Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Religion and Free Speech Again

Here’s an example of the conflict between free speech and laws prohibiting insulting one’s religion here in America; naturally, it’s on a college campus, the one place in America where “hate speech” laws are common. A student group from San Francisco State University is being charged under campus rules for trampling on a mockup of the Hamas and Hezbollah flags during an anti-terrorism rally on campus. FIRE reports:

In a profound display of disrespect for free speech, San Francisco State University (SFSU) is investigating its College Republicans for hosting an anti-terrorism rally on campus in which participants stepped on makeshift Hezbollah and Hamas flags. After students filed a complaint claiming they were offended because the flags bore the word “Allah,” SFSU initiated an investigation into accusations of incitement, creation of a hostile environment, and incivility.


Here we have such vague rules as one against “incivility” and creation of a “hostile environment”, all of which really means saying something someone else doesn’t like. And rather than responding to that offense by condemning it, they want it punished. As this is a state university, it is bound by the first amendment and these rules are blatant violations of the free speech clause. Trampling on a flag is expressive speech, just as waving a flag is expressive speech.

But here’s how hypocrisy resides in groups on both sides of the political spectrum. We hear from many conservative groups how flag burning is not protected by the first amendment because it is conduct, not speech; yet they are up in arms about these charges involving trampling on the mockup of a flag. And those groups on campus that are filing charges in this case no doubt just find it ridiculous that the right gets so upset by those who burn the American flag, yet desecrate something they believe in and the same zeal to coerce and punish comes out of them.

Eugene Volokh asks the right questions of both sides:

But for those who disagree, let me ask: SFSU is investigating (with the threat of administrative punishment) the College Republicans for, among other things, supposedly being “incivil” and creating a “hostile environment” by stepping on butcher-paper representations of Hamas and Hezbollah flags (which also contained the name of Allah in Arabic script). If you think that there’s no First Amendment problem with banning flagburning, on the theory that it’s not speech, I take it that you think there’s no First Amendment problems with punishing (even criminalizing) the Republicans’ actions, right?

Likewise, if SFSU tried to punish a student for waving a Confederate flag (assume no special circumstances such as the flag’s being stolen, or the waving been intended and understood as a personal insult and invitation to fight addressed to one particular person), I take it you’d say “Sure, no First Amendment problem,” right?

FIRE has it absolutely right:

“In a free society, neither SFSU nor any other agency of the government has the power to investigate a group simply for disrespecting a religious symbol,” FIRE’s Shibley said. “By continuing this investigation, SFSU is not just charting new territory in campus repression, but its actions come into direct conflict with the United States Constitution. The charges against the College Republicans must be immediately dismissed.”

It is time to mount a major campaign against such hate speech codes all around the country. Suits should be filed in every single case where a public university has punished anyone for constitutionally protected speech, enough cases so they have to be consolidated. There have been two cases striking down such codes, one in Wisconsin and one in Michigan, but neither was appealed so no wider precedent was set. It is time to make sure that precedent is set nationally, with a Supreme Court ruling that does away with such codes forever.

This is one area where advocacy groups from the left and the right agree. The ADF, FIRE, the ACLU and any other group that is opposed to such codes should join forces and start an all out assault on them from one end of the country to another to be sure that at least one of them will make it to the Supreme Court (or more likely they’ll be consolidated into one case). Even I would donate money to the ADF for this cause.

Comments

  1. #1 Dan
    February 9, 2007

    Suits should be filed in every single case where a public university has punished anyone for constitutionally protected punishment

    You mean “constitutionally protected speech, right?

  2. #2 J-Dog
    February 9, 2007

    Dammit Ed, you know I hate it when you’re right about things like this! It just doesn’t SEEM right, even though I know it is. This could come down to a “wave-off”, similiar to the “walk-off” in Zoolander… Anybody got David Bowie’s phone number?

  3. #3 TomMil
    February 9, 2007

    J-Dog;

    Maybe I don’t understand you, but what doesn’t “SEEM right” about Ed’s post? I recognize that you accept its logic, but it seems to be patently obvious to me. I’m not critical of you so don’t take this as an attack, I just don’t get what you’re driving at.

  4. #4 Ed Brayton
    February 9, 2007

    Oops, yes Dan, I meant speech. I’m going to have my editor flayed and ritually disembowled for this. Wait, I am the editor. Never mind.

