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Speech Code of the Month: Lake Superior State University

FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for May 2015: Lake Superior State University (LSSU) in Michigan.

LSSU’s Posting Policy, found in the Student Handbook, requires that all postings be approved by the university’s Campus Life Office and provides that “[p]ostings deemed offensive, sexist, vulgar, discriminatory or suggestive will not be approved.” The potential sanctions for violating the policy include not only removal of one’s flyers, but also “disciplinary sanctioning of the individual(s) involved.”

Under this policy, students face potential disciplinary action for advertising controversial events or opinions. One need only look through FIRE’s case history to see how often people cry offense over posters intended to provoke political or social debate:

Indeed, LSSU itself once took action against a faculty member for posting conservative political materials on his office door, despite the fact that other faculty members on the very same floor also had political postings on their doors.

If students can be punished for posting anything that someone on campus subjectively finds offensive, sexist, vulgar, or suggestive, they are likely to refrain from posting anything even remotely controversial, at the expense of free and open debate on LSSU’s campus. This viewpoint-discriminatory policy is very likely unconstitutional at a public university like LSSU and is completely inappropriate at any institution that claims to value free expression.

For these reasons, LSSU’s Posting Policy is our May 2015 Speech Code of the Month.

If you believe that your college’s or university’s policy should be a Speech Code of the Month, please email with a link to the policy and a brief description of why you think attention should be drawn to this code. If you are a current college student or faculty member interested in free speech, join the FIRE Student Network, an organization of college faculty members and students dedicated to advancing individual liberties on their campuses.

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