Archive for the 'Free Speech' Category
Thursday, April 18th, 2013
WE WANT TO KNOW WHAT YOU HATE!
So much that we made this hate document!
Now is your chance to unleash your hatred at/for/via the Oregon Commentator! FREE SUDSY T-SHIRT FOR THE BEST HATE ESSAY
Well-grounded hate is quintessential because its ugly alternatives are blind acceptance or forced compromise. This current trend in society to discourage or even denounce hate in its essence spells danger for the United States. We must not only keep in mind but assert the importance of upholding the right to hate, just as we have the right to free speech. As irrational or discomforting as it may sound, everyone has the right to feel how they feel. As a former Commentator once said:
Sticking your head in the clouds and pretending the world is always a beautiful place may be appealing, but it is not reality.
Monday, December 24th, 2012
An excellent piece about how Chip Kelly’s balls piss off boosters. Merry Christmas everyone! Also Kwanzaa. And don’t forget Winter Solst– fuck it, pass the ham.
Wednesday, October 10th, 2012
This man holds a cross that reads, “Are you ready?” referring, of course, to the sugar-high of elephant ears and sweet smell of kettle corn. The ASUO Street Fair(e) is underway and the popcorn enthusiasts are back to tell us that we are Godless, fetus-killin’, drug-addled heathens. Grab some popcorn, sit back and enjoy.
Wednesday, June 13th, 2012
Is it getting hot in here? Or is it global warming? If you’re asking Nicholas Drapela, it’s probably just Nicholas Drapela. This total hottie, according to RateMyProfessor, was fired from his teaching (professing?) position in the Department of Chemistry at Oregon State University. And not for the fact that “rape” is literally in the middle of his name, but because he spoke out against the University on a controversial issue.
Drapela challenged global warning, and claimed there was a conflict of interest among the University and science community to perpetuate the theory. The administration refused to give a reason for firing him but the motives were clear to those familiar with Drapela and the University’s stance. “I was probably the most visibly-outspoken critic of the Global Warming doctrine at OSU,” he said in an email to WattsUpWithThat.com. “I gave several public talks on the topic and did research in the area which I regularly posted on the web. I was also on a few talk radio shows in the area. I think they finally just said, we can’t have this.” Apparently Drapela’s spicy good looks couldn’t save him from termination, and he now has to look for other work in the godforsaken city of Corvallis.
Let’s keep in mind that the validity of global warming is not at all the issue here. What is important is the ability to show a dissenting opinion without fear of persecution. Both sides to a controversial issue should be respected in higher learning centers, and at OSU (zing!). We may poke fun, but ousting a well-liked and qualified person for having a differing opinion or agenda isn’t unique to OSU, lest we forget the Hat. I recommend that OSU students follow our example and don’t let this kind of action from their administration go unchecked. It may not bring their professor back, but it would show that if a respectable staff member gets fired for questionable reasons, the administration should prepare for a shirt-wearing shitstorm of moderate proportions.
A photo of free speech for professors.
EDIT: Thank you, “The Old Man,” for the correction.
Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012
UO economics professor William T. Harbaugh, the immortal being behind the beloved, anonymous, whistleblower blog UO MATTERS, was awarded the First Freedom Award by the Society of Professional Journalists of Oregon and Southwest Washington this past Saturday.
The Ol’ Dirty covered this on Monday, but its Commentator policy to be a day late, a dollar short, okay?
The SPJ’s First Freedom award is given annually to an individual who has upheld the principles of the First Amendment. Harbaugh has long been a beacon of the First Amendment, most notably when he illegally published the Oregon Public Records Manual on his official uoregon website. The upheaval this precipitated compelled the attorney general’s office to make the manual available on the internet for the first time ever.
