The Ga Tech lawsuit, continued

August 15, 2006 23:48 pm

by Jeff Emanuel · 3 comments

For a detailed recounting of the lawsuit, the plaintiffs, the reasoning behind it, and the situation leading up to it, read here.

Buzz interviewed one of the plaintiffs back in the Spring; that can be seen here.

For the record, and in the interest of full disclosure, when I wrote the above-linked piece on the suit, I was at least a casual supporter of the action. Given time since then to reflect on the situation — the circumstances, the plaintiffs, and the goals and tactics involved — I think I’ve largely changed my mind. Here’s why:

Free speech is vital, as is the ability to avoid administrative discrimination. However, the methods used by the students in question, and others, are often reminiscent of those implemented by the radical campus leftists of a generation ago. Rules are bent or broken, often purposely and in a way that could have been easily avoided while not sacrificing the action or the message, for the sole purpose of getting caught, so that they can point to administrative “discrimination against conservatives.”

I don’t agree with this Machavielian method (that the end — namely, eliminating “selective discrimination against the right to discriminate” — justifies the means, which, all too often, means purposely breaking rules in order to get caught), in the same way that I disagree with most brands of “activism” that involve shocking people and media into paying attention.

The thing I find most ironic is that the parts of the student speech code which were removed at the order of Judge Forrester, were just those sections which would have protected one of the plaintiffs against the figurative assault she received from her fellow students as a result of filing the suit in the first place. The flyers posted in the halls decrying not only her, but her Asian heritage; the student marches against the suit at which racial epithets — along with props — were used; the Facebook group against the plaintiff — all quite possibly, if not definitely, breached the line of “injuring, harming” or “maligning” a person because of “race, religious belief, color, sexual/affectational orientation, national origin, disability, age or gender.”

The US District Court has now ruled on the case, and the offensive restrictions on speech have been lifted. ADF attorney David French was technically correct when he called the court order a “win for free speech.” It may not be a win for decency, but decency in personal speech and opinion is probably not the best subject for governmental interference; likewise, regulation “promoting diversity and tolerance,” which these speech codes purported to be, is in no way appropriate at a taxpayer-funded institution or organization.

In this case of speech code revocation, the blade cuts both ways. Yes, the College Republicans and others can now freely protest against gay marriage, militant feminism, and countless other perceived perversions. However, this decision also means that those who will protest against positions or people will also be fair game for the resulting blowback, which may well come in the form of vicious, personal, and now absolutely legal retribution.

The air may be clearer and the sun brighter today for conservative activists at Georgia Tech. However, I wonder if they understand just what it is they’ve gotten themselves into and set themselves up for with this, and whether they will be able to withstand the repercussions of what they’ve achieved.

Bill Simon August 16, 2006 at 9:07 am

Just desserts, Jeff, just desserts for the conservative activists who insisted that they should have the right to publicly assail/attack a lifestyle choice that they felt a personal need to do.

There’s an old saying: Be careful what you wish for.

jrhines August 16, 2006 at 4:27 pm

All speech codes are evil because they are never enforced equally. They are never be used against the left, only against the right, because the administrators were pals and/or hangers on of the left.

Half the time, you don’t even realize how prejudiced the people are who manage these silly things until you have to enforce them. Here’s my personal example. At arizona state university, i had a part time job keeping all the campus bulletin boards free of material that didn’t meet the assistant assitant dean of students’ guidelines (a typed page). I was expected to use discretion removing postings for lefty topics or eastern religions but i was expected to remove all postings for righty topics or christianity without question.

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