FIRE’s case at Hinds Community College (HCC) in Mississippi, where student Isaac Rosenbloom’s First Amendment rights have been violated, receives a nice analysis this week on USA Today‘s “College: The Blog” site. As Torch readers already know, Rosenbloom was disciplined and almost suspended for one curse word he stated in a private conversation outside of class. Further, Rosenbloom was threatened with “detention” by his professor (which doesn’t exist at HCC—and he told her so), then found guilty of “flagrant disrespect” because of what the professor called “severe cursing.” Most recently, his final appeal was denied by HCC President Clyde Muse.
USA Today intern and University of Georgia student Sara Caldwell writes:
Being that I was not there to witness this horrible indiscretion (I mean, a college student cussing? Egads!), I can’t exactly comment on how this entire thing was blown into/out of proportion, but I will say this:
Punishing someone for saying something—that might hurt your feelings—is not ok.
Caldwell is spot-on in her analysis, grasping a point which has so far eluded the powers at HCC (and is lost on a distressing number of her college peers, as we’ve pointed out countless times). I encourage Torch readers to check out her column, written with the refreshing candor of a college student calling “BS” on HCC’s stubborn administration.
Caldwell’s surprise at learning of the “vulgarity police” patrolling the halls of HCC also prompts a moment of introspection:
This all makes me wonder. What do you think your school’s policies are? Is there anything you should contest? Let me know. I’ll probably find it intriguing.
Caldwell and other college students may indeed be intrigued to take a look at FIRE’s Spotlight database of speech codes at more than 400 colleges and universities. In Caldwell’s own backyard, the University of Georgia defines “jokes, posters, or comments” as punishable “acts of intolerance,” even if they are “covert” and all they do is hurt someone’s feelings. As Caldwell wrote earlier in her article, that’s “not ok.”