I sent out an email to all faculty, staff, and managers last Friday about an employee’s right to place posters on campus advocating for a political candidate. In it, I said that as educators we want to create an environment where we hear voices across the political spectrum and all members of our college community—faculty, staff, and students—feel free to express their thoughts and no restrictions shall be placed on the political activities of any member of our college community so long as no district funds, services, supplies, or equipment is used to promulgate those ideas.
I would like to augment my email with some additional thoughts. Watching cable news this morning reminded me how politically polarizing our national discourse has become. Over the weekend, National Public Radio reported on a story about how some higher education institutions are contemplating limiting free speech out of a desire to protect a person or groups of people from speech that can be seen as hurtful, aggressive, degrading, or in bad taste. I can see how tempting it would be for higher education institutions to place limits around how a person can express their opinions and thoughts. Admittedly, there are some views that I may think are reprehensible, discriminatory, narrow-minded, or simply in bad taste. However, placing boundaries around speech beyond what’s already codified in law—while appealing to some people—would be inappropriate without a collective understanding of the issues and agreement from the college constituencies on what those boundaries should be.
As we get closer to the November general election it’s important we remember that as educators we want to create an environment where we hear voices across the political and social spectrum. Any attempt to silence voices rather than engaging with them does not have a place at CR. As a college community our obligation is to promote and encourage diverse opinions and discourse for all faculty, staff, and especially students on political and public issues.
I want to reiterate that it is appropriate and opportune for us to come together as a college community and discuss how we will continue to support every employee’s freedom of speech in a thoughtful and balanced way. I will introduce a revised Administrative Procedure 7370—Political Activity this month that will get the district-wide discussion started.
I look forward to the conversations!