College can’t ban profanity, vulgarity

Moorpark College‘s Student Code of Conduct, which prohibits “profanity, vulgarity or other offensive conduct,” has won FIRE’s Speech Code of the Month for November. The Southern California community college is up against the U.S. Supreme Court, which has ruled that profanity and vulgarity fall under free-speech protections, FIRE points out.

In Papish v. Board of Curators of the University of Missouri . . . the Supreme Court held that “the mere dissemination of ideas — no matter how offensive to good taste — on a state university campus may not be shut off in the name alone of ‘conventions of decency.'”

. . . How could anyone discuss or quote Shakespeare or Mark Twain, or Norman Mailer, or any R-rated film without either violating this policy or willfully ignoring the actual words being studied?

Moorpark’s prohibition of “other offensive conduct” is hopelessly vague. Offensive to whom?

Two incumbents were defeated in governing board elections at Southwestern College, also in California, creating a pro-student majority on the board. This may facilitate a better free-speech policy, FIRE hopes.


POSTED BY Joanne Jacobs ON November 10, 2010

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Clay Boggess

Free speech is guaranteed by the constitution. I’m not so sure about profanity and vulgarity however. I think it should not be protected if it is universally understood to be offensive.

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