May 09, 2014

And you thought the Donald Sterling situation had some issues?

One of the concerns of the dirty Donald Sterling matter was the right to privacy -- the expectation that whatever you say in the privacy of your own domicile is (or should be) sacrosanct. Pundits discussed state laws which require only one party's consent to record something (audio or video; most states in the US are one-party consent), and, of course, whether Sterling has the "right" to be a bigot in his home.

Chug on over to Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon where even if you tell a racially insensitive joke between two people of different races and a bystander/someone passing by hears it, you can be brought up on charges:

Lewis & Clark College has declared two students, one African-American and one white, guilty of creating a “hostile and discriminatory environment” after racially themed jokes spoken between the friends at a private party were overheard and reported to campus authorities.

On November 23, 2013, roughly 20 students, many of them members of Lewis & Clark’s football team, attended a private party at a campus residence hall. During a game of “beer pong,” one African-American student jokingly named his team “Team Nigga” and would exclaim the team’s name when scoring a point. The student also exchanged an “inside joke” greeting with a white friend, who welcomed him by saying, “How about a ‘white power’?”, to which the African-American student replied in jest, “white power!”

A student not present at the party overheard the language and reported it to Lewis & Clark’s Campus Living office, which turned the matter over to the college’s Campus Safety division. Campus Safety investigated the alleged “racial and biased comments” made at the party, interviewing the two students and questioning them about the language used both at the party and within Lewis & Clark’s football program. After the investigation’s conclusion, Lewis & Clark charged both students with “Physical or Mental Harm,” “Discrimination or Harassment,” and “Disorderly Conduct.” Although the students’ conduct charges and ensuing disciplinary hearings were spurred by the complaint about the November 23 party, Lewis & Clark made clear that it intended to investigate “[o]ther acts of potential hate speech and bias that have occurred recently on campus” as well.

Lewis & Clark found both students guilty on all charges and rejected each of their appeals. In one student’s disciplinary letter, Lewis & Clark wrote that the student’s language “contributed to the creation of a hostile and discriminatory environment.” In rejecting the same student’s appeal, Lewis & Clark claimed his speech “caused reasonable apprehension of harm to the community.” Lewis & Clark placed both students on probation and required each to complete “Community Restitution” in the form of “Bias Reduction and Bystander Intervention Training,” among other sanctions.

Sterling made legitimately racist comments and was clandestinely recorded to pretty much reveal that fact to the public at large. These two students are friends and if anything, their "racial jibes" towards each other demonstrate that -- gasp! -- we can indeed laugh at each other ... and still be comrades!! Who'da thought? (Idiot college administrators, that's who.) And they're reported on by someone who happened to be passing by?? I mean, REALLY?

Thank goodness for groups like FIRE (The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education). Their tireless efforts provide that needed "sunshine" as "disinfectant." It recognizes that Lewis & Clark is a private college; however, it

... does make promises of free speech to its students. Its policy on Freedom of Expression & Inquiry states, for example, that students are “free to examine and discuss all questions of interest to them and to express opinions publicly and privately.”

How 'bout that.

Thankfully, even many in the L&C community know this case in BS. Forty faculty members sent a letter to college administrators "criticizing the college’s 'questionable treatment of free speech and of our students’ right to due process,'” and the stonewalling by same.

We'll keep you posted.

Posted by Hube at May 9, 2014 07:28 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

We've become a society that is intolerant of tolerance

Posted by: Arthur at May 10, 2014 06:55 AM

Another example of colleges being intolerant of free speech and overreacting to perceived "slights." Thank God I'm not in college anymore.

Posted by: Carl at May 10, 2014 01:19 PM

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