Ah, college. The embodiment of the open exchange of opinions and ideas, where today's youth go expand not only their horizons but their worldview. In this hopelessly idealistic portrayal, today's teens would grow into adults ready to face a world that isn't nearly as pleasant as previously indicated.
In reality, many colleges are helicopter parents who believe the right to never be offended is guaranteed by the Constitution or, failing that, by a set of restrictive policies paired with disproportionate penalties.
In reality, four words can get you five conduct charges.
Here are the four words:
On June 9, 2014, the female student in question was visiting with friends in UO’s Carson Hall dormitory. According to the student, looking out of the dormitory window, she spotted a male and female student walking together (she did not know either of them) and shouted “I hit it first” at them in jest. The female of the couple responded with two profanities…
That's the free exchange of ideas and opinions on display there. One student jokingly suggesting she had sexual relations with a member of the couple (male/female not specified by "it") and one student responding with profanities. Case should have been closed right there, what with each party getting their verbal jabs in. But note the ellipsis above…
… and the couple reported the student’s comment to the Resident Assistant of the dorm.
So, at this point a third party has been dragged in because apparently the couple didn't feel the shouted profanities properly redressed their (minor, fleeting) grievance. So, the Resident Assistant did some assisting.
The Resident Assistant located the student and insisted that she apologize to the couple for her remark. The student readily obliged.
No, wait. Five conduct charges. FIVE CONDUCT CHARGES. The aggrieved couple, having shouted out profanities and
having acquired an apology still felt this student's offhand remark hadn't been properly addressed. So, up the ladder they went. Thanks to the school's inability to laugh the angry couple of the office, the joking student was hit with five conduct charges:
Unreasonable noise/community disruption
Violation of the university housing contract
Disrupting university [sic]
The student was given two options: face an "administrative panel" whose decision would be final and unable to be appealed (but suspension or expulsion not an option) or face a Student Conduct Panel, which would leave room for appeal but put suspension/expulsion back on the table.
The administration's "bright line" for determining guilt is (I AM NOT KIDDING) whether the incident "more likely than not" occurred. Any discussion about whether the shouted joke "more likely than not" should have resulted in having the book thrown at the student apparently isn't up for discussion.
If either panel finds the student "more likely than not" guilty of making an offensive, one-line joke, she pays the administrative fees and deals with whatever punishment is decided. If declared "more likely than not" not
guilty, no one pays anything, not even the couple whose existence was rendered ghastly and nightmarish by a couple of seconds of careless window shouting nearly three months ago.
FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) has responded to this overblown reaction.
FIRE wrote to UO President Michael Gottfredson on August 1, demanding that the charges against the student be dropped. FIRE also called on UO to revise its unconstitutional speech codes—in particular, the harassment policy under which it charged the student. That policy contains unconstitutionally broad and vague prohibitions on “[u]nreasonable insults,” “gestures,” and “abusive words” that may cause “emotional distress” to others, subjecting UO students to punishment for any expression deemed subjectively distressing.
The college has responded with:
When colleges allow their speech policies to expand past the point of common sense, that's when free speech gets crushed. Ideally, universities would never have to deal with anyone
ever being offended, but it's far from an ideal world. Throwing the book at a student just because someone complained is ridiculous. All it does is make it easier and easier for a small minority of easily offended people to strip away the rights of the rest of the student body. An institute of higher learning should be working harder to ensure the rights of every student, not teaching them how to most effectively deploy a heckler's veto.