September 10, 2012

Speech Codes Catering to Ever So Sensitive Children

Given all the cases that FIRE has handled over the years that display the same mistake committed by university administrators over and over again, one has to wonder how FIRE staff can avoid a permanent state of exasperation.  How many times do they have to say "You cannot base speech policies on the response of hypersensitive children" before campus life, diversity, and disciplinary officials stop doing it?

Just last week FIRE got another illiberal regulation struck down.  Here is the press release from FIRE describing how N. C. State revised its "civility" policies so that they would not conflict with First Amendment rights and basic moral norms. FIRE's statement includes a link to N.C. State's "Civility Statement" which caused FIRE to act in the first place.  It only takes a moment for any reasonable individual to realize the problems with the policy.  It is short enough to be reproduced in full:

Living on campus provides unique experiences for students to interact with others from diverse groups and backgrounds. Residents engage in interactions that promote learning and appreciation of each other's individuality. The privilege of living on campus comes with responsibilities for personal behaviors regarding others in the community. 

In order to create a positive living and learning environment, campus residents must be civil with each other. Residents are expected to understand the impact of their individual actions on the community and change any behavior that does not support our community expectations, stated below.

As a member of our residential community, students will:

Speak to each other in a civil manner.

Recognize how their actions and language impact the community.

Treat community members with consideration and respect.

Refrain from displaying items that are disrespectful and hurtful to others.

Refrain from utilizing technology in a way that is disrespectful and hurtful to others.

Create a community in which actions of bigotry, oppression and hatred will not be tolerated.

Confront behavior or report to staff incidents of incivility and intolerance. 

Of course, how  much common sense and grown-up experience does it take to discern the coercions of "Refrain from displaying items that are disrespectful and  hurtful to others"; to see the soft paranoia latent in "Recognize how their actions and  language impact the community"; and the tattletale mentality of Confront behavior or report to staff incidents of incivility and intolerance"?  The measure of guilt here is others' "hurt"--an incitement for 19-year-olds to take ordinary social frictions as cause for complaint, an effort to control the messy motives of human beings no matter how trivial, an expression of socio-political anxieties and resentments that don't belong in an academic setting.

When is this infantile nonsense going to stop?


Comments (1)

Alex Bensky:

Just a stab in the dark here, but I'd guess that if someone has a "Free Palestine" sweatshirt showing "Palestine" as the entire former British mandate, a Jewish student's objection regarding items "hurtful to others" would not get very far.

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