Harbaugh’s recognition is long overdue and largely understated. Y’all should know that the UO Matters blog is updated several times a day, and his posts are usually these quick, fuck-you-exposés about UO athletics and administration that require a kind of efficiency and genuine concern that we will never (maybe a few years ago we came close) have. Knowing he’s out teaching economics and doing this in his spare time both worries and impresses us. UO Matters is invaluable to the entire, “engaged” university community, but is especially invaluable to drunk, disoriented student journalists like ourselves. We’re the ones constantly referring to UO Matters for direction and content, so finding the Commentator website listed under UO Matters’ “Resources” is an honor and probably some sort of mistake.
Bill, you are the resource. As renowned sultans of hate speech, there aren’t too many people we love to love. And let’s just say that you might be one of those people.
So here’s to you, Harbaugh. And for the record, UO Matters will forever be bookmarked on my Firefox browser.
Friday, March 2nd, 2012
On the crisp night that was Thursday the first of March, the University of Oregon Student Coalition on Reprioritizing Education embarked on its maiden voyage towards what’s written up there on ASUO Senator Molly Bacon’s sign. Athletic Department Accountability.
While it was certainly–but not exclusively– an ASUO affair, students came together to protest the UO Athletic Department’s lack of transparency and cooperation. The Commentator was there to show its support, like it damn well should have been. I mean c’mon, after all the harping we do about athletics. Well, let me be more specific. I was there to show my support, like I damn well should have been– after all the harping I do about athletics.
Along with a substantial smattering of normal student participants, it should be noted that many ASUO Senators and Executive Staff were present, including President Ben Eckstein and VP Katie Taylor. Oh, and President Eckstein was adamant that I relay the fact that he went “casual-yet-political” at this event, donning a gray Obama crewneck sweatshirt and jeans. As for VP Taylor, I couldn’t tell ya what she was wearing. Members of the ODE whom I will keep unnamed and myself acknowledged and lauded her decision to steer clear of us, the press.
Before their march on MATT Court, rally participants gathered at the EMU amphitheater, where they were provided with picket signs without pickets, and were roused with a few words from the SCORE campaign coordinators. I was able to get a hold of the hard copies of their little speeches, and have quoted parts of each below. Cedar Cosner, a SCORE coordinator and ASUO elections coordinator alike, spoke first:
Rob Mullens, we are calling on you today to consider your successes, to consider what all of that would be without us. Give it Back. All of you now are here because you appreciate that sentiment. It is said that it never rains in Autzen. Well, it may be raining here and now [it wasn’t…], but that does not erase our conviction. That does not soften our resolve. We shall be heard. We shall be seen. We shall make those in charge quake with the implications of our stand. We are the University of Oregon, we are Ducks, we are students, and we deserve better!
Cosner was followed by SCORE coordinator Andrew Rodgers, who is also the ASUO Communications Director:
Student Athletes deserve to be treated as students first. They deserve the support of an Athletics Department and a school administration that places the highest emphasis on our Academic mission. We all deserve this…Why are donors actively incentivized to contribute to Athletics over Academics? Why isn’t the admistration excersizing oversight in the affairs of Rob Mullens and all of the administrators of the Athletics Department? They owe it to each and every one of us to do so but they have failed in that charge.
And then they were off. They sauntered over to MATT, did a little chanting, and complied with all event security requests. The rally went absolutely swimmingly, and met only minor adversity– adversity that included some douches yelling “Go home” and “Why don’t you just enjoy the game like normal people” and “Wow, you’re really making a difference.” If you’re into that sort of discourse, I encourage you to explore the comments section of the rally’s Ol’ Dirty article for more tactless bro-interjections– each complete with its own futile rebuttal written by an anonymous (or identifed!) member (or former member) of the ASUO.
