“We learn and grow from each other,” said Chief Diversity Officer Vernese Edghill-Walden. “I don’t think the world would be a good place if we all thought the same thing and did the same thing.”That's all for public consumption. We all understand that any time someone in higher education, particularly in Student Affairs or any of the Victim Studies fields, refers to "dialogue," that implies "Shut Up, You Primitive, While I Enlighten You." We all understand that a Chief Diversity Officer must be as conversant with the latest evolutions of The Party Line as any Stalin-era zampolit. We have seen that when it comes to Hallowe'en costumes, thinking the same thing is Necessary and Proper.
Perhaps, though, there is reason for optimism. The City of DeKalb is currently contemplating a protest ordinance that, at first reading, strikes me as patently unconstitutional.
About 100 people attended NIU’s first monthly Diversity Dialogues on free speech on campus and the DeKalb unlawful assembly ordinance draft Wednesday in the Holmes Student Center, Carl Sandburg Auditorium. The DeKalb protest ordinance, first read at the Jan. 11 City Council meeting, stated a 10-person or more assembly can become unlawful if at least one person affiliated with the group violates one of the 21 DeKalb-mandated occurrences including assault and mob action.Should we be grateful that the ordinance is more liberal than something you'd expect in Vichy France, where the critical mass was five people?
Perhaps, the law becomes Of Interest to the Director of Diversity because such "unlawful assembly" laws can be used by police to racially profile gang-bangers.
But the meeting turned to consideration of the patently unconstitutional free speech zone on campus.
Here, dear reader, is where mediating institutions are useful. Classroom buildings are for class. It's bad form to recruit rally participants by pulling fire alarms or marching and chanting in the hallways.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Commons is the only free speech zone on campus where people have the right to assemble with permission from Student Involvement and Leadership Development and NIU police. The Campus Ministry USA came to the free speech area at NIU in September to discuss their beliefs on the Bible.
[Student Association official Ariel] Owens said a Campus Ministry USA member abused the free speech zone when that person followed her friend to her car saying “whore.”
[Student Association official Timothy] Brandner said the policy limiting free speech could be amended, but it may not be a good idea because protestors in an educational environment may be disruptive.
[Yale researcher Frederick] Lawrence said the free speech zone should be expanded because universities restricting where people can use their right to assemble, if peaceful, sounds wrong.
DeKalb Resident Howard Solomon, 67, said the DeKalb unlawful assembly drafts are an example of how restrictions on freedom of speech pose a threat to civil liberties.
DeKalb community members and NIU students expressed their concerns with the ordinance resulting in the DeKalb Human Relation Commission to withdraw their support on the ordinance.
Public spaces are for public assemblies. Thus, "Rally at noon, Library Mall."