Greg Lukianoff: ‘Campus Speech Codes: Absurd, Tenacious, and Everywhere’

May 28, 2008

FIRE President Greg Lukianoff’s extensive article on speech codes, entitled "Campus Speech Codes: Absurd, Tenacious, and Everywhere," is now posted on the National Association of Scholars’ website. The article is a must read, covering every aspect of speech codes: their origination, their current status on campus, why they continue to exist despite their clear unconstitutionality, and, finally, strategies to eradicate their presence on campus.

As Greg points out, despite the fact that courts have consistently found speech codes unconstitutional, schools continue to promulgate them. FIRE’s evaluation of 346 universities’ policies in 2007 revealed that 75% of all schools and 79% of public schools had at least one policy that "clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech." The results of FIRE’s empirical studythe most comprehensive study of speech codes to datebelie the oft-made claim that speech codes are no longer a problem.

In the article, Greg identifies four main reasons for the stubborn persistence of speech codes: an ideology of political correctness, a self-perpetuating bureaucracy of school officials paid to manage student life, a school’s fear of being sued for failing to provide a safe and welcoming environment, and a genuine ignorance of the law concerning free speech.

Greg details FIRE’s multi-faceted approach to counter these forces, including educating schools, coordinating litigation, exposing practices to the public eye, and working to change the culture, and in some cases, the law.

Read the whole article. As Greg writes:

Because our campuses seem oblivious to the dangers inherent in raising a generation that sees little wrong in regulating away "disagreeable" expression, it is up to those of us who care about preserving the basic principles of liberty to band together in this fight. It is a fight we can win, and indeed it is a fight we must win. Campus speech codes have survived for too long; it is time that they are finally relegated to the dustbin of history.