Slow Progress Toward Free Speech at Drexel University: Speech Code of the Month Revised, but Concerns Remain
November 20, 2008
In a positive development for free speech, Drexel University has revised its much-maligned student harassment policy. The policy, which prohibited "the use of derogatory names" as well as "inconsiderate jokes," was named FIRE's Speech Code of the Month back in September 2006. We publicized the policy in the media and on The Torch, and also featured it in our video FIRE on Campus: An Introduction to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. With its revised policy, Drexel no longer receives FIRE's worst, red-light rating for suppressing student speech; it now receives a yellow light. However, Drexel still has some work to do before its policies are truly supportive of free speech on campus: the university still prohibits posting any materials on campus "that may be viewed as demeaning or degrading to a person or group of persons," and its updated harassment policy still contains some fairly ridiculous language. While the new harassment policy does not prohibit protected expression outright—an improvement over the old policy—it provides ridiculous examples of conduct that "might" be considered harassment, such as "suggestive or insulting sounds" and "holding or eating food provocatively." Drexel has without question taken positive steps toward more freedom of speech on campus; we now challenge the university to address its remaining speech codes and to join its neighbor, the University of Pennsylvania, as a green-light institution!