My Four-Word Substitute For College And University Speech And Sexual Assault Codes

February 15, 2015

By Michael Barrone at The Washington Examiner

Colleges and universities are justified in cracking down on free speech: so writes University of Chicago law professor Eric Posner. This brings to mind the old saying that you have to be awfully smart to believe something that stupid.

Posner defends not only speech codes but also the sexual assault rules, complete with kangaroo courts, that have been instituted on campus at the insistence of federal bureaucrats. His reasoning is simple: “students are children. Not in terms of age, but in terms of maturity. Even in college, they must be protected like children while being prepared to be adults.” (Emphasis in the original.)

The phrase “not in terms of age” is a tipoff. College and university students, with only a tiny handful of exceptions, are 18 years or older. They are entitled to vote. They are entitled to enlist in the military, to risk their lives in the service of our country. They are entitled, if they like, to seek work in the market economy, to earn wages and salaries, to pay taxes. If they run up debts they can be compelled to pay them or to file bankruptcy.

Morever, as adults they are entitled to the protection of the First Amendment. Fortunately, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Educationhas been active in asserting those rights and in getting foolish college and university administrators (who now outnumber college and university teachers) to back down.

My own modest proposal is that colleges and universities should repeal their speech and sexual conduct codes, ditch the requirements that teachers issue “trigger warnings” about possibly disturbing material, deep-six the notion of banning any expression that any student on any grounds could find offensive. Get rid of these things and substitute a four-word code of conduct, one proven successful in managing actual children — children who are in almost all cases seriously disadvantaged — by the KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) charter schools.

The four words are KIPP’s longstanding motto: “Work hard. Be nice.” For a good description of how KIPP got started, check out Jay Mathews’ Work Hard. Be Nice.: How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America.

Work hard: too many college and university students just cruise through school, aided and abetted by teachers and administrators engaged in grade inflation. That gives them lots of time to get into various forms of mischief. Be nice: many of the behaviors speech codes and sexual assault codes purport to address would be far less common if students were, simply, nice.