We’re glad that James Madison University’s (JMU’s) student newspaper, The Breeze, is bringing awareness to the university’s recently earned spot on FIRE’s "green light" list, with articles published today and Monday. As we reported last week, JMU eliminated the last of its unconstitutional speech codes, upgrading the school to a "green light," the best rating in our Spotlight database.
In today’s article, reporter Zachary Mehan writes:
For students, a recent change to the speech code at JMU, means they can speak freely and openly in class and around campus. The change led to recognition by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a national nonprofit organization based in Philadelphia, Pa.
JMU’s free speech rating was updated to "green light" rating earlier this month, indicating the highest level of free speech. The change from a "yellow light" to a "green light" rating came about after recent changes to JMU’s speech code J26-103, which is held under J26-100, the Personal Abuse Code.
Monday’s Breeze article pointed out that while it is praiseworthy that JMU joins The College of William & Mary and the University of Virginia as Virginia schools to go green, there is still much work to be done nationally. This is evidenced not only by the fact that only 15 schools in the entire country have a green light, but also by JMU professor Robert Roberts’ quote in today’s article:
Robert Roberts, political science professor, disagrees with FIRE highlighting JMU’s recent speech code change.
He said FIRE described the issue of schools stifling students as freedom of speech, which is protected under the First Amendment.
"The First Amendment is about protecting political speech," Roberts said. "There’s nothing in the code change that deals with political speech. It is about the social interactions between students."
Obviously, this is quite wrong, as the First Amendment protects much more than political speech. The First Amendment protects all kinds of non-political expression and even "low value" speech, and the exceptions to the First Amendment’s protections are narrow and limited in number. Indeed, all you have to do is take a gander through some of FIRE’s cases to understand the startling inaccuracy of Roberts’ statement.
At any rate, we remain proud of JMU and are looking forward to working with Virginia Tech and George Mason University as our next Virginia green-light targets, as we strive to preserve free expression on campuses across the country.