Monday, February 6, 2012

“I celebrate your staggering wrongness!"

     Over at Confessions of a Community College Dean, Rebel Girl unearthed a vintage post on the perils of constructing a "civility code."

excerpt:
     This story in IHE made me laugh out loud. Apparently, a community college in New Jersey briefly floated a policy to encourage 'civility' that was anything but. The provisions were:
1. Honesty, integrity, and respect for all will guide my personal conduct. 2. I will embrace and celebrate differing perspectives intellectually. 3. I will build an inclusive community enriched by diversity. 4. I am willing to respect and assist those individuals who are less fortunate. 5. I promise my commitment to civic engagement and to serve the needs of the community to the best of my ability.
     Yes, they overshot. I'd say, comically so. (Number 2 is my favorite. “I celebrate your staggering wrongness! I embrace your breathtaking, fundamental category error!”) But there is some value to the idea of civility that apparently animated the original idea. If we understand civility as something like “the rules for participating in the organization,” then it seems reasonable to me to go beyond “I know it when I see it.” The mistake wasn't in trying to write it down; it was in absurdly overreaching.

     My proposed code of civil conduct for higher ed, or speech code, if you prefer:

     I will separate the speaker from the speech.
To read the rest, click here.

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7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think the proposed code at Bergen was responding to a series of incidents quite different from ours - but it is an instructive case nonetheless.

I think Community College dean's point is well taken and is in line withe the one suggestion offered by Dean Chemerinksy in the report: "Responding to speech you don’t like with more speech."

Of course that's the classic First Amendment line.

I do think others are right - the behaviors identified in the report are covered by policies already in place. Of course; those policies are often not enforced - hence the
protection of people at the expense of students and staff. That's another problem.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Tome Fuentes and Company go after Chemerinsky when he was first hired and have him fired?

B. von Traven said...

I don't think it was ever publically revealed who did the phoning, but yes, the usual right-wing suspects evidently placed tremendous pressure on Drake not to hire Chemerinsky, and so he was unhired--only to cause a terrible backlash against Drake, forcing Drake to reverse himself.

Anonymous said...

Whose to say anyone's wrong? Who are you to judge others when you don't even know them? That's what we're taught in Soc class.

Anonymous said...

1:28, were we to embrace this kind of skepticism--in which any view is as legitimate as any other--knowledge would be impossible; the academic world should shut down and we "experts" should join the hucksters and manipulaters and post-modern knuckleheads.

Anonymous said...

No college has any business getting anywhere near a "civility" code. I would not object to criticisms made by, say, the President of activities and views on campus, as long as they are reasoned and not backed up with sanctions. But a code or policy sounds like Big Brother to me. It IS big brother.

Anonymous said...

Very civil. Then let's create a bad list of classifieds and faculty.

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