Blogs > Liberty and Power > Marquette Free Speech Outrage and the Upcoming AHA Resolution on Speech Codes

Oct 31, 2006 6:52 pm

Marquette Free Speech Outrage and the Upcoming AHA Resolution on Speech Codes

The current controversy at Marquette University reveals once again how administrators, armed with speech codes, pose a continuing threat to academic freedom. It also underlines the need for the members of the American Historical Association to approve the proposed resolution (see below) against the use of speech codes to violate academic freedom.

As Anthony Gregory discussed here earlier, the philosophy department chair, James South, removed a note from the office door of Stuart Ditsler, a graduate student teaching assistant. The note, which South deemed"patently offensive," stated:

As Americans we must always remember that we all have a common enemy, an enemy that is dangerous, powerful, and relentless. I refer, of course, to the federal government.

Ditsler complained to (who else?) the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) that Marquette had violated his academic freedom. Ralph Luker has done yeoman work in publicizing the story. In an email to department members, South elaborated on the basis for his decision:

"I'm afraid that hallways and office doors are not 'free-speech zones. If material is patently offensive and has no obvious academic import or university sanction, I have little choice but to take note."

South’s timing was impeccable. Unwittingly, he has given new momentum to the movement for the AHA resolution. To vote, paid-up members (faculty or students) need to show up at the AHA business on Saturday, January 6, 2007 at 4:45 p.m. in the Fulton/Cobb Room at the Atlanta Hilton:


Whereas, The American Historical Association has already gone on record against the threat to academic freedom posed by the Academic Bill of Rights; and

Whereas, Free and open discourse is essential to the success of research and learning on campus; and

Whereas, Administrators and others have used campus speech codes and associated non-academic criteria to improperly restrict faculty choices on curriculum, course content, and personnel decisions; and

Whereas, Administrators and others have also used speech codes to restrict free and open discourse for students and faculty alike through such methods as"free speech zones" and censorship of campus publications; therefore be it

Resolved, The American Historical Association opposes the use of speech codes to restrict academic freedom.

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