College judicial affairs group approves resolution supporting student speech rights

The Association of Student JudicialAffairs, the nation’s largest association of student judicial administrators,voted overwhelmingly March 22 to pass a resolution supporting students’free-speech rights on college and university campuses.

“ASJA believesthat we should provide resources to protect speech as spelled out in theConstitution,” said David Parrott, president of the ASJA and dean of studentlife at Texas A&M University.

The resolution “urges publicinstitutions of higher education to ensure that their policies, rules andprocedures protect students’ freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed bythe U.S. Constitution.” The resolution also urges colleges and universities toreview policies to ensure they are not legal and constitutional.

Theresolution comes as several public universities have come under fire bycivil-liberties groups for policies restricting free speech on campus. Last yeara judge ruled that a speech code at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania thatrestricted speech that was “inflammatory, demeaning, or harmful to others” wasprobably unconstitutional. The school has since changed the policy.

“Ahealthy university community needs to be able to express opinions regardless ofhow hurtful they may be to others, and we also need to be able to deal with howoffensive free speech impacts our campus and the individuals that make up thecampus community,” Parrott said.

Parrott said he will establish a taskforce “to come up with recommendations for the members of ASJA to utilize and togive them guidance as they deal with First Amendment issues on their collegecampuses.”

The ASJA is a 16-year-old association with more than 1,250members representing more than 900 institutions of higher education. Themajority of members are in charge of student discipline at publicuniversities.

SPLC View: ASJA should be applauded for its concern aboutthis important issue. In recent years, too many schools have used theirdisciplinary powers to punish speech that they dislike or disagree with withoutregard for constitutional limitations. We hope this “reminder” reaches thosethat need to hear it most.