Blogs > Liberty and Power > Student Free Speech Rebellion at the University of Alabama

Feb 25, 2005 8:54 pm


Student Free Speech Rebellion at the University of Alabama



These days the students at the University of Alabama are showing more maturity, good sense, courage on issues of academic freedom than the faculty.

Yesterday, the Student Senate unanimously passed a resolution that represents a stunning victory for academic free speech. In concise and clear wording, it explicitly repudiates a resolution by the Faculty Senate which calls for a sweeping speech code. Interestingly, the Faculty Senate resolution also passed without a dissenting vote. This is shaping up into quite a David and Goliath battle.

We have been following this issue for quite some time. In an article for HNN, we compared the Faculty Senate's resolution to a proposed segregationist law in Mississippi during the 1950s.

Here is the resolution of the Student Senate:

Resolution #R-98-04, The University of Alabama, Student Senate, 2004-2005

WHEREAS, The right to free speech is an inalienable human and civil right that is protected by the United States Constitution and the Constitution of Alabama;

WHEREAS, Free speech is absolutely vital to the mission of any university, where new and often controversial ideas must be discussed openly and rationally in order to make advances in knowledge;

WHEREAS, The Faculty Senate of the University of Alabama has recently passed a resolution urging the University of Alabama to regulate the speech of students at the University of Alabama;

WHEREAS, Speech codes have been used by other colleges and universities to silence dissenting speech, not merely so-called “hate speech”, and to persecute those with unpopular opinions;

WHEREAS, There are currently numerous legal challenges pending against such speech codes, and the adoption of such a speech code at the University of Alabama would invite a lawsuit against the University that would be costly and would greatly tarnish its public image;

WHEREAS, In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “Error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it”;

WHEREAS, By defending free speech for all students, one in no way condones any kind of hate or intolerance; On the contrary, one is promoting tolerance of others despite their differences, especially their differences of opinion;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT The University of Alabama Student Senate most strongly urges the Administration and the Faculty Senate of the University of Alabama to refrain from adopting any form of speech code, even one that purports to ban only so-called “hate speech”;

BE IT FURTHUR RESOLVED THAT The University of Alabama Student Senate most strongly urges the Administration and the Faculty Senate to adopt policies that explicitly protect free speech for all students at the University of Alabama;

BE IT FURTHUR RESOLVED THAT Copies of this resolution also be sent to Dr. Robert Witt, President of the University of Alabama, Dr. John Mason, President of the Faculty Senate of the University of Alabama, The Tuscaloosa News, The Crimson White and Dateline Alabama for informational purposes.


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Robert L. Campbell - 2/25/2005

At the University of Southern Mississippi, the Student Government Association's leadership has essentially been bought by the University President. It is the Faculty Senate that has a near-perfect record of opposition to the President's gross mismanagement and abuses of power, including his upper administration's violations of academic freedom.

It's heartening to see a Student Government get its priorities straight, as the Student Senate at the University of Alabama has done. Now, if only there were hope for the Faculty Senate...

Robert Campbell