Claremont McKenna College is the latest university to draw attention to itself with overreaching free speech policies. Samantha Harris of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education writes:
Claremont McKenna’s (CMC’s) policy on “Acceptable E-Mail Usage” provides that “[t]he College’s system must not be used to create or transmit material that is derogatory, defamatory, obscene or offensive. Such material includes, but is not limited to, slurs, epithets or anything that might be construed as harassment or disparagement based on race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability, or religious or political beliefs.” (Emphasis added.)
This policy is truly breathtaking in its reach. You can be punished for any e-mail that might be construed as disparaging on the basis of religious or political beliefs? Or any e-mail that is found derogatory or offensive by some unspecified standard? Given that e-mail is a widely used mode of communication among college students and faculty, this policy prohibits a large amount of core political and religious expression—the kind of expression that lies at the heart of the First Amendment and that is crucial to the open debate that should characterize a prestigious college like CMC.