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Alarming University campaign threatens First Amendment rights

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Has the University taken its safety measures too far?

The University of Portland recently launched a "Speak Up" campaign designed to put an end to discrimination, intolerance and "incidents of discomfort."

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The University's Speak Up website specifies inclusion is a top priority - one that is so important that students are encouraged to reach out to public safety officials, the Associate Director for Community Standards, Human Resources and the University Title IX Coordinator.

"We ask members of our community to SPEAK UP and report alleged incidents of discrimination and incidents of discomfort regarding observed or experienced interactions of intolerance."

Reporting incidents discrimination is, and should be, enforced in public - particularly on a college campus, where student safety should be the first priority.

Unfortunately, the wording of "incidents of discomfort" is so ambiguous several people have criticized the campaign as being overly sensitive.

Several comments on TheCollegeFix displayed just how out-of-hand things can become at the University of Oregon.

"So if I get heartburn or gas (which can be quite discomforting to me and others around me) after eating Indian food- is that something I would have to report at the University of Portland?" One comment read.

Another person commented on the first, saying, "Only if you supply the address of the restaurant...so the Kampus Kops can go arrest the chef."

To continue the string, D. Nelson wrote, "...stop that cultural appropriation or I will report you." and L. Cline responded, "Yes, but if you specify that it was Indian food, you're guilty of a hate crime."

Though the conversation was sarcastic and "silly," it brought to light several good points. What is classified as "incidents of discomfort?" Can someone overhear a joke in a private conversation involving a Rabbi and Priest walking into a bar, then report the person for inciting an uncomfortable situation?

Though the webpage specifies discriminatory actions, it is more than possible that people will go overboard. An excellent example of this is what happened at the University of Texas -where a police officer ticketed a preacher because he was speaking against "sexual immorality and drunkenness." 

He was also calling "people to faith," which did not sit well with several students.

The preacher was ticketed. The officer later apologized, but it is a prime example of what people are capable of.

At what point will society realize that regulating everything comes at the price of religious and free speech rights? How will the University of Oregon Speak Up campaign fare? Perhaps things will go smoothly and the campus will continue in relative safety - but more likely-than-not, students and staff alike will take "incidents of discomfort" too far.

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Deacon Keith Fournier Hi readers, it seems you use Catholic Online a lot; that's great! It's a little awkward to ask, but we need your help. If you have already donated, we sincerely thank you. We're not salespeople, but we depend on donations averaging $14.76 and fewer than 1% of readers give. If you donate just $5.00, the price of your coffee, Catholic Online School could keep thriving. Thank you. Help Now >

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