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AHA 2007: Resolution to oppose speech codes defeated

Historians critical of limits on free speech on college campuses had been somewhat hopeful that this year they could persuade their peers at the AHA Annual Convention in Atlanta to approve a resolution at Saturday's Business Meeting opposing "the use of speech codes to restrict academic freedom."

But in the end the body approved a weak sister resolution critical only of free speech zones.

This was the second year the subject of speech codes came before the Business Meeting. Last year the measure was rejected because it was linked to another critical of David Horowitz's "Academic Bill of Rights" (ABOR). Members felt that the two issues should be treated separately and indicated in various comments that they would welcome a chance to vote on a resolution against speech codes at this year's meeting. But when they were given the chance this past weekend the members declined to go along.

David Beito, a sponsor, produced numerous examples of speech codes that he described as patently offensive. But the members were uncomfortable with a wholesale condemnation of codes that are used by administrators to protect minorities from slights and uncivil attacks.

The resolution was amended to condemn only free speech zones and passed unanimously. David Beito afterward told HNN the vote was a defeat for his cause. Voting to condemn free speech zones, he said, was like voting to uphold motherhood. It was meaningless.

Related Links

  • Ralph Luker: The American Historical Association and Free Speech