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Smoke and Mirrors at Texas A&M

After FIRE named Texas A&M University our May 2007 Speech Code of the Month, FIRE friend Professor Marshall Onellion wrote to Dr. Eddie Davis, president of the university’s flagship campus in College Station, to express his opposition to the policy. In response, Prof. Onellion received the following from Dean Bresciani, the university’s Vice President for Student Affairs:

Dear Dr. Onellion—
Dr. Davis referred your email to me for response. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to bring the matter to the attention of the President of Texas A&M University. Please note that the “asinine” policy you referred to is not a policy of Texas A&M University. If you’d checked the original source material (which was in the FIRE excerpt you forwarded) you’d have noted that it is a Texas A&M—System—policy. As such, it is not a policy utilized by any specific campus and indeed we have our own speech code which does not include such verbiage. If you are interested in continueing [sic] to pursue the matter, I would redirect you to the Texas A&M System office.

Dr. Onellion, not fooled by Bresciani’s attempt at a semantic sleight-of-hand, forwarded the exchange on to FIRE, and we’d like to set the record straight. Yes, the policy in question is a system policy, but rather than meaning (as Bresciani would have us believe) that it does not apply at Texas A&M’s flagship campus, it means that it applies not only at the flagship campus but also at every other campus in the Texas A&M System! System Policy 1.01, entitled Scope and Authority of Policies, provides that:
The Board [of Regents] requires its members, administrators, employees, agents, and students to comply with all System Policies at all times. Noncompliance with System Policies may be considered grounds for disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employees or expulsion of students.
So while the administration at Texas A&M’s flagship campus may not have the authority, on their own, to change this policy, it is entirely misleading to imply that the policy does not apply to students there or that it is not “utilized” on campus, since failure to comply with it can lead to expulsion. Those wishing to urge reform of this policy can contact the Texas A&M Board of Regents.

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