By Bill Schackner at Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A foundation that defends individual rights on college campuses took issue today with an email policy at California University of Pennsylvania that it says is at odds with the First Amendment.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, based in Philadelphia, says the policy’s “extraordinarily broad” language potentially subjects employees and students to discipline including dismissal from the university for any message an individual might consider inappropriate.
The organization, in a statement, said it defines “speech code” as any campus regulation or policy forbidding “expression that would be protected by the First Amendment in society at large.” It dubbed Cal U’s policy as its “Speech Code” of the month.
The Cal U policy spells out a variety of unacceptable electronic messages including those pornographic and obscene. It also includes as unacceptable “material that a reasonable individual may find personally offensive or inappropriate.”
Said the foundation: “This extraordinarily broad policy leaves faculty and students at risk of punishment—up to and including ’dismissal from the University’—for sending virtually any message the content of which offends another person.”
Christine Kindl, a Cal U spokeswoman, could not immediately be reached for comment this afternoon.
Cal U is one of 14 universities in the State System of Higher Education. Kenn Marshall, a system spokesman, did not know how many members campuses have email policies but was aware of no First Amendment issues arising from those that do.
The foundation said courts in The Third Circuit, which includes Pennsylvania, have held that speech codes on public university campuses violate the first Amendment.