The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is an organization that offers a database called a Speech Code Rating System, which denotes FIRE’s opinion on the legitimacy of institution’s policies. Their mission is to “defend and sustain the individual rights of students and faculty members at America’s colleges and universities.”
In an evaluation last year by FIRE, Sam Houston State University received a statement rating of yellow.
FIRE categorizes campus policies on a stoplight scale from green to red. The yellow light denotes an institution that’s “policies restrict a more limited amount of protected expression or, by virtue of their vague wording, could too easily be used to restrict protected expression.”
Several of SHSU’s policies were evaluated and some were given a green light in categories like Publications of Student Groups, Residence Life Handbook: Harassment/Bullying, the Code of Student Conduct and Discipline, and the Racial Harassment Policy. The campus as a whole remains at a yellow light. FIRE took issue with a few different policies cited below:
Residence Life Handbook: Windows: “Students who place items in windows that the University determines to be offensive and/or obscene will be asked to remove the items immediately and may be subject to disciplinary action. The University reserves the right to enter a student’s room/ apartment to remove items that are found offensive and/or obscene if the student is not present during the discovery.”
IT-03: Acceptable Use Policy: “All individuals are accountable for their actions relating to SHSU information technology resources. Direct violations include the following: …Using SHSU information technology resources for political gain.”
Student Guidelines: Code of Student Conduct and Discipline: “Harassment where the individual threatens or bullies, in person, by telephone, electronically, in writing, or by other means, to take unlawful action against any person and by this action intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly annoys or alarms the recipient.”
Student Guidelines: Posting and Distribution of Printed Materials: “Students and officially recognized student organizations may post printed material on designated campus bulletin boards with stamped approval of the Department of Leadership Initiatives… Posted materials must identify campus affiliate, sponsoring organization, or individual student.”
Dean of Students: Expressive Activity- Get Informed: “Harassment is conduct sufficiently severe, pervasive, or persistent that the conduct creates a hostile environment substantially impairing a person’s access to university programs or activities.”
FIRE does not explicitly say why these excerpts are problematic, but they are listed at http://www.thefire.org/schools/sam-houston-state-university.