Today, Roger Freberg, blogger and husband of Cal Poly professor Laura Freberg, has a post about the situation at Cal Poly, where, as FIRE reported yesterday, the university apparently removed information from its website about a bias incident reporting program called "CARE-Net" after FIRE sent the university a letter objecting to the program’s unconstitutional aspects. Under the proposed program, students were instructed to report to the university
any speech, act, or harassing incident or action taken by a person or group that is perceived to be malicious or discriminatory toward another person or group based on bias or prejudice relating to such characteristics as race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, age or mental or physical disability. (Emphasis added.)
As part of what was evidently a misguided attempt to allay criticism about the program, Cal Poly student Jessica Cresci reportedly told the student newspaper, the Mustang Daily, that a teacher "who isn’t politically correct or is hurtful in their actions or words" would be targeted under the new program. Obviously, this only reinforced our misgivings about the program.
Cal Poly’s administration has not yet responded to FIRE’s letter, but as Sam wrote yesterday, "We are hopeful that this development means the university has taken seriously FIRE’s concerns about the impact of the new policy on students’ and faculty members’ constitutionally protected rights to free speech and due process." We hope Cal Poly will soon make its intentions clear.
FIRE has a long history with Cal Poly. We publicly sparred with Cal Poly back in 2003 after the university tried to punish a student for posting a flyer. Cal Poly ended up settling that embarrassing case after it went to federal court. In light of that incident, Roger writes a poignant and concise analysis of the current episode:
Maybe not every minor problem Cal Poly San Luis Obispo has with students, faculty or staff has to end up in Federal Court. I would like to hope that folks can learn from their mistakes, take advice from those who wish to make Cal Poly a better place and, hopefully, avoid stepping into it the next time.
We are grateful to Roger and those like him who care about their universities and want to see these institutions become what they purport to be: bastions of free thought and free speech. Roger concludes, "In any event, there are a lot of folks watching to see the next steps Cal Poly administration takes … thanks to F.I.R.E."