On September 17—Constitution Day—I joined FIRE’s Joe Cohn and Tyler Coward to speak to students and faculty of James Madison College at Michigan State University (MSU) about campus speech codes and what students can do to reform them.
Today, The State News, MSU’s campus newspaper, covered the event, relaying a key practical argument in favor of freedom of expression:
Legislative and Policy Director Joseph Cohn and [Shelby] Emmett acknowledged the fact that defending freedom of speech can often appear as if they are defending the aggressor. However, Cohn welcomes the idea of certain individuals and groups “self-identifying their bigotry.”
This not only flags certain groups as intolerant, he said, but it gives the afflicted a chance to voice their own opinion, garner support and fight back using their own rights.
“Free speech has been the driving advancement in every single progressive movement in this country,” Cohn said.
As a James Madison College alumna, it was a privilege to return to campus. As expected, the students were engaged, passionate, and eager to learn more about their rights on campus. Currently, MSU has a “yellow light” rating, meaning that its speech codes can too easily be used to punish or censor constitutionally protected expression. No college or university in Michigan has earned FIRE’s best, “green light” rating.
FIRE looks forward to working with MSU to reform their speech codes so they can be the first Michigan university to “go green.”
Photo: Kennedy Thatch, The State News