Saturday, December 29, 2007


FIRE's Spotlight on Speech Codes 2007 (a pdf) is out. It does not make for pleasant reading. It is not so much that it lists herds of stories like the infamous University of Delaware one from earlier this year, but the fact that the use of coercive speech codes has become universal and that even relatively benign codes against threats and intimidation are abused by the colleges.

For example, a student at Valdosta State University (VSU) was protesting, on environmental grounds, the construction of two new carparks on campus. He posted on Facebook a page about the issue and included photos of

Zaccari [the college president], a parking deck, a bulldozer excavating trees, a flattened globe marked by a tire tread, automobile exhaust, a gas mask, an asthma inhaler, a public bus underneath the “not allowed” symbol, United States currency, and a photocopy of the Climate Change Statement of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment.

Shortly thereafter, Barnes found a notice of administrative withdrawal under his door, informing him that his actions constituted “a specific threat to [Zaccari’s] safety and a general threat to the safety of the campus.”
Similarly, colleges abuse the laws on incitement and harassment. The first, instead of indicating the effect of words on those who agree with them, becomes that on those who do not agree.
A perfect illustration of the abuse of the “incitement to violence” doctrine comes from San Francisco State University (SFSU). In 2006, the SFSU College Republicans faced an allegation of “attempts to incite violence and create a hostile environment” after holding an anti-terrorism rally at which participants stepped on pieces of paper they had painted to resemble Hamas and Hezbollah flags. The University’s logic behind the charge was not that the students were advocating violence or lawless behavior on the part of those who agreed with them. Rather, their basis for the charge was that offended students might be moved to violence.
[Emphasis mine]
An example (one of several) of the abuse of the harrassment laws:
At the University of Iowa, sexual harassment “occurs when somebody says or does something sexually related that you don’t want them to say or do, regardless of who it is.” Examples include people “talking about their sexual experiences” or “[t]elling sexual jokes, innuendoes, and stories, or comments (about your clothes or body, or someone else’s.)”
[Emphasis mine]
The report finds that 75% of the colleges covered in the report are in violation of the First Amendment. Aside from the mind-numbing, Soviet-style conformity these practices are seeking to enforce, there is (and this is worse) the sheer joylessness of it all.
At The Ohio State University, students in the residence halls are instructed: “Do not joke about differences related to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, ability, socioeconomic background, etc.”


Riri said...

So many laws and protocols! It's so complicated! Whoever said laws are made to be broken wasn't mistaken it seems.

NoolaBeulah said...