Skip to comments.University Bans Humor Quotation From Student's Door
Posted on 10/19/2006 10:05:37 AM PDT by Froufrou
Officials at Marquette University have ordered a Ph.D. student to remove a quotation critical of the federal government from his office door, because the hallway the door faces is not a "free speech zone."
In August, Stuart Distler, a doctoral student teacher, posted a quotation from humor columnist Dave Barry on his office door. "As Americans, we must always remember that we all have a common enemy, an enemy that is dangerous, powerful and relentless," the sign stated. "I refer, of course, to the federal government."
On Sept. 5, Philosophy Department Chairman James South informed Distler via email that the sign had been taken down because it was "patently offensive."
"While I'm a strong supporter of academic freedom," South wrote, "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."
When asked to comment on academic freedom at the university, South told Cybercast News Service he had "no interest in pursuing that conversation, but I do appreciate your interest."
South directed further questions to university spokeswoman Mary Pat Pfeil, who did not respond to requests for comment via telephone and email Wednesday.
According to the university policy South quoted in his email to Distler, student teachers are allowed to participate in free speech "when he/she speaks or writes as a citizen," but when speaking or writing as a teacher, the university "imposes special obligations."
While student teachers are "entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing his/her subject," they are required to "exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others and should make every effort to indicate that he/she is not an institutional spokesperson."
"This incident at Marquette is part of a truly disturbing trend," Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), said in a release.
"Administrators seem willing to ban speech across the board and to designate increasingly tiny 'free speech zones' rather than risk any student or faculty member being offended," Lukianoff said.
Referring to the quotation as a "harmless joke," Lukianoff said the controversy at Marquette illustrates "how even innocuous expression is under ongoing assault at our colleges and universities."
This is double-plus ungood.
You remember when the Founders added the "zone" clause, limiting the First Amendment, right?
"Bush Is A Poopie Head" would have been acceptable...
Dave MUST have an email address, somewhere, right? Is he still doing fresh stuff? This deserves attention.
I'm in complete agreement.
The federal government is "patently offensive."
I get your point, and concur, but someone named Lieberman wrote what you linked.
I have this mental image of a group of people huddled around outside, like smokers, exercising their 1st Amendment rights.
I wonder what the University would think about that sentence?..........
I like the poopie head best...sounds so liberal...
If they're gonna do this in dorms, why the!%#^!& can't I get the XXX stores out of my 'hood?
...Philosophy Department Chairman James South informed Distler via email that the sign had been taken down because it was "patently offensive."
Socrates is squirming in his grave...
I don't think Marquette is a public university........
You don't need the First Amendment to make that possible.
The importance of being able to mount a soap box and declare "I don't trust my government" is precisely why the Founders gave us Freedom of Speech as the very first item on our Bill of Rights.
So did ALL the quotes and cartoons come off of ALL the doors?
Just what the world needs, another philosophy doctoral student. They keep churning out thousands of them but there are very few jobs. Poor guy, he'll never get a job now.
From the Marquette website, most of Professor South's publications appear to be about "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." It must be nice to get paid for doing juicy research that is about as useful to mankind as a cold enema.
"I have no interest in pursuing that conversation . . ." What an unfunny joke!
Good post, Frou.
Well, the Federal government IS common, dangerous, powerful and relentless. And in fact, it is only slightly less so under Republican administrations than it is under Dem'crat regimes. One of the reasons the relative threat from the Feds decreases so little is because of the entrenched bureaucracy and the appointed judiciary.
"Just what the world needs, another philosophy doctoral student. They keep churning out thousands of them but there are very few jobs. Poor guy, he'll never get a job now."
You know the last Philosophy doctor I spoke to said the same thing. I said "Just shut up and give me my fries".
That's the best answer yet! Fair is fair.
"Free speech zone"? What, do they put up signs or something?
How do you get a hallway re-zoned? Is there a free speech planning commission in charge of that?
When was America divided into "free speech" and "no free speech" zones? This, indeed, is frightening. I've long believed the major battles for freedom in America will be fought on its college campuses. At the moment we're losing.
Soon, we'll have Speech-free zones.
They're banning humor to raise morale again, I see...
But, they own the soapbox.
You know the last Philosophy doctor I spoke to said the same thing. I said "Just shut up and give me my fries".
No humor allowed at Marquette, apparently.
...but if they were threatened with the loss of all federal money for their censorship, they'd reverse course immediately. How ironic would that be?
That it didn't apply to them...and it doesn't. The 1st amendment doesn't guarentee free speech, it protects us against governments who would interfere with free speech. The university is not a government and anyone who disagrees with their regulations is free to leave.
