Posted on October 6, 2004

Rhode Island College Speech Code

The speech code at Rhode Island College (RIC) holds student and faculty expression to standards that “exceed those minimally prescribed by law”—and violates this public college’s Constitutional responsibility to protect free speech. RIC encourages students to report to administrators anyone who has a “belief that all members of a particular ethnical [sic] cultural group are ‘experts’ on issues affecting that group and speak for all other members of the group,” or who makes “demeaning jokes or remarks about ethnicity and culture.” RIC also defines “jokes…about a person’s gender” and “sexually abusive . . . gestures” as sexual harassment. “Bias-related slurs” and “gestures,” as well as “demeaning jokes” are defined as “hate incidents,” and RIC encourages filing complaints not just with administrators but also with the campus police. Encouraging such reporting to police of “violations” based on vague and easily abused speech standards will have a grave chilling effect on expression by discouraging students and faculty from expressing controversial viewpoints for fear that they might be investigated or punished. For an example of the enforcement of RIC’s unlawful speech code, click here.