Monday, January 12, 2009

SIU's Response to FIRE: How to Dodge a Question

For the SIU response to FIRE's challenge, click here.

This response defends the Board policy, which no one is attacking. It ignores the language handed out to students and faculty advisers in the RSO Handbook. Apparently, a link to the full Board policy is enough to exonerate the contradictory language that follows which states: "Other campus areas will not be used as open forums." (RSO Handbook, p. 26).

As a RSO Adviser, I am bound by Board policy and RSO Handbook when counseling students. Likewise, students are given a RSO Handbook to "obey." Is the Chancellor saying that we don't "obey" the sections that conflict with the Board policy? If so, why doesn't SIU-C simply rewrite the Handbook?

And just in case any one is wondering, FIRE approached SIU on its own initiative. I did not even realize that section of the RSO Handbook existed until FIRE brought it to my attention, and I asked questions -- questions that Chancellor Goldman said we did not ask (see Daily Egyptian, 12 January 2009). If mild requests for clarification get met so testily, what are students to think when deciding how to proceed on the basis of conflicting policies?


Anonymous said...

Well there is isn't really conflicting policies. Just one policy and, of course, a handbook that's got it wrong. Are you more worried about the policy or a flawed handbook? I'm not defending any one particular position, rather asking a question about the "bottom line."

i-History said...

The RSO Handbook begins by stating:

"All student organization activities are guided by the policies and procedures delineated in this handbook. These policies grow out of the Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s mission and Board of Trustee Policies."

Except when they don't.

Don't downplay the RSO Handbook. I have had RSO's suggest all sorts of crazy things -- including a gun raffle -- and whipped out the handbook.

Words do have meaning and this didn't have to be a big deal. Read my earlier post asking for clarification. And see my forthcoming op-ed on how I was ready to give Chancellor Goldman thumbs up because someone else told me that they were rewriting the handbook. Too bad he didn't even mention the Handbook while lashing out at the "baseless claims" of FIRE. Yet the baselass claim resulted in SIU changing its handbook -- all we were asking. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

But I still wonder if what you're really after already exists...and has existed all along. Yes, the handbook is wrong and needs to be corrected. Someone dropped the ball when it was created. But the policy regarding demonstrations, free forum areas and such seems to be sound. If FIRE had done a bit of research they would have realized this. I assume the chancellor was going by official university policy, and did not think the RSO Handbook was the place to look for such information. I'm not criticizing, just pointing out that the perceived restrictions on free speech just aren't there. We should all be happy about that.

i-History said...

Well FIRE asked in their letter (see previous post) if there was any simple explanation, as you stated. And SIU waited until the last day to respond. They could have avoided the whole thing by responding immediately and saying it was just a "clerical error" (as one official described it to me).

Look, FIRE scrutinizes schools that it flags as Red Alert. This is small potatoes (or no potatoes, if you prefer) compared to the other issues it discusses on SIU's profile page. Those other issues lead FIRE to ask questions. Not every question is a Katushka (so to speak) launched by a terrorist in the bushes.

Anonymous said...

Nice reference to Poshard's characterization of those that question SIU's policies or actions as terrorists in the bushes. It's important that we remember how this administration treats those that desire rational and reasonable dialog.