Thursday, February 19, 2004

A long drive to right field 

The first home run of the season has been hit by Mike Adams, professor at UNC-Wilmington and contributor at On Monday he displayed a letter by an instructor of English at UNC-Chapel Hill to her students that took extreme offense to a Christian's expressing "disgust" (the student's word) about homosexuality. She labeled this "hate speech", though it was apparently expressed in the context of classroom discussion (i.e., homosexuality was the topic offered by the instructor.) Prof. Adams wondered if the student had First Amendment privileges in the classroom or not? Today Adams writes that the chair of the English Dept. at UNC-Chapel Hill has repudiated the email from the instructor and that this will be monitored. Adams hits a laser over the wall with this observation:
I also hope that Professor Crystall will continue to discuss controversial topics in the courses she teaches at UNC-Chapel Hill. The topics she appears to cover should not be neglected altogether. However, if the discussion of such topics becomes excessive in the opinion of some participants, or if the discussion of the topics becomes one-sided, people are bound to be offended.

... Make no mistake about it; if we bring people together who have different ideas and perspectives, some will be offended. There is simply no constitutional right to ?freedom from offense.? And there is certainly no compatibility between the real provisions of the First Amendment and the ?speech codes? that universities such as UNC-Chapel Hill are beginning to employ, presumably to thwart the inevitable tension between the two incompatible goals of the diversity movement.

Our speech code at UNC-Wilmington prohibits ?offensive speech or behavior of a biased or prejudiced nature related to one?s personal characteristics, such as race, color, national origin, sex, religion, handicap, age or sexual orientation.?

To take seriously such an absurd code would place even mild expressions on either side of debates involving sexual orientation in jeopardy. It is far better that such debates take place where people are offended than that they never take place at all.
At SCSU, there is at least "due consideration" given to speech rights (see third paragraph) but the betting here is that due consideration is something done just before blasting ahead to the harassment charges.