Speech Code of the Month: Western Michigan University

March 1, 2007
FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for March 2007: Western Michigan University.
Not content to merely prohibit sexual harassment, this public university actually bans “sexism,” which it defines as “the perception and treatment of any person, not as an individual, but as a member of a category based on sex.” The Policy on Sexual Harassment and Sexism goes on to state that sexism, “[w]hether expressed in overt or subtle form such as sex-related jokes or materials,” will not “be tolerated at Western Michigan University.”
It is bad enough that universities attempt to regulate what students can and cannot say; when a university’s policies reach into students’ minds to regulate how they must “perceive” others, that crosses another line altogether. Western Michigan University cannot lawfully prevent its students from being sexist. Nor can it lawfully prevent its students from making “sex-related jokes” or any other supposedly sexist remarks, unless students’ speech falls into one of the very narrow categories of speech unprotected by the First Amendment. Western Michigan should repeal this intrusive and unconstitutional policy immediately.
If you believe that your college or university should be a Speech Code of the Month, please e-mail speechcodes@thefire.org with a link to the policy and a brief description of why you think attention should be drawn to this code.

Schools:  Western Michigan University