The pre-emptive Heckler’s Veto, the college “speech code,” lives:
Alabama’s Troy University, a public institution, is one of two schools that earned the dubious honor of having promulgated Fire’s 2013 “Speech Codes of the Year.” (The other is Virginia State University.) Troy’s code of conduct prohibits “any comments or conduct consisting of words or actions that are unwelcome or offensive to a person in relation to sex, race, age, religion, national origin, color, marital status, pregnancy, or disability or veteran’s status.”
Note how this definition of offensiveness hinges solely on an accuser’s subjective feeling, though the First Amendment doesn’t distinguish between offensive and inoffensive speech.
(Wall Street Journal, Censors on Campus) “Fire,” by the way, is the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which has the image of a “conservative” group only because speech codes as applied are, inevitably, left-leaning, and FIRE is the bane especially of speech codes, which it’s own graphics show as being mercifully waning.
There’s been a lot of questioning of the dollar value of horrifically expensive college educations of late. If I were weighing that question today, this sort of thing would be relevant:
Some schools even make it difficult for students to learn what their speech-related policies are … At Connecticut College, prospective parents and students wishing to learn how the school handles so-called bias incidents will have to wait until enrollment, since the school’s “Bias Incident Protocol” is hidden behind a login page—as is the Student Handbook.
My local Undue Purversity, has its speech code issues, according to FIRE, as does the University Bobby Knight built. The third major University in the State (no offense, Valparaiso) ironically is the worst of the three. Private schools overall are marginally worse than public. FIRE has some interesting and somewhat surprising graphics.
Undue Purversity’s “Yellow light” rating per FIRE: “Yellow light colleges and universities are those institutions with at least one ambiguous policy that too easily encourages administrative abuse and arbitrary application.” “Ambiguous” and “arbitrary” sums up my views of how that August Institution treats free speech. Arbitrary application occurs (under the speech code or otherwise), it seems to me, when someone who can claim Certified Categorical Victimhood Status complains of “offensiveness” or when someone associated with the University mightily ticks off politicians who vote on University budgets and are capable of calling for “traffic studies” on their critics.
N.B. I had a non-speech code case on behalf of grad students in education at Undue roughly two decades ago. An aging professor of the Unitarian-Universalist persuasion fancied himself responsible for denuding the Public Square (of which he considered a grad-level seminar a part), forbidding a group of students from doing any more group projects on values education from their Evangelical perspective. The University’s Grievance Committee acquitted itself well on that matter. I have no idea why, except that its primary attorney at the time was an actual human being instead of a caricature of an obnoxious lawyer whose conduct stirs up strife rather than ending it.
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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)