The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has composed an open letter to the Office for Civil Rights Assistant Secretary Russlynn Ali, calling for the Department of Education to not encourage smaller speech codes at colleges and universities.
The letter included as well the signatures of other groups, including Accuracy in Academia, the Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni and The Tully Center for Free Speech at Syracuse University.
\”For decades now, college administrators have struggled to define discriminatory harassment,\” says the?letter, reports Malcolm A. Kline at Accuracy in Academia.
\”Define harassment too broadly, and an institution may be on the losing end of the First Amendment lawsuit, the most recent in a long type of courtroom defeats dating back more than twenty years- Define harassment too narrowly, along with a student might sue for ignoring Title IX violations.\”
Title IX from the Education Amendments of 1972 is often cited in sport and sexual harassment suits.
?\”A 2010 survey of policies at nearly 400 universities conducted by attorneys in the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education found that two-thirds of schools maintain policies that clearly and substantially restrict protected speech,\” says the letter.
\”Many of these restrictions are broad or vague harassment policies. For instance, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign defines sexual harassment to include any \’statement that\’s offensive, humiliating, or perhaps an interference with required tasks or career opportunities.\’ Jackson State University prohibits as harassment \’verbally abusive language by person on University-owned or controlled property.\’ Marshall University\’s harassment policy bans expression that causes or was meant to cause \’mental harm, injury, fear, stigma, disgrace, degradation, or embarrassment.\’\”
This letter uses a 2012 FIRE report?on campus speech codes, which found that the vast majority of the 392 universites and colleges analyzed still maintain policies that seriously infringe upon the free speech rights of scholars.
Virginia was the best state free of charge speech on campus, with only 29% of schools rated having \”red light\” speech codes.?Illinois was the worst of the larger states, with 100% of its schools earning red light status.