UCD’s free speech conundrum

By From page A10 | October 25, 2013

As a member of an Academic Senate-Federation Committee, I participated in drafting the Principles of Community that have framed conceptions of public discourse on the UC Davis campus for nearly two decades. We never conceived that the principles would threaten or throttle freedom of speech, which we believed to be enshrined in the very idea of higher education.

So it is with some trepidation that I attempt to digest Cory Golden’s report in Tuesday’s Enterprise. The new initiative to craft a “freedom of expression” policy appears to go way beyond the Principles of Community and seems to threaten free speech in the sense that we used to think of free speech.

While there is a suggestion that the initiative is an outgrowth of the pepper-spray incident, the pepper-spray incident may have been a pre-emptive strike aimed at preventing the kind of anarchy that was perceived as interruptive of education at Greek universities in an earlier period.

I fear that this new “free speech” policy is an attempt to sanitize the campus of unwelcome speech; to make the campus safe for donors and for university-corporate cooperation. Some of us can recall the cleansing that took place in the 1950s and ’60s as well as the era of the loyalty oaths.

There is something distinctly Orwellian about such a finely drawn code that define these bureaucratically determined criteria for acceptable speech. Will academic and literary ideas be next in line to feel the heavy hand of the censors?

Desmond Jolly

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