Phi Beta Cons

No Jokes at Ohio State

I just read FIRE’s nominee for “speech code of the month”  – Ohio State’s “Diversity Statement” – and I had to laugh.  It’s hard to conceive of a more absurdly unconstitutional restriction than OSU’s requirement that students not “joke about differences related to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, ability, socioeconomic background, etc.”  I particularly like the “etc.” added to the end of the list banned joke topics.  There’s nothing quite like “clarifying” an already vague and overbroad policy with an “etc.

But as we laugh at OSU’s absurdity, let’s not forget the more disturbing reality.  Despite the fact that no court has ever upheld a speech code remotely like OSU’s “Diversity Statement,” the university persists in imposing (and presumably) enforcing an obviously unlawful policy.  And OSU is far from alone.  As FIRE’s speech code database shows, unlawful policies are the rule , rather than the exception on campus.  Is there any other major industry or cultural institution in the entire country that so relentlessly refuses to respect basic constitutional rights?
This much I can promise: whether it takes 5 lawsuits or 500, we will protect students’ most fundamental rights.  Check this space in the coming weeks for yet another round of cases filed against still more university administrators who apparently believe political orthodoxy trumps the constitution.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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