Campus Speech Codes
Beginning in the late 1980s, colleges and universities around the country began to institute policies aiming to protect students from offensive and harassing speech. Most of the policies included restrictions on speech that the Supreme Court would not permit of federal or state government. While the legal right of private schools to adopt such policies is for the most part undisputed, the enactment of speech codes in public universities is a matter of continuing controversy. While no case has gone to the Supreme Court, a federal district court struck down a speech code at the University of Michigan as early as 1989, and since then speech code challenges have been consistently successful in lower courts. Despite the uniformity of case law, speech codes have continued to proliferate in various forms, and have continued to generate controversy. Aside from the legal question of the constitutionality of speech codes in public universities, the presence of such policies even in private schools has raised the objection that institutions of higher education ought to be committed to freedom of speech in an even broader sense than that of the First Amendment.
Spotlight Speech Codes Database, FIRE
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) hosts this database of speech codes on college and university campuses throughout the country. Its user-friendly interface allows you easily to locate relevant campus policies at the institution of your choosing. It categorizes these into “red light,” “yellow light,” and “green light” policies based on the degree to which they restrict speech beyond First Amendment limitations.