Greg Lukianoff of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) gave hope to students tired of asking permission to speak out on campus at the eighth Student for Liberty Conference. Thanks to his organization, 36 colleges have abolished or severely scaled down their speech codes. But the fight is far from over.
“Over 55 percent of colleges we surveyed have speech codes that wouldn’t stand court challenges,” says Lukianoff. “These colleges include Jacksonville University, which forbade students to offend anyone, or this other college that had a rule against ‘inappropriately directed laughter.”
Since the “soft method” — trying to win the public opinion, exposing the absurdities of speech codes — wasn’t working, FIRE decided to drop the gloves and go to court to affirm First Amendment rights. And even when colleges are cornered with their nonsensical codes, they still act like victims.
“Our first case in Modesto, California, was beyond parody; some people even though we had created it,” recalls Lukianoff. “On Constitution Day a veteran wanted to hand copies of the Constitution on campus. He recorded his journey because he was convinced something that would go wrong, which it did. He was stopped by a campus officer who told him he had to fill out forms before he could exercise his free speech.”
“He went to the main office and the receptionist browsed through a fat binder,” he continued. “She said he could do his distribution somewhere in October. Campus officials kept acting like the victim until the veteran’s video got released.”
And it’s not even the worst case yet. “The University of Hawaii has the so-called free speech zone that’s limited to a tiny puddle of water away from student life. ‘This is not the 1960s’ claimed university officials. They seem to forget that all public colleges have to submit to the Constitution including the First Amendment.”
To find out if your college limits free speech to a yard-square area which you need to reserve two weeks in advance to use or if they basically forbid you to offend anyone, visit theFire.org.