Although I lost my pen sometime during the excitement and tumult of it all, SCORE campaign coordinator Andrew Rodgers obliged me with a brief debriefing after the rally had come to a close. With my bare thumbs in the 30 degree weather, I typed his words frantically into a text message. Here is what I managed to transcribe and save as a draft:
great start in our mission to make a more account able coommunity lac of inst control disinvesment when we put so much emph on athletic
That isn’t completely unintelligible is it? All the key words are there. You get it. It’s not like there’s much to be said about the motivations, or the implications, of SCORE’s campaign that isn’t evident anyway. (Although there’s always this if you need some solid, angry Anti-Oregon-Athletics closing arguments) . Because as for me, and as for those involved with the campaign, the idea is basic and clear. The University of Oregon is an institution of higher education, and our athletics have proven to be an important, successful part of that whole. But that’s just it– athletics is a contributing part of a bigger entity than itself– no matter how much revenue it generates, no matter how much national attention it brings. The Athletic Department needs to get better at remembering that it’s just a part among many, not an independent whole. It needs to get better at channeling its success, and the fruits of its success, towards the the university’s fundamental and foremost purpose. I understand that by picketing an important basketball game– messages can get muddled. Nonetheless, it’s a shame, because I know that most of the students who strode past the protest and into the arena weren’t able recognize that the small noisy crowd who stood outside of the arena– stood outside, cold and noisy, for THEM–and for their money, and for their well being.
To close, I’m gonna use some imagery, so bear with me here. Behold below, the second photograph I’ve so gratefully borrowed from the ODE’s Tess Freeman.
Now look closely. I don’t spend much time in MATT Court, nor do I have a blueprint or a seating chart of the place. With that, I cannot tell you what it means, nor what it takes, to be able to wheel around on the top floor of the arena. But if you look up there, beyond the clamor and high above, you can see amongst that artsy wood paneling and that fucking ambient lighting, a few shadowy figures gazing ominously upon our little student protest. Like I said, it was a big game that night. So I wonder who those figures are, and what inflated role they play in the athletic department. I wonder what they were thinking when they saw this. I contemplate this and it gives me hope.
Tuesday, January 17th, 2012
The internet blackout has begun, and Wikipedia isn’t the only one participating in the blackout. sopastrike.com has a full list of all participating websites, which is, to say the least, impressive.
The above, meanwhile, is an actual screenshot of Google’s current homepage. Yikes.
Tuesday, January 17th, 2012
Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has a tweet for students across the country: “Student warning! Do your homework early. Wikipedia protesting bad law on Wednesday!”
And by “protest”, he means a full-on blackout, taking the sixth most visited website offline for twenty-four hours.
The English Wikipedia anti-SOPA blackout is to signify the possible–and likely–effects that SOPA AND PIPA will have on the internet if they manage to pass at the Congressional level. In case you’re in the dark about SOPA and PIPA, here’s a quick run-down: the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act seek to protect intellectual property by enacting stringent laws against the distribution of copyrighted material online. In several melodramatic television spots, they claim that internet pirates are destroying American jobs, decreasing innovation in the entertainment industry, and probably ran over your dog when you were six. What supporters of the bills fail to note is that the language is so vague that any website can be shut down for having any piece of copyright material present on any of its pages. That means YouTube could be taken down if someone posts a video of themselves singing the karaoke version of a copyrighted song. It also means Facebook could be shut down if a copyrighted video is posted on one person’s wall, and thousands of other websites could be stomped out at the drop of a hat.
Oh, and did I mention that a person or entity doesn’t even have to own the rights to the content they claim a website is illegally distributing? And that SOPA and PIPA would effectively give the people who sued a 12-year-old, a dead woman, and claims that ripping music you have purchased to your computer is illegal the run of the internet?
Naturally, most of the tech community (i.e. Google, Facebook, YouTube, eBay, Twitter, and just about every website you will ever use, ever) and anyone with a brain knows that this is a bad idea. So they’re fighting back.
The tech community has been slowly gaining ground on the issue in the last few weeks; former supporters have backed out under pressure, and Congress has finally invited tech community representatives to speak on the issue, where previously they had only heard from representatives of the entertainment industry.
However, Wikipedia is not taking these positive moves as a sign to put the breaks on. The English version of Wikipedia will be blacked out tomorrow as a demonstration of the destructive effect SOPA and PIPA could have on the world wide web. “There’s [..] an element of this sending out a signal to governments in other parts of the world that the Internet is going to get really mad if you try to censor the Internet,” Wales said in an interview with CNN. “It’s quite ironic because the U.S. policy has been quite firmly about discouraging censorship of the Internet elsewhere. So it’s a bit of a shame that we’re trying to do it at home.”
