Speech codes that prohibit people from insulting each other have been widely and rightly ridiculed, but they continue to proliferate, enforcing particular notions of diversity, equality, and tolerance. Consider Colorado State University’s speech code, recently derided by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) as speech code of the month. At Colorado State, “hate incidents” are prohibited and defined as “expressions of hostility against a person or property because of a person’s race, color, ancestry, national origin, religion, ability, age, gender, socio-economic status, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. . . . Examples of these incidents can include verbal or written name-calling, slurs, and jokes.” So, merely tell a joke that makes fun of someone for some reason (like one’s inability to spell), as nearly all jokes do, and you’re guilty of committing Colorado State’s version of a hate crime. Jokes are no longer laughing matters. Drexel University’s harassment policy (another FIRE speech code of the month) includes an outright ban on “inconsiderate jokes” and “inappropriately directed laughter.”
College administrators should eliminate speech codes and defend free speech in all cases. No hypocrisy. No double standards.