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Free speech group analyzes MU codes

The Parthenon

Published: Monday, February 17, 2014

Updated: Monday, February 17, 2014 22:02

Free speech group analyzes MU codes

Emily Rice | The Parthenon

William Creeley, FIRE director of legal and public advocacy, discusses First Amendment rights with students Monday in Corbly Hall.

The speech codes at Marshall University have been described as being “atrocious” according to the students that are members of the campus organization Young Americans for Liberty. After researching the current speech codes, they decided to take action and reach Marshall students about using and protecting their First Amendment rights.

William Creeley, director of legal and public advocacy for the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) lectured Marshall students on honoring and using their First Amendment rights Monday.

President of YAL Caitlin Grimes said she learned about the FIRE organization at a conference and wanted to bring a change to Marshall’s campus.

“The Young Americans for Liberty national conference did a seminar on free speech on campuses,” Grimes said. “I actually found out through an early chapter member that we were ranked as one of the 12 worst colleges in the country for free speech code. I started the discussions there, and I have been in contact with FIRE ever since.”

Grimes also said First Amendment rights are something that can spark the education process in a college setting.

“It is vitally important for students to be informed about their first amendment rights especially in places of higher education,” she said. “I don’t think students should become accustomed to over regulation in their lives.  That is what allows the educational and creative process to continue Founded in 1999, FIRE is a nonprofit organization that defines student rights. It has defended the civil liberties of thousands of students at colleges and universities nationwide.

Activism chair for YAL, Brandon Wear, said the current speech codes are not up to date and they hope to address the administration to fix this problem.

“The speech codes at Marshall are very vague,” Wear said. “As of right now, the administration can punish students for almost anything under the current speech codes. The first amendment rights define us as Americans and as a society, if we don’t understand them, those rights can easily go away.”

Director of legal and public advocacy for FIRE, William Creeley, said he hopes to encourage Marshall students to hold their school accountable, and to stand up for their own rights.

“I want to talk to Marshall students about case law regarding free speech on America’s public college campuses,” Creeley said.  “I am going to talk about some of the crazy ways that colleges censor their students, which will shock everyone in attendance.  I also want to make sure Marshall students can make sure that Marshall University fulfills its legal obligations under the first amendment.”

According to the YAL press release, current Marshall policy dictates that students are not allowed to actively protest on campus; even if non-violent direct action is adopted by student activists.

Creeley also said FIRE has tried to work with Marshall in the past, but they need help from the students to make a change in policy.

“Well we’ve tried to get Marshall to do the right thing and to honor its legal commitment and to uphold its students rights,” Creeley said. “It’s been a long back and forth. Hopefully tonight can help with momentum and students can make a change.

FIRE and YAL encourage Marshall students to learn more about their First Amendment rights.  FIRE also encourages any student or organization to contact them if faced with censorship or other rights violations.

Jessica Starkey can be contacted at


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