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Irvine Valley College Policy Is Preposterous

April 06, 2003

Re "Campus Free-Speech Tests," editorial, April 1:

The Times is correct to be offended by professors who "force their opinions down a captive audience's throat," although it has cited no evidence that any Irvine Valley College professor does that. It fails to perceive, however, that Vice President Dennis White's recent memo is not directed specifically at such opining; rather, it is directed generally at classroom discussions of the current war.

According to White's memo, an instructor may discuss the war only if he or she first "satisfies" White that the discussion is "directly related to the approved instructional requirements." Accordingly, I cannot continue my discussion, in my ethics class, of just-war theory and its implications for the current war until I get the OK from Dennis White. That's preposterous.

The ban on classroom discussion of the war was occasioned by complaints from students who were upset by instructors' alleged remarks.

But students are routinely upset by discussions of topics that are unavoidable in higher education, such as the traditional problem of evil and the theory of natural selection. Are these grounds, then, for prohibiting discussion of those topics?

The Times suggests that faculty "overreacted" to White's memo. It should remember recent history. A few years ago, South Orange County Community College District Trustee Steven J. Frogue chillingly questioned a course on the Holocaust and the instructor's association with the Anti-Defamation League. More recently, an Irvine Valley administrator ordered faculty to remove all signage from their office doors and windows, some of which was critical of the college president. The district's "speech and advocacy" policy has been repeatedly struck down as unconstitutional. The author of a campus newsletter, critical of district officials, was ordered to seek anger management counseling -- a move described as "Orwellian" by one judge and as an attempt to silence a "vigorous critic" by another.

Under such circumstances, says The Times, faculty's objections to the ban are forgivable. No. Under such circumstances, they are eminently reasonable.

Roy Bauer

Professor of philosophy

Irvine Valley College

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