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Sarcasm prohibited: ‘Dire outlook’ for free speech on campuses Down Under

Ah, the American Constitution and its First Amendment.

The Aussies might be wishing they had something like it as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) notes that the current state of free expression at colleges Down Under is “grim.”

An (Australian) Institute of Public ­Affairs “audit,” based upon FIRE’s “Spotlight on Speech Codes” report, found that “of Australia’s 42 universities, […] 33 had policies which substantially limited free speech or had acted censoriously.”

Only one Aussie university earned IPA’s “green light” speech rating.

From the FIRE article:

Among the troubling policies identified in the report:

— Sarcasm is prohibited at the University of Queensland and Western Sydney University. The latter also bans “offensive language” and “defamation of individuals or their family or associates.”

— Every person who “uses abusive or insulting language” at Murdoch University can be fined $50. And don’t you dare use Murdoch’s computer network to share social media posts that might be “objectionable” or “offensive.” The University of Melbourne, likewise, prohibits students from “[p]osting offensive material on social media sites.”

— At RMIT University, students can be punished for speech that is “offensive or detrimental to the University’s interests and reputation”—so don’t criticize administrators, which might hurt the university’s reputation.

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— The University of Adelaide warns students that they can be punished if they publish material that is “untrue about the University[.]” The notion that administrators are trusted arbiters of whether a statement about their institution is true or not is at best troubling.

— The University of South Australia prohibits students from using “any indecent language[.]”

— The University of Sydney prohibited a Muslim student organization from permitting an Islamic speaker, who supports imposition of Sharia law, to answer questions from students on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks.

FIRE points out that the sole “green light” institution, the University of New England, “is better at protecting free speech than the vast majority of America’s public colleges,” despite being bound by that pesky ‘ol First Amendment.

Read the full article.

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.