NASHVILLE, Tenn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--March 1, 1995--"The big tree in
the forest of speech codes has fallen," the executive director of
the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University
said in reaction to a California Superior Court ruling striking down
Stanford University's speech code.
"I hope it sounds the death knell for these unconstitutional
restrictions on open dialogue and debate in the campus community,"
Paul McMasters said Wednesday.
"Stanford University has been a pioneer in working for inclusiveness
and sensitivity in the increasingly diverse campus community. It had
some of the best legal minds trying to craft a speech code that did
not violate the First Amendment, but they failed. Now college
officials across the nation can move on to the hard work of
eliminating hateful speech and harmful incidents on the nation's
campuses," he said.
McMasters said speech codes simply don't work. "They entrust
enforcement to the very institutions and individuals accused of bias
and bigotry in the first place. More importantly, they violate both
the spirit and the letter of the First Amendment."
Santa Clara (California) County Superior Court Judge Peter G.
Stone granted an injunction against the code so that it cannot be
enforced. The code was enacted in 1990 in the wake of several
incidents on the Stanford campus.
The code prohibits harassment of students on the basis of such
factors as race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and ethnic
Nine Stanford students, last May, filed suit, saying the speech code
stifles discussion and violates their free speech rights.
Stone agreed, writing that the Stanford code is too broad because it
prohibits no only so-called fighting words, which could incite
fights, but also words or symbols that simply convey hatred or
The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center published "War of Words:
Speech Codes at Public Colleges and Universities." The report
surveyed regulations of speech and expressive conduct at 383 schools
across the country. The center will release a second edition of the
report, which will include a look at 100 private colleges and
universities, later this year.
The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University is
an independent operating program of The Freedom Forum.
The center was established by The Freedom Forum, one of the nation's
largest foundations, on Dec. 15, 1991, the 200th anniversary of the
ratification of the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution.
The First Amendment Center's mission is to foster a better public
understanding of and appreciation for First Amendment rights and
values, including freedom of religion, free speech and press, and
the right to petition government and to assemble peacefully.
The Freedom Forum is a nonpartisan, international foundation
dedicated to free press, free speech and free spirit for all people.
The foundation pursues its priorities through programs including
conferences, educational activities, publishing, broadcasting,
on-line services, partnerships, training and research. The Freedom
Forum makes limited grants in connection with its programs;
unsolicited grant applications are not accepted.
Major operating programs are The Freedom Forum Media Studies Center
at Columbia University in New York City, The Freedom Forum First
Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and
The Newseum at The Freedom Forum Headquarters in Arlington, Va.
The foundations' work is supported by an endowment -- established by
Frank E. Gannett in 1935 with $100,000 in Gannett Co.
stock -- now worth more than $700 million in diversified, managed
assets. The foundation does not solicit or accept contributions.
The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center, Nashville
Bracey Campbell or Ellen Nelson, 615/321-9588