University Quietly Scrubs Website Of Anti-Racism Code Of Conduct After Allegations Of Free Speech Violation

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Alexa Schwerha Contributor
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The University of Utah (U of U) Department of Communication appears to have removed its Anti-Racism Code of Conduct from its website, according to its no-longer functioning webpage.

The Anti-Racist Code of Conduct, approved in 2020, required faculty to intervene in alleged racist incidents including microaggressions and “work intentionally to eradicate speech or actions that stereotype, inferentially identify, culturally discriminate against, or harm people of color,” according to an archived version of its website dated in February 2023. The link to the webpage, however, is no longer accessible after free-speech watchdog Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) alleged the code violated faculty members’ right to free speech and academic freedom. (RELATED: University Scrubs ‘Anti-Racism’ Pledge From Website After Professor Complaint)

Faculty would also recognize “that racism often occurs in tandem with other systems of oppression (e.g., sexism, classism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, among others)” and use an “intersectional approach” to responding to such incidents, according to the code.

“The primary goal of an Anti-Racist Code of Conduct is to help the department transition from a racist versus non-racist culture toward an anti-racist culture. A secondary goal of this Code is to support students, faculty, and staff members in the department who experience racial trauma as a result of White normativity and discriminatory actions such as microaggressions, microassaults, and microinsults,” the code read. “A third goal of this Code is to make clear what constitutes racially conscious, appropriate, and respectful treatment of people of color so as to guide thinking and actions in service of creating a departmental culture that is more humanizing and supportive and less injurious.”

FIRE told department officials that the code violated the First Amendment of the United States Constitution because it compelled faculty to adopt a particular ideology, according to a March 23 letter. FIRE also told officials that they cannot “eradicate protected speech.”

The university responded to FIRE on March 24 “affirming its commitment to free speech and academic freedom” and “sharing that new leadership is currently evaluating statements on inclusive practices,” FIRE Program Officer Haley Gluhanich told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

It is unclear if the webpage was temporarily or permanently removed, Gluhanich said.

“While we cannot say for sure, we like to think that this is because of our letter and bringing attention to First Amendment violations in the [code,]” she told the DCNF.

“Having leadership ‘directly intervene’ or having ‘mediated conversation(s)’ in response to microaggressions, microassaults, and microinsults goes directly against this principle, as it is unacceptably punitive and chills expressive activity,” FIRE’s letter read. “When a faculty member is dragged into one of these resolution matters by those with disciplinary authority, they may assume their conduct could result in punishment and will reasonably selfcensor, as will other faculty when they see their colleagues punished for exercising their expressive rights.”

The lack of definition for “microaggressions,” “microassaults,” and “microinsults” makes the code “overbroad and vague,” according to FIRE.

U of U and the Department of Communication did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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