Students’ right to free speech in the classroom is limited by the university’s Student Conduct Code.
Under the code, obstruction or disruption of the educational process, administrative process or other campus functions on or off campus property is strictly prohibited.
Phil Forteza, junior kinesiology major, said he is cautious about expressing his personal views in the classroom because speaking in class has become intimidating.
“Sometimes I’d rather not speak because people are too sensitive, and I don’t want to offend anyone,” Forteza said.
Limiting freedom of speech inside the classroom is, based on how it pertains to the subject of the class, said Jerry Luedders, assistant provost for Academic Affairs.
“Free speech does not mean we can abridge the limits of good taste and profanity,” Luedders said. “We do not have the right to abuse people.”
As long as a student’s opinion is deduced from readings, data, and class discussions, and if the learning process is not being inhibited, that student is not violating the boundaries, Luedders said.
If a student had a strong opinion about politics, “it would be appropriate to discuss how that opinion is formed, because discussions are appropriate,” Luedders said.
William Watkins, assistant vice president for Student Affairs, said as long as a student’s ideas do not turn into disruptive behavior leading to violence, expressing his or her views is acceptable.
Students have freedom of speech as long as it constitutes appropriate academic behavior, Watkins said.
Watkins said he could not believe some of the shocking T-shirts he has seen worn by students on campus.
“Students need to consider themselves mature decision-makers and be aware that it’s an academic community,” Watkins said. “Faculty (members have) different levels of tolerance (in terms of) what’s prohibited (in their classrooms) and what’s not.”
Professors have different personalities, and the way students interact with a faculty member depends on how the professor reacts to discourse, Watkins said.
Some professors will joke with students, while others are more serious, Watkins said. Students tend to get a feel for their teachers’ personalities during the first few weeks of school, he said.
Disciplinary action is taken if a student is disruptive in the classroom, Luedders said.
Not all students are afraid to speak up in class, however, and some feel it is a good way to get involved.
“It’s another way to get to know the material,” said Paolo Garcia, junior marketing major and religious studies minor. “I like criticism, so if teachers disagree, I would usually listen (to them).”
John Aguillon, junior graphic design major, also sees speaking up in class as beneficial.
“You get good feedback on your thoughts, and it creates a good debate,” Aguillon said.
A new bill proposes limiting faculty from expressing their own personal beliefs and views about the subjects they teach, Luedders said.
Senate Bill 5, also known as the Student Bill of Rights, states that students shall be graded solely on the basis of their reasoned answers and appropriate knowledge of the subjects and disciplines they study, not on the basis of their political or religious beliefs.
The root of the issue is that everyone needs to use common sense, Luedders said. It is legitimate for a student and teacher to have different perspectives, but he said he hopes people are informed about these different points of views.
“Good common sense tells people how to act accordingly, and students have to learn boundaries, because this is an educational institute,” Luedders said. “You can’t just use crude language.”