Campus Speech Wars: Waving the Tacky Shirt

By Miniter, Richard | Insight on the News, January 24, 1994 | Go to article overview

Campus Speech Wars: Waving the Tacky Shirt


Miniter, Richard, Insight on the News


In 1991, Rep. Henry Hyde, an Illinois Republican, sponsored legislation that would have made it easier for students at both public and private colleges to sue over First Amendment issues. The bill was intended to help students who felt their right to free speech had been stifled by "PC" crusaders -- liberal activists who have managed to make "political correctness" the most pressing issue on American campuses. But Hyde could find only 25 cosponsors and the bill languished. The "PC backlash" went nowhere.

Indeed, since the PC wars began in the mid-1980s with skirmishes on the canon -- should Plato or Sappho be required reading -- college administrators have become hypersensitive to the needs of women and minorities. Perhaps as a consequence, arguments over what should be taught in the classroom have given way to acrimonious debate on civility -- how to make students get along on campus.

Pressured by vocal groups espousing multiculturalism, both public and private universities have adopted speech codes directed at students and faculty Intended at first to curtail incidents of "hate speech" usually racial slurs, such codes have been extended to regulate all aspects of campus life -- students have been asked to remove Confederate flags from their dorm rooms and forbidden from talking with outside journalists without permission.

More importantly, while a handful of students have been disciplined for directing hateful remarks at minorities, others have been the victims of overzealous persecution, most notably University of Pennsylvania undergraduate Eden Jacobowitz, who called a group of black sorority sisters "water buffalo" when their loud revelry late at night disturbed his study Jacobowitz, who could have been expelled for falling into a common shouting match -- he said his choice of epithet had nothing to do with race -- received a reprieve when the women dropped their charges before disciplinary hearings were held, saying in a prepared statement that Jacobowitz and his faculty adviser "chose to circumvent the process and try this grievance among students in the national media, making it an issue of freedom of speech and political correctness, while blanketing the real issue: racial harassment."

But on the other side of the country, students outside the glare of the media are challenging university speech codes more methodically -- in the courts, employing a new California law that explicitly forbids high schools and universities, both public and private, from infringing upon students' rights to free speech.

Known as "the Leonard law" after its sponsor, Bill Leonard, a Republican state senator from Upland, Calif., it has been the fulcrum of free speech cases at Occidental College in Los Angeles, California State University at Northridge and other schools. The pro bono lawyer leading the cause, John Howard, has 14 such cases pending. With state legislatures across the country considering similar bills, Leonard, Howard and California students may be opening a new chapter in the history of political correctness.

Until 1993, when the Leonard law went into effect, First Amendment-waving students generally lost clashes with politically correct school administrators. Then came the "T-shirt Incident," as a pivotal case at the University of California, Riverside, came to be known. At first, the T-shirt Incident followed the standard PC scenario: a relatively small disagreement was followed by a series of administrative fiats invoking ever sterner penalties and, finally, futile campus appeals. That this particular case ended with a surprising plot twist makes it a bellwether, at least for California.

It all began in September 1993 during Rush Week, when students aspiring to join fraternities and sororities attend parties sponsored by the local chapters. The school's Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity was throwing "South of the Border Fiesta," which some brothers advertised by wearing specially printed T-shirts featuring caricatures of a sombreroed Mexican toting a bottle and a bare-chested Indian hefting a six-pack and a bottle. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Campus Speech Wars: Waving the Tacky Shirt
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.