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Northwestern State Improves Speech Code Rating by Quickly Revising Problematic Policy

Northwestern State University in Louisiana (NSULA) has revised the restrictive demonstration policy that FIRE named as our August “Speech Code of the Month” just a few days ago. The university has eliminated the most problematic parts of the policy and has told FIRE it is committed to protecting free speech on campus.

NSULA President Jim Henderson told FIRE today that the school’s Policy on Public Speech, Assembly and Demonstrations has been updated to better protect students’ free speech rights. President Henderson also reiterated the university’s broader commitment to students’ free speech rights.

As we wrote earlier this week, the policy had three major issues, including requiring students to apply a minimum of “24–48 hour[s]” before demonstrating on campus; limiting expressive activities to “one, 2-hour time period every 7 days, commencing on Monday”; and limiting expressive activity to a handful of free speech zones on campus.

The new policy is significantly improved, and includes the following changes:

  • No time limit on demonstrations;
  • adds “when practical and possible” to the advanced notice requirement; and
  • changes the free speech zones to “preferred areas,” noting that other areas would be considered.

The old policy sank NSULA’s speech code rating to our poorest, red light rating. With these encouraging updates, NSULA now earns a yellow light. Given that President Henderson conveyed the university’s strong commitment to free speech, we hope NSULA will continue moving in this positive direction and become Louisiana’s first green light school.

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