Friday, October 24, 2008

Speech Codes Expanding in the Steel City

This weekend is homecoming at the University of Pittsburgh, my alma mater. While I greatly enjoyed my time as a student at Pitt (I graduated in the spring of 2008), and found the school to exceed my expectations on many levels, I've been perplexed by recent changes in non-discrimination policies in Pitt's Residence Life Department.

Last month the ResLife Department added to the list of protected identity groups -- along with the traditional race, color, creed, etc -- those with gender identity issues. As a good libertarian, I can certainly agree with the sentiment expressed by this policy. Individuals can express themselves as they wish, and ought not to face violence for doing so. But Pitt's policy takes things a few steps further:
We will not tolerate any form of behavior pertaining to racism, sexism, bigotry, harassment, intimidation, threat, or abuse, whether verbal or written, physical or psychological, direct or implied.
No longer are students being protected from hazing and blatant harassment -- a protection that should be (and is) extended to all students, and not just the gender confused -- but there is also protection from...implied psychological bigotry? I'm not sure what exactly it would look like, but it sure seems to toe the line of Thought Police.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a watchdog group that fights for civil liberties in the university setting, has already given Pitt a "yellow light" warning for having "at least one ambiguous policy that too easily encourages administrative abuse and arbitrary application." It appears as if a red light might soon be necessary.

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