Ohio University Settles Speech Code Lawsuit

OU has agreed to revise its code of conduct and pay $32,000 in damages.

ATHENS, Ohio – In a settlement signed Monday, Ohio University (OU) agreed to revise several of its policies that claimants alleged restricted free speech on campus.

Student Isaac Smith sued OU in July 2014 after OU administrators ordered him and other members of the Students Defending Students (SDS) campus organization to stop wearing T-shirts with the slogan “We get you off for free.” SDS provides free assistance to students accused of disciplinary infractions. The slogan was first used by SDS in the 1970s.

According to a press release from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), Smith and his fellow SDS members obeyed the administrators’ orders to stop wearing the shirts because they feared punishment under the language of OU’s Student Code of Conduct. The Student Code of Conduct prohibited any “act that degrades, demeans, or disgraces” another student as well as “taking any reckless, but not accidental, action from which mental or bodily harm could result to another person.”

As part of Monday’s settlement, OU has changed these policies. It will also pay $32,000 for Smith’s damages and attorneys’ fees.

Read the settlement.

Photo FIRE

If you appreciated this article and want to receive more valuable industry content like this, click here to sign up for our FREE digital newsletters!

Leading in Turbulent Times: Effective Campus Public Safety Leadership for the 21st Century

This new webcast will discuss how campus public safety leaders can effectively incorporate Clery Act, Title IX, customer service, “helicopter” parents, emergency notification, town-gown relationships, brand management, Greek Life, student recruitment, faculty, and more into their roles and develop the necessary skills to successfully lead their departments. Register today to attend this free webcast!

Get Our Newsletters
Campus Safety Conference promo