FIRE President on Repressive Speech Codes

March 14, 2008

FIRE President Greg Lukianoff authored an article on the prevalence of campus speech codes for the latest issue of Trusteeship, the magazine of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges.

In his explanation of speech codes, Greg suggested several reasons that motivate the authors of speech codes to keep these policies on the books on campuses across the country. Greg wrote:

The four factors I point to are (1) ideologypolitical correctness is alive and well on campus; (2) bureaucracy-the expansion of administrative staff has resulted in a tendency to over-regulate student life; (3) liabilityadministrators often pass these codes believing that they may help insulate them from liability if they are sued for allowing offensive speech on campus; and (4) misinformationadministrators often are not taught the philosophy behind free speech and carry real misconceptions about allowable restrictions.

These reasons illustrate exactly why so many of FIRE’s programs are absolutely vital for preserving students’ rights on campus. Our highly successful public awareness programsincluding our Speech Codes Litigation Project, Guides to Student Rights on Campus, Spotlight database, and newly re-launched Campus Freedom Networkare crucial in our work to educate students and administrators alike about students’ rights on campus. If administrators are well aware of their constitutional and contractual obligations to their students, they will no longer be able to (in good faith, at least) hide behind any of these reasons when fashioning policies restricting speech.