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Eastern Kentucky University latest campus to bar employees from speaking to journalists

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You’re probably getting tired of reading about universities violating the First Amendment by prohibiting RAs and other employees from speaking to the media. I assure you we’re getting just as tired of hearing about campus after campus joining this unfortunate trend. But we remain committed to dismantling these unlawful policies — including the one at Eastern Kentucky University.

EKU’s “Media Requests” policy for resident advisors, which bans RAs from commenting “to any media source,” earns the university a place among the worst of the worst when it comes to disrespecting student-employee speech.

As FIRE’s Student Press Freedom Initiative explained to EKU in a letter last week, these policies violate not only the expressive rights of student employees directly silenced, they hinder student journalists’ ability to cover campus goings on:

The Eastern Progress’s ability to cover important campus issues has been burdened by its reporters’ lack of access to RAs as a direct result of EKU’s censorial policy. This is not only contrary to EKU’s First Amendment obligations, it also casts into doubt the university’s commitment to expressive freedoms and transparency regarding decisions and events, to the detriment of EKU’s immediate community and to the broader public.

While universities can regulate employee comments on behalf of the institution, that authority does not extend to censoring comments employees give in their capacity as individuals on matters of public concern. When universities attempt to ban all comments to the media, they impose an unconstitutional prior restraint.

SPFI and FIRE will remain alert for policies and practices that stifle the ability of campus employees to speak with the press.

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