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Public university bans comments ‘related to an individual’s age’

And ‘race, gender, color, religion, national origin, disability, or sexual orientation’

The annual list of the 10 worst colleges for free speech, put together by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, has some familiar names.

Syracuse University is on the list for suspending students who performed in a private satirical roast of their fraternity brothers (among other speech infringements).

Rensselaer Polytechnic University is on the list for trying to use eminent domain to censor students. RPI is private. It has perhaps the most brazen record of weaponizing vague policies to suppress students in practice, not just writing.

But what about the worst college for written policies?

That would be Alabama A&M University, which has five policies that “clearly and substantially” restrict protected speech, all related to curious definitions of “harassment.”

Its sexual harassment policy goes far beyond even “unwelcome” flirtation. If you made “verbal comments related to an individual’s age,” you would violate this policy. “Related.” That’s like saying “let me know if you need to leave early to pick up your kid.”

Of course, it doesn’t stop at age. “Examples of conduct prohibited by this policy include, but are not limited to,” verbal comments related to a person’s “race, gender, color, religion, national origin, disability, or sexual orientation.”

And that doesn’t even get into prohibitions on “negative stereotyping” and “insulting” gestures. (Flip off an administrator for investigating you? There’s another investigation!)

Sending “annoying” or “offensive” messages on the campus network is considered harassment under the computer use policy.

Just to be safe, don’t make verbal or nonverbal comments, in person or virtually, while enrolled or employed at AAMU. The safest option is to not attend or work for AAMU.

The FIRE list is equal opportunity, taking aim at university responses to incidents that upset conservatives.

It dings the University of Wisconsin System for promising to lower the salary of the La Crosse campus chancellor for paying a porn star $5,000 to lecture students. The University of Kansas gave a “signal to would-be censors” by moving an artwork of a “desecrated flag” to an indoor museum from its outdoor display, following threats from the Republican governor.

Other shamed schools: Liberty University for censoring its campus newspaper, University of North Alabama for similar anti-media actions, Plymouth State for dumping a professor because she was expert witness for a rape defendant, Dixie State for requiring a professor to give up his free speech rights (and hiding public records from student journalists), and Georgetown’s Qatar campus for canceling a student debate on “God as a woman.”

Read the list.

MORE: Chancellor gives $5,000 to porn star to lecture students

IMAGE: Jelena Aloskina/Shutterstock

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” He co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon at Seattle Pacific University.

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