Tag: speech codes

FIRE Releases 2017 Speech Code Report

 

shutterstock_238626832Today my organization, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), released our annual “Spotlight on Speech Codes” report, a rundown of the speech policies at 449 of America’s largest and most prestigious colleges and universities. The report contains both good and bad news about the state of free speech on campus.

As the Wall Street Journal reported:

Fire’s 10th annual report surveyed speech policies at 345 four-year public colleges and 104 private schools. The good news is that the share of colleges with “red-light” speech codes that substantially bar constitutionally protected speech has declined to 39.6%, a nearly 10% drop in the last year and the lowest share since 2008. Over the last nine years the number of institutions that don’t seriously threaten speech has tripled to 27. Several colleges including the University of Wisconsin have adopted policies that affirm (at least in theory) their commitment to free speech.

What if the Founders Took a Page from Today’s College Administrators?

 

At the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), it goes without saying that we’re big fans of the First Amendment and our legal system’s robust guarantees of freedom of expression. Goodness, though, the free speech protections we enjoy in our society can bear awfully little resemblance to the conceptions of free speech (and un-free speech) that have taken root in the speech-code-heavy culture of our colleges today.

This got us wondering: What if the Founding Fathers conceptualized the First Amendment with the same boundaries college administrations so often put in place — what with their policies on “biased” speech, unconstitutional “free speech zone” restrictions, and increasingly intolerant attitudes toward “microaggressions?”

Words, Words, Words

 

A couple of days ago, I started a conversation on Facebook about the use of a specific word. I’m not going to tell you what that specific word is, because it is beside the point I want to make here. The conversation was lively, most people disagreed with me, it got a little testy, and I eventually deleted the entire thing.

Sidebar: The instant I deleted the conversation, I felt foolish. I felt like a fool for two reasons. First, as soon as the conversation began to get very personal, I “took my ball and went home.” Disagree with me? Make it personal? Conversation over. That was childish. Second, as my wife says “If you can shut someone up, you can control them.” I felt like I’d been shut up. The personal bit of the conversation was basically “I don’t understand why anyone is even discussing this, it’s sad, you don’t care about how people feel.” To paraphrase the paraphrase: this is settled science, so just knuckle under and behave the way you are supposed to. There is nothing to discuss here.

My Statement Regarding the Abuse of Harassment Codes on Campus

 

Today I addressed the United States Commission on Civil Rights to talk about the role that federal law and regulations have played in encouraging campus speech codes. Here is my testimony:

If you had told me before I started working at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the leading defender of free speech rights on college campuses, that I would routinely battle the startling misapplications of harassment codes to punish speech that is clearly protected by the First Amendment, I probably wouldn’t have believed you.

FIRE Files Four Free Speech Lawsuits in One Morning, Launches New Litigation Project

 

Today, my organization, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), has a big announcement about a major step in the decades-long war against unconstitutional speech codes at America’s public colleges and universities. Below is my statement from FIRE’s press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.:

Twenty-five years ago we had reason to think that the “temporary insanity” of campus speech codes had come to an end.