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Monday, September 10, 2007

Joking banned at OSU

In the interest of forcing diversity down students' throats, Ohio State University has banned jokes, in a slightly chilling "Diversity Statement":
Diversity is a cornerstone of community at The Ohio State University. The Office of University Housing defines the concept as an inclusive mixture of all the differences that make the individuals at The Ohio State University unique. Through exposure, critical thinking, appreciation and interactions within our residence halls and larger university communities our goal is to empower students, staff, faculty and friends. In this, we attempt to learn from the wide array of human similarities and differences in an increasingly diverse world.

Our goals are to:
  • Increase sensitivity to differences through exposure, dialogue, and personal reflection
  • Address thoughtlessness that may limit our efforts
  • Maintain a talented and qualified staff with a commitment and conviction toward diversity.

    One of the most important components of your college education is learning to respect and appreciate the lifestyles, values, ideas, cultures, and backgrounds of others you encounter. The residence hall communities at The Ohio State University are rich in the diversity of the communities. As a student in our community, you are asked to be respectful of these differences:
  • Do not joke about differences related to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, ability,
    socioeconomic background, etc.
  • Do not use obscene words or gestures. Oftentimes these are unwelcome and offensive to students in your community.
  • Listen to other students living in your floor community. If a person indicates that a behavior or action is offensive, you should stop the behavior immediately.
  • Actively challenge the stereotypes you have of others. Use your time to consider the new experiences you are having at The Ohio State University, instead of relying upon the past evaluations you have had of others.
  • When in doubt about the impact of your words or actions, simply ask.

    It is the responsibility of any student in the residence halls to report incidents of racial or other discrimination or harassment to residence hall staff.

  • See, diversity and tolerance are the most important things in the world, even if it means stifling First Amendment rights!

    For this, FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) has just awarded OSU the Speech Code of the Month:
    FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for September 2007: The Ohio State University.

    The Office of University Housing at Ohio State, a public university, maintains a Diversity Statement that severely restricts what students in Ohio State's residence halls can and cannot say.

    The Diversity Statement also contains another, quite cryptic, prohibition: "Words, actions, and behaviors that inflict or threaten infliction of bodily or emotional harm, whether done intentionally or with reckless disregard, are not permitted." Could anyone at Ohio State actually explain what this prohibition means? How exactly does one threaten to inflict emotional harm? Would that mean shouting, "Hey you! Get out of here or I'm going to hurt your feelings..."? The problem with a prohibition like this one is that it is unconstitutionally vague. The Supreme Court has held that to avoid vagueness, a regulation must "give the person of ordinary intelligence a reasonable opportunity to know what is prohibited, so that he may act accordingly." Grayned v. City of Rockford, 408 U.S. 104, 108 (1972). It is safe to say that no reasonable person can figure out exactly what this sentence prohibits.

    For these reasons, The Ohio State University is our September 2007 Speech Code of the Month.

    So, out of curiosity, how does one know when a joke is considered hurtful? Are blonde jokes out? Are all those great Gators vs. Buckeyes videos gone? This gives plenty of students license to point the finger at someone for whatever they want; but when someone can get in trouble for saying something "hurtful", there's too much doubt that can come into play. It becomes a he said-she said situation. Unless students are forced to carry around recording devices 24 hours a day, how can you really prove someone was making a -- gasp! -- offensive joke? And what if someone misinterprets a phrase or a joke? And what will the punishment be for making said offensive jokes?

    Here's an even bigger question: where is that bastion of free speech, the ACLU? My guess is they're probably agreeing with OSU on this one. After all, it's done in the name of tolerance and diversity, so it's perfectly fine to trample on the free speech rights of OSU students.

    I'm sure that OSU administrators have good intentions. I doubt they're sitting in their offices, cackling that they're going to make 1984 a reality. But all the same... the road to hell is still paved with good intentions.

    Hat Tip: Moonbattery

    6 comments:

    btenney said...

    Ah for the days when poor taste was unregulated.

    CJ said...

    Two things jump out:

    Differences in "ability" is one of the banned observations. Isn't that a bit, broad?

    What's with the repeated, clunky "The Ohio State University" references? Clearly, it was decreed that “Ohio State University” was not the proper, official reference. Is “The” seen as necessary to distinguish it from other universities in Ohio’s state system of higher ed? Weird.

    Gredd said...

    I find what they're doing to be highly offensive. That means they have to stop right?

    Undecided said...

    Well there is only one thing to do invite Carlos Mencia to do the graduation speech. What better way to celebrate diversity?

    Don_cos said...

    A smart student group, that wished to show the flaws in this policy could easily swamp the faculty with complaints, using the foul language and gestures portion of the policy.

    bbartlog said...

    I think you underestimate the ACLU somewhat. They may have sold out on gun rights (and some of them have tried to make up new rights, like the right to a living wage), but they would reliably come down on the right side in a case like this. Since no one has actually been penalized under this speech code yet (by the sound of it), the ACLU would probably not be involved simply because there's no legal case to prosecute.