Growing up, you may remember Valentine’s Day as a fun holiday in elementary school. Maybe you would pass out Valentine’s card to classmates, saving the best or biggest card for the person we had a crush on. Maybe that card even had a special note in it that only a 10 or 11-year-old could think up.
It was innocent fun on a day that meant lots of pink or red hearts and chocolate to go along with it. Eventually, perhaps, Valentine’s Day became more serious.
But not at the University of New Orleans. It has been awarded the “speech code of the month” violator by the Foundation for Rights in Education (FIRE) for February. This public university has a speech code so vague that an unexpected Valentine could be considered sexual harassment.
One can wonder if a secret admirer might quickly be deemed a stalker by campus code.
UNO’s ambiguous speech code cites examples of harassment as “visual displays such as leering” and “displays of sexually suggestive objects” such as cartoons. The College Fix suggests that icky handshakes and some of The Simpson’s cartoons might meet this criteria.
A Valentine should only constitute harassment if it is part of a “pattern of conduct,” FIRE asserts. If the campus regulations are not clear for students, they will be forced to interpret the fuzzy rules as literally as possible.
In that case, it is safer not to pass out little love notes or cards with puns this Thursday.
This free speech issue at UNO is part of a pattern itself—a pattern of little respect for First Amendment rights. Not only have campus rules and the collective left possibly banned hearts day; they’re on their way to ban every traditionally American holiday.
Halloween? Costumes are offensive. 4thof July? America is a constant disappointment. Easter and Christmas? Get your patriarchal religion off their quad. Thanksgiving or Columbus Day? Imperialistic. Super Bowl Sunday? Don’t even think about it.
This upcoming holiday, Harvard students will be given 100 characters to specify their gender on an online campus dating program. This option became available following a student protest and a public apology from The Harvard Computer Society for originally creating a gender binary program. And conservatives are hostile to science?
To be clear, speech on college campuses is allowed as long as campus ideology agrees.
Free speech seems to be a reward on campus only for those who meet the ideological bandwagon standard in academia. That is not the way it should be. While the war on Valentine’s Day cards allows us to poke fun at the often-goofy campus speech codes, they are no laughing matter.
Free speech should not only be tolerated, it should be encouraged on college campuses. First Amendment rights cannot be limited to just a remote area deemed acceptable by administration far from any students. Stimulating curiosity and intellectual debate has long been a hallmark of American college campuses. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case on too many campuses.
That is why every state in the country needs legislation protecting free speech for college students. Because relying on college administrations is not working.