Recently, Mississippi Center for Public Policy, National Review, and College Fix raised questions about DSU’s student regulations that read, “words, behavior, and/or actions which inflict mental or emotional distress on others and/or disrupt the educational environment at Delta State University” could possibly “subject violators to appropriate disciplinary action, including suspension and expulsion.”
As a result of this policy, the university received a speech code rating of red from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.
According to Rick Munroe, Vice President for University Advancement and External Relations at DSU, the university rescinded the policy in February 2017. However, the old policy inadvertently remained on the website. But the recent attention prompted the university to update the website with the new policy.
The new policy, which largely follows state and national laws, now lists offenses against persons as, “physical abuse, verbal abuse, threats, intimidation, harassment, sexual contact without permission, coercion and other conduct which threatens or endangers the health or safety of any person.”
Gone is the far more troubling, and open for interpretation, mental or emotional distress language. This could have been interpreted as a violation of a students’ rights to free speech or as a “speech code.”
This is the direction in which all universities should be moving. Free speech and intellectual debate should be encouraged on college campuses. Diverse opinions should not just be tolerated, they should be welcomed and encouraged. Students must have the right to express themselves freely, no matter how popular or unpopular such expressions may be.
Let’s hope other colleges and universities follow Delta State’s lead. And make it explicitly clear that college campuses are the last place on earth that should stifle free speech.