Tuscaloosa, Alabama in August of 2006:
Welcome to student orientation at the University of Alabama (UA). We are pleased to have each and every one of you join our university community. As you know, there are a number of programs and events we have scheduled for all incoming freshmen this week. We are going to be busy, so let?s get started.
It is my job, as Director of the Office of Diversity and Civil Discourse, to educate you about our new speech code at UA. Actually, the speech code isn?t new. It has been in effect since last August, but now that we have an entire year of experience implementing our new, well, almost new speech code, we can better explain what it means to you the student at UA. Turn in your diversity bulletin to page one and read along with me:
?University officials in charge of student programming must develop clear policies restricting any behavior that demeans or reduces an individual based on group affiliation or personal traits, or which promotes hate or discrimination, in any approved University program or activity. These policies must be incorporated into any contract entered into by the University regarding participation in formal University programs or activities.?
Since this policy was enacted by the UA Faculty Senate, it has been determined that your decision to attend UA provides one example of the type of contract meant to be regulated by the policy we just read together. Your respective majors are all examples of formal university programs and activities in need of regulation. Before we go on, are there any questions?
Q: I understand that these policies were originally intended to make UA a more open and welcoming university community. Why has enrollment dropped significantly over the last two years?
A: Well, I don?t know. I am sure that the admissions counselors can explain that later.
Q: Doesn?t the policy we just read seem overly broad and vague? Is there any chance that it will be struck down as unconstitutional?
A: Well, you aren?t in a position to make that judgment as an incoming freshman. We in the administration at UA consider the United States Constitution to be a living, breathing document, subject to various interpretations.
Q: Yes, but are there any cases where such a speech code survived constitutional scrutiny?
A: You will have to ask someone at the law school about that. I suspect that your attitude will change after the university implements its three-hour mandatory diversity training seminar next fall.
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