University of Oklahoma: Ban on E-mailing Political Humor or Commentary
Weeks prior to the 2008 presidential election, the University of Oklahoma (OU) notified students and faculty that "the forwarding of political humor/commentary" using their university email accounts was prohibited. After FIRE wrote OU President David L. Boren, explaining that the policy violated the right to freedom of speech, Boren replied that the policy was intended to be applicable only "to the extent discussions are attributable to the University as endorsing or opposing a political candidate." Boren issued a university-wide statement on October 27, 2008, fully rescinding the earlier email and stating that OU policy "does not limit the right of anyone to express individual views."
- "Email from OU President David L. Boren to University of Oklahoma Community, October 27, 2008," October 27, 2008
- "With Election Weeks Away, Political Speech Under Attack on America’s Campuses," October 15, 2008: With the presidential race between John McCain and Barack Obama the focus of national attention, political speech on our nation's campuses has come under sharp attack. In recent weeks, FIRE has investigated open and blatant attacks on political expression at colleges and universities across the country, from a previously unreported case at Oklahoma, to better-known cases at Illinois and Texas, to smaller schools across the country. This alarming trend towards silencing political expression has prompted FIRE to release a Policy Statement on Political Activity on Campus today.
- "Letter to FIRE from University of Oklahoma President David L. Boren," October 13, 2008
- "FIRE Letter to University of Oklahoma President David L. Boren," September 26, 2008
- "University of Oklahoma campus-wide email," September 12, 2008
- "Victory for Free Speech at University of Oklahoma: Ban on Political E-mails Rescinded," by William Creeley, October 28, 2008: In a resounding victory for free speech, the University of Oklahoma has rescinded a September statement that banned the use of university e-mail accounts to engage in protected political expression. On September 12, Nicholas S. Hathaway, Executive Vice President and Vice President of Administration and Finance, sent an e-mail to all University of Oklahoma students, faculty, and staff, informing them that university e-mail accounts "may not be used to endorse or oppose a candidate, including the forwarding of political humor/commentary." Hathaway stated that even personal use of university e-mail accounts "may not include political issues outside of the educational context as it places the University at risk of losing its tax exempt status." On September 26, FIRE wrote OU a letter informing the school that the ban violated the First Amendment rights of OU students, faculty, and staff. Yesterday evening, OU President David L. Boren sent a statement to the university community clarifying and withdrawing Hathaway's statement. Stating that "a university should always be a free marketplace of ideas," Boren declared in his statement yesterday that "the email of September 12th is hereby rescinded and withdrawn."
- "Students fight for free speech,"
by Cristina Gonzalez, College News, November 5, 2008
- "FIRE warns multiple universities that political speech bans could be unconstitutional,"
Student Press Law Center, October 22, 2008
- "As election nears, censorship fever hits college campuses,"
by Greg Lukianoff, The Huffington Post, October 17, 2008
- "At U. of I., a question of supporting candidates on campus,"
by Megan Twohey, Chicago Tribune, October 3, 2008