Dec 05 2008

The Left at Christian Universities, part 7: Speech codes

Part 6 in this series can be found here.

Speech codes limit campus freedom

Millions of high school seniors have started the process of deciding which college or university to attend in the next academic year. Prospective students will take into consideration cost, academics, social life, and location. And while many students will also look at schools that reflect their interests and values, virtually none will be thinking about the school’s speech codes or free speech zones. They should. Students at colleges and universities who articulate conservative and traditional views are at particular risk of bullying and indoctrination by campus administrators and faculty who are zealous ideologues.

On college campuses during the late 1960s and early 1970s, it was students who embodied campus radicalism. Today some administrators practice a brand of radicalism intent on punishing students who dissent from the ideology of the campus power structure. In their book, The Shadow University: The Betrayal of Liberty on America’s Campuses, authors Alan Charles Kors and Harvey A. Silverglate declare, “In a nation whose future depends upon an education in freedom, colleges and universities are teaching the values of censorship, self-censorship, and self-righteous abuse of power.”

Limits on free speech is uniquely troubling for the future health of a free society. Students become accustomed to having their rights limited, and will be more lethargic in countering possible oppression from a growing and intrusive state. Perhaps even worse, some students might be unaware that their rights have been violated because they often lack the critical thinking skills needed to challenge punishment and oppression. Educational systems where students are encouraged to memorize and regurgitate information have not properly prepared them for healthy and constructive dissent.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), has cited a list of speech codes from several universities, some later modified thanks to FIRE’s own efforts. The University of Connecticut outlawed “inconsiderate jokes,” “stereotyping,” and even “inappropriate directed laughter.” Some schools put limits on speech using phrases like any words that result in a loss of “self esteem,” or cause “embarrassment” or “psychological discomfort.”

Perhaps none are as striking as the University of Deleware’s 2007 “Diversity Facilitation Training,” where resident advisers were trained with definitions that described racist as applying “to all white people (i.e., people of European descent) living in the United States, regardless of class gender, religion, culture, or sexuality,” and reverse racism as “a term created and used by white people to deny their white privilege.” Resident Advisers after their training then peppered new students with questions like “When did you discover your sexuality?,” and in one training session students were called upon to announce their views on same sex marriage, and pressured to alter their position if it fell outside the political orthodoxy of the overseers.

These examples are just a smidgen of the outlandish practices performed by the Office of Residential Life at Delaware for the purpose of reeducating incoming freshmen. Overseers of this indoctrination actually called the program a form of “treatment” for students.

You may think that this sort of thing only happens at secular universities, but the exact opposite is the case. A great many Christian universities (and some colleges) have administrative positions with names like Director of Diversity, Associate Provost for Diversity, Director of Intercultural Affairs, Special Assistant to the President for Diversity, and so on. These are not mere “human resources” staff positions, they are high level administrative positions, and they seem to exist for the purpose of promoting a combination of Left-leaning initiatives that includes controlling the vocabulary that is allowed to be used on campus, and doing so from a position superior to any faculty member, a position of real power, all the while claiming to be in the role of “speaking truth to power”.  Mr. Orwell, where are you when we need you?

And in addition to all the usual rhetorical devices used by diversity activists elsewhere, Christian institutions add one more, by claiming it is a divine mandate to be “diverse” as institutions, and to love “diversity” as individuals IN institutions.  Never mind the fact that no theologian identified such a mandate before the secular Left piggy backed on Justice Powell’s use of the word “diversity” in the Bakke case, as a way to pursue their agendas while masking the quota-based nature of them.   Sometimes the church just has to be led to divine truth by the secular Left, don’t you know?  One wonders what new revelations await us in the scriptures, planted there by God, to be identified at some future point when the secular Left leads us to yet another hermeneutically novel promised land.

So the bad news is this:  students attending Christian colleges and universities may be among those “at particular risk of bullying and indoctrination by campus administrators and faculty who are zealous ideologues”.  Faculty who do not agree with the agenda may be deemed racist, and that word may well be used in public descriptions and “faculty round-tables” to describe those who simply don’t buy into the entire concept of diversity.  The added bite: faculty who don’t sign on to the entire diversity agenda are racists who are going to hell!  It is actually said in faculty meetings at some Christian universities and colleges.  Not all agree, of course, but they are likely to feel too intimidated to speak up.

How very, very far we have come from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision of a color-blind society.  How much I wish he had lived, to fight the perversion of his movement into victimology-mongering.  But the content of your character is the last thing that matters these days.

The next post in this series is here.

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13 Responses to “The Left at Christian Universities, part 7: Speech codes”

  1. Hello says:

    You seem to be indicating that you think diversity is a bad idea. Why don’t you like it?

