Commentary & News Briefs

December 2, 2005

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is urging America’s oldest undergraduate honor society to place pressure on its member institutions to drop restrictions on student speech. FIRE’s legal director Greg Lukianoff says just about every school that has a Phi Beta Kappa chapter maintains some kind of speech code, many of which are what FIRE grades as "red light" speech codes. For example, Lukianoff points out, Oberlin College in Ohio has a code that prevents speech that calls attention to sexual orientation or gender. "The idea that you can’t call attention to sexual orientation or gender — and somehow that’s consistent with free speech — is absurd," he says. "And if Phi Beta Kappa is serious about free inquiry and academic freedom, they should be talking to member institutions and trying to get them to drop these outrageous speech codes." Phi Beta Kappa recently denied George Mason University’s application for membership after the school canceled a speech by liberal filmmaker Michael Moore.

Cases:  Phi Beta Kappa: Member Institutions’ Speech Codes