  5. #5 Kevin
    February 9, 2007

    I’m with TomMil. What about this doesn’t “seem right”? That people of any political persuasion should be allowed to express themselves? This university is stupid. Period.

    There really should be no sane person who even for a second thinks that the speech/actions of the College Republicans in question should be stifled and banned.

  6. #6 Steve Reuland
    February 9, 2007

    Not knowing anything about this case beyond what is reported here, I get the feeling that the university is pretty much bound to investigate any case in which a complaint is filed. Maybe we should wait until the investigation is finished to and some punitive action is actually taken before condemning the university for violating free speech?

  7. #7 Ed Brayton
    February 9, 2007

    Steve-

    If there was no rule against free speech, there would be no complaint and no investigation. You should not be able to report someone for doing something that is constitutionally protected. And in this case, the school has finished its investigation and has forwarded it on to the student governing body to decide what the punishment will be.

  8. #8 KJV
    February 9, 2007

    Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. Genesis 11:7

  9. #9 Ed Brayton
    February 9, 2007

    Thank you for that completely pointless Bible verse inserted for no apparent reason. You’ve added precisely nothing to the conversation.

  10. #10 Steve Reuland
    February 9, 2007

    Ed-

    The complaint was filed by another student group. Obviously the university’s policies are not set by that group. I served for a year as the Honor Council president while in grad school, and we had to investigate every single complaint that came to us, no matter how absurd. I don’t know if the university’s policies are of this kind, but if they are then simply investigating the matter isn’t a violation of anyone’s rights per se.

    As for remanding the situation to the student governing body, it is not to “decide what the punishment will be” but rather to adjudicate the issue; if I’m understanding things correctly, no one has been found guilty of violating any policy thus far. The investigation, for all we know, may be very dismissive of the complaint. If the investigators could have stopped things at that stage before forwarding it to the student government, then they probably should have, but again I don’t know if this is the case.

    Assuming that the facts of the case are as we’ve been told (i.e. the College Republicans did nothing worse than stomp on some flags) then I agree it would be very much wrong to punish them. On the other hand, many of these policies that are derided as “hate speech codes” are actually intended to prevent people from inciting riots and harassing ethnic or religious minorities, which are valid and necessary policies. Unfortunately, they sometimes create a gray area that can be used to discriminate against unpopular speech. Groups like the College Republicans don’t help things when they act as rude and confrontational as possible in the hopes of inciting someone, which I’m sure you know is exactly what they set out to do.

  11. #11 Don
    February 9, 2007

    I would say that it doesn’t seem right because it is morally wrong (at least to my morals) to be that disrespectful of somebody else’s symbols. This is why you won’t find me burning anybodies flag. However, I think it is even more morally wrong to prevent free speech so I totally agree with Ed.

  12. #12 Colugo
    February 9, 2007

    “But here’s how hypocrisy resides in groups on both sides of the political spectrum. .. (D)esecrate something they believe in and the same zeal to coerce and punish comes out of them.”

    Isn’t that the truth. I suspect that few people truly believe in free speech; what most believe in the imposition of their will on others and protection of their sacred cows. For conservatives the symbols of traditional order are sacred while for progressives the symbols of designated righteous victim groups are sacred. (Sure, there’s a libertarian minority on both the left and right.)

    Some of the very same people who applaud Gilbert and George’s Christ-mocking “sonofagod” exhibit and other in-your-face artistic attacks on Christianity (or the Blasphemy Challenge) were also outraged by the publication of the Danish Mohammed cartoons, which they believe should have been punishable by law, or at least subject to righteous social sanction and never reproduced.

    Those with the Christian-Mohammed double standard on blasphemy ought to recall that Muslims are also offended by blasphemous depictions of Jesus; for example, the death fatwah placed on playwright Terrence McNally for presenting a gay Jesus in ‘Corpus Cristi.’ If you want to ban Mohammed cartoons, you must also be on the side of banning gay Jesus plays.

    The same kind of campus groups that think it’s dandy to burn Israeli flags (containing the Star of David) think that desecrating the Hezbollah or Hamas flag (containing the word “Allah”) is a hate crime. In their minds, it’s not really a double standard because Israel is an imperialist “oppressor” while these terrorist organizations are represent “resistance.”

    And those who want to suppress any public disrespect of the American flag or Christianity have the same self-serving blinders as their counterparts on the left.

