At Johns Hopkins, Students Voice Frustration With New Speech Code
March 2, 2007
by William Creeley
The News-Letter reports that the Student Council members initially voiced their problems with the new code in a letter to administrators, writing:
How ought a student act in order to abide by this code? A student feels pressured to avoid communicating any idea that could be considered offensive in any way to anyone at any time ... this is counterintuitive to the nature of a research university, which should be a source of free, independent thought.
We at FIRE couldn’t have said it better ourselves, and we’re encouraged by the reaction of the Student Council. In raising these principled concerns, Council members are acting precisely how representatives of a diverse student body should: by seeking to ensure that no one inherently subjective definition of “civility” rules the day on campus. As sophomore class president Prasanna Chandrasekhar noted: “These rules are too unclear. Rude and disrespectful -- what does that mean?” Exactly.
The German poet Friedrich Hölderlin famously wrote, “But where danger is, grows the saving power also.” We at FIRE sincerely hope that the JHU Student Council may indeed be the “saving power” so desperately needed for the restoration of free expression at Johns Hopkins University.