[lg policy] Florida State bans ‘offensive language’ toward a person based on gende

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Fri Jun 22 10:40:22 EDT 2018

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Free Speech <https://www.thecollegefix.com/post/subject/free-speech-2/>
Legal <https://www.thecollegefix.com/post/subject/legal/> LGBTQ
Florida State bans ‘offensive language’ toward a person based on gender
Greg Piper - Associate Editor
<https://www.thecollegefix.com/post/author/gregpiper/> •June 21, 2018
 525  344 Share0  2

*Expulsion possible for advocating for traditional marriage*

You would think a large public university like Florida State would have
received a warning letter before 2018 about flatly unconstitutional speech

But America’s First Amendment watchdog organizations are apparently busy
taking on censorship on other campuses. Maybe they’re just now getting to
the Fs.

The Alliance Defending Freedom publicly warned FSU in a letter Wednesday
<http://www.adfmedia.org/files/FSUletter.pdf> that the window is short
before it gets sued for violating its students’ rights under the U.S.
Constitution and even state law.

Students recently told the organization about provisions of the student
conduct code that could get them punished – all the way to expelled – if
they say something “offensive” based on gender.

The sex discrimination policy prohibits “negative treatment or use of
derogatory or offensive language toward a person because of that person’s
gender, whether or not the language is sexual.”

Um, what? Florida State reserves the right to expel someone for, say,
calling a biological female “she” if that person prefers to be addressed as

The code also prohibits “denying a benefit” to people because they don’t
“conform to sexual stereotypical notions of masculinity and femininity.”

Here’s some spitballing by the alliance on what could get you in trouble at

Does that include denying a request for a date because of a person’s sex,
when you would have accepted a date from a person of a different sex? Does
it mean a male has to treat his female friends the same as his male friends
in every way and vice versa? … is it “denying a benefit” “based on
stereotypical notions of masculinity” if a female prefers a stereotypically
masculine man as a partner?

The organization said one of the students that reached out is fearful that
FSU will punish him if he publicly advocates for marriage as the union of
“one man and one woman for life, and that sex is binary.”

These provisions are unconstitutionally vague and overbroad, granting
unhinged authority to administrators to judge by their whims, if not flatly
prohibited by the First Amendment, the alliance told FSU.

They certainly prohibit conduct far beyond the Supreme Court’s definition
of student-on-student harassment from 1999’s *Davis* ruling: conduct that
is “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it effectively
bars the victim’s access to an educational opportunity or benefit.”

The alliance also reminded FSU of something it should know and act on
expeditiously: Its speech zone and literature distribution policies
violate recent
updates to state law <https://www.thecollegefix.com/post/42902/>.

Florida became the ninth state to junk so-called free speech zones
entirely, opening outdoor areas of campus where “members of the campus
community are commonly allowed” to free speech. FSU still restricts student
expression to “small areas of campus that do not leave open ample
alternatives for expression,” the alliance said.

While the university is reviewing these policies in light of state law, it
should also take a look at the other policies flagged by the alliance this
summer, so they can be revised before the fall semester.

If FSU doesn’t respond by July 6, the alliance will “begin the process of
seeking judicial review of the University’s unconstitutional policies,”
Caleb Dalton, legal counsel for the alliance’s Center for Academic Freedom,
told FSU President John Thrasher.

FSU has actually been on notice for years, as it turns out.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education gave the university
its Speech
Code of the Month
nearly three years ago for its “offensive” ban, and the “gender based
hostility” provision just flagged by the alliance is also dinged in FSU’s
“red light” rating by FIRE
<https://www.thefire.org/schools/florida-state-university/>, which was last
updated a month ago.


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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