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Continuing Progress for Western Kentucky University Reform Efforts

As FIRE’s Sarah McLaughlin reported earlier this month, students at Western Kentucky University (WKU) are working to move their university one step closer to a better Spotlight rating. Last week, WKU’s College Heights Herald reported on the continuing success of their efforts.

Torch readers may remember that Student Government Association (SGA) Director of Public Relations Laura Harper has spearheaded the reform movement at WKU. After learning that FIRE had rated the university’s Computing Ethics Policy as a “red light,” Laura drafted a resolution urging WKU to revise the policy. The resolution not only points to the inherent problems with the policy’s overly broad and vague speech restrictions but also highlights the need for greater respect for “open and honest communication” and individual rights at WKU. Despite administrative claims that the policy has not been enforced, Harper rightly points out that the very existence of the policy “damages WKU’s reputation and harms students’ willingness to express themselves.”

Seeking to overturn that chilling effect on campus discourse, Harper introduced her resolution to the SGA in early October. Last Thursday, the Herald reported that the resolution has passed by a nearly unanimous vote. Students will now begin negotiating with school officials over possible revisions.

Luckily, administrators have already expressed a willingness to review the policy. In comments to theHerald, WKU Vice President for Student Affairs Howard Bailey reiterated that desire to work towards a revision. In fact, Bailey even recognized that the policy’s original intentions, to “protect certain groups from hate crimes,” didn’t account for the fact “that people have the freedom to say ‘hateful things.’” In comments that could well have been printed here on The Torch, Bailey argued that “[h]ate speech should be challenged with other speech, not suppressed.” We certainly agree, and we hope that such attitudes eventually spur further reforms and help WKU earn a spot on our “green light” list.

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