Free speech and racial harassment : policy responses at three research universities

Jennings, Jr., Thomas W., Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Gibbs, Annette, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Kellams, Samuel, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Mary Catherine, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Stokes, Jerry, University of Virginia
Chronister, Jay, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

This qualitative case study describes the factors and conditions related to discriminatory verbal harassment (DVH) student conduct codes at the University of Wisconsin, Stanford University, and the University of Virginia. The study examines the extent to which DVH policies enhanced civility among different racial groups, it describes the campuses' DVH policy debates, and examines race relations at the three universities following efforts to address DVH. The study provides information regarding advantages and disadvantages of such policies, opinions of various constituents during policy debates, and analyses of racial conditions at Stanford and Wisconsin after their policies' promulgation. Each university is examined for its: !)historical, structural, and organizational factors and conditions, 2) racial climate prior to the adoption (or rejection, in Virginia's case) of its DVH policy, 3) political factors and conditions, 4) progression of proposed policies and their supporters and opponents' arguments, and 5) Conditions following the adoption (or rejection) of the policy (i.e., race relations afterward, policies' application, policies' effects on academic behavior).

Important factors in DVH policies' development include the university's public/private status, wording and structure of its existing student conduct codes, its campus traditions and historical figures, and its process for adopting non-academic student regulations. Major public racial incidents at each university involved whites' offending blacks. The incidents served as rallying points for student minority coalitions that supported adopting harassment policies. Other political factors included: faculty involvement, presidential and governing board involvement, and the strength of the student coalitions. DVH policy supporters argued for more welcoming and hospitable environments for minority students, free from intimidation and harassment The policies (especially later in their development) became symbols of the universities' support for minority students. DVH policy opponents contended that the policies infringed on students' free speech rights, are vague and overbroad, and sacrifice the university's most important value: free thought and expression. Relevant First Amendment law is reviewed and discussed along with recent Court cases affecting DVH policies.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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