University reverses speech code following report from watchdog group calling it unconstitutional
July 5, 2013
by Oliver Darcy
The University of Central Arkansas (UCA) reversed part of its speech code on Wednesday after an academic watchdog group said a portion of it was unconstitutional earlier that day.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) took issue with the part of UCA’s list of “offenses subject to disciplinary action” which said students could face punishment for “annoying” another person on campus. In a blog post, FIRE contended such speech is constitutionally protected by the First Amendment.
Katie Henry, interim general counsel at UCA, agreed and said the school will remove the language.
“[T]he administration has reviewed the language in the University’s Student Handbook,” she said in an email to Campus Reform on Wednesday. “The University will revise the 2013-2014 Handbook to delete the words ‘annoying’ and ‘disparaging’ from the section ‘Offenses Subject to Disciplinary Action.’”
FIRE spokeswoman Samantha Harris told Campus Reform on Friday she is “very excited to see the new language” and urged UCA to contact FIRE if they need help crafting speech codes in the future.
“Our preferred way of resolving these things is working with administrations,” said Harris. “We are always thrilled to see schools supporting free speech.”