Websites Reddit and Boing Boing will also be taking part in the blackout, and Google will posting a statement explaining its opposition SOPA/PIPA in solidarity with the protest.
The full interview with Wales can be found here. More information on SOPA/PIPA can be found here and here…for now.
Monday, January 9th, 2012
See they sent us an email:
Welcome back. This week you have several opportunities to engage in the process of choosing the next president of the University of Oregon. George Pernsteiner, chancellor of the Oregon University System (OUS), and Allyn Ford, OUS board member and chair of the presidential search committee, will be here to discuss the search and receive questions and comments from the audience.
- GRADUATE STUDENT FORUM: Tuesday (Jan. 10), 5:30 pm, EMU Walnut Room
- UO SENATE (all faculty, staff and students welcome): Wednesday (Jan. 11), 3:00 pm, EMU Ballroom (will begin with remarks from Interim President Bob Berdahl)
- CAMPUS FORUM (all faculty, staff and students welcome): Wednesday (Jan. 11), 5:00 pm, Gerlinger Lounge
- STUDENT SENATE: Wednesday (Jan. 11), 7:00 pm, EMU Walnut Room
If you have any questions about any of these sessions, please contact Tim Black in the President’s Office, email@example.com, 541-346-5023.
So free venting and no one will remember or care about anything you say? But they’ll listen? Sounds like a bar with a lot less alcohol. I’ll be at Rennies along with the rest of the student body if you want to join.
Friday, December 9th, 2011
Berdahl for $200 Alex.
Love letter from said interim:
Dear faculty, staff, and students:
I am pleased to report to you that the Oregon State Board of Higher Education has asked me to serve as the interim president of the University of Oregon and that I have accepted their invitation. I do so with a mixture of excitement, sadness, determination, and gratitude.
I am excited to return to the UO, where I came as a young faculty member and spent important years of my intellectual growth in the presence of wonderful and stimulating colleagues, some of whom remain on the faculty or engaged in the ongoing life of the University. Although the UO is a much different institution, and a substantially better university than I left twenty-five years ago, I still feel that I am truly coming home.
However, I am saddened by the circumstances that have led to my assuming this position. I believe that the UO has made important progress on all fronts under the leadership of Richard Lariviere and I have made it clear that, whatever its reasons, I believe the Board of Higher Education made a serious and damaging mistake in terminating his presidency at the UO.
I am also moved by a determination to carry forward the important agenda President Lariviere has outlined for the campus: taking important steps toward the development of genuinely independent governing board for the campus, continuing to assure alumni and supporters of the University that investing in this institution will yield substantial dividends for the State of Oregon, and working with Oregon leaders to restructure and improve all levels of education for Oregonians. I have said repeatedly that the quality of the University of Oregon is better recognized outside of Oregon than within it. We must work to persuade Oregonians of the treasure they have in the UO and why it deserves their support.
Clearly, securing a highly qualified permanent president who shares our visions of innovation and academic distinction will be among the top priorities for my term as interim president. The University’s next president will have unprecedented opportunities to work with other higher education leaders and Oregon lawmakers in setting an ambitious course for the future, expanding the UO’s impact throughout the state and the world. I intend to assist in recruiting the next president in whatever way I can.
Finally, I am filled with gratitude to the faculty and staff for the confidence you have expressed in me. It will be difficult to meet the high expectations you have set for me or to provide the quality of leadership provided by President Lariviere, but I commit to you that I will do my best. I look forward to working with you all as we move forward together.
Robert M. Berdahl
Thursday, November 24th, 2011
Wednesday, the current home of University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication, Agate Hall, was adorned with a giant banner stating, “WE STAND WITH THE HAT.”
Apparently, the decision was made at a SOJC faculty and staff meeting Wednesday afternoon.
In hanging this banner, the SOJC is speaking not just for SOJC staff and faculty but for its students as well. That building represents the SOJC as an entity and the banner is an official stance in support of President Lariviere.
