Foundation for Individual Rights in Education Takes Note of Harassment of Marquette Warrior
FIRE notes that the incident:
. . . provides a good example of how unwarranted investigations of campus speech can cause a deeply problematic “chilling effect” at a university. Universities must not pursue investigations of protected expression just because someone submits a complaint; as soon as it is clear that the expression in question is protected speech, the inquiry must end, even if there are other factual disputes. Prolonging the investigation tells everyone on campus that the university will pursue charges against you no matter how frivolous or malicious the complaint. The likely result is that people self-censor and keep their mouths shut rather than risk such investigation and a possible punishment.Of course, for the politically correct types on campus, this is the point. They are deeply hostile to free and open debate.
FIRE goes on the quote Marquette’s own Student Handbook on the legitimacy of differences of opinion:
It is clearly inevitable, and indeed essential, that the spirit of inquiry and challenge that the university seeks to encourage will produce many conflicts of ideas, opinions and proposals for action.Of course, Marquette’s Student Handbook also includes several very dangerous and over-broad statements that could be used to stifle speech. For example:
Harassment is defined as verbal, written or physical conduct directed at a person or a group based on color, race, national origin, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation where the offensive behavior is intimidating, hostile or demeaning, or which could or does result in mental, emotional or physical discomfort, embarrassment, ridicule or harm.Read at face value, this could mean that if a frank discussion of ghetto crime makes a black student feel “discomfort” that could be harassment. Of course, a feminist talking about the evils of male sexism could make a male student feel uncomfortable, but the odds of anybody seeing any problem with that are nil.
Yet by pursuing this investigation, Marquette is letting a single student entangle a professor in disciplinary proceedings simply due to protected classroom expression. How many professors at Marquette are now going to steer clear of sensitive topics just to avoid an Ethics Point investigation?The truth, of course, is that even without this kind of inquisition, any prudent junior faculty member, wanting to get tenure, better stifle any urge to say anything politically incorrect. And a lot of tenured people, not wanting to “make waves” or generate hostility, tend to “lay low” and keep their opinions to themselves.
Welcome to the modern politically correct university.