Student Papers in Georgia and Michigan Discuss Campus Speech Codes

February 26, 2008

After their institutions were rated ‘red light’ universities by FIRE, student-run newspapers at the University of Georgia and Saginaw Valley State University have written articles on their schools’ respective speech codes.

In The Red and Black‘s article, FIRE’s Samantha Harris evaluates the University of Georgia’s harassment policy and says that the policy "contains potential examples of harassment that will rarely, if ever, rise to the level of actual harassment." The article says,

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education gives the University a "red light" rating, its worst possible rating for the level of free speech on campus.

"UGA’s sexual harassment policy is not the policy to which FIRE objects the most," [Harris] said. "The policy that earns UGA its ‘red light’ rating is the residence halls’ overly vague prohibition on ‘acts of intolerance.’"

At Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan, The Valley Vanguard reports on the school’s distinction as Speech Code of the Month for November 2007 and states that the policy may undergo a review. SVSU Director of Media Relations J.J. Boehm tells the paper that,

"[A]s a result of FIRE’s comments, the University might scrutinize the provision in more detail than usual during its annual review.

"This particular policy may receive additional attention as a result of having this brought to our attention," he said. "But since there have been no cases where this is alleged to have been misapplied, there is no cause to reevaluate it before its scheduled review later this year."

Samantha Harris is also quoted in the Vanguard article and disagrees with Boehm’s statement, saying,

"First, what is important to understand is that even if the University has not used the policy to punish constitutionally protected speech, its existence on the books is a violation of the First Amendment," she said.

While FIRE is pleased that students at these two schools have recognized the existence of speech codes, we will continue the fight to change their campus policies until the administrations recognize them as well.