The First Amendment has been fairly competitive this bowl season. Through games of December 27 I am 5-4 in my picks for the college football bowl games based solely on the universities’ respect for the First Amendment.. That’s 55% if you’re scoring at home. Perhaps I’m on to something here. As the actual on-the-field games improve, let’s take a look at how the next few days of bowl games would play out if the First Amendment had anything to say about it (for full “rules” of the picks below see the prior post linked above). If not linked directly, references to speech codes can be found at FIRE’s website. Also see references to ongoing or past First Amendment violations at ADF’s Map of Cases in Your Area.
Champs Sports Bowl: West Virginia v. North Carolina State – NC State has some problems, including prohibiting student use of religious or political quotes in their own email signature lines and requiring advance permission for any “assembly” on campus (apparently even for a two person “assembly.)” But per the rules for this contest West Virginia’s bad practice trumps these NC St. policies. West Virginia has a long history of trampling students’ First Amendment rights – including a court battle defending the limitation of student speech to a couple of tiny “speech zones” (abandoned after a Rutherford Institute lawsuit and public pressure from FIRE and others in 2002). West Virginia also maintains a red light speech code. Pick: Pack.
Insight Bowl: Missouri v. Iowa – Missouri helpfully makes it explicit that its prohibition on “harassment” sweeps more broadly than the First Amendment permits – reaching activity that doesn’t affect the university’s educational environment. Missouri does, however, get some credit for deciding to continue to allow a Christian fraternity to maintain associational freedom on campus. Iowa also has a red light speech code, but the administration has now thrice turned back efforts of some students to deny Christian student groups associational freedom – one upping Missouri by also declaring that the University of Iowa’s own Human Rights Policy would prohibit the school from imposing the religion nondiscrimination rule to derecognize CLS as this would constitute religious discrimination. Pick: Iowa.
Military Bowl: East Carolina v. Maryland – East Carolina prohibits students from “singling out” others on the basis of gender, race, etc. Maryland says that any “attempt to repress [or] undermine … any person or group constitutes a legitimate threat to the health and welfare of our community. … [These will be] dealt with seriously.” Both policies could easily be applied to prohibit not just true harassment or discrimination, but virtually any comment on gender or other differences a student might make. If only the NCAA had not adopted the overtime rules eliminating ties. Pick: Maryland in a squeaker.
Texas Bowl: Illinois v. Baylor – Is a private Christian college unrestrained by the First Amendment and clear in its expression of its expectations to prospective students. Illinois, however, is subject to the First Amendment as a government-funded public university. You wouldn’t know it from the Illini’s policies and practices though. Illinois recently famously fired a professor for explaining Catholic doctrine on marriage as part of a class he was teaching on Catholic doctrine in the University’s Department of Religion. UI rehired him in response to ADF’s demand letter. Pick: Sic ‘Em Bears.
Alamo Bowl: Oklahoma State v. Arizona – OSU’s yellow light speech codes v. Arizona’s red. Arizona did eventually permit a pro-life group to be recognized after initially requiring the group to accept pro-abortion members as a consequence of recognition, but it’s a testament to the poor state of the First Amendment on campuses that this would be controversial. Pick: OSU.
Armed Forces Bowl: Army v. SMU – A military academy against a private university. Let’s just let this one play out on the field. But if I have to pick… Go Army.
Pinstripe Bowl: Kansas St. v. Syracuse – Both are red light schools. And although more should be expected of the public Kansas State, it’s hard to pick Syracuse right now given its ongoing threatened expulsion of a law student for a satirical law blog. Kansas State has its own problematic policies, like imposing additional costs on student organization activities that “may be controversial in nature.” But I’m picking against Syracuse’s ongoing denial of free expression, not for K State. Pick: Kansas State.
Music City Bowl: UNC v. Tennessee – Easy. Tennessee is one of 14 schools in the country to have earned a green light from FIRE for its speech policies. It has also purged itself of Lane Kiffin, making it easier to favor the Vols. UNC on the other hand fought for years in an effort to deny associational freedom to a Christian fraternity, eventually buckling after a federal judge stopped the school from enforcing its unconstitutional policy. And it still maintains a prohibition on any decorations on a student’s own dorm room door that another might find offensive on the basis of, among others, religion. Pick: Vols.
Holiday Bowl: Nebraska v. Washington – Nebraska’s green light against Washington’s red. And Washington’s red light is well earned. The school once prohibited education majors from student teaching at religious schools until ADF allies filed a lawsuit. Pick: Cornhuskers.
Next: New Years Eve and New Years Day Games…