Friday, September 05, 2003

Another win for FIRE 

They're hotter than the Red Sox: FIRE has won a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the speech code promulgated by the administration of Shippensburg University. The judge's decree starts with a quote from W. Va. Board of Education v. Barnette, which is one of the most supportive cases for free speech. That paves the way for victory after victory in the injunction. Just because the administration of the university might have good intentions, that doesn't allow them to use this code.
Preliminarily, it is easy to discern that the provisions of the student code in question were part of an attempt to achieve a utopian community within Shippensburg. Students are directed to respect the rights of other students in a world where reasoned, rational debate is the norm. Defendant argues that the prohibitions set forth within the Code will foster free speech, rather than discourage it. Regrettably, this sword has two edges. Certainly during President Ceddia's tenure the Speech Code has not been used, and likely will not ever be used, to punish students for exercising their First Amendment rights. However, given that this is a facial challenge, our inquiry must assume not the best of intentions, but the worst.
The decision proceeds to describe the code as being overbroad in many features, with FIRE's claims being validated in all but one instance. The code, the judge writes, "instructs students that they must �mirror� the University�s ideals as they apply to racial tolerance, cultural diversity and social justice," which is patently unconstitutional.

At SCSU's convocation, President Saigo included in his address an initiative:

The campus will publish and disseminate a policy on civility, with standards that apply to the classroom, meetings and other public forums, and campus email. Disciplinary measures will be defined.
We are watching you, President Saigo. FIRE is on speed-dial, and they've been here before.