Free speech advocates are putting pressure on a Montana Christian college to cease the use of a policy that the organization claims is counter to the college’s own promise to its students of free expression.
Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana employs a policy against “divisive” displays. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) sent a letter to the college last week, calling out the institution’s hypocrisy in that it promises its students free expression, but bans certain displays around “controversial” topics that it says students have a right to “choose” whether or not to “engage” with.
In recent years, Young Americans for Freedom at RMC erected multiple 9/11 memorials involving small American flags lining campus walkways. These displays were approved by the university, but in August, when the group requested permission for a similar display with crosses instead of flags to memorialize victims of abortion, Dean of Students Brad Nason told YAF-RMC secretary and treasurer Emily Kokot that such a display was not allowed because it dealt with a “divisive” topic, according to the letter.
“I’m sorry Emily but that is not a program that would be allowed at RMC,” Nason wrote, according to FIRE. “The College has no objection to discourse and dialog about/around the pro-life movement, but we draw the line at public displays of divisive topics. A physical ‘memorial for abortion victims’ falls into that category. . . . For the record, the President’s Cabinet recently rejected a similar request for an on-campus marketing campaign, that would have included what most would interpret as liberal messaging, around the topics of immigrant rights, climate change, science, and racism. We considered that program unnecessarily and inappropriately confrontational. ”
Kokot challenged Nason, arguing that the university was not upholding its purported commitment to free speech. Nason then told Kokot that public displays eliminate “every student’s ability to choose to engage or not to engage with that issue.”
But, as FIRE points out “If students are encouraged to ‘choose’ to engage in the topic, but cannot raise the topic in a posting to announce their choice, then precisely how, where, and when do the ‘open and thoughtful discussions’ take place?”
Read the rest at: No Crosses