Volokh On Brandeise’s Speech Code

They’re at it again. Brandeise has instituted a new speech code, based on hostile work environment law. What rises to the level of harassment at Brandeise? They explain.

Depending on the circumstances, the following are examples of behaviors that may constitute harassment/discrimination under this policy. This is not an exhaustive list:

  • Jokes, comments or innuendoes that make fun of, denigrate or are based on an individuals or groups protected class status;
  • Epithets or slurs based on an individuals or groups protected class status;
  • Objects, posters, cartoons or pictures which make fun of, denigrate or are based on an individuals or groups protected class status whether directed to an individual, placed on University premises or displayed or circulated on campus;
  • Displaying, sending, forwarding, downloading or otherwise distributing materials via the internet, computer, or email that make fun of, denigrate or are based on protected class status;
  • Other verbal or physical conduct that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion towards an individual or group based on protected class status….

The University may take action on conduct that it deems to be inappropriate, regardless of whether it rises to the level of a violation of law.

Eugene Volokh expands on what this might mean.

So if you distribute materials that make fun of Scientologists (which are based on “a protected class status,” namely religion), and this is found to “unreasonably interfer[e] with a person’s education … by creating … [an] offensive environment in which to work, study or live”), you’re guilty. Likewise if you denigrate or show hostility towards fundamentalist Christians, or extremist Muslims, or veterans, or gays, or people who have certain disabilities (or for that matter certain “genetic information”).

Commenter Pol Mordreth notes that this is not unique to universities.

I understand that this may seem extreme to you, but it’s pretty much standard boilerplate at every company I have worked. Replace ‘University’ with ‘Company Name’ and this looks like a standard HR form. I have a beef with them at my company, but I’m neither surprised nor aghast that a University is using a boilerplate hostile work environment notice.

Commentator and author Mark Steyn explains what this means in practice when a country actually implements such measures.

I suggest that we remove the words “Land of the Free” from – you know – that tune they use to open baseball games.

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