  13. #13 Steve Reuland
    February 9, 2007

    Okay, I just looked at that SFSU policy for handling these complaints.

    I’m not going to quote anything lengthy, but the policy tells us that 1) any student group can file a complaint, 2) the OSPLD (office of student programs) must investigate all complaints, 3) the only way to settle the complaint prematurely is to reach an informal resolution between both the accuser and the accused, and 4) failing that, the complaint must be adjudicated by the SOHP (a panel consisting of both students and faculty).

    Thus far, the university has simply handled this case the way it is required to by its own policies. The College Republicans haven’t been punished, they haven’t been found guilty of anything, and they haven’t been treated in any manner different than any other organization that has had a complaint lodged against it.

    Now you might argue that the complaint itself is intended to be punitive. I would probably agree. But the fault with that lies primarily with the student group who lodged the complaint, and perhaps secondarily with the university policy that requires all complaints to be investigated, but not with the university’s handling of this specific case.

    My prediction is that the complaint, once adjudicated by the SOHP, will be dismissed. If it’s not then I’ll join you in being outraged. I also predict that if it is dismissed, groups like FIRE will call it a set-back for the university’s censorious policies, completely oblivious to the fact that the process worked as it was supposed to.

  14. #14 Ed Brayton
    February 9, 2007

    Steve Reuland wrote:

    As for remanding the situation to the student governing body, it is not to “decide what the punishment will be” but rather to adjudicate the issue; if I’m understanding things correctly, no one has been found guilty of violating any policy thus far. The investigation, for all we know, may be very dismissive of the complaint. If the investigators could have stopped things at that stage before forwarding it to the student government, then they probably should have, but again I don’t know if this is the case.

    I think you’re missing the point. The fact that no one has been convicted of violating a law that shouldn’t exist is irrelevant; the fact that one can even be investigated, that there is a rule that allows the punishment of unpopular speech, is more than enough to make my criticism absolutely accurate. How many examples of this kind of rule being used to punish clearly protected speech do we have to have before we’re justified in saying that such rules are unjust, period?

    Assuming that the facts of the case are as we’ve been told (i.e. the College Republicans did nothing worse than stomp on some flags) then I agree it would be very much wrong to punish them. On the other hand, many of these policies that are derided as “hate speech codes” are actually intended to prevent people from inciting riots and harassing ethnic or religious minorities, which are valid and necessary policies. Unfortunately, they sometimes create a gray area that can be used to discriminate against unpopular speech. Groups like the College Republicans don’t help things when they act as rude and confrontational as possible in the hopes of inciting someone, which I’m sure you know is exactly what they set out to do.

    This whole notion of incitement is absurd. Incitement to riot is very narrowly tailored to someone actually imploring a crowd to commit violence. Saying something that will get someone else really upset is not incitement. And guess what? Ethnic and religious minorities have no more right to not be offended than majorities do. There is no such thing as group rights, only individual rights, and each individual has the right to give his opinions no matter how offensive they are to someone else. It simply makes no difference whether the person taking offense is in the minority or the majority.

  15. #15 Ed Brayton
    February 9, 2007

    Steve Reuland wrote:

    Now you might argue that the complaint itself is intended to be punitive. I would probably agree. But the fault with that lies primarily with the student group who lodged the complaint, and perhaps secondarily with the university policy that requires all complaints to be investigated, but not with the university’s handling of this specific case.

    No, the fault does not lie with the student group that filed the complaint, the fault lies with the rule that allows them to file a complaint and prompt an investigation solely on the basis of protected speech.

  16. #16 Russell
    February 9, 2007

    Ed Brayton:

    ..the fault lies with the rule that allows them to file a complaint and prompt an investigation solely on the basis of protected speech.

    I sympathize with that sentiment. I might even agree with it and share it, if only I knew what that rule actually was. No one so far has posted it in this thread, so for now, I only sympathize.

  17. #17 Steve Reuland
    February 9, 2007

    Ed-

    There is no “law” or “rule” that allows punishment of unpopular speech. You can read the student code of conduct here if you don’t believe me. Here are the sections which might be relevant:

    4. Participating in an activity that substantially and materially disrupts the normal operations of the University, or infringes on the rights of members of the University community.

    6. Disorderly, lewd, indecent, or obscene behavior at a University related activity, or directed toward a member of the University community.

    Nothing in there about unpopular speech. (Oddly enough, half the code is concerned with hazing.) There are only provisions about disorderly conduct and obscene behavior, the sort of thing you’ll find in nearly every municipal code in the country.

