Idiocy implodes

After threatening a professor with disorderly conduct charges for Firefly and anti-fascism posters on his office door, administrators at the University of Wisconsin at Stout have backed down, reports FIRE.  Free speech is an important value, said the administrators in an e-mail.

It is important to note that the posters were not removed to censor the  professor in question. Rather, they were removed out of legitimate  concern for the violent messages contained in each poster and the belief  that the posters ran counter to our primary mission to provide a campus  that is welcoming, safe and secure.

In retrospect, however, it is clear that the removal of the posters -  although done with the best intent – did have the effect of casting  doubt on UW-Stout’s dedication to the principles embodied in the First  Amendment, especially the ability to express oneself freely.

UW-Stout will let Professor James Miller display his posters and will review procedures for “handling these  kinds of cases.”

Among those protesting the decision was actor Adam Baldwin, one of the stars of Firefly, who’d asked Miller if he knew of other  “violent” posters on campus. UW-Stout tolerated numerous “Kill the Bill” posters — a take-off on the movie Kill Bill – as part of a campus-wide protest held in February against Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s budget bill.

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Comments

  1. dangermom says:

    I love the doublespeak. “We didn’t want to censor the professor, we only wanted to make sure he couldn’t say anything that worried us.”

  2. Things will be particularly tough for Professor Miller going forward. Nothing is as dangerous as a bureaucracy scorned. Perhaps he should seek a concealed carry permit…

  3. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Here is a logical analysis of the response:


    The following statement was sent today to students, faculty and staff from Chancellor Sorensen, Provost Julie Furst-Bowe and Vice Chancellor Ed Nieskes regarding the “Firefly” poster incident:

    This is our university’s response.


    The recent discussion resulting from the removal of two posters hanging outside the door of a University of Wisconsin-Stout professor in Harvey Hall has raised serious First Amendment concerns, both on campus and across the country.

    There exists at least two people living in different places who think that the discussion of the posters’ removal is somehow related to the First Amendment. (Note: The removal of the posters is what should be at issue, not the discussion.)


    It is important to note that the posters were not removed to censor the professor in question.

    No one instructed University Police to “censor” the professor, and the University Police did not set out to censor the professor. (Note: People don’t really get censored in any case. Speech does.)


    Rather, they were removed out of legitimate concern for the violent messages contained in each poster and the belief that the posters ran counter to our primary mission to provide a campus that is welcoming, safe and secure.

    The person or people responsible for the posters’ removal thought, with at least the appearance of some supporting evidence, that the posters made the campus either less welcoming, less safe, less secure, or some combination thereof. (Note: It’s not clear at all what “legitimate” means here. I’ve given it its weakest interpretation and added “at least”.)


    In retrospect, however, it is clear that the removal of the posters – although done with the best intent – did have the effect of casting doubt on UW-Stout’s dedication to the principles embodied in the First Amendment, especially the ability to express oneself freely.

    Removing the posters made some people think that the University wasn’t fully supportive of free speech.


    As many people have pointed out in the days since this issue surfaced, a public university must take the utmost care to protect this right.

    Public Universities are required by law to follow the law.


    Therefore, UW-Stout has reconsidered its decision to remove the two posters from outside the professor’s office, meaning he can display them if he so chooses.

    We’ve changed our mind about the posters. (Note: It’s not clear WHY they are changing their minds. The “Therefore” could be based on any of the previous assertions. In particular, this is not any sort of admission that taking down the posters was contrary to the law.)


    The administration also is reviewing its procedures for handling these kinds of cases, and a new protocol is being developed in the hopes that a similar situation can be avoided in the future.

    We are attempting to ensure that discussions do not, in the future, involve questioning the University’s commitment to supporting the First Amendment. (Note: it’s not clear at all that they intend to stop taking down posters, particularly as they don’t seem to think it’s illegal to do so. The plain text of their message is focused on the *discussion* and the appearances that came out of it.)


    Furthermore, the UW-Stout Center for Applied Ethics will schedule workshops and/or forums during this academic year on First Amendment rights and responsibilities in higher education.

    By the way, we’re offering some seminars to discuss some generally framed First Amendment topics. (Note: Based on this message, these seminars could easily be seminars on how the University is perfectly justified to take down whatever it pleases. This sentence is also entirely irrelevant to the rest of the message.)


    For more than a century, UW-Stout has embraced the First Amendment, and we now reaffirm our support for the First Amendment rights for all of our students, faculty and staff.

    We intend to follow the law, and what we did was not illegal. (Note: “Has” is in the imperfect tense, implying that they are still embracing the First Amendment at at no time in the last 100 years have they not. This is a much stronger statement than the non-admission of illegality, above.)

    So there you have it. Now here’s the pared-down analysis that gets rid of essentially meaningless statements.

    WE CHANGED OUR MIND.
    WHAT WE DID WAS NOT ILLEGAL.
    WE’RE HAVING SOME SEMINARS.

    Hmmf.

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    What interests me about this is that some jumped-up meter maid, along with some underqualified, overeducated, underbrained educrats actually thought the posters were a “threat”. Or, perhaps, they thought some of their helicopterparented charges might see the posters and collapse in angst and anguish, piddling themselves in fear.
    I see no alternative except they had it in for the prof for some other reason and took this as their best shot. Which gets back to the first point. They had to think somebody, anybody, would actually believe that these posters were threats, or that they could get somebody, anybody to actually believe that the ‘crats actually thought these were threats.
    I sure hope, surely hope, this outfit doesn’t have a ROTC detachment. ’cause if they do, the cadets will be seen as deadly threats to the rest of the marshmallows on campus, or, if they’re not, won’t be any earthly use to any outfit more assertive than crabgrass.
    Good Lord. Don’t these people have any sense at all of how normal people view them?