‘If I Ran the Zoo’

June 20, 2008

The National Association of Scholars’ website has been running "a series of opinions on the ideal portrait of the higher education menagerie" entitled "If I Ran the Zoo" (named for the famous Dr. Seuss book). FIRE’s own Adam Kissel contributed to the project with a poem entitled "If I Ran the University Zoo." Adam quips:

If I got to run the zoo
And someone stood accused
Of something he maybe didn’t do
(Or maybe he did), he would get the process he is due.

The rules would be clear and applied equally to all.
Rule #1 would be a zero-tolerance policy
For speech codes and "free speech zones."
Let academic freedom reign.

And yesterday, Dartmouth trustee Todd Zywickiwho along with fellow trustee Peter Robinson ran on a platform seeking greater freedom of speech on Dartmouth’s campusadded his two cents. If he ran the zoo, he said, he would "repeal all speech codes":

According to FIRE, an overwhelming number of colleges and universities have speech codes in place. Speech codes are antithetical to the free discourse and free expression of the university setting. Even where not formally enforced, they create a chilling effect and self-censorship by establishing informal norms for the scope of "acceptable" dialogue on campus, institutionally elevating some viewpoints as more legitimate than others and encouraging the informal silencing of some ideas. I’d scrap all speech codes and replace them with the values of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

It is sad that due process and free speech on campus are currently the province of hopeful hypotheticals, but FIRE will continue working every day to turn them from fantasy into reality.