    What we have here is a case of a student organization lodging a complaint against the College Republicans after a bout of particularly obnoxious but as far as we know perfectly legal behavior. The university is obliged to investigate that complaint whether or not any policy was violated. I’m not sure why you’re not getting this, but it’s most definitely not a case of the university setting out to punish the College Republicans for their speech. All someone has to do is lodge a complaint and it gets investigated. Period. It doesn’t matter whether or not the complaint is reasonable.

  18. #18 Brian
    February 9, 2007

    At work now, so this will be necessarily short:
    I don’t think the students should be punished individually, but I definitely think that their charter should be revoked.

    To the best of my knowledge, and at least in my own experience, student groups are funded not by the college (which may or may not receive federal funds), but by the students. In other words, the student body foots the bill for student groups, and at my college, this was not an optional fee.

    That being the case, I think it only fair that student-funded organizations be held to at least a minimum standard of behavior. Also, the First Amendment doesn’t apply here – the student COC and/or student organization guidelines do.

  19. #19 Brian
    February 9, 2007

    From the OSPLD handbook (NOTE: the COC refers to individual students, whereas the handbook refers to student organizations):

    GENERAL POLICIES:
    Rights, Responsibilities, Privileges, Conduct, & Discipline:
    41301. Expulsion, Suspension, and Probation of Students:
    K. Abusive behavior directed toward, or hazing of, a member of the campus community.

    Note that the handbook defines “Hazing” thus:
    6. The term “hazing” means any method of initiation into a student organization or any pastime or amusement engaged in with regard to such an organization which causes, or is likely to cause, bodily danger, or physical or emotional harm, to any member of the campus community; but the term “hazing” does not include customary athletic events or other similar contests or competitions.

    It is also worth noting that the section on rallies/demonstrations and counter-demonstrations mentions that these activites should be such that they are not likely to incite violence. I get the impression that this behavior was intentionally provocative, and one could at least argue (how successfully is anyone’s guess) that these students could definitely have forseen a potential for violent reaction.

  20. #20 Russell
    February 9, 2007

    Brian, what did the students do that was so bad that their group’s charter should be revoked? Does flag-trampling automatically qualify?

  21. #21 Brian
    February 9, 2007

    Russell, see above.

  22. #22 Brian
    February 9, 2007

    Also (sorry to take up so much space), before anyone jumps on me, note that I am not making a judgement on whether the college would be right or wrong in punishing them – just that this is not a First Amendment issue, and that the handbook definitely addresses this sort of behavior. Whether their actions were severe enough to warrant action is, thankfully, not for me to decide.

  23. #23 Russell
    February 9, 2007

    Brian, from the descriptions made so far, the behavior was neither initiation nor pastime nor amusement, but clearly political expression, so I don’t see how it possibly falls under the hazing restrictions. As to the rule on demonstrations, you don’t cite that rule, so there is no way to know whether it is any more applicable. I will note that there is a significant distance between “likely to incite violence,” and having the mere potential to do so. Just about every political expression on a university campus has that potential, but is not banned because of that.

  24. #24 Ed Brayton
    February 9, 2007

    Brian-

    You could not be more wrong. SFSU is a public university and it absolutely is covered by the first amendment. If something in the student handbook violates the first amendment, then it is unconstitutional. Period. The courts have ruled on this innumerable times.

  25. #25 Ed Brayton
    February 9, 2007

    By the way, let me add that if there are no university rules that make the behavior being investigated illegal, then the university is in even more legal jeopardy if anything is done to punish the group. If they’re interpreting “abusive behavior” to mean constitutionally protected speech, then they’ve got an “as applied” challenge on their hands and they can’t even fall back on “we were just following the rules.” And that is precisely the problem with such rules, they are so broad that they are inevitably used to punish any expression that is unpopular.

  26. #26 Steve Reuland
    February 9, 2007

    Ed, the worst they can do to punish the group is to unrecognize it. Meaning that the College Republicans would be reduced to acting like jerks as individuals rather than as a recognized student organization. As far as I can tell there is no potential for punitive action against the individual students themselves, just the organization.

    I do not know what the relevant case law is concerning this type of thing, but I’m pretty sure the university is within its rights to revoke the group’s recognition as a student organization, seeing as how this recognition confers a set of privileges that arise solely within the context of the university.