  2. harmonicminer says:

    Hello Hello,

    Start here and work your way forward. There is a continuation link to the next post in the series at the end of each post. I think you’ll get the idea. If you follow through the links as you read, you’ll eventually find your way back to this post.

  3. harmonicminer says:

    Hello Hello,

    Another option is to just click the “diversity” tag on the right side of this page. It’ll give you a list of lots of posts and you can browse if you wish.

  4. enharmonic says:

    I think ‘hello’ thinks diversity means to be accepting or ‘tolerant’ of people with diverse ethnic backgrounds – a mistake many folks make. What it is really code for is the requirement that Biblical morality must be silenced and socialism must be praised exclusively. This is typical Marxist strategy; use a word that has an established meaning in a society to mean something entirely different. A good example of this would be the word ‘gay’. This word used to mean ‘happy’ or ‘carefree’ just a generation ago. But today my 4th grade choir kids snicker each time we sing, “don we now our gay apparel…” in the song, “Deck The Hall”. I am left to explain the original meaning of the word just to get past that line.

  5. Hello says:

    OK, I read your posts as basically saying that the politically charged “diversity” is a bad thing (or at least a Left thing). I probably don’t wholly disagree with you on that.

    But what if by the phrase “I like diversity”, all the speaker meant was “I like hearing different opinions/perspectives from different kinds of people”? Do you think that this is a bad thing as well?

    To Enhramonic: I’m not entirely sure how you figured out my feelings on diversity from my merely asking why he doesn’t like it.

  6. harmonicminer says:

    Hello Hello,

    You asked:

    But what if by the phrase “I like diversity”, all the speaker meant was “I like hearing different opinions/perspectives from different kinds of people”?

    The problem is that it never means that. In particular, those whose emphasis IS diversity do NOT want to hear opinions/perspectives from different kinds of people, if those people disagree with them on issues beloved of the Left, which is pretty much what diversity boils down to.

    Touchstone: diversity workers and administrators do not bring to college campuses speakers who disagree with the whole agenda of diversity, for the purpose of having debates that will inform everyone of the issues. They bring to campus only speakers of the Left who cheerlead.

    Not very diverse, are they? The point: diversity to them does not mean diversity of thought, except insofar as it is different perspectives from the Left. Diversity to them means, essentially, “left-liberal people of color”. There are many African-Americans who will speak against “diversity” as commonly understood, who have stellar academic credentials. But no campus brings them in as “diversity” speakers, and it isn’t because they’re the wrong color, it’s because they think the wrong things.

    I am wondering if you read carefully those links I gave you. Did you just scan, or read in detail?

    Diversity in the USA is always and everywhere a project of the Left, period. Even when people on the Right seem to embrace it, their arm has been twisted by the Left. Feel free to try to find a counter example. Then try to find two.

    You’ll be up all night looking.

  7. Sam says:

    I can’t remember ever hearing of the Ku Klux Klan being invited to a diversity event.

  8. Hello says:

    I would agree that to a large extent, when people say they want diversity, they mean “opinions other than the things I don’t like.” However, I think (to put a positive spin on it) that at least sometimes when people do that, they are simply trying to give (at least temporary) preference to voices that are not typically heard (at least in their estimation).

    When I was a kid I attended basketball camps, and every morning before camp they would put us in teams and let us shoot at the baskets with a few balls. If we made it, we got to keep shooting. If we missed, then whoever got the rebound would get to take the shots. If you could never get a rebound for whatever reason, then you never got a chance to shoot.
    The majority culture in society is a little bit like the tall kid at a shootaround. He has as many opportunities to get the rebound as anyone, but the world has worked out in such a way that he is far more likely to get a rebound than, say, someone who’s not as tall. When the shorter kids complain that they never get to have the ball, the tall kid could say, “Hey, you have as many chances as I do to get the ball, so it’s not my problem.” And this is of course what the majority culture typically says to minority cultures: “It’s not my problem, you have just as many chances to succeed as I do, stop whining.” Maybe (charitably speaking, at least) people who say things like “we should have diversity” are trying to be sensitive to this reality? They are recognizing that the short kids at the shootaround are not intrinsically inferior to the tall kid, they’re just shorter, and if you want to make the whole team better then you have to give the short kids a chance at some point as well. In the same way, minority cultures do not typically have the same kind of public voice, political clout, or economic advantages that the majority culture does. They are not inferior, it’s just that world has worked out in such a way that there are less people like them in the place they live than there are other kinds of people. So, while I am typically not a proponent of affirmative action and the like, I think it is at least a (terribly flawed) attempt at a remedy to this situation.

