It is bad enough that all too many college administrators push trendy and politically correct multicultural agendas at the expense of traditional Western values. But what is worse and unconstitutional is when they brazenly implement restrictive speech codes when students don’t show obedience to their dogma.
The latest example of politically correct intolerance is occurring at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Georgia taxpayers and Tech alumni subsidize this university. It would be a valid assumption that the vast majority support a free flow of academic ideas and discussion. So, one would assume, does the Georgia Board of Regents that governs Tech and other public colleges. Yet the administration of President G. Wayne Clough has two policy bibles – The Student Code of Conduct and The Community Guide– that trample on the constitutional free speech and liberty rights of students.
They bar any kind of speech they self-righteously label “Acts of Intolerance.” Also banned, according to The Community Guide, are “denigrating written/verbal communications (including the use of telephones, emails and computers) directed toward an individual because of their characteristics or beliefs.” So, for example, Tech students are barred from arguing that homosexuality is a lifestyle condemned by the world’s major religions! They could be warned, or even kicked out of school, for “heresy” against Clough’s new multiculturalist religion.
The Student Code even decrees that “a student group” and its officers may be held collectively or individually responsible when violations have “received the consent or encouragement of the group.”
Who are the natural targets for speech code violations- Christians, Jews, members of the College Republican chapter on campus or anyone else who dares to question or speak out on controversial public policy issues.
In response to this thought control, two students have courageously turned to the courts of law and public opinion to seek relief. Junior Orit Sklar and senior Ruth Malhotra- a Jewish and Christian Republican, respectively– filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court against Clough and other Tech officials for violating their First Amendment right of free speech.
The Alliance Defense Fund, which is assisting the plaintiffs, underscores that the persecution against them is compounded with Tech’s efforts to indoctrinate students in the politically correct interpretation of religious texts on issues related to homosexuality. Through a program dubbed “Safe Space,” Tech officials openly promote the beliefs of religions that favor homosexual behavior and denigrate religions that place a moral stamp of disapproval on it. “The university is clearly overstepping its bounds in interpreting religious texts and then pushing its own view on a religiously diverse community on campus. This is indeed an unconstitutional establishment of religion that clearly violates students’ First Amendment rights to free speech and religious liberty,” says the plaintiffs’ lawyer David French.
A decade ago when the University of Georgia tried to enforce an unconstitutional speech code, student and alumni resistance arose and the administration wisely backed off. One would have thought Tech and every other Georgia university would have learned a lesson in Free Speech 101 at that time.
To save time and money in court, Clough should admit that his administration has gotten completely carried away by its adherence to the Gospel of St. Trendy. Why doesn’t he realize that speech codes?and trying to enforce them — are incompatible with the traditional of a free exchange of ideas long cherished (until recent years) by American institutions of higher learning?
If Tech doesn’t back off, the new chancellor of the University System of Georgia ought to issue a blunt reminder to Clough that countless students like Sklar and Malhotra have rights, too.
Phil Kent is an Atlanta-based author and pundit on WAGA-TV’s Georgia Gang.