Saturday, November 7, 2009

First Amendment Anyone?

This week a draft document titled "CSU Policy Manual" made its way into our e-mail boxes with a request for comments. Self-described as "a reference tool to help managers understand and implement University policies," it is troubling on several levels.

First, the document is vague about which employees are being addressed. Sometimes, there is a reference to "all employees," although the majority of the document's text seems to be directed at CSU staff rather than faculty.

Second, the section titled "Public Relations" is extremely problematic. The full text reads:

"The Public Relations policy reflects and supports the University's one face to our students, community and supports. The policy makes it easier for everyone at the university to work with the news media and improves coordination of media relations throughout the organization.

All university employees are required to comply with this policy.

All inquiries from the press or other media must be referred to University Public Relations.

When anyone receives a call from the news media, ask and record the following information, then contact Public Relations:

Date and time of call
Caller's name
Name of publication, station and location (city, state)
Phone number
Specific question
Deadline, if any"

Again, this section is quite vague, other than its insistence that the policy be followed by "all employees." For example, all inquiries from the media must be referred to the university's public relations section? How about questions that pertain to a faculty member's area of expertise?

However, with the caveat that this document is simply a draft, I think the tone of the policy is the most troubling aspect of this particular section. I wonder how this policy squares with the first amendment to the constitution? As long as a particular faculty member does not claim to be articulating official university policy why the need for censorship? Or for a unified message? Given the recent admonitions from our incoming administration to avoid talking to the press, this seems like an attempt to muzzle dissent at a time when we should be engaging in vigorous debate.

Am I being an alarmist here? I would like to hear from others about their thoughts on this matter.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. No, this is not at all alarmist. The proposed policy is in line with a culture of "we run the show; we decide the message; shut up and do as you are told." This is wrong on several levels. Since I do not always obey the law, I will move to a more ideal level: we make progress through argument and disagreement, listening to others' ideas, arguing against them, and listening to arguments and facts in reply. This policy represents the racist, top-down culture that has long existed on this campus--but raised to a higher level.