  27. #27 Ed Brayton
    February 9, 2007

    Steve Reuland wrote:

    I do not know what the relevant case law is concerning this type of thing, but I’m pretty sure the university is within its rights to revoke the group’s recognition as a student organization, seeing as how this recognition confers a set of privileges that arise solely within the context of the university.

    Absolutely not. If they pulled recognition from a student group based on perfectly legal and constitutionally protected expression, they will lose that lawsuit in a heartbeat. The government cannot condition a generally applicable benefit on a requirement that it give up its constitutional rights. This is not a close legal question.

  28. #28 kehrsam
    February 9, 2007

    The point seems to have been dropped, but there is also a problem with the university launching an investigation whenever a student group files a complaint. This is not just a matter of policy. An investigation is an inherently coercive act, regardless of whether any action results.

    As an example, let’s say your neighborhood police officer went out of his way to tell you he was investigating illegal drug traffic in the area every time he spoke to you or one of your friends. How about he said he was investigating YOU, but nothing seemed to come of it? Still cool with the idea?

    As for the notion of de-funding the College Republicans, the idea is ridiculous. It would so clearly be content-based censorship that I doubt it would even survive a Summary Judgment motion.

    Steve Reuland: It is a public school, hence funding of school groups is a public benefit. The fact that those particular funds come out of student fees is irrelevant: Money is fungible. Even if the student government voted to merely cut the CR’s funding, so long as the cut could be tied to this or similar incidents the CR’s would have an easy court win. And even more publicity, which I imagine is what they wanted in the first place.

  29. #29 Brian
    February 9, 2007

    Ed, sorry, but I have to respectfully disagree. It’s simply not a 1st Amendment issue, but rather a student organization policy. The school can impose whatever restrictions it wants with regard to the conduct of student-funded organizations, provided it does so uniformly.

    Maybe I completely misunderstand what little constitutional law I’ve studied, but I’m sure I remember schools having a degree of institutional leeway.

  30. #30 Brian
    February 9, 2007

    Ed, after briefly looking at related case law, I have to concede the point. Apparently, the Supreme Court has repeatedly struck down the argument that student funds shouldn’t be redistributed to opposing viewpoints, maintaining instead that that redistribution, provided it is done in a viewpoint-neutral manner, is entirely consistent with the University’s responsibility with regard to the 1st Amendment.

    So, sorry for clogging the blago-blag with my misunderstanding of Constitutional Law.

  31. #31 Russell
    February 10, 2007

    kehrsam writes:

    The point seems to have been dropped, but there is also a problem with the university launching an investigation whenever a student group files a complaint. This is not just a matter of policy. An investigation is an inherently coercive act, regardless of whether any action results.

    Many universities have a student government that provides a first line of investigation and action on a variety of school-related rules, and also plays a role in forming those rules. Part of the idea behind such organization is autonomy, that the student body should take a role in policing itself, and part is educational, that this provides college students an opportunity to learn about such processes.

    That context provides only a loose analogy to law enforcement. Yes, obviously, the school would have to step in if the decisions resulting from that were made in a fashion that denied basic civil rights, e.g., were discriminatory on the basis of race or religion or political viewpoint. And [i]if[/i] the act of investigation on arbitrary complaint had similar effect, because, for example, there were organized daily complaints against the College Republicans, then again I think the school would have to step in.

    But I think there is an argument to be made the other way, that the school shouldn’t step in merely because an isolated complaint is unjustified, but should give the student body the leeway to find that themselves. Schools are intended to foster a variety of interaction between students that people otherwise might choose to avoid. Debates. Mock trials. Public presentations. Group sports. If the police require you to give a public lecture, that would run into a long list of constitutional issues. Schools routinely require that of students. It’s not coercive because students choose to attend college, and that includes a variety of activities and interactions that they might otherwise decline.

  32. #32 David C. Brayton
    February 10, 2007

    I’m not convinced the Steve Reuland’s analysis. It seems that his argument is that because the student code requires an investigation of all complaints, the investigation of any complaint is constitutional.

    First, due process requires that any complaint (whether civil or criminal) set forth sufficent allegations, if true, that constitute a violation of the law. A plaintiff cannot simply state “Defendant is rude”. The allegations must be set forth with particularity. Due process requires a statement of what the student’s actions were and how those actions violated the student code.

    Steve argued that “The university is obliged to investigate that complaint whether or not any policy was violated.”

