Students at this school have to be careful not to email any inappropriate messages.

Samantha Harris reports at the FIRE blog.

Speech Code of the Month: California University of Pennsylvania

FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for June 2015: California University of Pennsylvania (CUP).

CUP (located in the town of California, Pa., hence the name) is one of the fourteen public universities comprising the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. As a public university, CUP is required to uphold the First Amendment rights of its students. Indeed, courts in the Third Circuit, the jurisdiction of which includes Pennsylvania, have repeatedly held—at schools like Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania and Temple University—that public university speech codes violate the First Amendment.

Unfortunately, CUP’s Electronic Mail Policy disregards that constitutional obligation. With regard to “[a]ll electronic mail sent, received or stored on the university electronic mail system,” the policy prohibits the transmission of any “inappropriate messages,” including any “sexually suggestive” material “that a reasonable individual may find personally offensive or inappropriate” as well as any “offensive messages” more generally. This extraordinarily broad policy leaves faculty and students at risk of punishment—up to and including “dismissal from the University”—for sending virtually any message the content of which offends another person.

Even among “reasonable individuals,” what is offensive, particularly in matters of sex and sexuality, varies widely from person to person.