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Avoiding Controversy at Century College

Weeks after the Mohammed cartoons were posted, torn down, posted behind a curtain, and then banished altogether, Century College is still working to keep controversy at bay. The Department of Social Sciences has decided to make the bulletin boards in its building “discipline-specific,” making future displays of controversial material impossible.

At a meeting of the social sciences faculty on Tuesday, geography professor Karen Murdock proposed to turn the bulletin board outside of her office into a “free speech zone,” where information could be posted at will for a limited time. But Murdock reported that some faculty members expressed worries that a “free speech zone,” if allowed, would be the equivalent of “daring people to say something offensive,” resulting in speech that is “not meaningful,” and that without certain “standards of civility,” the boards could descend into a free-for-all. According to Murdock, one professor worried that the bulletin boards should be regulated because anyone, including “mothers bringing their kids” to campus, could view them. But is the hall on the second floor of the social sciences building really a thoroughfare for Minnesota’s mothers and their children?

The faculty then agreed that each bulletin board would be associated with a specific discipline, and only discipline-specific materials that the faculty members approved would be posted on them. The measure passed with only one dissenting vote, from Karen Murdock.

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