Another victory against PC speech codes on campus

Another victory against PC speech codes on campus
Credit: MPR News

What gives? The New Year is not quite a month old, and already two college campuses have established beachheads against incursions by the forces of political correctness.

On Thursday, LU reported on one college president who said no dice to a list of student demands presented to him with in December.

Now comes word of another campus that has rejected the imposition of a ban on demeaning jokes, noting that such rules hinder students’ rights to free speech under the First Amendment.

According to The College Fix, Southwest Minnesota State University has done a 180 with respect to the implementation of rules that limit acts of so-called “cultural intolerance,” including the telling of jokes that some on campus might find objectionable.

In November, the new additions to the school’s curiously named Prohibited Code of Conduct came under fire when FIRE — the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education — challenged the regulations as unconstitutional. FIRE wrote:

SMSU is a public university, which means it cannot lawfully maintain policies—such as this one—that violate students’ First Amendment right to free speech.

Under SMSU’s policy, any speech or expression that another student subjectively finds ‘demeaning’ or ‘belittling’ is subject to punishment. And on today’s college campus, where students increasingly demand the right to emotional comfort, that often includes a tremendous amount of speech, including the expression of unpopular views on political and social issues.

Administrators took a closer look at the new policy and subsequently revised it in accordance with FIRE’s critique.

The term “cultural intolerance” is no longer found in the code of conduct. The term “discriminatory harassment” remains, though now it is now defined as “verbal or physical conduct that is directed at an individual because of his or her protected class, and that is sufficiently severe, pervasive, or persistent so as to have the purpose or effect of creating a hostile work or educational environment.”

Samantha Harris, a spokeswoman for FIRE, observed that the university “still has some policies that limit students’ expressive rights (such as one requiring advanced reservation for ‘expressive activities’ sponsored by student organizations), but that, in general, strides away from overly sensitives draconian laws had been made.

Ben Bowles

Ben Bowles

Ben Bowles is a freelance writer.


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