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University of Utah scrubs ‘anti-racist code of conduct’ following demand letter

Other statements are under evaluation

The University of Utah removed an “Anti-Racist Code of Conduct” webpage hosted by one of its departments following a demand letter from a national free speech group.

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression told The College Fix that “the Anti-Racist Code of Conduct web page has been taken down.”

“FIRE will continue to monitor the situation to ensure any policy respects students’ and faculty members’ expressive rights,” Haley Gluhanich, FIRE’s program officer, told The Fix via email.

The Department of Communication had created the code of conduct.

“The university responded to our letter affirming its commitment to free speech and academic freedom. Dean of the College of Humanities Hollis Robbins said new leadership is currently evaluating statements on inclusive practices,” Gluhanich group told The Fix.

“We work intentionally to eradicate speech or actions that stereotype, inferentially identify, culturally discriminate against, or harm people of color,” the statement read, according to a copy of the code archived by FIRE.

“We disrupt and dismantle racist learning and work environments created through White normativity and discriminatory actions such as microaggressions, microassaults, and microinsults.”

The department also committed to “interrupt and/or intervene in racist incidents in all university spaces that are utilized and inhabited by Department members, including physical spaces (offices, classrooms, bathrooms, conference rooms, lunch rooms) and online forums.”

FIRE first alerted university leadership to the problems with the code of conduct in a March 23 letter, however the language requirements date back to 2020.

The code of conduct “impermissibly compels faculty to voice and commit to prescribed views on contested questions of politics and morality, implicating faculty members’ most essential freedoms of expression and conscience,” the letter stated. “The ARCC also exceeds the department’s authority in matters of academic freedom and threatens to cast a pall of orthodoxy over the academic environment.”

The Department of Communication document “impos[es] an affirmative obligation on all Departmental members to engage in anti-racist actions and support anti-racist Department institutions and norms,” according to the text on the webpage.

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The Fix contacted communications department chair Avery Holton to ask for comments on the policy and if he had any free speech concerns about its use. He has not responded to a request sent in the past two weeks. Holton is the recipient of FIRE’s letter.

FIRE wrote in its letter that the First Amendment “cannot compel speech by telling faculty they must ‘intervene’ in situations administrators subjectively deem ‘racist’ or otherwise inappropriate, nor may it force faculty to express acceptance or promote ideas about race they may not hold.”

“The university also cannot ban ‘microaggressions, microassaults, or microinsults,’ unless such speech rises to the level of discriminatory harassment or a true threat unprotected by the First Amendment,” the group wrote.

While the department could “shape and express its own aspirational values” and “encourage faculty and faculty applicants to adopt statements that reflect such values or act in a certain way” it cannot “cross the line into implicit coercion.”

“What the department cannot do, however, is compel faculty and faculty applicants to express fealty to a specific ideological viewpoint,” the letter stated.

MORE: University of Utah guide tells students, faculty what words to avoid

IMAGE: University of Utah

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About the Author
Marshelle Paulino -- Franciscan University of Steubenville