The Constitution simply prohibits Congress from limiting "free speech". It does not prohibit private persons, companies, organizations, or in this case private schools and universities from doing so. If I own the land or building, I make the rules. If you say or post something I don't like, you will be escorted off the property and barred from returning, by court order and police presence, or self armed guards, if necessary. "Freedom of speech" is so misunderstood in this country, even by those who claim to be it's greatest supporters...........
hear ! hear! see #37!.....
A college dorm is but a scaled-down version of life under a totalitarian regime...
(And despite this, I still love my school!)
We need more fact before we pass judgement. Is Marquette a private university? Congress might constitutionally be barred from "making a law", but Marquette might not be.
What the hell is a "Free Speech Zone"? And why have I never been able to find such a thing in the Constitution?
Private, Catholic, University run by the Jesuits. (Which, in my experience, makes this somewhat surprising.)
Loyola or BYU, it makes no difference, it is THEIR property and you are free to leave and seek enlightenment elsewhere...........
Always something funny going on at the Blue and Gold.
If he had only said that he hated America - he would have had job offers from every major media.
But of course I was. No argument there.
I just resented the nanny-state aspect of that living arrangement - It was a level of supervision I just didn't need or want. Which in part explains why my politics are what they are...
2)Marquette, like almost all universities, is heavily dependent on federal tax dollars.
3)The federal government has a right to tell Marquette University that it will receive no federal tax dollars if it doesn't allow free expression on campus.
4)Marquette can suppress political expression on its own dime, if it chooses.
5)Marquette won't choose its peecee "principles" over tax dollars.
I understand the 1st Amendment quite well, thank you.
I was notified of this case by Fire yesterday (everyone here should get on Fire's regular newsletter). You can read Fire's report here: http://www.thefire.org/index.php/article/7396.html
The following is my letter sent to the President of Marquette.
President Robert A. Wild, S.J.
OHara Hall, 101/102
P.O. Box 1881
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53201-1881
Dear President Wild:
I am writing in regard to your recent abridgement of the "free speech" rights and academic freedom of a Ph.D. student of yours, one Stuart Ditsler.
According to the reports that I have read, you removed a flier from the door of Mr. Stuart's office; a flier containing a quote from Dave Barry that said: 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.
I have read that you claim: (1) you had complaints about the quotation, and (2) your action was based on the requirement that the flier in question could not contain material that was "patently offensive" and it must have "obvious academic import" or "university sanction".
Mr. Ditsler claims that "other professors and graduate students in his corridor have posted materials on their office doors in the past, such as a cartoon critical of the Bush administration and an article criticizing family values voters in the 2004 presidential election."
As a Catholic institution, one would assume - given the Church's position on things like abortion, marriage and same-sex relationships - that it is favorable to "family values"; yet, if reports are true it was apparently not "patently offensive" for some people to use their office doors to publicly criticize "family values" voters in 2004. Are we mistaken in believing that when that criticism was posted the fliers were in a designated "free speech" zone on the campus, and those same doors are no longer in that zone?
Or, are we to make the "patently" obvious connection that the mere existence of a complaint from a big-government liberal makes something "patently offensive", in today's liberal orthodoxy that prevails in academia?
Meanwhile, one thing is "patently" clear. We can make the patently obvious connection that while Mr. Stuart may have thought the fliers on the doors of some other professors and graduate students were "offensive" to him, personally, he still had more respect for their academic freedom and their "free speech" rights than either they or you are willing grant to him.
In your actions towards Mr. Stuart you have exercised the new academic "McCarthyism" of our era - some expressions, particularly those from the left, have more "academic freedom" than do others.
In case you still confuse current political correctness for something "patently offensive", here are a few other quotes in support of the sentiments of Dave Barry.
"The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite." James Madison
"Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is the danger of oppression." --James Madison
"The operations of the federal government will be most extensive and important in times of war and danger; those of the State governments, in times of peace and security." James Madison
"Repeal that [welfare] law, and you will soon see a change in their manners. Six days shalt thou labor, though one of the old commandments long treated as out of date, will again be looked upon as a respectable precept; industry will increase, and with it plenty among the lower people; their circumstances will mend, and more will be done for their happiness by inuring them to provide for themselves, than could be done by dividing all your estates among them." Benjamin Franklin
"Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition." --Thomas Jefferson
"Concentrated power has always been the enemy of liberty." (Ronald Reagan)
"Government's first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives." (Ronald Reagan)
In conclusion, President Wild, I humbly suggest you quit allowing some to proclaim their views as an orthodoxy beyond which anything else is presumed to be "patently offensive". Your actions were patently offensive to academic freedom.
We had a debate over stuff like this at my first college. Very liberal women's school. The pro-abort group started putting posters for a rally all over the doors and halls. Some of the pro-life students complained that they had to look at this propaganda every day. Led to an interesting discussion about common living space.