Will Indiana University Go Green?

October 4, 2010

This summer, FIRE was fortunate to have Nico Perrino from Indiana University (IU) as one of our interns. Nico quickly made clear his intention to help transform IU from a “yellow-light” university in FIRE’s Spotlight speech code database into a “green-light” university that fully protects free speech. Nico isn’t the only IU student concerned about his fellow students’ rights. On July 25, Nathan Miller wrote an article about IU’s speech codes in the Indiana Daily Student, and the next day, the Indiana University Student Association (IUSA) joined the effort. Yesterday’s Indiana Daily Student tells the story:

Murat Kacan, chief of communications for IUSA, issued a letter to the student body on July 28 in response to [FIRE’s yellow-light] rating.

In the letter, Kacan said IUSA strongly opposes any University rule that seeks to restrict students’ rights to free expression.

“We called FIRE that week and talked through every issue,” Kacan said. “We agreed that there were definitely areas of ambiguity. We don’t ever want free speech to be seen as a form of instigation.”

The University’s designation of free speech zones and what constitutes “fighting words” were too vague, members of FIRE said.

After reviewing the student code with IUSA, the organization found the University labels Dunn Meadow as a free speech zone, yet it fails to mention that all areas of campus are free speech zones as long as they don’t interfere with classroom curriculum.

The second area of ambiguity relates to literature that informs students where to report offensive language or expression. The language used was unclear regarding the procedures taken when a student brings forth a claim, members of FIRE said.

“The warning was ambiguous and didn’t clearly demonstrate the campus’ main goal, which is protection of free speech,” Kacan said.

FIRE is quite pleased that students are working to reform IU’s speech policies so that free speech is protected on campus. We are hopeful that IU’s administration will take IUSA’s and FIRE’s concerns seriously and will revise IU’s policies to achieve FIRE’s coveted “green-light” rating.