As Torch readers know, each month FIRE singles out a particularly egregious speech code for our Speech Code of the Month award. While all twelve Speech Codes of the Month for 2006 were both tragic and laughable, I would like to highlight a few that deserve special mention as our Speech Codes of the Year:
- Jacksonville State University in Alabama. The student code of conduct at Jacksonville State provides that “No student shall threaten, offend, or degrade anyone on University owned or operated property.” Got that? You may not offend anyone on University property.
- Barnard College in New York City. The Barnard College Posting Policy provides that “the following words cannot appear on any posted information at Barnard—shit, piss, suck, cunt, fuck, motherfucker, cocksucker and tits.” This policy is probably the only speech code in existence to be based on a comedy routine—George Carlin’s famous “seven dirty words.” Even better, however, is the fact that this policy actually violates itself, since it is posted on Barnard’s website and contains the offending words.
- Drexel University in Philadelphia. Drexel’s harassment policy bans “inconsiderate jokes” and “inappropriately directed laughter.”
Although these policies are so ridiculous they might make you laugh, they are serious business for students at these universities. Fortunately, many universities are unwilling to defend in public what they do in private, so exposing these speech codes to the public is an effective tool for change. For example, as FIRE announced in a press release earlier this year, Appalachian State University abandoned an unconstitutional speech code that was featured in a report by FIRE and the John William Pope Center for Higher Education. As we begin a new year, FIRE will keep working hard to expose these unconscionable restrictions to public scrutiny. Happy New Year, and look for 2007’s first Speech Code of the Month next week!