Mike Adams

Those who must live under UNCO's policy cannot know what could cause another person "emotional" or "mental" harm. That is because the policy does not require that the speaker intends to cause the alleged harm. The fact that someone subjectively feels "emotionally harmed" by the speech is enough for UNCO. So the speaker who correctly imagines that just about any idea is bound to offend someone, somewhere, is deterred from speaking on any potentially controversial topic.

This reminds me of a university, which formerly had a speech code banning “challenging” speech. That university apparently wanted students to go off to school for four years without ever being challenged. Does UNCO want an educational environment characterized by, and only by, discourse that could never be deemed controversial by anyone?

College administrators often fail to distinguish between speech that is severe and persistent enough to constitute harassment and simple isolated expressions of protected speech. It appears as if they are utterly unable to write a code that could pass constitutional muster. More likely, they are fully aware that they can sustain the code through the twin threat of internal formal sanction and social stigmatization. Many would like to defeat such a patently illegal policy. Few wish to be dubbed racist, sexist, or homophobic in the process.

There are many things that can be done to defeat such a policy. I intend to start by sending the following “inappropriate joke” to the Dean of Students at UNCO.

Q: How many UNCO administrators does it take to unravel a logically coherent and constitutionally permissible Code of Student conduct?

A: Ten. You need nine to write the code and one to take offense at logical coherence and constitutional orthodoxy.

But there is something serious that students at UNCO can do about this policy. They can begin to bombard the Dean of Students with all kinds of inappropriate jokes. For example:

Q: What do you call an Irish communist?

A: O’Bama.

Hopefully, someone in the UNCO Dean of Students Office will be Irish, communist, or will simply have made a public profession of faith in Barack Obama as his Lord and Savior. In other words, hopefully someone will be offended. And, hopefully, UNCO will decide to bring charges against the offender!

When that happens, you can just email me at adams_mike@hotmail.com. I’ll make sure you get a lawyer. And for those who believe your college or university should be publicly chastised for an unconstitutional speech code, please e-mail speechcodes@thefire.org with a link to the policy and a brief description of why you think attention should be drawn to the code.

After FIRE is done critiquing the code, I will, if necessary, seek a plaintiff to have it overturned in a court of law. We need both humiliation and litigation to solve the speech code issue. Otherwise, our college campuses will continue to be crude and inappropriate jokes.


Mike Adams

Mike Adams is a criminology professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and author of Letters to a Young Progressive: How To Avoid Wasting Your Life Protesting Things You Don't Understand.