“UW-Stout administrators believe strongly in the right of all students, faculty and staff to express themselves freely about issues on campus and off. This freedom is fundamental on a public university campus. However, we also have the responsibility to promote a campus environment that is free from threats of any kind—both direct and implied. It was our belief, after consultation with UW System legal counsel, that the posters in question constituted an implied threat of violence. That is why they were removed. This was not an act of censorship. This was an act of sensitivity to and care for our shared community, and was intended to maintain a campus climate in which everyone can feel welcome, safe and secure.”
, one featuring a humorous quote from a cult TV science fiction series, the other a satiric poster opposing fascism, as in cases where speech-censoring university administrators remove harmless pop culture references they don’t understand.
You can read the background to this idiocy here, as well as on the webpage for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. I had not noticed this latest development during my unfortunate baseball immersion. Sorensen is an embarrassment, allowing his school to become an embarrassment, and no amount of ridicule or criticism is excessive.
Let’s examine the full unethical and illogical rottenness of Sorensen’s message:
“UW-Stout administrators believe strongly in the right of all students, faculty and staff to express themselves freely about issues on campus and off. This freedom is fundamental on a public university campus. “
I discussed this kind of dishonest introduction in the recent post, “The Deceitful, Dishonest, Unethical Disclaimer.” University administrators believe strongly in the right of free expression, Sorensen says, and then he attempts to justify an outrageous restriction on the free speech of Prof. James Miller. This is nothing but bureaucratic sleight of hand for the gullible or self-deceiving, denying that he ever does what he is doing while he is doing it.
…”However, we also have the responsibility to promote a campus environment that is free from threats of any kind—both direct and implied.”
No, in fact, they don’t. “Threats of any kind—both direct and implied“? Genuine, plausible, actual threats on an individual’s safety are of legitimate concern to a campus. But threatening looks? A professor’s threat to a student that without better performance, a bad grade is inevitable? “I’m going to whip your ass in tennis”….”You stay away from my boyfriend, or you’ll regret it”…..”If you try to plagiarize my paper, I’ll report you”… “Learn you lines by the next rehearsal, or I’ll give your part to someone else” …. all threats? The Chancellor’s language is inexcusably broad, and his statement of the University’s responsibility is absurdly overreaching. Threats are part of the language: they are useful, often don’t involve violence, and are usually protected speech. When the definition is as broad as Sorensen suggests—-an ‘implied threat can be entirely in the mind of the threatened, after all—almost any speech, gesture or body language can be treated as threatening, even, to take a ridiculous example, a line from a TV series like “If I ever kill you, you’ll be awake. You’ll be facing me. And you’ll be armed,” which is not a threat at all, but a statement designed to put an individual afraid of being murdered in his sleep at ease. It means, “I would never kill you in your sleep, and you would have to attack me with a weapon first before I’d attack you, in which case you’d deserve it.” An assertion of the power to restrict expression without reasonable definitions or limits is an abuse of power, and an attempt to restrict liberty and autonomy.
…”It was our belief, after consultation with UW System legal counsel, that the posters in question constituted an implied threat of violence. That is why they were removed.”
Alas, I cannot improve on the response of Ken at Popehat to this section, which I found while I was writing this post. Ken writes: “If your “UW System Legal Counsel” told you that these posters could be censored based on their content, then stop hiring lawyers out of the back of a bait shop.”
...This was not an act of censorship. This was an act of sensitivity to and care for our shared community, and was intended to maintain a campus climate in which everyone can feel welcome, safe and secure.”
More lies. Taking down two posters because of their messages is censorship, and when restricting speech in the interests of “sensitivity and care” becomes acceptable on a campus or anywhere else, there will be no First Amendment. Of course, “sensitivity” is just another weasel word to be manipulated and distorted so that only people who are reasonably sensitive to an idea, opinion, joke or sentiment (Translation: those whose political and social views are popular, in the majority, consistent with the ideology of those in power, or otherwise politically correct) receive the benefits of it, while those who are unreasonably sensitive (Translation: those who are, for example, outraged when a goose-stepping police chief removes a harmless poster that she doesn’t comprehend) do not.
Miller’s second poster, suggesting incipient fascism, was directly on point. Someone should send him a thousand such posters, and every time one goes down, the professor should put a new one up. Meanwhile, Sorensen is irresponsible, incompetent, a liar, a bully, and a fool.
I would think that his school’s overseers, faculty and student body would be sensitive to that.