"Busybody CU Bigwig" Ron Stump Decides What Is, Isn't Free Speech
This RMN editorial takes CU administrator Ron Stump to task for exploring legal options against student whose newsletter might have given offense:
University administrators' knees jerk whenever a member of a protected group claims to be offended, whether or not the offense is justified.Anyone familiar with CU or Stump in particular knows that both the editorial and Stump's new appellation are accurate. In fact, "busybody CU bigwig" is probably the understatement of the year, as far as CU administrators go.
So after Ron Stump received complaints that a newsletter distributed by University of Colorado sophomore Max Karson was offensive to women, he jumped right in. Stump, vice chancellor for student affairs in Boulder, told the Daily Camera that CU was investigating whether Karson's newsletter violated any student code of conduct.
"We're looking into it from a legal perspective," Stump said.
If there's a code of conduct that requires students to avoid saying or writing anything offensive, then the legal perspective should be clear: It's the code that has to go, not the offensive speech.
That's the First Amendment in action, and it is an embarrassment to CU that a senior administrator wouldn't understand it.
Other CU officials apparently do understand, and a university spokesman said Thursday that CU would not punish Karson, while expressing strong disapproval of what he wrote. Yes, that's how it's done.
Note that we take no position on whether Karson's newsletter is offensive. Our point is that it makes absolutely no difference to his exercise of his constitutional rights unless what he writes falls into one of the very limited categories of unprotected speech.
Stump told Karson "that as a member of the (CU) community, you have a responsibility to try to protect it."
No, he doesn't. Reasonable people differ on what kind of speech "protects" a community, and public university administrators, who are agents of the government, have neither the legal authority, nor the wisdom, to adjudicate the matter.