Over 2,300 Join Speech First in Demanding Free Speech for Syracuse University

This week, Speech First sent a letter to the president of Syracuse University and their board of trustees, urging them to revise several problematic policies in their Code of Student Conduct that threaten the free speech rights of students.

Along with that letter, Speech First collected 2,333 petition signatures from concerned citizens, students, and alumni who joined with us to urge Syracuse University to revise its Student Code of Conduct, its STOP Bias and Residential Bias Prevention policies, and its University Events Policy to bring them into compliance with promises the school has made to its students about their speech and expression rights on campus.

The Code of Student Conduct was revised earlier this summer to broaden the Anti-harassment policy at Syracuse to include this expanded definition: “Assistance, participation in, promotion of, or perpetuation of conduct, whether physical, electronic, oral, written, or video, which threatens the mental health, physical health, or safety of anyone.”

This language gives the university carte blanche to punish not only bad actors who violate the code, but potentially students who witness the event, talk about it among friends, or share an opinion about it publicly.

On paper, Syracuse University values free speech; the University’s Campus Disruption Policy states: “Syracuse University is committed to the principle that freedom of discussion is essential to the search for truth and, consequently, welcomes and encourages the expression of dissent.”

Additionally, the school’s Anti-Harassment Policy states: “Syracuse University is committed to maintaining an environment that fosters tolerance, sensitivity, understanding and respect while protecting the free speech rights of the members of its community.”

Unfortunately, it’s become clear that “protecting free speech rights” only applies to students who agree with the university’s limited view on tolerance and diversity.

In the last several months…

  • Two conservative students were harassed and sent death threats online by members of the Syracuse community and yet the victims received no acknowledgement or help from the administration. Meanwhile, a black student activist group held a very public protest and sent a list of demands to the administration that immediately resulted in changed policy.
  • A chemistry professor used the term Wuhan flu on his class syllabus and was put on administrative leave as a result. Meanwhile, another professor sent a memo to his students openly acknowledging that he does not tolerate support for President Trump in his classroom – he received NO repercussions.

These examples show that the new, broadened policies are already being applied unequally and will continue to put students at risk for expressing a view that doesn’t fit with the “woke ideology” being taught in higher education.

For more details, read the letter below that Speech First sent to the Syracuse administration with recommendations for revising their restrictive speech policies.


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