Silencing Snow White

Colleges now ban speech that offends or annoys, suggestive looks and flirting, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer in a story on FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education).

Snow White would not have done well at Bucknell.

“Oh! What funny little men!” – her animated cry upon meeting the seven dwarfs in the Disney movie – is the sort of comment forbidden at this private university in central Pennsylvania, where “disparaging remarks about one’s physical disability” are outlawed.

Also banned at Bucknell: “exerting subtle pressure for unwanted sexual activity,” “sexual innuendoes made at inappropriate times” and speech that “seriously annoys” the hearer.

Bryn Mawr College outlaws “suggestive looks” and Haverford College “unwelcome flirtations.”

At Rutgers University, a Christian fellowship group was accused of violating antidiscrimination policy when it held an election and invited only Christian students to run for office.

At Shippensburg University, after the Sept. 11 attacks, dorm residents were ordered to remove posters expressing hostility toward Osama bin Laden from their doors. A resident director at the public college called such material “offensive” and a violation of the school’s code of conduct, according to a student affidavit.

FIRE’s Thor Halvorssen points out, “There’s no such thing as a right not to be offended.” The story is very sympathetic to FIRE’s position.

Volokh Conspiracy adds another example of sensitivity run amok. San Diego State is removing “foreign” from its foreign language requirement to avoid offending foreigners. Pardon me. Furriners.

About Joanne


  1. Sean Kinsell says:

    “Bryn Mawr College outlaws ‘suggestive looks’….”

    Suggestive of what? Last I checked, Bryn Mawr was still all female. You’d think the school would be thrilled if there were plenty of with-it Sapphitic batting of the eyes going on within the student body. Maybe it just applies to male staff members?

  2. Our school district removed the word “foreign” two years ago. It’s now LOTE: Languages Other Than English.

  3. “LOTE: Languages Other Than English” Of course, because English is the only real language.

  4. It’s wrong to hurt anyone’s sensitivities.. (unless they’re vicious, nasty christians or foaming-at-the-mouth conservatives)They should all be killed…..Kum ba Yah anyone?

  5. I was Bryn Mawr class of ’01. And I don’t remember a blasted thing about “suggestive looks” being outlawed. I wonder whose policy this refers to, and to whom it applies? If it had been around in my time, I’d like to think I’d have heard a fair amount of indignation about it, or at least of one complaint — it’s a small campus, and a gossipy one. Maybe it was honored more in the breach than the observance.

    I must look around some more to find out — the links don’t make it immediately obvious —

  6. If we can get leftists to avoid all forms of flirting, maybe we can prevent the existence of future generations of leftists…

  7. David,

    Good Idea……….How about forced sterilization or lobotomization? They are all obviously malformed and degenerate….Now Igor, pull the switch….

  8. If memory serves me right, didn’t the City of Santa Cruz (CA.) ban lewd looks/remarks in public several if not many years ago?

    No more “Hey Baby” to females in public?

    So are men now supposed to ask politely “Mind if I flirt with you?” which, of course, could be an unwelcome flirtation in and of itself.

  9. Perhaps, in the manner of old naval vessels, such campuses should have a “flirting lamp.” Flirting is permissible while the lamp is lit. Or Flirting Hours. As silly as this is, the “seriously annoys” prohibition is worse.

  10. Sean Kinsell wrote: Maybe it just applies to male staff members?

    Very perceptive, Sean.

  11. Is shaking with the right hand soon going to be banned as well.

    I really thought all this nonsense would stop with Antioch, but schools are still plunging ahead.

    Hope this stuff isn’t actually being enforced.

  12. Sean Kinsell says:

    No, Mark, I’m not perceptive; I just experienced this stuff as a comp. lit. major in the early ’90’s, when Antioch’s policy was big news and other schools were getting fired up about this stuff. And A. (not the Irene Adler?), it may be that the “suggestive looks” phrasing is buried deep in a lot of similarly vague murk in some code of conduct somewhere. It’s not implausible that you actually read the relevant clause and just passed right over it. These things often sound benign in context and only become thorny when you isolate them and try to figure out what the hell they’re supposed to mean in practice.

  13. The Bryn Mawr thing is in their sexual harassment policy, which is available online at “Suggestive looks” are given as an example of non-verbal behavior that might be included under sexual harassment. Harassment is defined earlier in the document as unwanted behavior that is hostile, or threatening (etc or so forth). It’s a fairly reasonable policy as far as these things go, but of course one can always pick specific phrases to make fun of.

  14. And they wonder why more and more students are republican? Its called backlash

  15. I had a friend who bumped into a girl on the stairs and said “excuse me sweetheart” and next thing he knew he had a mark on his record for “sexual harassment”

  16. Richard Brandshaft says:

    I heard a story, allegedly true, about an American on a plane to some other country refusing to fill out his alien landing card. He kept insisting he wasn’t an alien, he was an American.

  17. From the link Mark Odell posted:

    One female juror actually expressed sympathy for the brothers “because they no longer had parents.” Uh, the brothers no longer had parents because they murdered them, stupid!

    This reminded me of the classic example of chutzpah: the person who murders his parents and then asks for mercy because he’s an orphan.

  18. Thanks, Olivia. I looked through the website, Google and all, and didn’t find that myself! **smacks forehead** And I was all set to write cranky letters. But there it is: Sexual harassment can include verbal behavior such as unwanted sexual comments, suggestions, jokes or pressure for sexual favors; nonverbal behavior such as suggestive looks or leering . . . There’s also a set of guidelines for the application of sexual harassment rules, the broadest of which is “such conduct has the purpose or effect of . . . creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment.”

    This is in the faculty handbook, but the policy applies to staff, faculty and students. Sigh. As a law student, I hate to see such mushy language. But I never heard of any such complaints, or indeed this policy, in my time — which is not to say that they didn’t exist, or that this language isn’t worrisome.

    (NB to Sean: there is another poster about the blogosphere with the pseudonym “Irene A.”, and she is quite good, but not me!)

  19. Sean Kinsell says:

    A., I was referring to the only woman to outwit Sherlock Holmes, or am I getting the name wrong? Anyway, you’d have to be, like, her great-great…granddaughter.

    What are those of us who want more suggestive looks and leering to come our way to do?

  20. Would that I were that well-known adventuress! But yes, she’s my favorite Conan Doyle character.

    At BMC, as I recall, it was a major source of complaint that there weren’t enough guys to go around! But you’ll have to break through the layers of caffeine glazing and sleep deprivation, to say nothing of the book in front of her face, to get leered at by a Bryn Mawr woman . . . 😉

  21. David Jacobs says:

    I feel we really need to ban the color blue. You know it just has too many negative connotations. I feel blue today. We need to promote more positive thinking. More red, yellow, and purple. Blue is just too sad, too drab. We may have to get rid of black, brown and grey as well. I upsets and offends me to see so much blue out there.
    These are the same idiots who are still trying to figure out what the meaning of is is.