Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Does SCSU have designated free speech zones? 

After Dave posted a variation of this piece to the campus discussion email list, we got this reply from Anne Zemek de Dominguez, the university counsel who's the subject of this article on campus free speech.

Just for clarification, I certainly did not mean President Saigo when I suggested "the President" was a threat to free speech. I meant the President responsible for the appointment of John Ashcroft. I recall that Mr. Palmersheim did ask me after the presentation what I meant by "current political situation" and we had a brief discussion about the Patriot Act. Mr. Palmersheim did a very credible job, in my estimation, of covering the event-a public presentation on free speech and civility, which was strictly fact-based on the current laws and policies. None of my beliefs or opinions were injected into the subject, though in one sole instance I addressed the legal wisdom of imposing a campus speech code on students, which I noted was my own legal judgment. My beliefs and opinions were irrelevant to the presentation; why I hold the beliefs I do are nobody's business. Our student reporters work hard enough covering the story-why also make them plumb the circuitous and etiolated depths of my mind for publication?

Telling in so many ways. First, what does Ashcroft have to do with campus free speech? Have there been any announcements by Ashcroft and academic freedom? I understand and share some of the concerns over Patriot, but it appeared nowhere else in the report on her talk. I would like someone to point to a professor who was prosecuted for speaking on campus under Patriot.

Second, she had offered some beliefs. For instance, she held that only certain areas of campus were free speech zones. From the article:

...the University has designated areas on campus in which people can gather to express their opinions.

"The university may open up areas to the public," she said. "The university may also restrict areas for speech; that would be (an area) like the president's office. That is not where you would have a lively debate."

The designated public forums that people can protest or speak on without any permission are limited to the pedestrian malls around Stewart, Atwood and Halenbeck's plaza.

"The president's office ... is not where you would have a lively debate." That has a .sig quality I might wish to exploit. But it is more telling that she has now allowed for restrictions on free speech anywhere on campus except for pedestrian malls, not exactly conducive to speech during a Minne-So-Cold winter day. By what authority does she do so? When was this decided, and who decided it?

She also opines here:

...she noted an apparent double-standard in the wording of some of these laws.

For example, employers cannot refuse to hire someone because they are homosexual. But, in Para. 363A. 27 in the [Minnesota Human Rights Act], it states that "nothing in this chapter shall be meant to condone or authorize or permit the promotion of homosexuality."

Doesn't the use of the word "double-standard" (which is the reporter's choice, but apparently her intent) suggest some opinion being offered? And...
"You would not believe -- or maybe you would -- the things that people come and ask him to do," she said. "They ask him to come to Atwood to take away material that offends some of them. They ask the president to do a lot of things, and they don't really understand the role of the president. He represents the institution to the public-- it's a public institution. He really ought not to favor one particular group over another."

...is not an opinion?

Scholar Jack tried to pursue Dave's questions further with Ms. Zemek, only to be told curtly that "My personal views are none of your business". Jack answered
Interesting response. And clearly in the spirit or rational, learned campus discourse. No wonder President Saigo chooses you to speak to the campus community on free speech matters.