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College Speech Codes Don’t End After Graduation

College Speech Codes Don’t End After Graduation

“Alumni-affairs offices have developed overbearing codes of conduct to regulate volunteers and, in some cases, everyone who attends alumni events.”

Going to an alumni event any time soon? Prepare to be treated like a student when it comes to speech.

Robert C. Platt & Steven McGuire write at Real Clear Education:

Higher Ed Bureaucrats Want to Regulate Your Speech After College, Too

“All children, except one, grow up,” wrote J.M. Barrie in “Peter Pan.” Today’s college and university administrators seem eager to prove him wrong.

American students are increasingly micromanaged, coddled, and, as a result, controlled by the ever-growing ranks of bureaucrats who run their campus Neverlands. Now some institutions want to continue this infantilizing behavior after students graduate.

Alumni-affairs offices have developed overbearing codes of conduct to regulate volunteers and, in some cases, everyone who attends alumni events. Some of these codes prohibit constitutionally protected speech and require signatories to support institutional orthodoxies on topics such as diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The codes at Cornell University (where one of us is an alumnus) and Williams College are two of the most troubling examples. Channeling the therapeutic attitude that pervades American campuses today, both schools say that they “are committed to providing a friendly, safe, and welcoming environment for all.” They go on to prohibit “derogatory” as well as “demeaning, discriminatory, or harassing behavior and speech,” noting that “harassment may include: offensive verbal comments related to gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, race, age, religion, disability.”

Of course, people should not be subjected to discrimination or harassment, but these codes are hopelessly overbroad and vague, leaving too much room for interpretation on the part of staff who are often ill-equipped to ensure that free expression is protected at university events. It does not inspire confidence that Cornell’s code was adopted after an alumnus used the word “Negro” in a speech in reference to Hall of Fame baseball player Satchel Paige, who spent much of his career in the Negro leagues.

Just as bias-response teams encourage students to report one another anonymously, attendees of alumni events are instructed to alert staff if they “are witness to or are subjected to unacceptable behavior.”


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The Gentle Grizzly | August 15, 2023 at 8:13 am

This all sounds like a fast way to reduce one’s donor lists.

    The current push against admission preference for “legacies” (children of alumni) may be promote equity, but it will also kill alumni giving. Graduation day will mean “congratulations you made it out with a degree, now we don’t know you anymore.”

Steven Brizel | August 15, 2023 at 9:08 am

When institutions go woke let them go broke

I’m never going to donate to my alma mater–they don’t believe in free speech, and their disciplinary process is Draconian–they don’t need my conservative dollars

And what exactly are they going to do to an alumnus who defies their precious speech code?

    henrybowman in reply to Milhouse. | August 15, 2023 at 9:48 pm

    They put it on his permanent record, of course.

    drsamherman in reply to Milhouse. | August 16, 2023 at 7:39 am


    I do recall some very radical elements calling for higher educational institutions to revoke the degrees (honorary and academically achieved) of those who fell afoul of the leftist orthodoxy that now reigns supreme in the Ivory Towers. Honorary degrees are piffle, but an earned degree? I can understand those being revoked for proven fraud (e.g. plagiarism, cooking the books, etc.,), but for purely ideological reasons? I cannot begin to imagine the litigation that would arise around that. Talk about an ugly situation….

      artichoke in reply to drsamherman. | August 16, 2023 at 1:28 pm

      I suppose the registrar’s office could be instructed to respond to inquiries about whether someone earned a certain degree, with “yes, but they then committed the following offense which would have violated the student discipline code if they were still a student …”

    SuddenlyHappyToBeHere in reply to Milhouse. | August 16, 2023 at 8:43 am

    Milhouse! You’re back! It is great to see you here. Some of us certainly missed your sane posts and frequent corrections of the idiocy that often pervades these comments. Hope you are well.

    Now on to the topic de jure . . . .

    Cornell is a disaster zone. I graduated there decades ago. I was there at the time of the Black student take over of Willard Straight and the several years of “revolution” that ensued due to that and to oppo to the Vietnam War. Revolution was in the air! Spring “finals” cancelled my frosh and sophomore years – well, not for me as a STEM major. A sometimes/but not always sane administration – including the NY State ex officio trustees who sit because of state affiliation of some of the colleges (Ag, Vet school, etc.) – acted as a counterweight to the more extreme reactions of students and former students hanging around campus and Collegetown.

    Fast forward to 2016 and the former students and their cohort of privileged but stupid adults are now the administration. Utterly spineless and gutless, cowed by the demands of students. Handed out Kleenex to crying students after Trump was elected. And NY State trustees are simply the same gaggle of downstate lefties you see in the entire Hochul administration.

    Cornell might need to die and then be reborn as an actual educational institutions, not an critical theory indoctrination factory and psychiatric crutch for students.

    Every time I get a solicitation for a donation I howl. I have the money to do that, but would rather spend it helping Deplorables around the country than this gaggle of spoiled brats and their facilitators.

    lawgrad in reply to Milhouse. | August 16, 2023 at 10:21 am

    They reserve the right to eject you from the campus or event venue without a a refund of any admission fee.

    John M in reply to Milhouse. | August 16, 2023 at 11:15 am

    Double secret probation, naturally.

Money talks, and lack of money yells at people wanting it the most.

I donated to my Alma Mater (Rice University) every year for over 50 years. But a couple of years ago, they instituted faculty “diversity statements” to eliminate conservatives and moderates from their applicant pools. They required students and faculty to attend DEI indoctrination sessions. They also set up a web page for “Bias Incident Reports” that could be anonymous, and would set the DEI machinery in motion against the accused person.

They said they would remove the founder’s statue because he wasn’t up to current standards. Finally, they got a red light rating from FIRE for their student rules that substantially denied students’ constitutional rights.

I sent them a letter saying why I would no longer donate. If I were on some sort of alumni committee or something, I’m sure they would have terminated me immediately.