There’s a fine line between the First Amendment’s right to Free Speech and a University’s right to regulate what its resources are being used for. This is the debate taking place right now on the campus of Grambling State University in Louisiana. An email reminding students and faculty of the ban on political messages using University email was sent in July. As election time is nearing, the University has not backed down, despite complaints filed against the ban with the American Civil Liberties Union and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). The University has redistributed copies of the Email Use Policy since the beginning of classes.
In a joint statement released Wednesday FIRE and the ACLU of Louisiana, the groups call on Grambling State University to retract their ban on political emails. The University states their email use policy prohibits “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.” According to the ACLU and FIRE, this is a violation of the students and faculty’s First Amendment rights. FIRE and the ACLU of Louisiana argue that the University has no way of determining what individuals may find offensive and that much of what is considered offensive is also protected by the First Amendment. Grambling State University officials maintain their policy” does not prohibit students or employees from political expression.”
It should be noted the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has what some may consider a similar policy. It states: “Political activity by University employees is regulated by Federal and State law and University policy. No employee may use University funds, vehicles, equipment, supplies, or other resources in connection with partisan political activities. This includes the use of University electronic resources.” Keep this in mind in case you receive any political emails and want to forward them.