  9. Sam says:

    Hello,

    Your analogy is a great parallel to the problems with affirmative action, if not exactly diversity. You made the comment (and sorry, I don’t know how to quote in a reply):

    “They are recognizing that the short kids at the shootaround are not intrinsically inferior to the tall kid, they’re just shorter…”

    Well, really the short actually ARE inferior to the tall kids when it comes to making rebounds. That’s just the reality of the situation. They aren’t worthless or bad people, just shorter. Does it mean that the short kids should never have a chance to shoot? Of course not, but they can’t expect to have exactly the same experience at basketball as a tall person does.

    I am a little overweight. I know this is because I eat too much of the wrong kinds of foods and don’t exercise as much as I should. I don’t expect to go to a marathon and have everyone slow down to my pace. I make the decision to be overweight and am prepared to live with the consequences and restrictions that brings. People who do not take advantage of the education and information presented to them should not expect the same higher education opportunities as others who work hard. If we want more minorities in higher education and upper-level management positions we should work on motivating those groups to take advantage of the opportunities available to them, not lower the standards to meet where they happen to be.

    “…and if you want to make the whole team better then you have to give the short kids a chance at some point as well.”

    Actually, making the tall kids step back and give the ball to shorter kids does not in any way make the team better. It might make practice a warm, fuzzy, feel-good experience for everyone, but when they go up against an opposing team the short kids won’t have the advantages given them in practice and the tall kids won’t be as good at getting rebounds. It actually weakens the team for competition to hold better people back to make less-qualified people feel better about themselves. This is what has been happening to American universities and businesses by lowering standards to meet quotas.

    But, back to diversity. Diversity as a political ideology is not about “Love thy neighbor.” It is about forcing everyone to accept a specific socio-political outlook. If diversity was honest with itself, even “anti-diversity” groups would be embraced as a valid worldview. However, diversity events, training, stories, etc. don’t include white supremacists, the KKK, gangs, or other minority groups that don’t fit into the Left’s agenda.

    Diversity as a vocabulary word and abstract concept is good; diversity as a political ideology, which is what we are dealing with and talking about, is not quite as good.

  10. enharmonic says:

    I like the analogy of diversity in one’s investment portfolio. Though some forms of investements typically don’t do as well as others, they should still be included in the portfolio so as to make it fair. This way “Hello” can sacrifice some of his/her future earnings to someone else’s bottom line. Besides, the more you invest in something that doesn’t work well, the better it will perform, right?

  11. enharmonic says:

    As a choir director I love to include an equal number of singers who can’t match pitch as singers who can. This way no one ever says, “I’m not good enough to be in choir” and although no one ever attends our concerts, the choir members all feel really good afterwards. And I feel especially self-satisfied because I really care! I’m not sure what to do at this point, though. The singers who can match pitch are beginning to refuse to participate in choir because they think those “drones” (code for singers who can’t match pitch) are dragging the sound of the choir down and that this is why people don’t come to our concerts. Shoot, even the “drones” don’t want to be in a choir that nobody wants to listen to. What to do? What to do? Oh well, the law of unintended consequences comes into play, but that doesn’t matter because fairness, as defined by the liberal left, is more important than reality. It’s all about how ‘they’ feel.

  12. harmonicminer » The Left At Christian Universities, part 8: Violently Non-Violent says:

    [...] This is a repost of an article done earlier in another context, but which seems to fit nicely into the series on The Left At Christian Universities.  The previous post in the series is here. [...]

  13. Bill says:

    One of the apologists I enjoy listening to (as well as learn from) is Ravi Zacharias. He says the “university” means unity in diversity. The problem is…determining what the unity should be? I believe the issue stems from those promoting the diversity do so without the goal of the original “unity” intent of the founding charter members.

    In a christian institution, should the unity be in a political agenda?

    Should it be setting policies and cariculum that will bring in further students – increasing notariety, size and capital?

    Should it be in finding ways to include all who may want to attend? Can we present things in ways with enough innocuity to include all world views?

    Should it be to accept all and determine a set of beliefs that all could live by?

    I don’t think this is the institution to which I would send my son. The example of unity in diversity is the trinity. Three unique whole entities and yet one. I think the unity should be in the foundations layed out in the bible. Creationism, sanctity of life, charity for orphans and widows, helping to spread the good news to a lonely and dying world. Can this be done with people of diverse ethnic backgrounds, socioeconomic backgrounds, educational backgrounds, national affiliations and heritage, sex, age, political affiliation, major, etc. – YES and it should.

    But, the mission should be the overriding factor using a diverse group of students and faculty. Not having diversity as the overriding factor and then seeing what kind of mission we could pull together using diversity dogma.

    Anyway, thats this mans opinion.

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