SHORT TAKES


December 19, 2012

The Campus Year in Speech Control

As Abby Thernstrom once remarked, our colleges and universities "are islands of repression in a sea of liberty," so we always look forward to the annual report of FIRE to see what all those busy college repressers are up to.

FIRE has good news and bad. 

Good news: For the fifth year in a row, the percentage of campuses that seriously infringe  free speech has declined.

Bad News: Those schools that still seriously restrict speech account for more than three-fifths of the 409 colleges and universities surveyed.

Good news: the number of schools with no speech codes has doubled. 

Bad news: That's only 15 of the 409 schools with no speech codes.

Good news: Though the repression of speech on campus is a "national scandal," the courts and the American people reject these repressive policies.

Bad news: Though anti-repression, American parents are eager to spend $50,000 a year or so to place their sons and daughters in famous but pro-repression universities like these:

  • Harvard University, which prohibits actions that "demean" others based on a variety of personal characteristics, as well as "[b]ehavior evidently intended to dishonor such characteristics as race, gender, ethnic group, religious belief, or sexual orientation." (Unless you like to take chances, don't utter a non-approving comment about transvestites, say, or the Immaculate Conception. Too risky.)
  • Princeton University, which prohibits verbal behavior that "demeans ... or injures another because of personal characteristics or beliefs or their expression." Note that Princeton is NOT actually restricting speech, only behavior (action) some of which turns out to be verbal action.
  • Columbia University, which prohibits "belittling remarks about a person's gender or belittling remarks about a person's sexual orientation based in gender-stereotyping," and "inappropriate sexual innuendoes or humor."  (Translation: Be sure to clear all comments and jokes with someone majoring in gender studies.)

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