Last week, administrators at the University of Oregon made it clear to professors that they would be disciplined if they offended students on the subjects of race, gender, sexuality, or religion.
This is a concerning new development considering that this new warning from administrators suggests that professors can be disciplined based upon what students subjectively choose to find offensive. Discipline for remarks made by professors is not limited to bigoted remarks or deliberate racism, but rather any incident that a student may find offensive.
According to The Washington Post, a faculty member could be disciplined for something as innocuous as suggesting that there are biological differences in temperament or talents between men and women.
This time it involved someone making herself up as a black man at a costume party (as it happens, doing so in order to try to send an antiracist message). But according to the university’s logic, a faculty member could be disciplined for displaying the Mohammed cartoons, if it caused enough of a furor. Or a faculty member could be disciplined for suggesting that homosexuality may be immoral or dangerous. Or for stating that biological males who view themselves as female should be viewed as men, not as women. Or for suggesting that there are, on average, biological differences in temperament or talents between men and women.
The warning from administrators came as a result of an incident that occurred in the home a University of Oregon law school professor. The professor, Nancy Shurtz, hosted a Halloween party for some of her students and chose to dress up as a character from the recently acclaimed book, “Black Man in a White Coat.” Shurtz’s decision to dress in blackface, despite the book’s anti-racist message, obviously sparked controversy on campus.
According to Eugene Volokh of The Washington Post, the following acts of expression could be considered harassment under the University of Oregon’s new policy:
Sharp criticism of Islam.
Claims that homosexuality is immoral.
Claims that there are biological differences in aptitude and temperament, on average, between men and women.
Rejection of the view that gender identity can be defined by self-perception, as opposed to biology.
Harsh condemnation of soldiering (that would be harassment based on “service in the uniformed services” or “veteran status”).
Condemnation of people who have children out of wedlock (that would be harassment based on “marital … status” and “family status”).