Temple University: Speech Code Litigation

Category: Free Speech
Schools: Temple University

Sergeant Christian DeJohn, a graduate student at Temple University and decorated member of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, sued Temple University in federal court, claiming both that its speech code violated the First Amendment rights of Temple students and that Temple had engaged in actions that violated his rights. FIRE filed an amicus curiae (friend-of-the-court) brief in DeJohn’s case, which was joined by numerous organizations including the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the Christian Legal Society, and the Student Press Law Center. Upholding a federal district court’s earlier decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held in August 2008 that Temple’s sexual harassment policy was unconstitutionally overbroad for prohibiting, among other things, “generalized sexist remarks and behavior.” In striking down this policy on its face, the Third Circuit held that “[d]iscussion by adult students in a college classroom should not be restricted,” and that Temple’s code untenably “provide[d] no shelter for core protected speech.” Temple has since retaliated against DeJohn, however, by refusing to grant an impartial review of his completed Master’s thesis, essentially preventing DeJohn from ever receiving his degree.