Samantha Harris has an amusing post in FIRE’s blog noting the on-campus reaction at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, to the schools “red” rating in FIRE’s speech code database. Apparently, in response to questions about the rating, Steve Tallant, the school’s interim chancellor and provost said, “They say our policies are unconstitutional. If (the policies) were unconstitutional, they would be in court right now.”
Is that a challenge, Dr. Tallant? Are you asking to be sued?
Actually, Dr. Tallant betrays a common attitude among administrators. Despite an avalanche of judicial precedent, they will sit back and maintain unconstitutional policies until a student has the courage to step up and sue their own school. Take Pennsylvania, for example, where two of the state’s largest universities — Penn State and Temple — maintained speech codes that were indistinguishable from codes struck down by the Third Circuit. Yet change did not occur until they were both sued by their own students. Penn State changed its policies soon after the suit was filed. Temple changed its policies late last month. In response to still another lawsuit, Georgia Tech was forced to change its speech code and is not permitted to change its speech policies without prior judicial approval.
But that is just a beginning. As FIRE’s database makes clear, there are hundreds of universities that continue to maintain unconstitutional policies. But I can promise you this, Dr. Tallant, if protecting the First Amendment means filing a lawsuit at each and every one of the hundreds of schools that are openly and intentionally defying the law, we will do it.
And your turn will come.