Public University President Rejects Zero Tolerance Policy for ‘Offensive’ Speech


President Mark Kennedy of the University of North Dakota has taken a stand for free expression at the public institution after he rejected calls for a “zero tolerance policy” on offensive speech.

Kennedy argued that because of the University of North Dakota is a public institution, it is required by the U.S. Constitution to adhere to the First Amendment. “While I appreciate the desire for such a [zero tolerance] policy, it is unachievable under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” Kennedy wrote.

According to The Washington Examiner, Kennedy argued that those that value freedom of speech acknowledge that some usages of that freedom will be undesirable or offensive.

“The challenge we all face is to find the balance between wanting to eliminate expressions of racism and bigotry and supporting the free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment. If we value freedom of speech, we must acknowledge that some may find the expressions of others unwelcome, painful or even offensive.”

He added: “We can, however, speak out and condemn such expressions, and we can work to create a more welcoming and inclusive environment.”

UND investigated each photo, and found that they did not violate the “UND Code of Student Life,” but could not disclose the details of the investigation or its findings due to federal privacy law.

The calls for a “zero tolerance” policy with regards to free speech came after racially-charged campus incidents.

Although he defended the right to free expression on campus, President Kennedy reminded the University of North Dakota community of the value of diversity and inclusion.

“It is abundantly clear that we have much work to do at the University of North Dakota in educating our students, and the entire university community on issues related to diversity, inclusion and respect for others.”

Tom Ciccotta is a libertarian who writes about Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity for Breitbart. You can follow him on Twitter @tciccotta or email him at


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