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ADF letter urges campus leadership to change restrictive codes that allow administrators to censor ‘offensive’ speech

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter to Florida State University Wednesday asking it to revise a vague policy that bans students from “treating individuals unequally because of their sex,” or using “offensive language.” The letter also explains that another university policy, which relegates student speech to small areas of campus, likely violates a recently enacted state law, known as the Florida Excellence in Higher Education Act of 2018 (SB 4), that eliminated such speech zones.

“A public university should be a free marketplace of ideas where students can peacefully speak their minds and converse with their classmates without self-censoring their speech,” said ADF Legal Counsel Caleb Dalton. “FSU’s policies currently fail to protect that freedom by silencing speech deemed by others to be ‘offensive,’ including, for example, expressions of support for traditional views of marriage and human sexuality. In addition, FSU’s mandate that students treat each other ‘equally,’ without qualification, while a nice idea, is so vague and broad it could ban a broad range of protected expression and personal decisions.”

If a student violates one of these Student Conduct Code provisions, sanctions may include everything from reprimand to expulsion, and/or withholding of diploma, transcript, or other records. The ADF letter warns FSU administrators that they need to revise or eliminate the policies before the start of the Fall 2018 semester in order to avoid liability for further violations of the First Amendment and state law.

“Today’s college students are tomorrow’s leaders, and they deserve to be able to practice their constitutionally protected freedoms on their university’s campus,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “That’s why we’re eager to help Florida State University revise its policies so that they respect its students and the First Amendment.”

Mark Welton, one of more than 3,200 attorneys allied with ADF, is serving as local counsel for this matter.
  • Pronunciation guide: Langhofer (LANG’-hoff-ur)
The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is dedicated to ensuring freedom of speech and association for students and faculty so that everyone can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship.
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