University Of South Dakota Scraps Guidelines That Threatened Punishment For Teasing

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Rob Shimshock Education Reporter
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A university removed guidelines discouraging the expression of “feelings of hatred” on social media after being blasted for the guidelines in a nonprofit’s “speech code of the month.”

The University of South Dakota (USD) removed its “Guidelines for the Awareness and Prevention of Acts of Cultural Insensitivity and Bullying at USD” after being called out by a free speech nonprofit, reported Campus Reform Friday. The nonprofit asserted that the guidelines are written in a “tone more appropriate for schoolchildren than adult college students” and suggest that protected speech can be punished by the school.

“Using university property (i.e. the USD Internet server) to bully other students (cyber bulling) or express feelings of hatred via Facebook, Twitter, email or other forms of social media is not allowed per university policy that governs the use of USD resources and facilities,” read the guidelines.

The document gives the example of “promoting stereotypes and hatred using social media including Facebook, Twitter, email and other forms of electronic communications.” The document also urges students to report other students and faculty members to Kimberley Grieve, the dean of students and Roberta Hakl, the equal opportunity director, respectively.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) points out that these “guidelines” do not merely suggest that students curtail their speech in favor of sensitivity, but say that students can be punished for speech deemed offensive. Indeed, USD states that “laughing at” and “teasing” someone based on their features “can lead to disciplinary action by the university.”

Grieve told Press & Dakotan that the university “need[s] to take down and re-do” the guidelines. While the guidelines were still accessible via a link at time of publication, university spokespersons told Campus Reform that they were taken down from the university website.

Jesus Trevino, author of the guidelines and former USD employee, told Campus Reform that “the use of University computers to perpetuate cyberbullying (which is harassment and illegal) is a policy [at the university].”

The Daily Caller News Foundation reached out to the University of South Dakota to clarify the distinction between “feelings of hatred” and “cyberbullying” but received no response none in time for publication.

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