Proposed policy change aims to combat hate speech on campus

In light of recent events both on the national scale and within the Maryville College community, MC is considering an addition to campus policies on harassment that would include definitions of and an official stance on hate speech and symbols on campus.

Written by students, it emphasizes the importance of safety on Maryville College’s campus, especially for minority students. The policy will fall in title XI of the Student handbook, and the actual language of the policy is below:

“Maryville College places extreme value on diversity, inclusion, and safety on campus. For this reason the college condemns the use of language (verbally or electronically) in a threatening or violent manner, particularly when it is aimed at a person or people of a particular group (including but not limited to race, biological sex, gender identity, sexual identity, religious affiliation, physical ability, neurotypical-ness, age, socio-economic standing, nationality, as so on) such that it creates a heightened level of anxiety, fear, or suffering in the victimized individual(s). The use of such language is subject to investigation and possible judicial action. Great diligence will be given to investigating individual cases where hate speech, as defined by the clause above, was used considering the following factors: (a) whether the intent was to harm; (b) whether or not drugs or alcohol were involved, such that being in a situation where intoxication and escalated tensions may lead to violent response; and (c) Where the event took place. Additionally, the college will take context heavily into account in any investigation of hate speech on campus, understanding that the ideas that are connoted with violence and prejudice may be said without the perpetrator being aware of their word’s weight. Those who are reported for, or have been found to be spreading hate speech on campus will be required to do sensitivity training about the issues affecting marginalized groups and be subject to judicial action in the form of hazing or harassment as defined above and below.”

It is important to note that the writers of this policy, and Maryville College as a whole, affirm freedom of speech and the distribution of diverse ideas, especially in academia. While this is true, it is acknowledged that some forms of speech are harmful to certain communities, and while Maryville College is a place of learning and intellectual expansion, it is also home to most of its students, and no one deserves to feel unsafe or marginalized in their home.

Education is the main goal of the college and of this policy. Those who are determined to need judiciary action because of their use of hate speech or hate symbols are required to go through the sensitivity training, but are not necessarily at risk of any real punishment, such as probation or suspension. The training is an opportunity to grow and relate to experiences different than one’s own and is something the policy writers hope to see incorporated into freshman orientation in the future.

This policy proposal has already been approved by the Student Government Association and is pending approval by the Student Life Committee, but students are encouraged to voice their opinions and ask questions about the policy before the committee will come to a decision.

An open forum on the policy will be held at some point this month, still to be determined, and all are encouraged to attend. Please look for updated information on the forum in the MC Today. Students, faculty and staff are also encouraged to directed their questions or concerns to either Virginia Johnson at [email protected] or Dean Kemp at [email protected].

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