USD removes guidelines proscribing 'feelings of hatred'
Responding to public criticism, the University of South Dakota has removed speech guidelines from its website that aim to “limit feelings of hatred” on social media.
The document, called “Guidelines for the Awareness and Prevention of Acts of Cultural Insensitivity and Bullying at USD,” indicates that students should not use university property to “express feelings of hatred via Facebook, Twitter, email or other forms of social media,” and that such behavior “is not allowed per university policy that governs the use of USD resources and facilities.”
"USD cannot prohibit students from expressing feelings that administrators subjectively view as ‘hatred.'"
According to the guidelines, “feelings of hatred” can be demonstrated by “promoting stereotypes and hatred using social media including Facebook, Twitter, email, and other forms of electronic communications.”
Earlier this month, the guidelines were named the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s “speech code of the month.”
FIRE claims that “the guidelines don’t simply encourage students to be polite and civil,” explaining that “the specifics of the guidelines make clear that students at USD can, in fact, face punishment for constitutionally protected speech and expression.”
Additionally, FIRE argues that, “as a public university bound by the First Amendment, and as an institution that promises to ‘ensure the rights of free speech and expression,’ USD cannot prohibit students from expressing feelings that administrators subjectively view as ‘hatred,’ most of which are entirely constitutionally protected.”
Campus Reform reached out to Jesus Trevino, the author of the document, who said that he no longer works for USD, but “speaking for myself, FIRE is correct in trying to protect free speech on campuses and opposing policies that limit freedom of expression.”
He did clarify that “the document that FIRE cites is unequivocally not a policy, but rather guidelines,” but observed that “the use of University computers to perpetuate cyberbullying (which is harassment and illegal) is a policy.”
FIRE’s policy reform program officer Laura Beltz told Campus Reform that FIRE chose USD's bullying policy “because it's a pretty typical example of what we see in a lot of bullying policies at universities: overbroad prohibitions that could be used to punish protected speech.”
This, she said, “creates a ‘chilling effect" on constitutionally protected speech and is unacceptable at a university like USD, which is bound by the First Amendment.”
According to The Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan, Dean of Students Dr.Kim Grieve conceded that the guidelines were “a document that we need to take down and re-do.”
Campus Reform received confirmation from university spokespersons that the document has been removed from USD’s website after initially observing that the link had not been removed at the time of Grieve’s statement.
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