Campus Reform reports that the University of Montana Western (UMW) has instituted a new policy: no “mean” speech. While numerous media have attacked the policy, there are some good points in it. But it is definitely subjective, and could be used to stop constitutionally protected speech.
Keeping the snowflakes from melting? Or trying to teach respect?
The new policy states (emphasis mine):
- Model respectful treatment of others by treating others as you would like to be treated.
- Be generously understanding and accepting of diverse ways of thinking, teaching, learning and accomplishing things.
- While discussions may become heated and passionate, they should never become mean, nasty or vindictive in spoken or printed or emailed words, facial expressions, or gestures.
- Employ active listening by giving undivided attention to speakers, allowing them to complete their thoughts before you respond to them.
- Use “I” statements in conversations so others know you own your own words.
- Talk face-to-face with others as much as possible, especially on areas of disagreement.
- View conflicts as learning opportunities to understand why individuals hold conflicting viewpoints.
- If someone informs you that you are doing something offensive, frustrating, or wrong, try and understand what they are telling you without getting angry with them.
- Externalize conflicts; do not view conflicts as between individuals but as between ideas.
Conservatives have been viciously and verbally attacked on nearly every liberal campus in the country. Trump supporters have been flipped off, cursed at, even bloodied. Conservative speakers have been shouted down, and even banned from speaking. Leftists and Antifa groups have railed against anything that remotely resembles a Conservative point of view, and never actually “listen” in an attempt to understand the opposition. Is that what UMW is trying to prevent? Or are they just squelching free speech because of student’s “feelings?”
Worried about “feelings?”
The problem comes with subjective views of the policy. Could this policy be used against a student that, for example, tweets their displeasure with a college decision? Yes, according to FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education). They are advocating a modification of the policy.
If a student frowns or rolls their eyes during an exchange with an opposing view, is that a violation? Could be.
Is flipping someone off “protected speech” under the First Amendment? More than likely, unless there is an actual crime that accompanied the gesture.
What about shouting people down, as many schools have allowed? That should be a violation of this code. Will it be?
Violations of the policy can result in suspension of a student’s technology account, suspension or expulsion.
The code as listed could be a two-way street. It could stifle the First Amendment for both sides. Respect is an important ingredient of interactions with others on any level, and has been absent in college campuses across the nation in recent years. But will this policy need to be modified in order to allow free speech? We’ll have to see how that goes in today’s rancor-filled world.