Yet, as far as I am aware, students weren’t consulted. As far as I am aware (and I checked, but I admit, I got upwards of 25 emails Wednesday about Lariviere via grad list emails), I did not get an email inviting me to the meeting. If the SOJC was going to take a stance, they should have been transparent and made sure there was clear and thorough communication with students. Furthermore, students should have had a voice in the matter.
There seems to be an argument that we should trust the people that attended that meeting and SOJC Dean Gleason to make that decision for us but I find it invalid.
Trusting Dean Gleason to speak for us is the same as trusting the CEO of a big company to speak for its employees (note: I very much respect Dean Gleason and the SOJC staff, they are all very thoughtful people who wouldn’t take something like this lightly). He’s not necesarily in tune with my interests, he hopefully doesn’t think exactly the same way as I do, there is a possibility that he could be wrong and I didn’t elect him to represent me. This isn’t a normal, write-it-off kind of event, this is the President of the university and a banner on the front of our building. We should be encouraged to do as journalists do and explore all sides of the story. We should be presented with information from both sides. We should have a discussion or a talk with several guest speakers. We should sit down and talk with the President. We should be independent thinkers, and having our leaders stand behind an issue discourages that and encourages us to jump behind the cause rather than thoughtfully defend our positions.
Let’s stop and think, what has Lariviere done that’s bettered the university? And equally, how has he hindered progress? Honestly, at this point, I can’t tell you, I have a lot of research to do. But it is quiet curious that this just popped up, it makes me think that we might be missing some information.
The jury’s out for me on Larieviere’s reinstatement, but I reject the idea of let those in power speak for the masses. Every voice is important. The SOJC mobilized too quickly to get a comprehensive feel for the reactions of its students.
Here’s the question I’m left wondering–where did the money for the banner come from? Even if it was a small amount, it still matters. If the banner was paid for with student fees then if there are students who oppose President Lariviere’s reinstatement, they should be allowed a banner as well.
The Commentator is working on securing a photo of Agate Hall.
Update December 4, 2011: UO SOJC Dean Gleason said in an email that the banner was paid for with faculty money. He also said that he made it clear to the faculty that he was not directing the project.
Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011
Stuck in town for Thanksgiving? Stuck at home for Thanksgiving? Here are some Commentator-approved ideas!
1. In general, Macy’s and drunk should be synonymous, but this should be the case even more so on Thanksgiving. If you’re in for the hours and hours of fun called the Macy’s day parade consider making a pitcher of Mexican Thanksgiving Shots and taking a shot each time you see a marching band.
Recipe: Fill pitcher 1/2 full with Tequila. Fill remaining part of pitcher with Wild Turkey.
Alternatively, check out these holiday shot recipes. And this holiday drinking game.
2. Find a Bank of America and impersonate their door.
3. Capture wild turkey, take it downtown, let it go and then chase it saying “Turkey is friend not food!”
4. Make yourself a meal of traditionally American food, just kidding! Check out these local places that are serving up Thanksgiving dinner. Or, if you’re too lazy, to venture a mile off campus McDonalds is open until 11 a.m. (Ethics and shit: I contribute to MyEugene and have class with the author of that article, so don’t get all crazy and yell at me for bein’ biased, ’cause I told you!)
5. Change all of the Bibles for copies of the Student Insurgent before Thanksgiving service at your church. (I’d link to there blog here but it seems they must be SOOOO busy with their upcoming issue that they had to delete their blog.)
6. And what’s as awesome as walking 2 miles at 9 a.m.? Running 4 miles of course! Sign up for the Turkey Trot 2-mile walk or 4-mile run benefiting Food for Lane County.
7. Oh, and I almost forgot, the university calender says that the Museum of Natural and Cultural History will be showing an exhibit from 11:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. This couldn’t possibly be wrong, I’m sure they’re open. So make sure and check it out!
And here’s a little history lesson, enjoy!
