UPDATE: FIRE announced on Thursday that the University of Oregon has “dropped the unconstitutional conduct charges it filed against a student based on a four-word joke wholly protected by the First Amendment.”
Read our original story below.
A University of Oregon student is facing five “conduct charges” for shouting an immature four-word joke at a couple passing under her dormitory window.
“I hit it first,” the girl yelled at the couple, according the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. The student claims she didn’t even know the couple and was only making a joke.
The girl was told to apologize after the couple apparently reported the girl to the resident assistant. Four days later, the student, who has asked to remain anonymous, learned she is facing harassment, disorderly conduct and several “disruption” charges.
Read the university’s “notice of allegation” here.
FIRE has blasted the university’s response as an “absurd overreaction” and is calling for the conduct charges to be dismissed in order to protect all students from speech censorship.
“The University of Oregon’s absurd overreaction is the real joke here, and it’s not very funny. Using an unconstitutional speech code to punish a student for a joke shows how out of control censorship has become on our campuses in the name of making everyone feel ‘comfortable,’” FIRE Senior Vice President Robert Shibley said in a statement.
The group also wants the University of Oregon to update its speech code to better promote free speech and thought. The university defines harassment as “intentionally subjecting a person to offensive physical contact;” and/or “unreasonable insults, gestures, or abusive words, in the immediate presence, and directed to, another person that may reasonably cause emotional distress or provoke a violent response.”
The University of Oregon told the Washington Free Beacon that the university is “not able to comment on the situation.”
Peter Bonilla, director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program, said it’s “remarkable that the university apparently didn’t give a first thought to this student’s First Amendment rights before throwing the book at her and allowing these unconstitutional charges to hang over her head for the entire summer.”
“Incoming and returning UO students should be aware of the lack of regard shown by the university for their right to free speech,” he added.