Pa. college changes speech policies in settlement of First Amendment suit

PENNSYLVANIA — Shippensburg University has agreed tochange portions of its student conduct code under the terms of a settlement withtwo students who sued the school over its policy restricting any speech that was”inflammatory, demeaning, or harmful toward others.”The Feb. 23settlement comes six months after a U.S. district court issued a preliminaryinjunction saying the school’s policy was probablyunconstitutional.The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, anonprofit organization that advocates for students’ First Amendment rightson college campuses, filed the suit last September on behalf of two students whowere forced to remove posters the school deemed potentially offensive to otherstudents. The posters depicted Osama bin Laden in crosshairs.”Apublic university is free to express the values it holds dear, but it may notrequire students to adopt those values, and it may not punish students becausetheir opinion and speech dissent from some official university view,” saidAlan Charles Kors, FIRE’s chairman.Shippensburg has changed thewording in the code of conduct to read ”No person shall engage in conductthat constitutes unlawful discrimination based on another person’s race,color, sex, religion, age or national origin.” The university alsoreplaced its Racism and Cultural Diversity Policy with ”a statement on theuniversity’s commitment to educational diversity,” according to apress release issued by the school. Shippensburg’s Council of Trusteesapproved both changes.”Our core values remain civility, community,character and citizenship,” said Peter Gigliotti, a spokesman forShippensburg University.”Before, during and after this suit wehave defended rights to free speech That is the heart and soul of the academicenterprise,” Gigliotti said.

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