Saturday, October 22nd, 2011
I am thinking of dressing as dead Muammar Gaddafi for Halloween. But I want your opinion. Would it be too soon? What about dressing as slutty dead Muammar Gaddafi?
Monday, July 18th, 2011
Fox News is reporting that Peter Quint, the ASL professor who was fired over a comment he made to one of his students, is suing the University of Oregon. Since being suspended, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has stepped in, writing a letter to President Richard Lariviere demanding that Quint be reinstated for the 2011-12 academic year. (Read their investigation and letter here.)
There are two things going on in this case: the violation of Quint’s right to due process in being hastily suspended and the violation of Quint’s right to academic freedom in being fired for a comment that could have been interpreted widely. In regards to due process, the UO and the Oregon University system seem to believe they’ve got everything under control.
FoxNews.com contacted university officials, who would not comment on the pending litigation. However, the university did release a statement.
“The University of Oregon conducted a thorough investigation into the incident that occurred in Mr. Quint’s classroom prior to taking action,” the statement reads. The Oregon University system also said it has procedures for formal proceedings when dealing with matters such as Quint’s.
“The charges or a notice accompanying the charges shall inform the academic staff member of the right to a formal hearing on the charges and of the academic staff member’s duty to notify the president within 10 days after the charges have been delivered or sent whether such hearing is desired,” read the procedures.
Quint’s lawyer disagrees, and is coming at the free speech debate from another angle: the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Quint declined FoxNews.com requests for comment after consulting with his lawyer, Kevin Tillson. Tillson did tell FoxNews.com that the university terminated Quint mid-term without due process and violated Quint’s free speech and his rights under the Americans With Disability Act for failure to provide reasonable accommodations in the workplace.
As an adjunct professor, Quint is not rewarded the same rights as associate or full tenured professors, which will greatly influence the outcome of the court case. Regardless, it is fantastic that Quint is standing up to UO administrators and fighting for his job. In every instance of a professor, adjunct or otherwise, not being granted the rights he or she deserves, a precedent is set for the next time the UO deals with a professor. And as I mentioned in my previous post, the UO administration already has a tenuous relationship with the first amendment. The time to act is now.
In the words of UO Matters, “Soon professors will need a concealed carry permit just to make a presentation with bullet points.”
Thursday, July 7th, 2011
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has launched an investigation into the termination of University of Oregon American Sign Language professor Peter Quint after he made what was perceived to be an off-color comment to a student in his ASL 203 class. A letter was sent from FIRE to University President Richard Lariviere on June 27 insisting that Quint be reinstated for the 2011-12 academic year.
In his 200-level ASL classes, as is the case with most 200-level language classes, Quint expected his students to not speak aloud — similar to a Spanish professor expecting students to not speak in English. He was having trouble with students not following this policy, so in order to attempt compliance, he relayed a personal story about being taken hostage in Pakistan, and how his ability to communicate via sign language saved his life. That was May 4th of this year. Then this happened:
Being deaf himself, Quint had made it clear to his students, both during lectures and in his syllabus, that respectful communication in class required that all communication be visible. Yet, later during that very class, some students again violated this policy. In frustration he expressed, “Do you want me to take a gun out and shoot you in the head so you understand what I am talking about? I had to practice being respectful in Pakistan otherwise I would have been shot. Can you practice the same respect here?”
Those ASL 203 students did not see Peter Quint again. Nor did anyone else at the university, as on the same day, Michael Bullis, the dean of the College of Education, sent Quint an email suspending him from teaching for the next day. The next day, Bullis sent Quint another email, suspending him indefinitely and promising to meet with him to discuss his future employment.
According to FIRE’s investigation, that meeting never happened, and on May 11 Quint received his final email from Bullis, dictating his termination.
The problems here are twofold — not only was Quint denied the due process that should have been afforded to him as an employee of the University of Oregon, his free speech was infringed upon, as FIRE mentioned in its June 27 letter to President Lariviere:
The principles of academic freedom and free expression in the university setting mandate far more tolerance than UO has afforded Quint. As the Supreme Court stated in Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397, 414 (1989), “If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” The Court handed down such a robust defense of potentially offensive speech precisely because deeming certain speech to be offensive is an entirely subjective exercise. In a milieu as diverse as the modern academy, speech is bound to be misinterpreted, and offense is virtually unavoidable. Free speech needs breathing room in order to thrive.