    This is poor policy and likely unconstitutional. Requiring a student to appear before a tribunal when there is no policy violation alleged is tyrannical.

    Can you imagine getting a letter stating: “Please appear before the student Court to explain your actions of February 14. There is no allegation that a policy of university was violated. We are simply investigating the complaint received from your ex-girlfriend in which she states that you are a cheap skate.”

    It seems that Mr. Reuland is arguing that such investigations are fine because the university is required to investigate all complaints. I, on the other, argue that because the instution is a public institution and therefore bound by the constitution, that such an investigation would be a violation of due process.

    So, before an investigation of an alleged violation of the studnt code is launched, an allegation of conduct, if true, that constitutes a violation of the student code is required. Due process requires that we know what actions in particular we are investigating.

    Now if those allegatons, viewed in the light most favorable to the complainant, constitute activities that are consistent with the student code, then due process requires that the complaint be dismissed.

    Same goes if the activities are constitutionally protected regardless of whether it is a violation of the stuident code–if the activities are constutionally protected, the complaint must be dismisssed and the student code declared unconstitutional (either as-applied or facially).

    Now, turning to some of the student code–I agree with Ed that they need to be stricken. They are so vague that they clearly cast a chilling effect on free speech. And these student codes exist at places that encourage free thought and critical analysis. A university is the last place I would expect these codes to exist.

    I’ve always thought that ‘political correctness’ was just a bunch of rhetoric. After witnessing the behavior of Duke University and its faculty during the lacrosse scandal and reading the incredibly stupid student codes that exist, I’m beginning to believe that higher education is really a bastion of liberal do-gooders.

  33. #33 David C. Brayton
    February 10, 2007

    I’m not convinced the Steve Reuland’s analysis. It seems that his argument is that because the student code requires an investigation of all complaints, the investigation of any complaint is constitutional.

    First, due process requires that any complaint (whether civil or criminal) set forth sufficent allegations, if true, that constitute a violation of the law. A plaintiff cannot simply state “Defendant is rude”. The allegations must be set forth with particularity. Due process requires a statement of what the student’s actions were and how those actions violated the student code.

    Steve argued that “The university is obliged to investigate that complaint whether or not any policy was violated.”

    This is poor policy and likely unconstitutional. Requiring a student to appear before a tribunal when there is no policy violation alleged is tyrannical.

    Can you imagine getting a letter stating: “Please appear before the student Court to explain your actions of February 14. There is no allegation that a policy of university was violated. We are simply investigating the complaint received from your ex-girlfriend in which she states that you are a cheap skate.”

    It seems that Mr. Reuland is arguing that such investigations are fine because the university is required to investigate all complaints. I, on the other, argue that because the instution is a public institution and therefore bound by the constitution, that such an investigation would be a violation of due process.

    So, before an investigation of an alleged violation of the studnt code is launched, an allegation of conduct, if true, that constitutes a violation of the student code is required. Due process requires that we know what actions in particular we are investigating.

    Now if those allegatons, viewed in the light most favorable to the complainant, constitute activities that are consistent with the student code, then due process requires that the complaint be dismissed.

    Same goes if the activities are constitutionally protected regardless of whether it is a violation of the stuident code–if the activities are constutionally protected, the complaint must be dismisssed and the student code declared unconstitutional (either as-applied or facially).

    Now, turning to some of the student code–I agree with Ed that they need to be stricken. They are so vague that they clearly cast a chilling effect on free speech. And these student codes exist at places that encourage free thought and critical analysis. A university is the last place I would expect these codes to exist.

    I’ve always thought that ‘political correctness’ was just a bunch of rhetoric. After witnessing the behavior of Duke University and its faculty during the lacrosse scandal and reading the incredibly stupid student codes that exist, I’m beginning to believe that higher education is really a bastion of liberal do-gooders.

  34. #34 Brian
    February 10, 2007

    David,

    A cursory reading of the handbook indicates to me that the investigation policy is such that the primary objective is to determine whether a violation, has in fact, occurred. If at any point during the investigation, it is determined that the accusation is groundless or not a violation, then I would expect that the issue is dropped at that point.

    Also, keep in mind that we’re not dealing with the student COC here, as much as the organization handbook.

  35. #35 Brian
    February 10, 2007

    Sorry about the commas.

