But rather than alleviating the problem, it provoked a storm of protests over policies the school does have, says the Chronicle of Higher Education.
In a joint statement, the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, (FIRE} “urged Grambling to immediately revise the e-mail policies it had cited”, says the story, going on >>>
The groups argued that those policies violate Grambling employees’ First Amendment rights and threaten to chill speech on the campus by leaving employees at risk of being disciplined if others somehow find their e-mails offensive.
The controversy originated with an e-mail sent to Grambling students by the university’s media-relations office in July. It said: “Individuals who receive political campaign solicitations via university email are advised to delete these emails upon receipt. DO NOT FORWARD campaign solicitations using university email as this implies your support for the candidate and may be viewed as utilizing university resources for solicitation purposes, a violation of university and state policy.
Spokeswoman Vanessa Littleton is quoted as saying the supposed student policy the advocacy groups initially objected to was “actually a directive to staff members that was accidentally distributed to students”.
Yesterday, the story states, Grambling said it “does not prohibit students or employees from political expression”, going on to cite the university’s formal email policy for employees which stipulates the email system “shall not be used for the creation or distribution of any disruptive or offensive messages, including offensive comments about race, gender, hair color, disabilities, age, sexual orientation, pornography, religious beliefs and practice, political beliefs, or national origin.”
It “urges employees who receive any offensive e-mail with such content from another employee to ‘report the matter to their supervisor immediately,’ and goes on to say that employees also are forbidden from using Grambling’s e-mail system to send jokes or chain letters”, the Chronicle says.
FIRE and the Louisiana ACLU responded by leveling a host of criticisms at the cited policy, it says, going on:
“Among them, the statement said: ‘It is not clear what constitutes an “offensive message”, nor how anyone will know whether someone else will take offense at any particular message.” The statement adds, “Most ‘offensive messages’ are fully protected by the First Amendment,” rendering the university’s prohibition ‘impermissibly overbroad and vague’.”
“Along similar lines, the statement said, the university lacks any constitutional authority to ban e-mailed jokes, and its policy does not contain any clear definition of a joke or chain e-mail, ‘leaving students and faculty to guess at what content is and is not forbidden” and having “to ponder the sense of humor of each recipient’.”
“The statement argues that, by relying on undefined or vague terms like ‘offensive,’ the university policy grants administrators there “unbridled discretion to censor or punish protected speech.”
Adds the Chronicle:
“Ms. Littleton said the university did not yet have a response to the additional concerns that FIRE and the Louisiana ACLU have raised. She did say, however, that the university is reviewing the policies in question ‘to make sure they reflect the university’s intent.’ We thank the Court for its consideration.”
Chronicle of Higher Education – Free-Speech Advocates Challenge E-Mail Policies at Grambling State, September 22, 2010
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win ~ Mahatma Gandhi
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