Dear Student Body:
I am writing today for the specific purpose of recruiting a student plaintiff to sue our university over its policy of forcing students to sign a “Respect Compact,” which is used by the administration to punish speech that is clearly protected by the First Amendment. The lawsuit is also necessary because the so-called respect compact is actually breeding intolerance and disrespect among students for the constitutionally protected opinions of others.
For those who are not aware, signing the Respect Compact was initially done on a voluntary basis. Of course, when government-run institutions start making “suggestions” or “recommendations,” they usually do so with the intention of later making them mandatory. Therefore, it is no surprise that our publicly run university stopped taking volunteers and started drafting people into the so-called tolerance movement.
Nor is it surprising that the administration has started to use the mandatory respect compact to insulate itself from criticism. In 2012, one of my students was actually placed on disciplinary probation for violating the respect compact. His “disrespect” was that he used the word “bullshit” to criticize a university policy. I tried to convince the student to sue the university over their decision to discipline him but he declined to do so.
It has been decades since the Supreme Court first made it clear that such broad government bans on profanity are illegal. In the case of Cohen v. California (1971), a man was criminally prosecuted for wearing a jacket that said, “F**k the Draft.” In overturning his conviction, the majority ruled that such overly broad bans on profanity do not pass constitutional muster. Justice John Harlan underscored the majority opinion with his memorable observation that “One man’s vulgarity is another man’s lyric.”
It is rank hypocrisy that the old generation of campus liberals, which used to protest on campus, has started to rebel against the First Amendment now that they have control of our universities. It seems that campus liberals loved protest when they were a minority. Now that they are a majority, they do not like it as much. In fact, they now seek to ban all dissent. That is why I no longer call them liberals. The term illiberal leftist is more accurate.
Towards the end of reversing this trend, I am having teal green stickers printed with the words “F**k the Compact” printed in navy blue letters. Students can come by my office at 127 Bear Hall to get these stickers during my office hours starting in August. By posting these stickers on campus (and by using the school’s colors) we will be sending a powerful message that our university stands for free speech, not censorship.
Hopefully, one of our university’s narrow minded and authoritarian administrators will miss the parody on Cohen and actually try to prosecute one of us for displaying the stickers on campus. When they do so, we will sue them and reclaim our campus for free speech. Put simply, the same administration that sponsors the profanity-laced play The Vagina Monologues has no moral or legal authority to prosecute students for speech that is deemed “disrespectful” or in bad taste. Nor do they have a right to selectively ban profanity as a means of insulating themselves from criticism.
We also need such a lawsuit to teach a lesson to intolerant students who try to use the respect compact to harass, intimidate, and silence others. A recent student blog entry shows just how bad the situation has gotten. In his efforts to justify using the respect compact to stop even off-campus speech, senior English major Brandon Sheldrake publicly called upon the administration to punish a specific person in our university community for his unpopular but non-profane views - simply because they made him feel uncomfortable.
It is clear that the bigotry and intolerance of the administration has now spread to the student population. Indeed, we are producing a generation of students too weak to defend their beliefs and too unprincipled to hold themselves to the same standard of tolerance they impose upon others. They are not striving for equality. They are descending into intellectual and emotional inferiority.
That is why we need a revolution at our university now. If you have the courage to fire the first shot then, please, come by my office and pick up a sticker. I’m not trying to draft anyone against his will. I’m just looking for a few good volunteers.
Author’s Note: “Fire the first shot” was not a reference to gun violence. Get over yourselves, people.