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The Sentinel

An Eye on the Penn State Administration


FIRE: Penn State To Address ‘Nuisance’ Of Democracy

Editor’s Note: This blog post originally appeared on the website of “Safeguarding Traditions Of Penn State,” which was the precursor to Safeguard Old State. It appears here for posterity.

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An update from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE)
March 21, 2006

Penn State to Address the Nuisance of Democracy

Americans have long considered liberty and democracy the twin essentials for maintaining a free society. At Penn State, administrators are working their hardest to eliminate both of them.

When it comes to liberty, Penn State has been deficient for some time. The institution has earned a red light rating on FIRE’s Spotlight for its unconstitutional speech code. This is more important than ever now that former FIRE President David French is suing Penn State to overturn its speech code, which, among other provisions, bans things like “unwelcome banter, teasing, or jokes that are derogatory.” (It really makes you wonder whether the people who write these codes have ever even been to college.)

Penn State has gone further than most schools in restricting student voices, though (Occidental College in Los Angeles being one obvious exception). As Sean Clark recounted a couple of weeks ago on The Torch, Penn State’s administration and some students have been involved with the questionable effort to eliminate the old student government, the Undergraduate Student Government, and replace it with a new student government, the University Park Undergraduate Association. Although the differences are complicated, the university would likely have more control over the new body than it did over the old one (especially considering that the administration has put up $3,000 to support the new organization’s bid to replace the old one). Penn State would undoubtedly appreciate the increase in control, considering the old student government’s propensity to bring up uncomfortable issues like the rising cost of tuition.

Penn State President Graham Spanier has now officially announced to the Board of Trustees that he plans to move to replace the old student government with the new one, subject only to whether the Division of Student Affairs has any objections. This seems unlikely, as they are the ones who gave $3,000 to start up the new organization.

Universities never seem to tire of finding new ways to silence student viewpoints that they don’t like. It’s a good thing FIRE never tires of pointing them out.

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