This post, over at Coyote Blog, did remind me of a topic that I have been meaning to blog about though.
Right on the front page of the student portal at DePaul is a link that reads 'Speech-Expression Task Force.' So every time I go to check my grades or see if my transcripts have been transferred or try to sign up for classes next quarter (which is a blog post for another day) I see this trite 4 word phrase on the left hand of the screen taunting me.
Given my experiences so far with the University and my pre-conceptions about educational institutions generally I was terrified about what nuggets of "protections" this task force had come up with.
I finally worked up the courage to follow the link and found a set of "Guiding Principles" regarding speech and expression and that they were not intended to substitute of University policy. Not bad, but that also gives the University pretty wide leeway to interpret the guidelines, right? So what did the "Guiding Principles" have to say?
It was amazingly short and to the point.
Free speech and expression are central to the purpose of the university.Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised. As a private institution DePaul would be well within their rights to restrict speech in any way that they saw fit. It says a lot that they have chosen not to and to acknowledge that all speech - even speech that some may find detestable - is an important part of the educational process.
We aspire to be a community marked by compassion and mutual respect, in which we never lose sight of the potential effects, both beneficial and harmful, of our words and our expressive conduct. When such words or conduct harmfully affect the community or its members, we should respond by reflecting ever more seriously on our shared values of compassion and respect, and by fostering education about our enduring commitment to inclusiveness and reciprocal understanding. Ultimately, by remaining open to a broad range of ideas and opinions—even those that may appear to some detestable, uncomfortable, or false—we foster mutual understanding, test our beliefs, and create the best conditions for seeking knowledge. Intrinsic to our belief in the value of inclusive conversation is a commitment to the right of speakers to voice their viewpoints even at the risk of controversy, and a correlative respect for the right of listeners to respond with their own expression, or to choose to turn away.