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Speech Code of the Month: Davidson College

FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for March 2006: Davidson College.
Attention, theater majors at Davidson: you’d better think twice before putting on a production of Guys and Dolls or Funny Girl. That’s because Davidson’s Sexual Harassment Policy prohibits the use of “patronizing remarks” such as “referring to an adult as ‘girl,’ ‘boy,’ ‘hunk,’ ‘doll,’ ‘honey,’” or “sweetie.”
I also hope that Davidson students are prepared for four years of romantic solitude, since that same policy prohibits “comments or inquiries about dating.” Good luck finding a date without making a comment or inquiry about dating.
Also prohibited, among many other things, are “jokes,” “teasing,” “dismissive comments,” “making [offensive] facial expressions,” and “wearing inappropriate or sexually suggestive clothing.” The policy kind of leaves you wondering what you can do or say at Davidson. And that is precisely the problem. While I seriously doubt that Davidson would actually discipline a student for staging a production of Guys and Dolls, this policy explicitly bans so much speech and expression that students must watch everything they say or do to make sure they do not run afoul of it. That is what we call a “chilling effect” on speech, and it is unacceptable.
Davidson’s homepage proclaims: “Let learning be cherished where liberty has arisen.” Liberty will not arise at Davidson until it grants its students the rights they deserve.
If you believe that your college or university should be a Speech Code of the Month, please email with a link to the policy and a brief description of why you think attention should be drawn to this code.

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