FIRE's Samantha Harris took to task Darren Mooko after the Queer Resource Center complained that one of its flyers was moved repeatedly. Oh no! Gasp! This clearly warranted an email to the entire student body for something that happened at CGU.
Of course, curiously, no administrator seemed to care about The Advocate (the pro-life mag, not the homosexual one) getting ripped up last year. I guess some speech is better than others, which, to FIRE's credit, is what FIRE criticizes Darren Mooko for doing in his statement to The Student Life where he essentially says, "Sure, we love free speech, just not hostile speech, which, by the way, we retain the right to defend."
I quote from FIRE's press release:
TSL interviewed Darren Mooko, the Pomona administrator who sent the e-mail, and his apparent misunderstanding of what constitutes free speech is troubling. On the one hand, Mooko seems to grasp that not all offensive speech can be subject to disciplinary action; he tells TSL that "Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from offense. You don't have the right to not be offended." So far, so good, but here's where things get sticky:
"The one word we always drill down to is ‘hostility,'" Mooko said. Many offensive incidents occur, but only some of them are hostile to a group or person because of his or her identity.So offensive speech is permissible, so long as it is not due to hostility on the part of the speaker?
Unfortunately for Pomona—which, although private, is bound by California law binding private non-sectarian institutions to the free speech protections of the California Constitution and the First Amendment—this assertion is categorically untrue. Unless speech falls within one of the narrow categories unprotected by the First Amendment—such as harassment, true threats, or obscenity, as those terms are defined by law—it is protected regardless of the speaker's motive.
There is no question that administrators like Mooko are well-intentioned in their desire to make college a comfortable and welcoming experience for students of all backgrounds. But taking official action every time someone makes an off-color or otherwise offensive joke or comment on campus has a chilling effect on free expression across the Claremont Colleges. What's more, it does nothing to prepare students for life outside of the relatively sheltered college environment, where no one is going to step in if one encounters a graffiti penis or a crass comment about a political candidate.