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NKU under FIRE: Red-light for speech code

By October 11, 2006

The right to free speech is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, but outside agencies believe this right for students at Northern Kentucky University is being compromised.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), an organization whose mission, according to its Web site, is to stand up for individual rights of college students, rated NKU as a "red-light university."

On FIRE's site, it says a red-light university is one that has codes that "both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech."

In NKU's Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities, under the "Disciplinary Regulations" section, it states students can be held accountable to civil and criminal authorities and to the university for violating the code.

Under this same section, the code prohibits "intentionally or recklessly causing physical or emotional harm to any person, including self."

But according to John K. Wilson, founder of a Web site about academic freedom, using the phrase "emotional harm" is problematic because it is hard to pinpoint an exact definition. In numerous cases, including R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, the Supreme Court ruled it is unconstitutional for a code regulating speech to be either overbroad or too vague. Wilson said the problem with these types of codes is that people can interpret the same code in different ways... Download file "5"

Schools: Northern Kentucky University