December 1, 2005

Student photography and speech on campus

Erin O'Connor has a set of links and commentary on the case of a University of Pennsylvania student who posted pictures of a couple making love in a campus dorm window (in plain public view). Since bad taste seems to be going the rounds these days as a target of university crackdowns (John Daly, anyone?), there's not much more I can add other than to point out that poor taste does not justify censorship or retaliation.

I was a graduate student at Penn from 1987-1992, and I'll admit I was largely distanced from events. I thought Penn's administration was being foolish, but that struck me as all too common those days (when Penn's real-estate department tried to close House of Our Own Books until a faculty uproar). I didn't know Alan Kors (the primary opponent of speech codes at Penn) because I'm an Americanist, he's a Europeanist, and Penn's history faculty is large enough that I didn't take courses from all the Americanists, let alone others (other than Lynn Hunt and Dain Borges). Sheldon Hackney was president of the university at the time, before becoming head of the NEH under Clinton. Now he's back as a member of the history department. Not eliminating the speech code quickly was one of Hackney's worst mistakes as university president, and I hope he's learned enough to be on the right side this time (and to speak up).

Listen to this article
Posted in Academic freedom on December 1, 2005 12:00 PM |