You might remember that in December the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) took issue with the Penn State Principles, specifically this passage:
Actions motivated by hate, prejudice, or intolerance violate this principle. I will not engage in any behaviors that compromise or demean the dignity of individuals or groups, including intimidation, stalking, harassment, discrimination, taunting, ridiculing, insulting, or acts of violence. [Emphasis added by FIRE.]
William Creeley of FIRE explained in a letter to Graham Spanier that while the passage is seemingly benign, the vagueness of the terms allows it to mean almost anything the administration wished. It was also worded as an imperative rather than an aspirational principle.
Spanier responded directly to FIRE’s concerns by changing the wording of the Penn State Principles. The section in question now reads:
The Pennsylvania State University is a community dedicated to personal and academic excellence. The Penn State Principles were developed to embody the values that we hope our students, faculty, staff, administration, and alumni possess. At the same time, the University is strongly committed to freedom of expression. Consequently, these Principles do not constitute University policy and are not intended to interfere in any way with an individual’s academic or personal freedoms. We hope, however, that individuals will voluntarily endorse these common principles, thereby contributing to the traditions and scholarly heritage left by those who preceded them, and will thus leave Penn State a better place for those who follow. [Emphasis added by us.]
Both Spanier and FIRE deserve to be lauded for this dialogue. I just wish Spanier would display the same kind of responsiveness when it came to the USAS situation.
[Thanks go to Vince for his tip about this story.]