  36. #36 DuWayne
    February 10, 2007

    What I find incredibly sad, is that a great opportunity for a serious mocking, was lost. Instead of whining about it and raising a big fuss, someone should have video taped these morons. Put it up under, “republicans do the damndest things.” I am certain someone could create a montage of such idiocy

    Instead, some felt it necessary to try to restrict extremely juvenile behavior. Mocking is far more effective and it doesn’t give the jackasses doing it, an excuse for self righteous indignation – legitimate under the circumstances. Much better to show the world, what dipshits these people are.

  37. #37 James
    February 10, 2007

    I’m beginning to believe that higher education is really a bastion of liberal do-gooders.

    While it is entirely likely that there are more intense concentrations of nascent authoritarianism than university student organisations, it would take considerable time and effort to locate them.

  38. #38 Steve Reuland
    February 11, 2007

    David writes:

    First, due process requires that any complaint (whether civil or criminal) set forth sufficent allegations…

    Good grief people, this is not a criminal or civil action. This is an internal matter to SFSU, and as such they set their own policies for how to deal with these kinds of allegations. If it’s their policy is to investigate every complaint, then that’s what they do. No one has any business telling them otherwise.

    And I don’t buy the argument that an investigation is punitive per se. If your neighbor accuses you of drug dealing, the police may investigate you without violating your rights. There is no need for formal charges.

    As I’ve said already, I don’t think the policy of investigating all complaints is necessarily a wise one. But it’s the policy as things stood when the complaint was brought against the College Republicans, so therefore the university has no choice but to follow it. This is not a case of the College Republicans being singled for special opprobrium as everyone is so eager to think.

    So, before an investigation of an alleged violation of the studnt code is launched, an allegation of conduct, if true, that constitutes a violation of the student code is required. Due process requires that we know what actions in particular we are investigating.

    That is exactly what the complaint that was filed should have contained. According to the university’s policy, the complaint must be in writing and contain allegations of misconduct. In this case those allegations are most likely bullshit, but that’s to be determined by the SOHP.

    Brian writes:

    A cursory reading of the handbook indicates to me that the investigation policy is such that the primary objective is to determine whether a violation, has in fact, occurred. If at any point during the investigation, it is determined that the accusation is groundless or not a violation, then I would expect that the issue is dropped at that point.

    That is not what the handbook says at all. Here’s what section E states in full:

    “Formal Disciplinary Proceedings — All allegations of misconduct against a recognized student organization, when not resolved with an informal resolution as stated above shall be subject to formal review by SOHP.”

    There is no clause in there which allows the investigators to summarily dismiss the complaint; barring some informal resolution between the accuser and the accused, the SOHP is the only body with the power to dismiss a case.

  39. #39 Steve Reuland
    February 11, 2007

    What I find incredibly sad, is that a great opportunity for a serious mocking, was lost. Instead of whining about it and raising a big fuss, someone should have video taped these morons.

    Actually, someone did. I watched a couple of videos of the “anti-terrorism rally” on YouTube. It was pretty funny actually, though I didn’t have the sound turned up so I may have missed something.

    The “rally” consisted of two dorks on a small stage yelling stuff into a microphone and maybe three or four others holding badly made signs in front of the stage. There were about three or four hecklers one or two of which were getting close to the stage and yelling at the guys with the microphone. And then there were about twenty students scattered about laughing and gawking in disbelief.

    My experience with college campuses is that they’re populated largely by students who are completely apathetic when it comes to politics, or to anything else for that matter, and whose only real concern is to get decent grades while squeezing in as much party time as possible. Then there’s the relatively small number of left-wing loud-mouths whose views are wrongly associated with those of the student body at large. This gets exploited by the even more irritating right-wing loud-mouths who deliberately set out to provoke the left-wing loud-mouths so that they can posture themselves as victims of “political correctness”.

  40. #40 Ian Thomas
    February 11, 2007

    Open Letter to Debra J. Saunders
    Please Report the Entire Free Speech Story
    by Ian Thomas, Newspaper Editor
    February 8, 2007 4:14 PM

    Dear Debra J. Saunders,

    My name is Ian Thomas. I am the Editor of The Golden Gate [X]press.

    I continually appreciate your important and nuanced voice at the San Francisco Chronicle. Thank you for shedding more light on these important First Amendment issues looming at SF State.

    It is important for you to know and note the context for which the situation was born. Last summer the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) completed the process to send a mural to President Robert Corrigan for final approval. Associated Students Inc. had approved the mural through a democratic student government process by a 6-2 vote.

