Sunday, June 12, 2011

Digging in the Archives: College Speech Rules

While digging through a box of old files yesterday, I discovered a lot of old articles by and about me. No, I'm not necessarily vain; if I were, I wouldn't have stuffed them in crummy old folders that I then put into a box I forgot about for nearly 10 years.

The articles range from editorials and columns I wrote at The Badger Herald student newspaper (when I was a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison) to letters I wrote to magazines and newspapers, guest columns for various publications, and articles in which I was quoted.

Most of it will not interest you any more than it (dis)interests me any longer. But a few items were pleasant surprises, including the article above (click on the image to see a bigger version). The article, which appeared in the October 21, 1990, Chicago Sun-Times, reported the reactions of some UW students to the then-hot topic of hate-speech rules. As a columnist and former editor of the Herald, I had written quite a bit about the attempts of the UW chancellor to implement severe restrictions on campus speech. (I won't go completely into it here, but suffice it to say that I think hateful speech thrives in the underground, and it's better that good people take on such statements head-to-head; the average person should be educated enough – or should get educated enough by their university – to be able to refute hateful and ignorant statements; in addition, the proposed rules were so vague that I thought it endangered professors who taught concepts and ideas that offended students; if you're a fundamentalist of any religion and you take a class on biology, that's your problem – I believed and still believe – so prepare to be offended and don't bother me with your offendedness.)

Anyway, the Sun-Times talked to representatives of the conservative and liberal daily student papers, finding both of us opposed to the speech restrictions. That should have been a sign to the UW administration. Years later, when the chancellor was profiled by The New Yorker, she said she had pushed the speech rules because it's what the campus wanted. Untrue.

But that was 21 years ago. Forgotten and placed in a box.

The best news is that in all of that archival digging yesterday, I was successful in finding what I was seeking: my complete collection of Bunky comic strips, the cool but short-lived comic produced by my stepfather, Lyle Lahey, back in 1975. It will play a role in the second edition of my science fiction and science magazine Galaxis (first issue still available free here or for print-on-demand at cost here). Stay tuned.

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