Internal policies at Alabama A&M University state that insulting remarks or any “verbal comment” about a person’s age could constitute harassment.
According to a report from The College Fix, Alabama A&M is currently facing increased scrutiny from free speech activist groups for its stringent harassment policy that outlaws jokes based on age.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has given Alabama A&M University a “red” free speech rating, which is their lowest mark. The concerns may arise, in part, due to the fact that the harassment policy at the university does not specify that remarks have to mean or cruel. The policy states that any “verbal comment” could constitute harassment.
“Verbal comments related to an individual’s age, race, gender, color, religion, national origin, disability, or sexual orientation,” are included on the list of offenses that could lead to an individual at the university to face consequences for harassment.
The policy goes a step further and says that “denigrating jokes” can count as harassment. This means that a professor giving his colleague a humorous birthday card about growing old could constitute age-based harassment.
Harassing conduct includes, but is not limited to: epithets, slurs or negative stereotyping; threatening, intimidating, or hostile acts; denigrating jokes and display or circulation in the workplace of written or graphic material that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual or group (including through e-mail or text messaging).
FIRE condemned several other schools for over-the-top speech restrictions. It criticized the University of Wisconsin for threatening to lower the salary of a chancellor who invited a porn star to campus for a guest lecture event. It also criticized officials at Liberty University for censoring campus newspaper stories that were critical University President Jerry Falwell Jr. and his ties to President Trump.
In February 2018, Breitbart News reported on FIRE’s analysis of the worst colleges for free expression. The list included Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Drexel University, Harvard University, Fordham University, and Evergreen State College, amongst others.
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