Marshall University is fair in speech code

By Editorial

Published: Monday, January 31, 2011

Updated: Monday, January 31, 2011

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education recently ranked Marshall University as one of the top universities that limits students' first amendment rights.

Marshall's speech code limits speech such as harassment, discrimination, embarrassment, obscene conduct and disrespecting others.

In a Jan. 21 article, a Parthenon reporter cited Samantha Harris, director of FIRE's speech code research, as saying she cannot think of another speech code that prohibits such an amount of protected speech.

However, Marshall is not the worst offender of the 12 universities that made the list. Syracuse University, which ranked No. 1, made a law student remove a satirical blog another student said contained embarrassing remarks. Campus safety at that university also made students remove Halloween costumes they deemed offensive.

At the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, students who want to host "controversial" rallies are required to schedule their event five days in advance, may only meet between the hours of noon and 1 p.m. and can only demonstrate on the steps of the Student Union. Groups must also provide their own security.

At Michigan State University, free speech restriction also includes the internet. After student government representative Kara Spencer e-mailed faculty members in 2008 regarding a change in the academic calendar, she was charged with spamming. More than 10 civil liberties organizations petitioned the university, causing them to drop the charges against Spencer. However, the school adopted a stricter spamming policy that could punish students for sending more than 10 unsolicited e-mails to friends, professors or classmates in a 48-hour span.

So why is Marshall on this list? According to Harris, it is because "there is very little speech Marshall can't punish."

But why would the organization rank Marshall on the same list as schools such as Syracuse and Michigan, which have clearly crossed the line?

Compared to these other schools, Marshall's actions in regards to free speech and expression are mild. FIRE found fault with three aspects of our speech code that do not seem all that damning. Marshall's speech code requires the dean of students to approve the purpose of any on-campus demonstrations, forbids students in the residence halls from posting anything containing profanity or other offensive material and does not allow students to view objectionable material on university computers.

Marshall's Student Conduct and Welfare Committee are discussing ways to make students more aware of the school's speech code.

We want to hear from you. If you feel your speech as been oppressed or repressed by Marshall, e-mail the editors at



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