The Student Government Association could pass a resolution supporting the removal of a section from the student handbook that it says is a restriction of students’’ right to freedom of speech.
The resolution supports the removal of the “External Computer Use and Ethics” section from the handbook. This section states that while students’ communications on websites such as Facebook will not be actively policed, students should be aware that what they post can be seen by university officials at any time.
The section also says that “communications deemed inappropriate may lead to disciplinary action.”
The resolution was scheduled to receive its second read at tonight’s SGA meeting, but its author, student senator Christopher Costa, pushed it back four weeks in order to do additional research.
Even if passed, the resolution does not have the power to modify the student handbook, nor does it mean the administration must make any changes.
“For a public university which receives tax payer dollars to declare any speech as inappropriate, in my opinion, is a breach of the First Amendment,” Costa said.
Costa found the section when reading through the student handbook. It also came to his attention through thefire.org, a website run by the higher education watchdog organization, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which gave WKU a “red light” ranking.
A red light indicates that an institution “has at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech.”
“I feel like I have a responsibility, as do all the other senators, to know what’s affecting students and how it’s affecting students,” Costa said.
Costa originally came up with the idea for the resolution during the fall semester, but because the handbook was being revised, he decided to wait until the updated version was complete.
If the resolution passes, Costa said he wants to go to the administrators to discuss the issue.
“If it’s not breaking the law, the university shouldn’t be stepping in and tramping on the free speech of students,” Costa said.
The SGA resolution doesn’t support things such as violent speech or speech that would break the law, he said.
Costa said as a senator, he wants to be an advocate for students.
“They should feel free to exercise their First Amendment rights at a public university,” Costa said.