Graduate teaching assistants and instructors at the University of Oklahoma were advised recently during an “anti-racist” training seminar to remove all problematic speech from the classroom because, according to workshop leaders, “In the classroom, free speech does not apply.”
The seminar, which was titled “Anti-Racist Rhetoric & Pedagogies,” was one of nine developmental workshops put on by Oklahoma’s flagship university last semester. A recording of it obtained by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education shows workshop leaders brazenly urging instructors to trample on students’ free speech.
During the seminar, one of the workshop leaders, Kelli Pyron Alvarez, asserted that students in a Principles of English Composition course at the university are often “emboldened to be racist, like overtly racist.” And as a way to deal with that, Alvarez said instructors should simply prohibit them from making statements that might be hurtful to others.
Such statements broadly include “derogatory remarks, critiques, and hate speech” of any kind, according to Alvarez, as well as the use of “white supremacist ideas or sources.”
“If they use any of those things, if any of those come through in their writing or in their comments, I will call them out on it,” she explained.
University of Oklahoma training teaches instructors how to censor students
Alvarez acknowledged early on that some instructors might be reluctant to use such ham-fisted censorship measures against student speech. But she assured them, they need not fear any repercussions.
“One of the fears is that we’re going to get in trouble for this, right? Like we can’t tell students that they can’t say something in class. But we can! And let me tell you how,” she said, going on to falsely claim that the law is on her side.
“In the classroom, free speech does not apply,” Alvarez said. “The Supreme Court has actually upheld that hate speech, derogatory speech, any of the -isms do not apply in the classroom because they do not foster a productive learning environment. And so, as instructors, we can tell our students: ‘No, you do not have the right to say that. Stop talking right now.'”
In its coverage of the seminar, Reason.com rebutted Alvarez’s claim, calling it “stunningly wrong.”
“The Supreme Court has never issued a ruling that prohibits ‘hate speech’ on college campuses or anywhere else,” Reason writer Robby Soave noted. “Hate speech, in fact, is a subjective term: What someone finds hateful might nevertheless be objectively true, and more importantly, fully protected by the First Amendment. Indeed, the Supreme Court explicitly defended hateful expression in the 2017 case Matal v. Tam.”
Nevertheless, another workshop leader, Kasey Woody, restated the point later in the seminar, saying, “You do not need to worry about repercussions at any degree in the university if you are responding to a student who is using problematic language in the classroom.”
She advised instructors to “steer” students away from troublesome topics by cracking down on “problematic” speech before it even happens.
She said, “I … usually look for my students who might be, like, entertaining the idea of listening to a problematic argument. Then I say, ‘We don’t have to listen to that.'”
Reporting on the seminar, FIRE’s Daniel Burnett and Sabrina Conza blasted the workshop leaders for their obvious censorship of students.
“Professors cannot abuse their power to require students to personally adhere to a particular viewpoint or ideology,” they insisted. “As the AAUP has written, instructors have academic freedom of ‘instruction, not indoctrination.’ It can be hard to define precisely where this line falls, but there’s no question that a significant amount of this workshop teaches participants how to indoctrinate instead of how to instruct.”
You can watch the full seminar recording below:
University of Oklahoma “Anti-Racist Rhetoric & Pedagogies” Workshop
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Author: Phil Shiver
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