by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Nicole Nelly writes for the Martin Center about disturbing developments at the Lone Star State’s flagship university campus.
Thanks to four policies that the school maintains—a verbal harassment ban, an Acceptable Use Policy governing internet & digital use, a Residence Hall Manual, and a “Campus Climate Response Team”—the eyes of the University of Texas really are on students, keeping tabs on their speech all the time, everywhere.
First: UT’s ban on “verbal harassment.” Contained in the school’s Institutional Rules on Student Services and Activities, the ban prohibits speech that is “offensive”—which may include “insults, epithets, ridicule, [and] personal attacks.”
Certainly, “offensive” is a highly subjective term. What’s toxic to one student may be perfectly acceptable to another. Alas, the school fails to sufficiently define the term, putting students in the precarious position of postulating whether their words might wound another, even if they weren’t intended to. And although the rules nominally provide an exception for speech that is “necessary” to the expression of an idea, there’s zero guidance about what the phrase means or how it might be applied.
The school’s Acceptable Use Policy is just as bad. Governing information-technology resources (such as email and internet access), it prohibits communications that are “uncivil,” “rude,” or “harassing.” Again, “uncivil,” “rude,” and “harassing” aren’t defined, thus placing a tremendous amount of discretion in the hands of university bureaucrats.