FIRE gets fired up regarding college speech codes

January 25, 2009

FIRE believes that many American public and private colleges and universities are overstepping their bounds and disregarding the U.S. Constitution when it comes to freedom of speech for students. In fact, they believe that many college administrators are censoring controversial and politically incorrect speech.

WorldNetDaily quotes a part of FIRE’s letter to President Obama: ”Failing to educate an entire generation about our constitutional ideals of liberty-and, still worse, actually teaching students that they have a duty to censor opinions with which they disagree-means that it will not be long before these illiberal attitudes result in severe consequences for our Republic.”

FIRE has published a detailed study and discovered that 77 percent of public colleges and universities have speech codes that are unconstitutional. The study can be found on Spotlight on Speech Codes 2009: The State of Free Speech on Our Nation’s Campuses.

FIRE also discovered that public universities severely punish students for their actions. For example, at Valdosta State University in Georgia, a student was expelled for creating a satirical collage protesting the university’s decision to construct campus parking garages. A student employee of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis was found guilty of racial harassment for simply reading a book that was celebrating the defeat of the Ku Klux Klan. The book had pictures on the cover of Klansmen.

The Foundation For Individual Rights In Education cites the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Davis V. Monroe County Board of Education’s case concerning student-on-student harassment in these terms: ”so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive, and that so undermines and detracts from the victims’ educational experience, that the victim-students are effectively denied equal access to an institution’s resources and opportunities.”

FIRE strongly urges President Obama to speak out against college speech codes.