DU ultimatum demands elimination of conservative student groups
The University of Denver no longer allows “hate speech” on its free speech wall, but some students want an even more Orwellian ban on all groups not committed to “inclusive excellence.”
Two events sparked controversy over the free speech wall in the last few weeks, according to The Denver Channel, once when someone wrote the lyrics to “Guilty of Being White” on the wall, which lament the problems of being blamed for the sins of one’s white ancestors, and again when somebody crossed off some words in the phrase “White People Do Something, #BlackLivesMatter,” to simply say “People Do Something, #LivesMatter.”
The university responded by temporarily closing down the wall, but has since re-opened it—albeit with some new restrictions.
“Hate speech, which is prohibited on The Wall, may take the form of direct or indirect offensive slurs, jokes, messages, or attacks on members of the DU Community based on their race, gender, ethnic origin, religion, abilities, socioeconomic background, or sexual orientation,” the university said in an email alerting students to the new restrictions on the wall. “These guidelines are not intended to restrict free expression; rather they are means through which we can continue to thrive as an inclusive community with a shared value system and many varied viewpoints.”
Noting that DU has a zero tolerance policy toward discrimination, the university announced that it will prohibit messages that “intimidate, oppress, or exploit members of the community,” and that students are “encouraged to identify themselves in the message” when writing on the wall.
To ensure that the new guidelines are enforced rigorously, the school is installing a surveillance camera to monitor the wall, and pledges to investigate all violations through a “student conduct evaluation.”
A spokesperson for the university told Campus Reform that all matters of alleged hate speech will go through the process laid out in the student handbook, but declined to provide a specific definition of “hate speech,” and refused to say whether any of the comments written on the wall recently would constitute hate speech.
Student organization leaders have also made sweeping demands calling on the university to stifle free expression even further, outlining their desires in an ultimatum signed by about 75 students.
Among the 15-point list of demands are several chilling calls for outright censorship, even the wholesale elimination of student groups based solely on their underlying principles.
“Remove existing campus affiliated organizations with foundations and/or principles that do not align with the University of Denver’s current values and commitment to inclusive excellence by Fall 2017,” reads the second demand on the list, coyly neglecting to specify which groups might fall into that category.
Eddie Kamber, president of the DU College Republicans, told Campus Reform he has no doubt that his group would be among those targeted, though, saying, “anyone who does not see that demand as a direct attack on conservative groups is only kidding themselves.”
Such a policy would almost certainly target student groups with conservative or libertarian ideals, he asserted, noting that the petition also demands that the university “require students to demonstrate commitment to/understanding of inclusive excellence during the admissions process.”
The document even explicitly states that the purpose of such a mandatory essay would be “to ensure that DU only admits students who believe in/understand the values DU wants to uphold.”
In addition, the student petitioners also take issue with the school’s unofficial mascot, a pioneer character called Boone, complaining that “the term ‘pioneer’ is highly problematic for many, especially our Native American students, as it [is] defined as a person who is among the first to explore or settle a new country or area.”
The students are demanding that the university not only choose a new mascot that “celebrates inclusion and diversity while acknowledging the history of the university,” but also strictly “prohibit any office, department, or entity utilizing university funds to reproduce, display, or support the image or appearance of Boone.”
Anyone found to be “allowing Boone in public spaces,” they say, should face unspecified “consequences” from the administration.
“The Denver Boone demand is equally as outrageous as all the other demands,” Kamber told Campus Reform. “Denver Boone is the formal official DU mascot before he was deemed to be ‘insensitive’ to Native Americans several years ago, [and] since that time he has been proudly sponsored by the DU alumni association as our unofficial mascot.”
The university acknowledged that it had received the list of demands, but declined to comment further, and Campus Reform did not receive responses from any of the student organization leaders who signed the ultimatum.
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