Sunday, November 25, 2012

Censorship on Campus

A recent post just bumped off of the front page was about Liberty University's restrictive policies. A couple of days ago an anonymous reader sent me a Slashdot article entitled How Free Speech Died on Campus. It links to The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education's website, an organization founded by Alan Kors designed to help protect first amendment rights at universities and colleges. The website also contains a database of campuses, listing what 'speech code rating' they have been assigned (red, yellow, or green).

My host institution received a red light. Interesting, because one would believe that the flagship university of Massachusetts would receive a better "free speech" rating. However when looking at other schools, it became apparent that I could not find a single school with a GREEN light. The WSJ suggests that The Fire is really trying to stop is censorship though political correctness. Almost the radical opposite of what is going on at a school like Liberty, in some cases schools are so vague in their guidelines they actually legislate political correctness. (There is of course more to the issue of censorship than that.) At UMASS another problem is that 'conservitive' ideas do not receive as warm of a welcoming by students. I am ashamed that some of my fellow students consider being liberal as some sort of team, rather than a philosophy. Then again I wounder what an individual's definitions of the word 'liberal' would be?

When I spent time at Nazareth College, political correctness and diversity was an issue they really liked to push. Of course, this was really to hide the facade that about eighty percent of the student population was Caucasian. Issues that needed support from groups like FIRE never really arose because of how apolitical the students were; that is just AS scary as schools limiting your first amendment rights.

In an example of campus censorship not provided in the WSJ article, it is illegal in the state of California to criticise the state of Israel on college campuses, within certain vague contexts:
   WHEREAS, The United States Department of State, the United Kingdom'
s All-Party Parliamentary Group Against  Anti-semitism
  Antisemitism  , and the Organization for Security
and Co-operation in Europe have adopted or endorsed the European
Union Agency for Fundamental Rights' working definition of
anti-Semitism, which notes that in context certain language or
behavior demonizes and delegitimizes Israel or attacks Israel with
classic anti-Semitic stereotypes, such as denying the Jewish people
their right to self-determination, applying double standards by
requiring of Israel a behavior not expected or demanded of any other
democratic nation, drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli police
to that of the Nazis, and accusing the Jewish people, or Israel, of
inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust...

During a time when this certain country is engaged in a military conflict, it is illegal to "delegitimize" them. Now what is the definition of THAT word in a legal context? Also, is it not a double standard to make certain inclusions for a certain group of people. Does this mean that it is legal to burn an American flag in protest, but not one from the state of Israel, because it is a delegitimising act? It is easy to see where The Fire is coming from, and what the implications of such campus and state policies could be.

On one hand there are religious schools, and on the other liberal ones that restrict their students on ideological grounds. The religious schools do tend to be more strict, Liberty students claim that their school monitors on-campus Internet usage. I suppose that the real question lies within the domain of political correctness. In that the system that was created to fight intolerance is itself intolerant because it restricts freedom of speech. Which is in strong contrast of a principle of free speech: "
I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it".

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