Sunday, April 20, 2008

More and More Cases of Censorship on College Campuses

Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, rattles off a long list in an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times.
But students and faculty members already are being censored, silenced and punished for having unpopular or offensive views on a regular basis. Here are just a few examples of cases going on right now:

• At Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, a student-employee was found guilty of racial harassment for reading a book. The book, Notre Dame vs. the Klan, was apparently offensive because it has pictures of Klansmen on the cover -- never mind that the book actually celebrated the defeat of the Klan by Notre Dame students in a 1924 riot.

• At Colorado College, students were found guilty of “violence” (pdf) for publishing a satire of a feminist flier (pdf). The joke flier (pdf) celebrated manliness and talked about “chain saw etiquette,” “tough guy wisdom” and the range of a sniper rifle. Dick Celeste, former Ohio governor and Colorado College president, defended the punishment on his blog by citing the Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University shootings. The title of my recent blog, “What Can the Virginia Tech Tragedy Do for Me?” tells you what I think about that rationale. The flier was a parody, and everyone knew it. Yet Celeste shamefully invoked national tragedies as an excuse for his mistake.

• At Brandeis University, a professor of 47 years was found guilty of racial harassment for using the word “wetback” in a Latin American politics class in order to explain and decry the epithet. The administration there has arrogantly refused to overturn the finding.

• At Georgia’s Valdosta State University, a student was expelled for a “threatening” collage on Facebook. While the university backed down from that punishment in January, the school maintains a ““free speech zone” that is only available from noon to 1 p.m. and 5 to 6 p.m. -- and only on 48 hours notice.

• At Tufts University, a student publication was found guilty of racial harassment of parodying affirmative action but, far more disturbing, for publishing true -- if uncomplimentary -- facts about radical Islam. Tufts has also refused to overturn the finding.

• At Lake Superior State University, a professor has been ordered to remove conservative cartoons and jokes on his office door despite the fact that professors who have more liberal views are regularly allowed to post what they want on their own doors.

• Meanwhile, 75% of the 346 American colleges the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education surveyed in 2007 maintain speech codes that would not pass constitutional muster. FIRE even runs a “Speech Code of the Month” feature that highlights the worst of them. I have always been a fan of Davidson College’s sexual harassment policy, which prohibits the use of “patronizing remarks” such as “referring to an adult as “girl,” “boy,” “hunk,” “doll,” “honey” or “sweetie” and further prohibits “comments or inquiries about dating.” How, exactly, do people date there? And do people really use the word “hunk” anymore?
Lukianoff adds to the list in another column about Ben Stein’s movie, “Expelled:”
If you are reading this, Mr. Stein, I ask you to please take a look at the cases I cited yesterday. Please take a look at the violations against religious students’ rights (including banning “The Passion of the Christ”), the gross violations of due process, the crazy indoctrination of students, and the actual ideological litmus tests at schools as prestigious as Columbia University’s Teachers College. Did you know that most colleges that FIRE surveys maintain oppressive speech codes? Did you know that many colleges maintain tiny and out-of-the-way free speech quarantines called speech zones? We could use some high-profile help here, Ben. With your power and influence you really could help bring a missing dose of liberty back to campuses. But if you only care about ID education, I suspect that you will only be preaching to people who already agree with you.
We think that Lukianoff is letting some of his cultural biases intrude when he berates Stein for only being concerned for the free expression of anti-Darwinist ideas. But on the large point -- the pervasiveness of intolerance and censorship on college campuses -- he’s absolutely on target.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Ben said...

I'm glad to finally find your site; I'm attempting to do the same thing at Washington University in St. Louis.

Take a look at it at www.jbenhurst.com. I was rejected by the campus newspaper (surprise) so I took my act on the web.

I'm sorting through your blog now, and I'll drop you a line as I get through more of it.

11:21 PM  
Anonymous mrslovett said...

How do you feel about Marquette stifling the free speech of MU students, faculty, and staff who want to hold a reading of "The Vagina Monologues"? Pretty anti-first-amendment of them, no?

5:23 PM  
Blogger M.E. said...

I've been thinking I might want to go back to my adjunct faculty job at a local college... but now I'm not so sure. Good post; I linked to you today.

5:53 PM  

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