Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What does academe think of speech/civility codes? The AAUP’s statement

On Freedom of Expression and Campus Speech Codes

     The statement that follows was approved by the Association’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure in June 1992 and adopted by the Association’s Council in November 1994.


On a campus that is free and open, no idea can be banned or forbidden. No viewpoint or message may be deemed so hateful or disturbing that it may not be expressed.

[R]ules that ban or punish speech based upon its content cannot be justified. An institution of higher learning fails to fulfill its mission if it asserts the power to proscribe ideas—and racial or ethnic slurs, sexist epithets, or homophobic insults almost always express ideas, however repugnant. Indeed, by proscribing any ideas, a university sets an example that profoundly disserves its academic mission.

...But freedom of expression requires toleration of “ideas we hate,” as Justice Holmes put it. The underlying principle does not change because the demand is to silence a hateful speaker, or because it comes from within the academy. Free speech is not simply an aspect of the educational enterprise to be weighed against other desirable ends. It is the very precondition of the academic enterprise itself. [END]

2003: VPI White forbade instructors'
discussing the Iraq War in the classroom.
(Some had been criticizing the invasion,
upsetting some students.) The matter
faded without resolution.
Ask Glenn about it!
     Of course, at IVC, as far as I know, nobody is being accused of racist or "hate" speech.
     Bullying seems to occur on our campus. I've made inquiries, and the most persistent claims of bullying seem to center largely on some, um, administrators.
     I'm certain that there are some in our benighted corner of the world who view me (or even my journalistic partner Rebel Girl) as a bully. After all these years of writing about the district and the colleges, I know this: some people at this college are remarkably thin-skinned. Criticize them to any extent, and they go apeshit.
     I recall a colleague who responded to my gentle jibes (really) about xx xxx xxxxxxxxxxxx xx xxxxxx with colossal shriekage and accusations that I was endangering the existence of her program. (—It was something about how a certain trustee might find out that the xxxx of xxxx have some decidedly unconservative ideas! Ridiculous.) I reminded her that we worked at a college—that, in such a place, there can and should be disagreement and debate and dialogue.
     And, yes, there should even be criticism. Imagine!
     That seemed to go nowhere with her. My mild and playful remarks about xxxx were, to her, an assault completely incompatible with civility and, I suppose, civilization. (She's a Republican from xxxxx. Maybe they don't have free speech there. Could be.)
     Over the years, I have occasionally reminded readers that WE INVITE SUBMISSIONS FROM PERSONS WITH OPPOSING VIEWS. We always have done so. We do so now. We've often declared that we seek correction of errors—that we welcome a chance to set the record straight, if we have been in error. We've consistently bent over backwards in this regard. We really try to be fair and honest and to encourage debate (though not with loutish 13-year-olds).
     It is often said, and we at DtB certainly agree, that the best response to speech one hates is "more speech."
Years ago, a certain IVC administrator took this painting down because, he said,
its presence exposed the college to sexual harassment complaints/suits

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