Friday, December 20, 2002

Apology coming, devil in the details 

The St. Cloud Times reports in an editorial that the administration and the College Republicans are negotiating language on an apology from the Student Life VP Church for asking the CRs to remove an Israeli flag (or replica). The Times lauds this as common sense, which it is.
Church's effort to draft an apology that meets the desires of the College Republicans, and then publicizing that apology, should show students, faculty, staff and the community that the university is committed to supporting all groups' right to freedom of expression.
If you visit the link, be sure to check out the feedback comments. There's some funny stuff in there, including this by 'Eddy":
Free speech cases can be difficult determining when merely unpopular statements cross the line into becoming suppressible hate speech. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently deciding two 'cross-burning' cases where such free speech issues do complicate the matter. The SCSU 'Israeli flag' incident is, however, a 'no-brainer'. And that is exactly what SCSU's Church used to decide the issue.
I'm not Eddy, but I like a good turn of phrase.

Here are a couple of extra details. I have read the first draft of the apology, and the CRs are asking for some strengthening of it. There are models for this out there from FIRE such as this one from the Univ. of Georgia Confederate flag case and this one from the University of Alaska. In the second case the university president wrote these most beautiful words (in reaction to an attempt to suppress poetry that was considered insensitive to Native Americans):
What I want to make clear and unambiguous is that responses to complaints or demands for action regarding constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of speech CANNOT BE QUALIFIED. Attempts to assuage anger or to demonstrate concern by qualifying our support for free speech serve to cloud what must be a clear message. Noting that, for example, �The University supports the right to free speech, but we intend to check into this matter,� or �The University supports the right of free speech, but I have asked Dean X or Provost Y to investigate the circumstances,� is unacceptable. There is nothing to �check into,� nothing �to investigate.�
I cannot reveal the draft that VP Church delivered, but I will say it fell short of that standard.

As to discussion of whether the professors will apologize, it was my understanding a statement would be forthcoming, but that was 72 hours ago. As it is finals week, it may well be that grading obligations overtook the professors in question.

Lastly, CR expects to run more displays in the spring, and has acquired a letter from the Israeli Embassy giving its approval for the CRs to display the colors again.