A penguin and a polar bear are sitting on an iceberg. The penguin yells, "No Soap Radio!" They both jump in the water.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Failure to Communicate: At UNCG, free speech still lives off campus

What would you say if I told you that UNCG didn't want you to have an opinion? If I said our university is actively campaigning against the free expression of ideas that it does not agree with, and that it encourages your fellow students to turn you in to the authorities for their equivalent of thoughtcrime? This isn't 1984 and I'm not Winston Smith, but I assure you Big Brother is watching us.

Take UNCG's "Stop the Hate" program. This is a program, endorsed by Chancellor Sullivan, which "provides the campus with information related to hate incidents and ways to prevent hate on campus." What is a hate incident, you're wondering? According to the "Stop the Hate" website, "A hate incident is an act of conduct, speech, or expression to which a bias motive is evident as a contributing factor (regardless of whether the act is criminal)."

We're getting rid of bias, sounds okay to me. But the problem is that a hate crime without the crime is often just an expression of free speech. Yeah, nobody likes it when the Klan marches down the street, but isn't protecting their right to do it just as important as protecting a gay pride march, or any march for that matter?

As it has been explained to me by UNCG Police Sergeant Dickie Perdue, a few examples of hate incidents include a preacher condemning homosexuality on our campus, a student who displays the confederate flag on his dorm room door, or a student wearing a t-shirt that says "Ban Gay Marriage." It goes without saying that each of those activities is specifically protected by the Constitution, and it goes without saying that UNCG is on the wrong side of the argument. Again.

And the part that I truly love: students are encouraged to go to the UNCG Police website and turn in other students who they think have committed a hate incident. These reports can be filled out anonymously, and Sergeant Perdue has said that each and every one will be investigated.

Let me just clarify this situation. Any person with a computer can anonymously accuse a UNCG student of exercising their constitutionally protected freedom of speech, and the police will investigate that student. The student has done nothing wrong, and can never meet their accusers. If this isn't a witch hunt after conservative students then I don't know what is.

The rest

This column took me the better part of four days, at least five versions, and thousands of words to write. Sometimes I have trouble keeping my libertarian rants under control, so I'll just fly for a few thousand words and then go pack and pick out the 700 that is actually on topic.

Another part of the Stop the Hate program I was thrilled with was their online quiz where you can test your knowledge about hate incidents, but apparently not about civil rights. An example:

An extremist group secretly plants racist flyers on the windshields of cars in a campus parking lot and under students’ doors in a dormitory. The flyers advocate a “white power revolution” and refer to non whites as “mud people.”

This is listed as a "hate incident." Now while the issue of going into a dorm that you don't live in is technically trespassing, that's not the point they're making. They're saying this is hate speech, and it's not welcome at UNCG. However, were this the case:

An extremist group secretly plants religious flyers on the windshields of cars in a campus parking lot and under students’ doors in a dormitory. The flyers advocate “praising Jesus” and refer to non believes as “lost.”


A gay rights group secretly plants pro-gay flyers on the windshields of cars in a campus parking lot and under students’ doors in a dormitory. The flyers advocate “gay marriage and equality for all” and refer to their opponents as “bigots.”

Uh oh. It looks like all three examples are political speech, so UNCG doesn't get to pick and choose. What is so hard to understand about that? What is our university afraid of?

Then again, maybe I just took this question a little personally:

A campus newspaper accepts and prints an advertisement from an off-campus extremist group proclaiming that the Holocaust never happened, that it is a falsehood concocted by Jews desiring public sympathy and government support for the Israeli cause.

This is...you guessed it. A HATE INCIDENT! I dare the university to try and control who we sell ads to.

The funniest part about that question is if a campus newspaper is controlled by the college's administration, and assuming it's a public school, then they CANNOT refuse to sell ads to groups based on the ad's political content. I think that's the perfect summary of the lack of thought that went into this policy: UNCG is calling an act a hate incident, when refusing to commit the "hate incident" in question would actually be the illegal act.

This is all beyond absurd to me. Is UNCG actually looking to get sued?


Blogger Paul Elledge said...


The College Libertarians plan to continue fighting the absence of free speech. Will you join them? I hope I haven't soured you to the LP.

8/25/2006 06:36:00 AM  
Blogger Luke McIntyre said...

You haven't soured me at all. No hard feelings about the debates we've had either, it's all in good fun.

I have problems with certain positions of the Libertarian party, so I don't see myself becoming a party member.

I also haven't joined any campus organizations aside from The Carolinian and Spartan Television for a reason: conflict of interest. The less I'm officially involved, the more I can write about. I'd do more of a service writing about the next time Rob Sinnott gets conduct charges pressed against him (and I'm assuming there will be a next time) than joining with him. You guys are doing good work. Keep it up.

But if the question if will I join you in the fight for free speech at UNCG, I hope that my writing over the past few years speaks for itself.

8/25/2006 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger Paul Elledge said...

Yes, all I meant was would you join the fight for free speech at UNCG, and I'm glad to hear the answer is yes. Of course, as you point out, you really already have by writing in favor of free speech.

I'm looking forward to seeing what happens.

8/25/2006 03:58:00 PM  

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