University of North Dakota’s speech code invites discrimination, says watchdog group

Campus Reform Reporter
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The University of North Dakota’s (UND) broad speech code includes dangerous restrictions on students’ freedom of speech and expression, a watchdog organization alleged early this month.

The speech code at the University of North Dakota has come under fire from a free-speech watchdog organization.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) named UND’s speech policy as their December “speech code of the month” saying its broad scope invites selective discrimination and abuse of power.

For example, the code defines harassment as “unacceptable behavior, which can range from violence and bullying to more subtle behavior such as ignoring an individual at work or study.”

“It can be a single explicit incident causing distress or repeated unacceptable behavior,” says the code.

FIRE, which exists to protect the rights of students, argued in a statement that such rules could lead to a scenario where students are unable to know whether or not they are in violation of the code.  The code may also be illegal, the statement contends.

“It is s so vague that students have no way of knowing whether their speech or expression might inadvertently run afoul of the policy,” said the statement.  “[C]ourts have repeatedly struck down speech codes that condition speech on subjective listener reaction.”

The FIRE statement additionally cites multiple court cases that suggest UND’s speech code could violate the U.S. Constitution.

UND did not make a spokesperson available to Campus Reform for comment, despite multiple requests.

It is not clear what disciplinary actions students may face for violating the code, but students who feel they have been “harassed” are urged to contact the Dean of Students Office.

Follow the author of this article on twitter: @oliverdarcy


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