Speech Code of the Month: Rhodes College

June 17, 2005

FIRE is proud to announce the Speech Code of the Month for June 2005: Rhodes College.

The Rhodes College Policy on Discrimination and Harassment states that “[f]reedom of expression does not include the right to intentionally and maliciously aggravate, intimidate, ridicule or humiliate another person.” Now, we at FIRE know that all too many university administrators believe this statement to be true; this is apparent from the way speech codes are enforced on campuses across the country. However, few colleges and universities are bold enough to make an explicit statement about free expression that directly contradicts U.S. Supreme Court precedent. The administrators of Rhodes College need to read the Supreme Court’s decision in Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, in which the Court upheld Hustler’s right to publish a parody suggesting that Jerry Falwell’s first sexual experience was a drunken tryst in an outhouse with his own mother. Parody and satire—which often intentionally and maliciously ridicule and humiliate their targets—enjoy the strongest constitutional protection.

It is Rhodes College’s brazen disregard for clearly established First Amendment law that makes it worthy of being named Speech Code of the Month.