    Corrigan blocked the mural from going up by immediately placing a moratorium on all new murals, stating the mural is “conflict-centered” and it “runs counter to values that we hope have taken deep root at San Francisco State, among them, pride in one’s own culture expressed without hostility or denigration of another.”

    In an October meeting Corrigan reportedly called mural supporters “bigots,” which is the same term some people give to say… the Minutemen, which the Repubs have also rallied for on campus. [X]press supports this expression as well.

    A character in the mural, “Handala,” by acclaimed Arab cartoonist Naji al-Ali is shown holding a pen and a key. The key represents the Palestinian “right of return” to what they deem their homeland. Some say that “right of return” represents the destruction of Israel. Through research and interviews I have found that Handala is a refugee child and is a used in many different contexts, depending on the specific use and the viewer. He is normally depicted as poor, with his hands held behind his back, sometimes he is shown throwing rocks.

    See the story by Jason Shuffler at: http://xpress.sfsu.edu/archives/news/006759.html

    The Golden Gate [X]press supports full freedom of expression to all members of our community, see: http://xpress.sfsu.edu/archives/editorials/007805.html

    There is no difference between offensive speech of the Repubs stomping on flags containing the symbol for God or a Palestinian mural calling for a “right to return” in the eyes of the The Constitution. They are both protected expression.

    [X]press has recommended that the Student Organization Hearing Panel, the Office of Student Programs and Leadership Development, ASI, and Corrigan dismiss any notion of sanctions against the Repubs.

    We call on all stakeholders to drop double standards.

    In the lead of your column “SF State- Heckers’ Paradise” (2-8-07) you asked:

    “What is San Francisco State University teaching that makes student leaders think that if they don’t like what other students say, they can use student organizations to stifle those with dissenting views? Do they even know about the First Amendment?”

    Excellent questions.

    In my opinion the story didn’t start with the Repubs, it started when Corrigan limited the free speech of GUPS and the democratic process of ASI. What is he teaching us? I, and many on this campus, posit that Corrigan has set a poor example by limiting expression when he and/or his advisers didn’t like what the mural had to say.

    Yes, it was a hypocritical move for ASI to pass a resolution condemning the Repubs for offensive speech. It would now be hypocritical if SOHP and Corrigan do not pass sanctions against the Repubs. This is convoluted due to Corrigan, our president, limiting free expression of GUPS.

    It is time for everyone to step back, think, and correct these mistakes.

    As a respected member of the San Francisco and national community, I trust that you will further consider, research and report this complex and important story that strikes at the very foundation of freedom of expression and education in our country.

    Mrs. Saunders, please help us encourage a truly open marketplace of ideas in the grand tradition of open debate, discussion, and democracy at SF State.

    I eagerly await your response.

  41. #41 Brian
    February 11, 2007

    Steve Reuland writes:

    There is no clause in there which allows the investigators to summarily dismiss the complaint;

    I disagree. We’re talking about two different things here, apparently. I’m talking about the actual handbook, which can be viewed in pdf format here.

    The handbook in “Procedures for Alleged Violations of University Policies” states:

    Once a complaint or referral is received, the Director of the OSPLD will determine if there are sufficient grounds to support the complaint. The Director acts in all matters of recognition, suspension, and withdrawal of recognition of student organizations.
    The Director can initiate a meeting with representatives of the organization charged to reach an informal resolution agreed upon by both the organization and the Director.

    I am of the impression that the OSPLD Director can dismiss the complaint if the complaint cannot be supported. Maybe I’m just reading it wrong.

  42. #42 Steve Reuland
    February 11, 2007

    Brian, you are correct, but that section is in contradiction to the part of the handbook that spells out the process for dealing with complaints. The part from which you quote says that complaints must be registered within 30 days, the part on procedures beginning several pages later says 7 days. Maybe they are referring to different types of complaints, but that’s not clear to me.

  43. #43 Steve Reuland
    February 11, 2007

    Oh, and I meant to add that the Complaint Disposition">Procedures for Filing Complaints of Alleged Violation of University Policies &
    Complaint Disposition
    is the actual handbook too, it’s just not the whole thing. This was the document that was linked to in the email sent to the College Republicans, so these are the procedures that they are following. So we aren’t talking about two different things, just two different sections of the same thing.

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