Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Century College faculty hide behind the curtain 

Karen Murdock, the geography professor at Century College who had the cartoons of Mohammed taken down, told me after our interview on Saturday that there was to be a meeting of her division's faculty at the school to discuss the use of bulletin boards. She mailed me her notes early this morning. The conclusion of the meeting was to assign bulletin boards to departments or 'disciplines' within the Social Science division and "make sure that all the faculty within a discipline agreed on what should go on the boards." Prof. Murdock was the only person who voted against the motion.

If you would like to see her notes, click here. Note that she names names. I am not verifying this information, just placing it somewhere for others to read it. But I do have a couple of comments about the discussion.

Note that the reaction of faculty to not having rules about bulletin boards is to claim chaos. "We've opened Pandora's box," says one. And why? Because they fear offending anyone. Prof. Brueggeman says we should not put up just anything on bulletin boards because of mothers bringing their kids to college? Where do the kids go during classes? I have had kids brought to class by their parents, and as long as they are quiet I have no problem ... and I also have no problem promoting debate in that room. But they are fragile, and cannot see some cartoons on a bulletin board?

I note the words "Muslim" and "Islam" appear nowhere in the notes. I have a real problem believing the dust-up isn't directly related to the subject of the cartoons, particularly since the college's mulitcultural affairs office has called for a forum:
Next week Century College will host an educational forum titled Muslims: Misperceptions and the Facts. The forum will address misperceptions about Muslims and the religion of Islam, while also discussing the traditions and customs shared by Muslims across the world. This event will be held on Wednesday, March 22, 2006, from 12:00 noon to 2:00 p.m. in Room W1006.
This event is free, and everyone in the campus community is encouraged to attend.
Prof. Murdock has not been invited to speak, though after the events of the last month I'd think she had an interesting viewpoint for this educational forum. Somehow, I think, this isn't a coincidence.

This paragraph is a simulacrum of what happens when people who are afraid of free speech (and afraid of being seen as censors) try to come to grips with speech that offends:
Gary said that he was all in favor of free speech, but that it should be �responsible speech.� He said, �We have freedom of speech in every classroom� and did not need the bulletin boards outside the classroom to reflect free speech. He felt that the �proper venue� for discussion of such controversial issues should not be in �a public hall� but �in a classroom�or special forums.�
Good debate rolls and rollicks and can be rough. It dishonors your students to think that they cannot handle speech, no more than it dishonors Prof. Murdock to think the negative comments left on her pad to the side of the bulletin board somehow would be "too much" for her. And to call it "responsible speech" is to hide your censorship behind a curtain.

If students aren't going to grow up to deal with speech they find offensive or even hateful on a college campus, please tell me where would you like them to learn it?