A federal judge's ruling that the University of Wisconsin's hate speech code violated first amendment rights will likely effect other universities' guidelines to free speech on campus, but will have minimal impact on Harvard policies, campus officials said yesterday.
In eary October, a Federal court in Milwaukee struck down the University of Wisconsin's Code on Student Non-Academic Misconduct. The refuted policy restricted statements or actions directed at an individual that created a hostile educational environment, said James E. Sulton, special assistant to the president for minority affiars at the university.
The University of Wisconsin code was approved by the school's administration two years ago in the midst of an ongoing trend by many universities to establish policies restricting "hate speech".
The intent of the code was not to limit students' first amendment rights, but to force students to think twice about their actions and prevent "outrageous behavior" that might lead to violence, Sulton said.
But Jeffery J. Kassel, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorney who argued against the University of Wisconsin, said the court struck down the codes because they were both too broad and too vague, violating the first and fourteenth amendments.
Free Speech at Harvard
Officials said yesterday that while the Federal court's ruling might affect the free speech guidelines at other universities, it is unlikely to alter Harvard's policy because Harvard is a private institution.
"[The ruling] shouldn't have much impact here," said Ford Professor of Economics Joseph S. Nye. "Private institutions are not held to the same test." Nye chaired the committee that authored the University's current free speech guidelines, which were approved in the spring of 1990.
Although as a private institution Harvard is not held to the same rules, administrators stressed that it has been Harvard's policy to accord to first amendment rights.
According to the guidelines, the University's policy both discourages hate speech and is "consistent with established first amendment standards."
"It was felt by our Faculty that what we were adopting was in accord with Harvard's rules and the constitution," said Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57.
Harvard's code uses "language that exhorts people to be civil in their behavior", but does not restrict