As the year draws to a close and we reflect on all of FIRE’s activities in 2006, the case of Stuart Ditsler at Marquette University stands out not only for its absurdity but also because the case has yet to be resolved.
Torch readers will recall Ditsler’s case from earlier this fall, when administrators removed a Dave Barry quote from his office door in Marquette’s philosophy department because they deemed it “patently offensive.” The quote—which could not be considered “patently offensive” (a term usually reserved for hardcore pornography) by any stretch of the imagination—read: “As Americans we must always remember that we all have a common enemy, an enemy that is dangerous, powerful, and relentless. I refer, of course, to the federal government.”
After receiving considerable media coverage in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Associated Press, as well as a mention on Reason magazine’s blog by Editor-in-Chief Nick Gillespie, Marquette administrators claimed the situation had been taken care of within the philosophy department, where Ditsler is a Ph.D. student. Ditsler, however, reported to FIRE that he was not notified of any solution to the problem and was left wondering whether he was allowed to post materials on his office door.
Bear in mind, Marquette’s Student Handbook professes to protect the “right of the members of the university community freely to communicate … the positions that they conscientiously espouse on vital issues of the day.” Also remember that the philosophy department’s website maintains that it is dedicated to “the pursuit of truth” and that “philosophy provides a principal forum for the serious discussion of the basic questions of life.”
Sounds promising, but as we all know, actions speak louder than words. Marquette’s policies exude a commitment to academic freedom and freedom of speech, but when a mild quote like the one here is removed for its “offensiveness,” we see Marquette’s policies for what they really are—“pie crust promises” that are easily made, easily broken.