FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for September 2006: Drexel University.
There are some trends that, once they go out of style the first time, should never be revived. But some people won’t learn. In the fashion world, for example, leggings and high-waisted, tapered-leg “mom jeans” have (to my horror) regained popularity. And in the world of academia, Drexel University has resurrected an old University of Connecticut speech code from 1989 that has long been skewered as a prime example of political correctness run amok.
Drexel University’s harassment policy bans “inconsiderate jokes” and “inappropriately directed laughter.” (I don’t exactly know what inappropriately directed laughter means, but I’m guessing it occurs when you laugh at one of those inconsiderate jokes). Usually I try to explain the legal basis for why various speech codes are inappropriate, but I think that is totally unnecessary here. A ban on inconsiderate jokes?!? Honestly, can you think of a joke that is considerate? Here, I’ll try to come up with one:
Q: Why did the blonde write “TGIF” on her shoes?
A: Because she was very happy that it was Friday and was looking forward to an evening out with her friends.
Considerate, yes; funny, not even close. That’s the thing about jokes—the funny ones are pretty much always inconsiderate to someone. So what policies like this really want to do is ban jokes, because they might hurt someone’s feelings. (The real answer to the joke is: “Because it stands for ‘Toes Go in First.’” But see, that’s inconsiderate. And if you laughed, you just committed “inappropriately directed laughter.” So I hope you’re not reading this at Drexel.)
This code represents the absolute worst of political correctness—not only won’t they let you tell certain types of jokes, they will even punish you for finding them funny. This is Orwellian thought policing at its worst, and Drexel ought to be ashamed.
Much like leggings, this speech code went out of style in the 1980s—let’s hope Drexel (unlike the fashion world) has the good sense to quickly realize its mistake.
If you believe that your college or university should be a Speech Code of the Month, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with a link to the policy and a brief description of why you think attention should be drawn to this code.
Indiana University has refused to be transparent about alleged ‘security concerns’ that prompted cancellation of Palestinian painter Samia Halaby’s exhibit.
Cornell’s ‘Year of Free Expression’ turns out to be anything but.
Semantics aside, the concept is clear: Universities should refrain from taking political positions.