Johns Hopkins University President William Brody (410-516-8068; firstname.lastname@example.org) recently wrote a column in response to the public outcry over his university’s handling of the now-infamous Hopkins Halloween controversy. His column evidences both a profound ignorance of constitutional principles and a profane indifference towards intellectual honesty.
In his column, Brody notes that “Tempers are hot, and people (both within and outside the university) are upset” over his university’s decision to suspend an Asian student for a year for posting “racially insensitive” party invitations on an off-campus website. Many are also upset that this life-altering punishment includes mandatory racial sensitivity training for someone who is, in fact, a racial minority - that is, if you consider Korean students to be minorities.
What William Brody and other college administrators fail to grasp is that speech codes have made campus life less rather than more civil in recent years. Rather than complaining that we have “civility” problems despite the presence of campus speech codes, perhaps some day they will come to realize that we have these problems because of campus speech codes. The more administrators try to enforce “civility” at the point of a gun, the more these students rebel. That is why much of what seems to be adolescent name-calling is, in fact, core First Amendment political speech.
But William Brody sees things differently. He cites as an example of core First Amendment speech a satirical picture in the Hopkins newspaper, which lumped mass-murderers Richard Speck and Charles Whitman with then-president Lyndon Baines Johnson. The paper also described LBJ as a former Texas ploughboy who murdered innocent Vietnamese citizens both for profit and for pleasure. Two editors of the student paper were suspended by the former Hopkins President as a result of the offense taken at the picture.