech. The guidelines were passed in response to a heated campus […]

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  • War of Words

    May 23, 2003

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  • Fire on American Campuses

    May 7, 2003

    By Richard L. Cravatts at The Washington Dispatch

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  • Race, Diversity, Speech Rights, Dress Codes

    April 27, 2003

    By Scott Norvell at FOXnews A group of Boston ministers who used to enjoy free golfing at a city-owned course is saying the decision to rescind that privilege is racist, reported the Boston Globe. A city contract to run the course in Franklin Park, Mass., previously allowed the mayor, the parks commissioner and “duly ordained ministers” to play without paying greens fees. But last week, after details of the contract were revealed, the policy was abolished. The Rev. James Allen, pastor of the Shekinah Glory Church of God in Christ in Mattapan, Mass., said the decision was unfair because a […]

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