The Indiana Daily Student, the student newspaper for Indiana University-Bloomington (IU), published an article this week about the university’s yellow-light rating in Spotlight, FIRE’s speech code database.
The article highlights several restrictive speech policies at IU, including the policy establishing a free speech zone. Reporter Nathan Miller quotes Samantha Harris, FIRE’s Director of Speech Code Research, who wrote that “The right to engage in spontaneous expressive activity is an important aspect of the right to free speech, and this policy is unnecessarily restrictive.”
Miller also cites the preamble to IU’s Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities, and Conduct as another yellow-light policy. This policy states that students are expected to “behave in a manner that is respectful of the dignity of others, treating others with civility and understanding.” The article explains FIRE’s objection to this language:
Harris’ complaint with the policy is that free speech can often be offensive, and yet even the offensive speech is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.
“For example, it is very common for political cartoons and other kinds of social satire to be extremely disrespectful and mocking of its targets. And yet this type of expression, however much it may not ‘respect the dignity of others,’ is at the heart of what the First Amendment protects,” Harris said in an e-mail.
The article also compares IU’s Spotlight rating to those of other universities in the Big Ten conference. Currently, none of the Big Ten schools has earned a green-light rating; most of them have a red-light rating. FIRE hopes that Miller’s article has raised awareness of the problem, and the university community will engage IU to amend its policies and fully protect free speech on campus.