Speech Code Demolished at Georgia Tech · 21 September 2006

Dear Students and Supporters,

As you get settled into your fall classes and routines, I am excited to bring you news of another recent victory for academic freedom. A lawsuit brought by two conservative students has demolished Georgia Tech’s speech code. Read on for all the latest details...

Court Order Brings Advance for Academic Freedom at Georgia Tech

In response to a lawsuit brought by two of its students (one being Georgia Tech Students for Academic Freedom President Ruth Malhotra), Georgia Institute of Technology has agreed to the terms of a court order revising a speech code which administrators had repeatedly invoked to censor conservative activism on campus.

The lawsuit was brought against Georgia Tech by Ruth Malhotra and Orit Sklar, both officers of the Georgia Tech College Republicans. During her sophomore year at Tech in 2004, Malhotra testified before the Georgia State Senate about facing discrimination and abuse in the classroom for her conservative political views and the need for an Academic Bill of Rights. One professor failed her after she attended a conservative public policy conference and openly belittled her political views in class.

The university’s speech code banned “acts of intolerance,” including “any attempt to injure, harm, malign or harass a person because of race, religious belief, color, sexual/affectional orientation.” It also outlawed “denigrating written/verbal communication…directed toward an individual because of their characteristics or beliefs.” The revised policy omits these clauses.

According to plaintiff and Students for Academic Freedom leader Ruth Malhotra, the policy was used repeatedly by university officials to censor conservative activism on campus, including an “Affirmative Action Bake Sale” (protesting racial preferences) and protests of a campus performance of Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues.

“The speech codes and other unconstitutional policies have repeatedly been used against myself and my organization, the College Republicans, in the past,” Malhotra told SAF. “We’ve done activism events or displays relating to many hot-button issues, expressing alternative points of views, and those were often condemned or censored.”

Under the terms of the court order, the university is forbidden from altering the new policy during the next five years without judicial approval. If they violate the order, they will be held in contempt of court.

Commenting on the future impact of the legal victory, plaintiff’s lead counsel David French of the Alliance Defense Fund told SAF, “I think that this should serve as an example to universities, not merely that they should change their policies, but that students are no longer going to stand by and let universities trample their free speech rights. This is one of a number of challenges that are pending and more will come.”

Join the Academic Freedom Movement

The new semester is the perfect time to start up a chapter of Students for Academic Freedom on your campus or to recruit new members to your existing chapter. Deliver the message to your campus administration that abuse of students for their political, intellectual, or religious beliefs is unacceptable.

For more information on how you can get involved and start up a chapter on your campus or if you wish to report an abuse of your academic freedom, please contact me at Sara@studentsforacademicfreedom.org or at my new toll-free number here in St. Louis at 888-527-3321. You can also find more information on our website at www.studentsforacademicfreedom.org.

Look for more information and strategies on getting your trustees to adopt a version of the Temple Bill of Rights in my next letter.

Yours in Freedom,

Sara Dogan
National Campus Director
Students for Academic Freedom