Rebecca McKinsey’s excellent article on Ohio University’s (OU’s) speech codes, appearing recently in OU student newspaper The Post, seems to have called her fellow students to attention. Shortly after the article appeared, The Post ran a staff editorial coming out against the codes in effect at their university.
Citing FIRE’s current Spotlight on Speech Codes report as well as McKinsey’s article, the editorial calls FIRE’s assessment of OU’s policies “startling” and declares it “inevitable” that enforcement of the policies will eventually result in a lawsuit against the university. OU’s speech codes, The Post‘s editorial staff determines, “remain overly broad in a way that ultimately benefits OU” rather than the rights of OU’s students.
FIRE is both gratified to see The Post giving its imprimatur to the fight against speech codes and surprised not to see more papers doing the same. The need for strong protections of free speech is hardly an abstract concept in the world of the student press. Just take a look at our case history page and see how many times FIRE has come to the defense of student newspapers, which are frequently the targets of censorship, calls for reprisal, and mass theft—whether for expressing controversial political opinions or merely trying to shed light on unpleasantries that some in the college community would rather keep in the dark. FIRE’s letter last week over the treatment of the student newspaper at Los Angeles City College, co-signed with the Student Press Law Center, highlights only the most recent example.
The Post, fortunately, gets it right, concluding its editorial by stating that “[a] college’s purpose is to teach students and keep them engaged in learning, and free speech is a vital part of that goal.”
FIRE is happy to see The Post come down on the right side of this issue. We hope that more student newspapers follow its example.