Finally, UO’s punishment of Quint raises grave due process concerns. Bullis completely failed to provide any protections or follow any part of the process spelled out in the Oregon Administrative Rules (OAR) for the punishment of non-tenured faculty members. The utter lack of notice, charges, a hearing, or an opportunity to appeal constitutes a severe violation of Quint’s due process rights under the rules and a betrayal of fundamental fairness. Moreover, Bullis’ requirement that Quint not “contact faculty, staff, or students” before the end of his appointment was a further violation of Quint’s free speech rights which also made it effectively impossible for Quint to defend himself and his reputation.
FIRE is demanding that President Lariviere apologize for Bullis’ actions, reinstate Quint for the 2011-12 academic year and remove all records of this from Quint’s employment files. They are also expecting a response from the university by July 18.
The most alarming part of this situation is the complete lack of due process that Quint was granted throughout this situation. The University of Oregon has a tenuous relationship with the first amendment on campus, which was seen clearly through the Pacifica Forum debacle, but also through an interview with Dean of Students Paul Shang in the January 26 issue of the Oregon Commentator. Dr. Shang was asked, “The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has listed the UO as a Red Light school for its speech code policy. How do you juggle the responsibility of providing free expression and student safety?” His response [emphasis added]:
That’s kind of a conversation that evolves. Depending on what the issue is and how something is stated, you can get different kinds of perspectives on what sorts of infringements are occurring. FIRE looks at things from just the free speech perspective. There are, in my opinion, a lot of issues having to do with free speech that people need to be thoughtful about. The fact that we are the only democratic society in the world that has these notions of unbridled speech is something that we need to think about. Canada has limitations of speech. England, Israel, all kinds of democratic countries have different perspectives on unbridled speech. That is something that may become more of an issue as our country evolves.
What we do here at the university is we want to promote freedom of speech. The free expression of ideas is fundamental to higher education. The other piece that is fundamental to higher education is that ideas will be expressed in such a way that they don’t undermine the civility that’s necessary for people to participate in a higher educational experience. You can’t be intimidated, you can’t feel threatened, you can’t feel in any way that you’ll be humiliated and it’s in that context that you can have a true free expression of ideas. On the one hand we want to have freedom of speech, on the other hand we want everyone to participate and have equal access to the higher educational opportunity.
So we’re trying to balance some things, things that you’d agree are fundamental rights. FIRE is looking at things from one perspective: the freedom of speech perspective. And certainly we, as you know, will do everything we can to promote and defend freedom of speech, to abide by the law and the notion and right of freedom of speech. On the other hand we want to make sure that everybody on campus has an equal opportunity to the whole educational experience.
Let go for a minute of the fact that Dr. Shang didn’t really answer the question that was asked. What he did there was create a dichotomy: freedom of speech vs. access to education and student safety. Not only does this show a lack of understanding of the First Amendment and its scope, it has potential parallels to this situation with Peter Quint: did the UO terminate Quint’s employment because they were worried about the safety of his students? We can take the skepticism a step further: was the UO protecting itself from the potential backlash and bad press of having students “feel threatened” by a comment made by a professor?
Legally, neither of these concerns holds any weight. FIRE is no stranger to communication with the University of Oregon, and has been at least somewhat successful in its endeavors. Heck, the Oregon Commentator is still around. Let’s hope that this case is no different, and Professor Quint receives the process he is due.
(Note: FIRE has a “take action” link at the end of its blog post about this issue where readers can click a button to send President Lariviere a letter urging him to reinstate Quint. The key sentence in the form letter: “The rights of UO faculty are very fragile indeed if the university believes it can dismiss its instructors for their classroom comments without even presenting any formal charges against them, much less allowing them the opportunity to address and rebut such charges.”)