Sunday, October 11, 2009

Speech Code Ditched at University of Wisconsin

This recent move by the University of Wisconsin was unexpected and a move toward sanity on that very liberal campus. I should say this did not come without the nudging of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Most major universities across the country still maintain speech codes restricting faculty and in many cases student from using certain so-called "offensive" words. Political correctness has invaded most campuses resulting in often severe restrictions on what can and cannot be said. All to often, those most restricted by these draconian measures are those on the right. Constitutional guarantees afforded by the First Amendment are tossed aside in favor of political correctness. Unfortunately it takes years for these measures to reach the courts even after they are challenged. This Wisconsin case came as a result of measures instituted by Donna Shalala in 1989, when she was chancellor at that school.

Our great colleges and universities are suppose to have a free and open exchange of ideas, but what has happened over the past years is that there has been a concerted effort by forces on the left to restrict opposing views, ideas, and even words offensive to them and the result has been a lost of academic freedom and a resulting imposition of a single political view point. I contend this was done deliberately and with a full knowledge of the end result. A result that we the tax-payers have funded in the case of our public institutions. Freedom of speech is vital and demanded by the Constitution at public and private institutions. And it is time for the federal courts to accert and demand that constitutional rights be given to all who attend our colleges. To avoid this issue, to neglect this duty is nothing short of treason. Our schools are vital to the future of this country. The change at UW is welcome, but it is only a very small step toward true academic freedom.

U. Wisconsin-Madison Ditches Faculty Speech Code
Eric Langborgh

In a triumphant shout of, "It’s a great day for freedom!" University of Wisconsin-Madison faculty senator Lester Hunt and other defenders of freedom trumpeted the Faculty Senate’s decision to essentially abolish the university’s long-standing faculty speech code. This voluntary action comes six years after the Wisconsin Supreme Court deemed student speech codes unconstitutional.

After 17 months of studying and debating speech code options, the Faculty Senate voted 71-62 to approve legislation to allow "all members of the university to express openly their ideas and opinions."

Jason Shepard, student committee member and a supporter of abolishing the speech code, called the legislation "historic" and stated that "this is the first time a university has voluntarily repealed its speech code."

The faculty speech code had been in effect since 1989, when then-Chancellor Donna Shalala instituted new rules under a section titled "Unprotected expressive behavior subject to discipline."

Wisconsin’s faculty speech code, like many at other universities, had sought to control "offensive speech" through diversity codes under what has come to be called "hostile environment doctrine." Recently, Pennsylvania State University became the latest in a long line of colleges around the country to come under fire for suppressing free speech under this rule. Hostile environment doctrine was also the subject of Alan Charles Kors and Harvey A. Silverglate’s book The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses.

Jonathan Rauch, author of Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought and senior writer for National Journal magazine, says that under this doctrine anyone who feels they are in a hostile environment can file suit against the individual or group creating that environment.

This notion came to a head earlier this year when a University of Wisconsin (UW) student accused one of her professors of contributing to a hostile environment by repeatedly offending her. In a case eerily similar to the recent incident in the Washington, DC mayor’s office, Amelia Rideau, a junior, left the class in tears after her professor repeatedly used the word "niggardly."

According to the American Heritage College Dictionary, the word "niggardly" is an adjective used to describe a meager, petty manner. However, Rideau felt that by using this word her English professor, Standish Henning, was singling her out as the only black in the class. "This is a professor who knew that word offended me, and…still repeated it," she said.

Henning decided to use the incident to spur a valuable discussion in his class about the implications of language.

Shepard characterized the incident by saying, "the word ‘niggardly’ does not debase the student on the basis of race. I don’t think it is punishable…even if it is annoying. read full article

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