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Mark Payne and Mark Payne

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Northern Kentucky University restricts Freedom of Speech – that is what the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education Web site says. FIRE is a non-profit educational foundation devoted to free speech.

FIRE has labeled NKU a ‘red light’ school. According to FIRE, a red light school ‘has at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech. In other words, the threat to free speech at a red light institution is obvious on the face of the policy and does not depend on how the policy is applied.’

The preamble to NKU’s Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities states: ‘Students must take the initiative in expressing opinions when they feel these will benefit the university in some way, but they must restrain themselves from the expression of views or taking of action that will in some way damage or infringe upon the rights of others.’

The first policy FIRE finds to be questionable is the Sexual Harassment policy. FIRE finds that Sexual Harassment policies at universities – in this case NKU’s – can be restrictive because they tend to go ‘beyond the limits of genuine harassment.’ FIRE also says the policies are usually ones that are adapted for the businesses that do not list ‘Freedom of Expression’ as a central mission of the workplace. Colleges, however, usually do.NKU’s policy states, ‘Sexual harassment is defined as: unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, non-verbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature when: (3) such conduct is sufficiently severe, persistent or pervasive to create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working, living, or academic environment.

To constitute sexual harassment, a sexually objectionable environment must be both objectively and subjectively offensive, one that a reasonable person would find hostile or abusive, and one that the victim in fact did perceive to be so under the circumstances.’

NKU’s policy, however, does say its policy is to protect students from sexual harassment, not regulate content of speech.

The other policies FIRE finds to be of question are, Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities, Offenses Against Persons, , Acceptable Use Policy for Technology Resources and Free Expression Policy.

To view the full page on NKU’s red-light rating visit thefire.org, and search Northern Kentucky University.

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